Lauren Spierer

Dateline: Mon 20 Jun 2011

Most of the women I know are obsessed with Lauren Spierer, the 20-year-old Indiana University student who disappeared after a night of partying in Bloomington June 3.

Why? Is it her vulnerability, the sense of "there but for the grace of God go I," that keeps us wondering and worrying? Do we see in her not only a daughter, a friend, a sister, but ourselves?

Those of us who lived through the 1970s, may be reminded of the strong, structured feminist notion of "Take Back the Night," which referred not only to the womens' crusade against pornography but a desire to create, in this mean world, a safe space for make us not victims of dark-street crimes but triumphant, confident, capable -- secure from violence by virture of our own strength and smarts.

At least for now, it seems obvious that Lauren, like many young women today, did not absorb this message. We know from the time line, released by Bloomington police, that she allowed herself to get caught up in potentially dangerous circumstances throughout the middle of the night: alcohol consumption (loss of cell phone and shoes, yet, at Kilroy's bar, which obviously broke the law by serving somene underage), and perhaps, most significantly, hanging with questionable companions throughout the night and almost until dawn -- all males.

That these young men behaved boorishly is well-documented.  There was an "altercation," (some of Lauren's boyfriend's friends confronting a goof named Corey Rossman, who drank with her and was allegedly punched out,  allegedly, recalling nothing). Other guys failed to protect her that night, when she was clearly trashed out of her head. They were, to use an old-fashioned term, cads; at the very least, they behaved caddishly. And the fact that some of them immediately lawyered up shows not only their lack of character, but their well-off families desire to protect them -- against what? The truth?

So the failure is two-fold: she did not protect herself, and her companions did nothing to protect her and come to her aid. If it sounds like blaming the victim, so be it. She made mistakes. But if someone had had her back, they wouldn't have to have been potentially fatal.

Her disappearance is maddening at several levels -- as should be the disapperance of any human being.  In Bloomington during the late 1960s, I "lost" an expensive bike; it was left outside my apartment, parked against a staircase. Someone stole it. For weeks afterwards, I combed the city in my Karman Ghia, looking for that green Schwinn; I could not believe I could not locate it, but of course I could not. Someone "bad" had taken it; my loss, his gain.

That was one thing, and it gnawed at me -- but to lose a human being to the streets is absoloutely devastating. Thus we are all caught up in the drama: what could have happened, how, why?

I am reminded of fairy tales, on which I was raised. Many of them were true horror stories from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.  The Little Match Girl froze on the streets of a mean city; she died.  Other children encountered cruel stepfathers or stepmothers and perished, or nearly so.  Children were murdered in these stories.

The little girl in The Red Shoes was swept up in demonic possession, dancing even thru graveyards (because of her fierce desire for those fetching red shoes and her refusal to heed an old woman's warnings) until finally a "kind" man wielding an axe cut off her feet. She was a child who did not listen to the one adult in her life who cared for her; thus she suffered.

Fairy tales are "out" today; the feminists from the 1970s declared them too full of swooning princesses and princes on white horses to be valid.

But they scared generations of children for many years, and taught valuable morality and mortality lessons. And the tough feminists brought their own agenda to the table with their new hard grain of realism.

Maybe it's time again to bring back "Take Back the Night," or cautionary fairy stories, or both. Because the reality is, potentially, so much worse than anything that exists in the abstract.





Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Ruth,I found your take on what you described as obsessive feelings of many women related to the Spierer case to be very informative and instructive.

As a man, I need to be reminded of the vulnerability that seems to be inherent with being a female in a society of so many aggressive, alpha-dog males.

Does this create a kind of subconscious (or conscious) low-grade fear in women of men who aren't "known" to them?

I often feel that my wife of 32 years is not careful and cautious enough around men she doesn't know. To her, (bless her heart) everyone is a friend and she has little fear of anyone.

Perhaps one or more of the women who comment here could lend perspective about what I guess could be called a "healthy fear" of unknown men and needed precautions.

My prayers are with this young woman and her parents and family.

2011-06-20 01:05:24

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

FIrst off, strong karma is pointed toward B-ton. That family eneds some relief.

Secondly, the town fosters an air of non-real atmosphere. It always has. After awhile, an unsuspecting person can let down his/her guard. It happens too often.

Every few years, a coed disappears, only to be discovered later. Dead, and usually at the hands of someone she trusted too far.

Twenty-somethings are vulnerable. The B-ton atmosphere fosters that vulnerability, and in that sense,e it's a magnet for vultures.

The lesson? Teach our daughters to drink sensibly, never travel alone, and remain always-alert to your surroundings.

And call dad whenEVER, whereEVER you feel unsafe. If only we could implant chips in them like we do dogs at the Humane Society. (Is that crass?) We're worried that animals might stray from home and stumble into trouble.

My daughter graduated from IU a couple of years ago, and she's in grad school elsewhere now. I worry about this kind of occurrence regularly. I over-preached personal responsibility and safety. I'm sure it was annoying.

2011-06-20 05:44:46

ruthholl [Member] said:

There is a book called "The Gift of Fear" which is excellent reading, WB. Common sense. A young woman, an IU grad, recommended it to me. It talks about having that 6th sense for danger and NOT IGNORING IT.
Yes, I agree, Bloomington is like The Magic Kingdom. Thus as you say it fosters an air of unreality.
"Man good," my little girl said, age 2, after she was teased (by a male photographer) into smiling for the camera for a family photograph. She eventually learn a more thoughtful approach....

2011-06-20 06:22:45

Gary Welsh [unverified] said:

Excellent post, Ruth. Spot on as they say.

2011-06-20 07:38:29

hendy [Member] said:

Teaching that sixth sense, "street wisdom" if you will, is important as making sure it's learned.

This town that I've moved to, Bloomington, feels the stain of character as a community. The volunteers that go out feel ever so frustrated because nothing's turned up. They come from miles around, or nearby dorms. They show up in Guard uniforms and jeans, all with a common purpose.

There are those that are dismissive. Scarsdale blonde. What if it were an African American or Latina? they say. I think that the community would respond similarly, altho the complexion of the searchers might change a bit.

The sense of failure hangs around the town, a cloud of malaise. It's palpable. So is the fear. Done once, could it happen again? It makes one suspicious of others in a bad way. This is why justice is important: one day we'll know what happened, and will try to make it right, best as we can. Until then, there is sorrow and not a small measure of fear, the fear that guys don't understand but women know all too well. Take back the night-- you covered it. Sobriety, safety in numbers. Friends you can trust.

2011-06-20 07:38:39

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The key word in your post, Hendy, is "again."

2011-06-20 07:41:09

Cath Young [unverified] said:

The young man were unchivalrous at best, but probably blitzed out of their minds. I don't think those students where just watching TV and drinking pop in those early morning hours, nor was the young man who was punched suffering amnesia from the blow, necessarily. All sorts of contraband being used and heavily is what I suspect, so that no one was in any shape to walk anyone anywhere or stop someone from walking home.

In fact, that Lauren accompanied the struck young man home indicates to me that she might have been the one in better shape that night.

That they are lawyered up is no surprise. Any parent with the wherewithal and the means would have taken those precautions. You don't want any missteps and false arrests or bad information or the students' rights not observed in this case because the police will be looking for every little thing with little regard for rights without someone watching out for them. It is a protection mechanism. I doubt that the 2 young men who have chosen to stay in Bloomington had any part in the disappearance other than their disappointing actions that night, as they would be "out of Dodge" if that were the case, and their apts, cars, DNA have been searched, and they have been questioned by the police. The same money and knowledge that is running the Search for Lauren is being used to protect the young men. They are all part of the same Jewish community and the suspicion on them is truly wracking.

I would not put a lot of weight on the time that the last young man to say he saw Lauren gave. Doubt he was in much shape to be sure of anything. Just hope he is telling the truth that he just saw her off.

The best thing that can happen at this point is that this disappearance was not engineered by any students there because it would mean a breach of trust in a close community, and that hopefully Lauren is being kept alive somewhere by some abductor not of IU.

I doubt she is anywhere in that small area as dogs have been employed and it has been searched so carefully. There was plenty of time for anyone who picked her up to take her miles and miles away.

I would check every single student who was planning to leave for home in the wee hours of that morning who may have scooped her into the car and taken off.

2011-06-20 22:44:42

ruthholl [Member] said:

Great comments. Thank you. Lots of knowledge, too. I appreciate your expertise and views.

2011-06-21 07:41:01

cranky [unverified] said:

Right on, sista'! My thoughts exactly. I mentor college women and I am always drilling into their heads "buddy system."
Ironic that one poster wrote "suffering amnesia from the blow." Is that a double entendre? I believe the reference was to a fist fight, but from what I have heard from multiple, independent sources is that we could also be referring to coke usage.
Forgive me for saying this but there are closer, more obvious places to be looking for her.

2011-06-21 15:26:03

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