- Facebook via Phil Hardberger Park
Around 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, a 27-year-old woman reported to San Antonio police that she was raped by a white man in a gray hoodie while running through Phil Hardberger Park.
In response, District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez issued a press release which, in short, reminded park visitors how to avoid being raped in the future.
Some tips, provided to him by San Antonio Police Department: "Don’t wear any expensive jewelry." "Project alertness, confidence, and determination [while on the trail]." "Don't wear headphones; they impair your ability to hear someone approaching you from behind." (Ironically, many people wear headphones while running — or just existing — in public in hopes of avoiding unwanted sexual harassment from strangers.)
While clearly well-meaning, Pelaez's press release still borders on a victim-blaming narrative, one that puts the responsibility on the victim to not be raped or robbed, rather than the criminal. In no part of his press release does the councilman mention that people shouldn't sexually assault others in public parks, or how victims of sexual assault on city property (or anywhere) can seek help.
Sexual assault studies have found that a victim's fear of being doubted by police, or blamed for the assault has led to severe underreporting of rape and sexual assault across the country. The idea that they could have "done more" to prevent their assault is a kind of societal guilt that keeps many victims from seeking help — or justice.
According to a 2015 report by the Rape Crisis Center, an estimated 9.2 percent of all rape victims in Texas have reported their experience to the police.
In the 24 hours following the attack, San Antonians have taken Pelaez's suggestions a step further online.
"Women need to be smarter and not so clueless," one person commented on Facebook, adding that women should never jog alone. Others suggest women carry guns on their morning jogs. Or knives. Or dress more conservatively. Or just stay indoors.
According to SAPD, officers released the only person of interest in the case. They currently have no other suspects.
Update: For those who've asked, here's a copy of Pelaez' press release.