Yelling "fire!" on a crowded internet

They tell you to yell "fire!"

If you are a woman, and you take a self-defense class, your instructor will tell you to yell "fire!" if you are being assaulted. When you ask why, when you ask why you should not yell "rape!" or "help!" even, you will be told that if you do, no one will come. Rape, you see, only affects the victim, and a fire, well, that might affect other people, so if you yell fire, someone might actually decide to help you.

Let me repeat that, just to be clear: If you are a woman, being assaulted, and you yell "rape," no one will come, because they will think what is happening to you affects only you.

Do you know what it means for a population to be decimated? It's a word we use when we mean "really a lot" or "a terribly huge, unthinkable number." It means one in ten is affected. That is a huge number - think of the effect on a population if something terrible, something life-altering, were to happen to one in ten.

One in six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Our population has been more than decimated.

Still, they tell us to yell fire, because what happens to us doesn't affect anyone else.

Those of us who survive are at increased risk for depression, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. (Not to mention sexually transmitted diseases.)

But yell fire, because rape only affects the victim.

We live in a culture where, when an eleven year old child is gang-raped, blame is placed on her for how she dressed, where police officers still tell women that we can avoid being raped by how we dress.

But really, yell fire.

My friend Jim Hines is running a fundraiser to help raise money for rape crisis centers. I'll be making my donation to RAINN, because when I was ready to whisper and ask for help, that's who I called. Even if you can't donate, please spread the word. 

And please, think of what it means, that to get attention, we're told to yell fire.