Kenneka Jenkins and the Glaringly Obvious Rape Culture That Followed
It’s taken me a while to talk about this because I wanted to make sure that I gave myself the time I needed to process it. I have to admit that everything about this case has bothered me, but I can’t sit down without talking about the importance of rape culture education here.
A few days ago, here in Chicago, a young girl, Kenneka Jenkins was found in the freezer of the Crowne Plaza hotel near O’Hare airport. As the story has been told, she was at the hotel for a sleepover party with friends. She had gotten very drunk and was raped and put in the freezer, where she was found.
A few notes:
- Her “best friend” is an employee of the hotel
- The freezer can only be accessed via a member of hotel staff
- She was raped.
All on social media, I have seen status after status of people recalling their childhood of strict parentage and finding appreciation now in the way that their parents reared and kept them from potential harm. It is apparent that the “learn who your real friends are” conversation needs to be had with children by their parents, especially to girl children.
But what about the conversation that needs to be had with boy children about not raping their girl counterparts, respecting their agency, and absolutely never touching a woman sexually especially if it is clear that she has had too much to drink?
While we definitely need to monitor the friends that our children hang around, we need to also teach our boys not to rape, that a woman’s body is not their property, that engaging in sex with a woman that is clearly inebriated is indeed rape. I have paid attention to my Facebook timeline for the past few days on this entire situation with Kenneka Jenkins and there are very little statuses and discussions talking about the fact that she was raped. In fact, many of the statuses that I have noticed that mention her rape and subsequent death, seem to be on the side of victim blaming her. “Why would she drink so much?” “Why wasn’t she a better judge of character?” “If this was all over a guy, obviously that guy didn’t care about her because he raped her” and the most grotesque, “Let the rape happen so you can live to tell the story and get justice. She probably fought back and that’s why that happened”
I must admit that it is exhausting to find myself having to tell people that in these cases of rape, the onus needs to be on the RAPER and not the victim. But, as I have taken a bit of the role of an advocate against domestic violence and rape/rape culture, I find myself having to educate more often than not just how harmful it is to have these seemingly in-depth discussions on cases such as these and talk about every part of the case EXCEPT the rapist.
In this case, I found myself wondering after around the 5th status or so why people were recalling their childhoods and how their parents were strict about who they hung around and what they allowed, but never once mentioning a word about the rape itself and the person that committed that egregious act? It is important to surround ourselves with friends that are supportive, nurturing, catering, and that will hold our hair back in the event that we had a bit too much fun and need some help. We need friends that are in our corners, that we can all sisters, that we can be proud of and love and celebrate. That is sisterhood personified.
But the other end of this sisterhood also regales in the conversations we have over girl talk moments and ladies’ nights where we talk about the love we seek, the men we want and desire, the fuckboys we admonish, and even in harmful men that we know to have raped and harmed us and others because they felt they could–because we are women and misogyny affords a particular entitlement that is neither just or sensible.
All of these conversations need to happen and they need to start when our girls are very young so that when they are older, they can recognize the signs in the toxic and harmful friendships and in the toxic and harmful men that have ill intentions.
I pray that when I have children is that I can instill in my daughter how important it is to be extremely selective with her friendships. I also hope to instill in my son the importance of respect for women and their agency and right to choose and say no. This is what I hope.