We must challenge the very roots of male hegemony if we are truly going to stop the SDPD’s sexual violence against women.
By Will Falk
Reality stalks me everywhere I go.
Sometimes it looks like an ever-warming planet. Sometimes it sounds like police sirens. Sometimes it sounds like words of disapproval from the mouths of friends.
The other day, for example, I suggested to a friend that the only truly sustainable levels of technology are snuffed out by civilization whenever it encounters hunter/gatherer societies.
My friend snorted and said, “Get real. No one will ever voluntarily return to hunter/gatherer societies.”
Then, I was talking to a different friend about how to solve the rash of sexual violence perpetuated by police in San Diego and beyond. This time I suggested that it would take a radical re-structuring of the dominant culture – a re-structuring based not on hierarchical domination, but on mutual co-operation – to make more than a superficial and temporary difference.
This friend said, “Your problem is you won’t compromise with reality, Will.” And, of course, this is just a different way to say, “Get real.”
Over the last few days, as I’ve reflected on these conversations, I’ve allowed myself to feel my anger and frustration. Through this anger, I’ve come to a conclusion.
We need, my friends, to understand reality.
What is reality?
The reality for women in this country is horrifying. 1 in 4 of them will be raped in their lifetimes. Every day, three to four women are killed by their partners. Every 15 minutes, a woman is beaten.
The reality for women in San Diego is even more horrifying when you consider the sexual violence being perpetrated by the SDPD. The reality for a woman in San Diego is that she must worry what kind of an officer might show up when she requests assistance.
We know that Anthony Arevalos sexually assaulted at least 13 women while on duty.
Kenneth Davis was convicted of stalking a fellow officer he had dated.
Christopher Hays faces allegations from 8 women right now. One of them claims that she called the police after she was domestically battered. One of the officers who arrived was Hays and she claims Hays stuck around after the incident, blocked her doorway, and performed a sex act in front of her.
And, finally, Art Perea was never charged even though he had sex while he was on duty with a 19-year old Point Loma Nazarene student who claimed he raped her. Prosecutors denied prosecution saying there was not enough evidence to prove there was no consent.
Let me put this another way.
The reality is I am grateful I am not a woman.
Why? Because, as a man, when I hear sirens pop on behind me, all I have to worry about is where my license and registration are.
I do not have to worry if the officer is going to ask for my panties. I do not have to worry about the officer showing me his penis. I do not have to worry about the officer taking me into a bathroom at a 7-11, groping my breasts, and sticking his finger in my vagina like he did with Jane Doe – the last of Arevalos’ victims to settle. I do not have to worry that the encounter may end with me being raped in the back of a squad car.
I was listening to a radio interview with Robert Jensen a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the brilliant book Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. He summed up everything I experienced when he said, “If you try to deal with fundamental, systemic, and structural problems you’re told you’re unrealistic, but if you try and deal with superficial manifestations of that system – patching them up… that’s being realistic. In other words, the strategy that is doomed to fail is magically transformed into the most realistic strategy.”
As long as working within our broken system is considered “real” and those of us seeking to scrap this system are shouted down as being “unrealistic” this system will perpetuate itself. As long as this system perpetuates itself women will continue to be raped by police officers.
So, I ask again, what is reality?
If we want to change the pattern of sexual violence in the SDPD, we must determine which solutions will really work and which will only patch them up for the time being.
The reality is patriarchy is deeply engrained in this culture. The reality is women are confronted with rape and violence at staggering rates. The reality is patriarchy’s hold on the minds and sexualities of men in this culture must be stopped.
The elevation of a woman to San Diego’s police chief is hopeful, but it is not enough. New recruiting procedures are hopeful, but they will not be enough. Improved investigations from Internal Affairs are hopeful, but they are merely superficial patches to a broken culture.
Get real, San Diego. We must challenge the very roots of male hegemony if we are truly going to stop the SDPD’s sexual violence against women.