Safety Tips for Sophia Katz

2 Oct

Trigger warning for rape

When my grandmother was eighteen and freshly out of high school, she got a job doing clerical work at Pier 21 in Halifax. Pier 21 was the landing spot and first point of contact for those immigrating to Canada across the Atlantic ocean, and my grandmother helped process paperwork. She loved her job. She especially loved learning people’s stories, poring over their forms and finding out where they came from, what their children’s names were, and what possessions they’d chosen to bring with them all the way to this strange new country. You can tell a lot about a person and their priorities, apparently, based on what stuff they believe is worth hauling across the cold, grey Atlantic.

My grandmother was only able to work at Pier 21 for a few months, though, because it was just too exhausting for her father. Why? Well, because her shift ended late (around ten or eleven at night), and the docks were considered to be a very dangerous area for women. This tunnel especially, which connects the south end of Barrington street to the waterfront, was a place that women were told to avoid at all costs:


So my great-grandfather would go meet her every night after work and escort her home. Because that was the only way that her parents would allow her to keep the job – if she had her father with her every night to make sure that she got home safely. But eventually, this was too much for my great-grandfather – who had to get up every morning at five for his job as a stevedore down on the docks – and my grandmother had to quit. It didn’t matter how much my grandmother enjoyed the work. It didn’t matter that she promised to come straight home, to stay on the main streets, to carry a knife. Without a man to keep her safe, the trip home from work was just too risky for my grandmother.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this story lately, ever since Sophia Katz published this essay on Medium about the rape and sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of a well-known member of New York’s alt-lit community. Although Katz doesn’t give her rapist’s real name – instead, she calls him “Stan” – several other people have come forward and said that Katz is writing about the Stephen Tully Dierks, the 29 year old editor of Pop Serial.

In her essay, 19 year old Katz recounts her trip to New York earlier this year, where she hoped to make business connections with other writers and editors. Unsure of where she would be staying, she was initially grateful when Dierks, who she’d met online, offered to let her sleep on his floor. Except that it turned out that he didn’t mean his floor. And he didn’t exactly mean “sleep” either.

Dierks manipulated Katz into his bed, and then coerced her into sleeping with him. Although Katz repeatedly told Dierks that she didn’t want to sleep with him, he continued to pressure her until she did. I really don’t know what else you would call what happened to her other than rape. Here is Katz’s own description of the first time they slept together:

“Wait, Stan we can’t. Everyone just got home; they will definitely hear,” I said, hoping this was a way out.

“No they won’t. It’s fine. Let’s keep going.”

“No, I think they will. I really don’t want to if your roommates are home. We really shouldn’t.”

“No, it’s fine. We should. We should. Let’s keep going.”

“Stan [Dierks], please can we just do this later. Your walls are really thin.” I felt tears welling up in my eyes and tried to dissolve them. I didn’t want to do it later. I didn’t want to do it ever. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wanted to leave, but I was trapped with him in his tiny, dimly lit room.

“No, we should keep going. Let’s keep going.”

He got on top of me. I began to relinquish control.

“Wait, aren’t you going to use a condom?” I asked.

“Oh, come on. Please don’t make me do that.”

“Stan I really, really think you should use a condom, please use a condom.”

“I’m clean. Are you?” he questioned.

“Yes but it doesn’t matter. Please. Come on.”

“Its fine Sophie, come on, we don’t need one. I hate condoms.”

I realized there was no way for me to win. I lay back and closed my eyes.

Katz continued to stay with Dierks while she was in New York. He continued to rape her.

Since Katz’s essay was published, I’ve seen a lot of people of supporting her, but I’ve also seen some incredibly vicious victim-blaming. People who ask why Katz didn’t fight back. Why she didn’t scream. Why she didn’t find a place to stay (while under the intense watch of a powerful, well-known, incredibly manipulative man in a city where, by the way, she knew almost no one). Why she agreed to stay with him in the first place, even though it was clear that he wanted to sleep with her. Why she stayed silent for months. Why she wrote about it at all.

People keep asking about Katz’s “common sense,” as in “why doesn’t she have any?” Because she should have known that if a man offers a woman a free place to stay, the unspoken contingency is that he expects her to sleep with him. If a woman politely tells a man that she’s not interested in having sex with them, she should automatically assume that he will rape her. If a woman does not want to be raped, she should not accept free drugs and alcohol from a man. If a woman is raped by a well-connected, much-respected writer, any negative repercussions that she might fear should never stop her from immediately fleeing his apartment.

People keep asking why Katz didn’t take responsibility for her own safety, as if rape had to be the natural and inevitable consequence of all of her choices. Because if a woman is raped by man, there is always a whole catalogue of things that she could or should have done to stop it. Always.

It seems almost certain that if Katz had decided not to take Dierks up on his offer of a free place to stay, then he wouldn’t have been able to assault her in the way that he did. What seems equally certain to me is that Katz (and all women) should not be expected to believe that any and all roads you walk down with a man you don’t know very well must lead to rape. You can say that different choices would lead to a different outcome in just about any given scenario in life – that doesn’t mean that you know ahead of time where the choices you’re making will take you. It is not Sophia Katz’s fault that she was raped. Not even a little bit. Not even maybe. Dierks chose to rape Katz, and all of the fault for that rape rests with him, now and forever.

When I think about Sophia Katz and my grandmother and, well, pretty much all women everywhere, I am just so unbelievably angry at how many sacrifices and concessions we’re told to make in order to stay safe. Don’t dress a certain way. Quit the job you love. Be careful about how and when and where you travel. Don’t walk down certain streets. Don’t go out alone at night. Don’t drink. Limit your presence on social media. Don’t be outspoken. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t send nude photos to anyone; in fact, don’t even take any nude photos. Don’t trust men, ever, in any way. And if you don’t follow these rules, anything bad that happens to you is your own fault.

I’m sad that my grandmother didn’t get to stay at the workplace she loved, and I’m even more sad that there are people who think that Sophia Katz is at fault for the fact that Stephen Tully Dierks raped her. It’s 2014, and we’re still blaming female rape victims for daring to travel, to drink, to wear short skirts, to trust men. With everything that we know about rape culture and how it works, why are we still singing the same damn tune?


33 Responses to “Safety Tips for Sophia Katz”

  1. welliswan October 2, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    Not only are we still blaming women for being victimized, we’re also routinely berating women for acting like all men are threats. It’s a rigged game, and it’s unbelievably sick.

    • tapati October 3, 2014 at 2:11 am #

      Yes, THIS.

      “What seems equally certain to me is that Katz (and all women) should not be expected to believe that any and all roads you walk down with a man you don’t know very well must lead to rape.”

      But heaven help us if we indicate that we don’t feel safe in an elevator with men we don’t know. #elevatorgate #notallmen

    • assman October 7, 2014 at 2:07 am #

      I think we don’t do enough victim blaming. Sophie Katz is an idiot. And so are most of you. It couldn’t have been easier to have avoided that situation and she basically did nothing….absolutely nothing.

      I think if there was literally a button that said “Press this button to avoid Stan raping you” and people said “Sophie..maybe you should just press that button” you would still call it victim-blaming.

      This has to be the softest, most pathetic, weakest generation of people ever.

      • sellmaeth November 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

        “I think we don’t do enough victim blaming. Sophie Katz is an idiot. And so are most of you.”

        Yes. Yes we are. If we women were really clever, we would not even talk to men, let alone invite them into our houses, or visit them at theirs. We would kill men on sight.

        What I don’t understand,though, is why men don’t thank god that women are stupid enough to still trust them, after more than 2000 years of rape culture, but instead repeatedly feel the need to remind women how stupid their trust in men’s humanity is.

  2. Wilson October 2, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

    I doubt ill get a response but do you think her essay/version is enough to convict this man of an absolutely heinous crime? If so why have courts of law when it comes to rape why not just have the victims sign probable cause affidavits then send the alleged perpetrator straight to 30 to life?

  3. Sammi Conway October 2, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

    It is NEVER the vitcim’s fault. Could not agree more with everything you just wrote. Everyday I am told to be worried about going to college in the city next year, because of rape and other things that may go wrong. My brother was not told any of those things, and goes to school in the city. I know rape culture and feminist will still exist, until we fight it, but it is refreshing to find someone who believes the same views I do. It is sad that women have to be more cautious, than men, and that we are limited to roaming the city at different times of the night, because of fear of rape etc. In a high school full of students who make fun of feminism and put down women for believing we DO NOT have equal rights, I am glad I found a role model (you) to look up to. So thank you for that.

    • Wilson October 3, 2014 at 2:46 am #

      I truly feel sorry for you if you view this troll as a role model.

      • mgpcoe October 3, 2014 at 4:31 am #

        You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • Wilson October 3, 2014 at 4:32 am #

        What word?

      • Wilson October 3, 2014 at 4:38 am #

        Oh you mean troll. Well a troll is someone who posts inflammatory positions on the internet that have no serious support behind it and is simply meant to incite a reaction and rally waterheads to chime in and cheer it on.

      • admdrew (@admdrew) October 3, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

        It’s weird you’ve misunderstood the most of basic of tenets in the troll definition in this context – posts *most* be in direct reply to their targets.

        Thus – *you’re* trolling, but the author of this blog really doesn’t qualify for such a label.

      • Wilson October 3, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

        Oh look she has a fanboy. How cute.

      • welliswan October 4, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

        Hrm, who to support? The generally source-providing and accountable writer herself, or the slur-slinging anonymous self-described scoundrel who turns up to harass her with accusations of trolling, who thinks name-calling is some kind of legitimate refutation? Oh, oh my! THIS IS A REALLY HARD DECISION, YOU GUYS.

      • Wilson October 4, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

        Where was I asking for support? I asked a question and so far all I’ve received is hysterical shrieking and foot stomping.

  4. Emily October 3, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    Thank you so, so much for writing this.

  5. Wilson October 3, 2014 at 2:22 am #

    You are the troll I aspire to be. Well done (slow clap)

    • I October 4, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

      Thank you, sir, for outing yourself as a rape apologist and a potential rapist. I fear for the women in your vicinity and hope they are safe.

      • Wilson October 4, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

        And this is why I love these type of posts. They are so incredibly over emotional and devoid of any logic or reason. Any questioning or disagreement and youre a potential rapist.

  6. smartypants196 October 3, 2014 at 5:26 am #

    The story of your grandma about her working on the pier, well my mother’s family immigrated from England during that time and i wonder if your grandma checked in my mother’s father, mother and my aunt. My grandpa a house painter came over with only a quarter in his pocket. They lived in Winnepeg then traveled north info chicago and then Milwaukee where they settled. But we never knew the story behind it, but my uncle when he went to sign up to fight in the war, was told that his parents were “Illegal aliens” and that in order for him to sign up for the army he had to get my grandpa and grandma to seek American citizenship. But my mother recalls before that time, whenever someone unexpected would knock at the door, my grandpa would hush everyone and was afraid that if the police had found out they were in AMerica without being citizens that they would be sent back. And to tell you the truth it must have been passed onto our family as we have a rule to call first before just dropping over, and won’t answer the door if we don’t know who it is. So my family were illegal aliens, which shows us that many of the people who came from Europe were part of that melting pot that many of us are from somewhere else. ITs only the american indians who are truely Americans in the purest form.

  7. Ann K. October 3, 2014 at 5:28 am #

    When Israel was experiencing an epidemic of violent rapes and someone at a cabinet meeting suggested women be put under curfew until the rapists were caught, Prime Minister Golda Meir shot back, “Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew.”

  8. Mario Savioni October 3, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    It is not for a man to decide.

  9. Nicola October 3, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Amen x a million. I work behind the bar at a concert hall, and my shifts always finish after dark. I ALWAYS walk the long way home, through the nearby university campus which is well-lit and has security staff onsite, rather than the quickest way, through a park which is generally thought to be a Very Bad Place to walk at night, especially if you’re a woman. What makes me rage the most, I think, is that I know if ever I did walk through the park home and I was sexually assaulted or raped, the first thing I’d be asked would be ‘what were you doing walking through the park alone at night?’

  10. onehundredtwentythreedays October 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Women have a difficult time saying NO even when we want to because we are taught in this culture to be people pleasing and all things to everyone (the whore and the Madonna). Rape is about power “… a powerful, well-known, incredibly manipulative man”, an aspiring young woman under the influence of a powerful well-known writer – he used his power to take advantage of her in a city she doesn’t know – it is rape. And the fact he made a clear decision to NOT wear a condom despite her protest is a clear indication that he 1) does not care what she wants – period! and 2) his lack of respect is so blatant that he is putting her at risk for STDs, unwanted pregnancy, etc… And there is no cost to him if she is affected, they will become her problems, her doctor bills, her devastating decision to chose whether or not to carry a child of rape to term. Sexual coercion takes many different forms but it all leads to one act, and that is rape. Coercion in ANY form does NOT equal consent! Thank you for sharing this story – a much needed conversation always.

  11. wisewebwoman October 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    Puts me in mind of how I had to tailor my weekends visiting my fiancé in Dublin to the weekends my father could pick me up from the railway station as I had been attacked in a tunnel leading from the railway station. I beat the attacker off with an umbrella and yelling very loudly (he ran). A male passerby told me I was “mad” to use that tunnel but it was the only way to get to my bus-stop. Hence my father then picking me up. When he could. Looking back (I’m an elder now) I am amazed at how compliant we all were to ‘avoiding’ dangerous places and accepting of it being our fault if we were attacked.
    Sweet Jebus.

  12. Adam Levine October 5, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    It’s never a women’s fault that she was raped.

    But there’s a difference between not being your fault and the idea that you could have somewhere done something to prevent it from happening.

    If I left my wedding ring on the dashboard of my car with the doors open in a bad neighbourhood and got it stolen, would it be my fault? No…. Nobody should steal and if they do steal, it’s their issue.

    But I could have been a little bit more careful.

    Two complete separate ideas.

    Also, the idea that all rapes are the same are ridiculous. A women viciously jumped /beaten /raped on her way home from work by a stranger is much different than what happened in the case of Katz here.

    She pulled what’s called the “mute starfish”. This is when a guy is being obnoxious and overstepping his boundaries big time and for whatever reason, she chooses to just lie there and let him and hope it’s over quick.

    People (even women) empathize with the first case because of the randomness (the feeling it could happen to anybody). We tend to come up with ways that Katz could have prevented it because we’re trying to rationalize that it couldn’t happen to us or our daughter or sister.

    That’s just human natural unfortunately and it happens with all crime. We try to find reasons why it couldn’t happen to us.

    • Don January 28, 2015 at 2:53 am #

      You seem like you mean well, so maybe you’re teachable. You come off as a rapist apologist. Yes, you. Why? Because you pull the old “It’s never the woman’s fault, BUT….” Then spend most of the rest of the post talking about the victim rather than the scumbag who victimized her. That makes you look like you’re victim blaming.
      How about a long, thoughtful post about the predator and the inside of his head? How about speculating in detail about his shortcomings? Let’s see it.

  13. KeyLimePie October 13, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    First of all, Dierks is not by any stretch of the imagination a well-known man, even now. He’s unseemly but he did not force Katz into his home or bed. In fact she continued to return to his bed every night for a week, willingly. Are we to believe that Katz couldn’t scrape together $50 for a bus ticket back to Toronto?! She seems equally manipulative as Dierks. She repeatedly exchanged sex for lodging, food, and drugs and wants to label it as rape rather than prostitution. Why are we so quick to believe the story of a would-be writer who admits to breaking the law and lying? I wish Katz would realize how her hypocritical behavior sets women back.

  14. janegoodhope October 13, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Dierks is not a well-known man, by any stretch. However unseemly, he did not force himself on Katz. She returned to his bed willingly every night for a week, exchanging sex for lodging, food, and drugs. She wants to label it as rape rather than prostitution. Why should we believe the story of a would-be writer who broke our drinking and drug laws, and lied about her attraction to Dierks? Katz’s hypocrisy sets women back.

    • janegoodhope October 13, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

      Are we to believe Katz could not scrape together $50 for a bus ticket back to Toronto?! She is equally as manipulative as Dierks.

  15. Marc April 18, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Reblogged this on Öffentlicher Dienst.


  1. #liberediamare | SUD DE-GENERE - October 7, 2014

    […] Esattamente come Anne Thériault spiega essere successo, nel suo bell’articolo Safety Tips for Sophia Katz : perché “avrebbe dovuto sapere che se un uomo offre ospitalità a una donna, il non detto […]


    […] being discussed on Gawker and Salon, random strangers giving you life advice on social media (“Safety Tips for Sophia Katz”), etc. How did you feel during that […]

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