Rape Vehicle, By Design

Automobile manufacturers are designing vehicles in a way that specifically facilitates rape.

Next time you walk down the street or through a parking lot, do a quick count of the newer vehicles, even to several years back, that have no keyhole along the whole of the passenger side. IMG_4006When one considers the proportion of male to female automotive engineers (93:7, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2013 labor force statistics for “mechanical engineers” [1]), this design omission makes sense: men are not often taught the precautions mothers pass on to their daughters.

Girls are taught to be hypervigilent about their surroundings and to avoid situations that have a high potential for rape. Some of us grow up more aware than others, and physical vulnerability due to being a female is generally experienced at one point or another. One of the labels more commonly known across the genders is “rape van” – that windowless, marking-less van into which a girl or woman could be yanked and become victim to anything. A woman I worked with has a childhood story of running down the street, and by sheer luck or miracle, barely escaped the arm that tried to pull her into such a van.

Here is the next level of teaching a girl receives as a teenager: if a rape van is parked on the driver side of your car, enter through the passenger side.

When I mention this strategy to males (who are in the roles of brothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands), in all instances but one they had never heard of nor considered such a scenario. This is either good (it would never cross their mind to take advantage of a female in that way), or bad (they will fail to teach their daughters these safety measures, and if they are an automotive engineer, they will neglect to design this level of safety into the door and lock features of vehicles).

Several years ago, I had to implement this strategy in broad afternoon daylight in an upper middle class shopping center parking lot. At the time I had an older vehicle, which could only be opened by the twist of the key, on either the driver or passenger side. It was not a parked rape van that triggered my taking the precautions, but a vehicle with two males following and stopping behind me, blocking me.

Imagine that scenario or the rape-van-parked-on-driver-side one, but with my current vehicle, which has the smart key with the unlock button, with the only keyhole being in the driver door. To be safe, I should enter through the passenger door. But it has no keyhole, so I cannot unlock only the passenger door and slip in safely. If I want to get into my car, I am left with two options. If for some reason I could not use the unlock buttons on my key, I would have to physically go to the driver side of my car to unlock and enter my car, during which I would be walking into the space easiest to kidnap me from. Or, let us consider the more likely scenario, I decide to use the unlock button on my key. One click only unlocks the driver side. The rapist can enter my vehicle before I do. Two clicks unlocks all doors. The rapist can enter my vehicle when I do.

This level of contingency factors may seem ridiculous. But these are the if-then thought processes females are taught from a young age, to where that way of evaluating the potential safety (or not) of situations becomes embedded into the semiconscious sizing up of daily life. And that contingency factor strategy is something I have had to implement in the past.

I love my car, but I call it a rape vehicle. Because by design, these vehicles facilitate rape.

[1] Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Retrieved January 1, 2015, from United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm