Jordan Ori

As college students, many of us have been to our fair share of social gatherings, whether it be a frat party, a house party or a night out at the bar with friends. Likewise, we have probably all seen or experienced a man approaching an uninterested woman and hitting on her. More often than not, she will respond, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend,” regardless of her relationship status or sexuality. I have recently seen some online discourse surrounding this common occurrence — of people wondering why women won’t simply say they are not interested. You don’t owe strangers anything, so why should you feel the need to apologize? However, the distinction between “sorry, I have a boyfriend” and “no, not interested” is crucial. It can be the difference between life and death.

On March 17 at 2:20 a.m., twin sisters were stabbed in Brooklyn, New York for rejecting an unwanted advance. Nineteen-year-old Samyia and Sanyia Spain were in Slope Natural Plus Deli in Park Slope with family and friends when 20-year-old Veo Kelly, who has since surrendered to the police, began to aggressively make advances toward the young women. According to what a witness told NBC4, “One of them guys complimented two girls, walked in with their friends and they said, ‘no, we’re not attracted,’ so he called them names. They called him names back. He walked out. He walked down the block angry.” After the twins left the store, Kelly followed them, stabbing Samyia in the neck and chest and killing her and stabbing and injuring Sanyia in the arm. Since then, Sanyia has clarified that the argument escalated when Kelly expressed the desire to connect over social media — “She said she wasn’t going to follow him back. That’s it. She said no.”

While tragic, the attacks on Samyia and Sanyia are not an anomaly. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive tracking mechanism for rejection-based killings, but it is evident that they contribute to the overarching epidemic of femicide in the United States. The United Nations (UN) defines femicide as “intentional killing with a gender-related motivation. [It] may be driven by stereotyped gender roles, discrimination toward women and girls, unequal power relations between women and men or harmful social norms.” Under this definition, the attacks against the Spain sisters would be considered femicide.

There seems to be a misguided perception that femicide is only a problem in developing countries. However, the United States ranks at 34th for deliberate female homicides with 2.6 killings per 100,000 women. While the Spain sisters were attacked by a stranger, according to the UN, “current and former intimate partners are by far the most likely perpetrators of femicide, accounting for an average of 55 percent of all intimate partner and family-related killings.” This statistic reveals an alarming truth that we, as women, are never completely safe. It can sometimes feel as if we have to earn our rights to be treated as human beings while men are coddled for being monsters. Too often, when a woman commits a crime, she is heartless, but when a man does it, he is said to be suffering from mental illness. Even regardless of someone’s mental health history, women should not have to feel like their lives are at risk after unintentionally bruising a man’s ego.

While rejection killings and other forms of femicide are not something that can be stopped overnight, there are steps women can take to help protect themselves, whether while at a frat party or while grabbing a late-night snack at a deli. For instance, when going to a party, go with a group of friends and make sure not to separate from them. Having eyes on each other and making sure everyone gets home safely reduces the possibilities of harm, such as alcohol or drug intoxication, petty crimes and violent crimes. Offenders are less likely to go after a group, so it is important not to put yourself in a vulnerable place of isolation.

Additionally, using the classic “sorry, I have a boyfriend” is less damning than telling someone you’re flat-out not interested in them. For starters, it is more effective. Once a man finds out a woman is taken, whether she is telling the truth or not, they will feel a sense of respect they did not have before, not wanting to cross a boundary into another man’s “territory.” While this logic is deeply rooted in misogyny, I can speak from experience that it is, unfortunately, the mindset of many men.

To be clear, it is never the fault of a woman for a man’s violence against her. In the case of the Spain sisters, telling Kelly they were not attracted to him was not what killed Samiya and injured Saniya. The blame lies on no one but Kelly. However, it is essential to take every measure you can to ensure your safety when rejecting a man. Until the world takes gender-based crimes seriously, it is up to us to look out for each other.

Jordan Ori is an undeclared sophomore.

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece which represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.