August 31, 2011

Why I’m Going to Hell

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So I’ll tell you right now that if there is a hell, I probably already have my own mailbox. Why my friends? Well, do the three sort-of-little words “forcible touching incident” mean anything to you?Of course they do. Unless you’ve been living in a hobbit hole or are a new student here on the Hill you’ve most definitely seen them magically appearing in your inbox from the mysterious “crime_alert.” What I’m about to admit might make me sprout horns from my forehead but here it goes: I think forcible touching emails are flipping hilarious. In fact, there’s a folder in my inbox that I save just for them.Of course I have what I call the Hall of Forcible Touching Fame. There was the poor girl last fall who was yanked around by her ponytail, bitch-slapped and then groped. There was also the female student accosted by a “white male wearing only a baseball cap.” That’s right my friends, nothing but a hat. For those of you who are not freshmen, I’m sure some of those definitely ring a bell and possibly generate a smirk or two.Before you judge the fuck out of me (it’s probably too late though) and label me some sort of heinous bitch, think about how you react to forcible touching emails. I would bet my Oscar Meyer Weenie Whistle that at some point or another you too have probably giggled about them or mocked them in some way. So really, we are all just beastly people who should count Voldemort and the Decepticons among our BFFs.  The main problem is that the phrase “forcible touching” doesn’t capture the seriousness of the event. If you didn’t go to Cornell and had never heard the words “forcible touching” I’m sure you would think it was something other than what it really is: sexual harassment. Forcible touching is what happens when you’re riding the TCAT and it hits a pothole. Since you can’t get a seat because it’s raining and everybody and their damn Chia Pet is riding the bus, you are forced to stand. The direct result of standing in a bus driving up Stewart Ave means you go flying at the first asphalt crater and in your attempt to regain balance accidentally boob-grab the lady next to you. Forcible touching is also what happens when you’re in the movie theater and the only seats available are in the middle of the row, which is, of course, otherwise full because people are assholes and like to avoid other people like themselves. Trying to get to the aforementioned seats becomes an unappealing process of rubbing lower extremities with everybody else in the row as they sit at just the right height to ogle your pelvis as you sidle on by.Basically, what should be the definition of forcible touching is this: when you are forced to touch others when you didn’t intend to or would really rather not, as opposed to being unwillingly touched by someone else on purpose. According to the state of New York, “Forcible Touching” is “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touching the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person; or gratifying the actor’s sexual desire” and includes “squeezing, grabbing or pinching”. It is classified as a sexual offense. And here I thought it was just a Cornell thing.Why does N.Y. call it “forcible touching” instead of what it really is: sexual assault? Having looked through all the previous crime alerts online, the boundary for CUPD to call an attack on somebody “assault” seems to be physical harm. They call it an assault when somebody gets sent to the hospital but forcible touching when the victim is fondled, groped, bitch-slapped or what have you. Saying “I was sexually assaulted last night” elicits instant seriousness and concern. Saying “I was forcibly touched last night” makes me wonder what concert you went to and how many ugly people you awkwardly swapped sweat with when you brushed up against them.Sometimes I wonder if CUPD knows that the entire campus treats their “forcible touching” e-mails as a giant joke. This is not only abominable in multiple respects, but also disrespectful and probably insulting to the victims of said incidents. If I ever happen to be sexually assaulted I would want people to take my situation seriously, not chortle about it over sangria at CTB. The sad part is that even though I know that it’s not supposed to be humorous I’m still as guilty a giggler as the rest of you and I don’t think it will change until the phrase “forcible touching” is removed from the crime alert dictionary. Until then, I’ll save you a seat in hell.

Sam Dean is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at sdean@cornellsun.com. Casual WTFery appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Sam Dean