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Sarah Kuper
Lindsay Hastings
Composition II
15 September 2016

Don’t Blink

“Don't blink. Blink and you're dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don't turn
your back. Don't look away. And don't blink. Good luck.” - Doctor Who, Series 3, Episode 10,
“Blink”

While the Doctor may be talking about aliens made of stone (called “weeping angels” in
the show), the phrase can also apply to a woman’s need to always remain alert. We must always
know where we are. We must watch what we say, what we wear. We must not walk down streets
alone at night. If we blink, if we relax or trust for one moment, we may find ourselves in trouble.
Granted, we are not caught by the weeping angels, but by the systematic oppression that women
face every day all over the world In her essay “Blink”, Kristen Cosby asserts that in
undeveloped countries, women face far harsher punishments for being a victim than the men
who commit crimes against them, and I agree with this assertion.
This trend in blaming women for becoming the victims of crime is generally referred to
as “rape culture.” Women are asked what they were wearing at the time of their assault, what
they did wrong. We are warned against walking alone at night, and should we be faced with
having to do so we are walking with a canister of mace in one hand and our keys between the
fingers of the other. We are constantly on the lookout for the people who might hurt us,

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distrustful of those we meet in the street. Cosby, meeting the man who assaulted her, assumed he
was a safe person. He seemed well-educated, engaged her in intelligent conversation, and then
used that familiarity to invade her personal space and assault her. I use the term assault because
he touched her without her consent, making her nervous. Had she been sexually assaulted, her
mates might have asked her why she trusted a man off the street in the first place. Why had she
let him into her room? She was opening herself to trouble, letting a stranger into her safe space.
While Cosby was assaulted by a relative stranger, the two women she writes about in her
essay, Amina and Semse, are assaulted by people familiar to them. Amina is raped by the man
who had talked of marrying her, and Semse is seemingly coerced into a sexual relationship with
a friend of her father’s. Worldwide, far more women are sexually assaulted by people they know
than by strangers. In fact, the latest numbers from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center
state that eight out of every ten women who are raped know the person who assaulted them
(“Statistics”). We are much more likely to be hurt by those we know, and this knowledge only
makes us more wary of our male companions and their intentions toward us. The men in our
lives have the ability to rip our lives right from under our feet, simply by overpowering us and
using our bodies to their own gain.
Both of the women in Cosby’s essay become pregnant and are subsequently punished for
having extramarital sex, no matter whether it was consensual or not. Moreover, in a stricter
society like that of Nigeria, with its Sharia law, Amina was punished more harshly than the man
who raped her. Thanks to her lawyer she was not buried in a pit and stoned to death, but she
came very close. Semse and her father’s friend Halil attempted to run away from the disgrace
that they had caused their families, but her family caught them and stoned and stabbed them

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both. Halil died, and Semse managed to live for a few months before she succumbed to her
injuries. All this was done in the name of honor.
Women who have been sexually assaulted, no matter where in the world, often feel as if
they have been disgraced. Dirty. In many cultures, this is exactly what the victims are seen as. It
does not matter that they are the victim, that they did nothing to provoke their assailants. Men
can avoid harsh punishment by pointing a finger and informing the police that the victims led
them on. They said yes but changed their minds. They dressed provocatively.
Kristen Cosby did none of these things. She was friendly to a stranger on the street, that
was all. This stranger then invaded her personal space and claimed that he was entitled to her
company because she had been friendly with him. When Cosby refused, he grew violent and
threatened to kill himself before touching her inappropriately.
This experience, I believe, has made Cosby biased to believe women are unfairly treated
in the judicial system. Most women are biased to support their own sex when it comes to matters
of injustice, if they wish to call themselves feminists. Cosby seeks to point out the various
problems with the legal systems in Nigeria and Turkey, where Amina and Semse faced their
trials. She compares their experiences with her own, and though they are not the same at all-Cosby escaped being sexually assaulted and managed to get away from her assailant--they are
similar enough to make her point. Men become friendly with women and then use that
familiarity to take advantage of them. This occurs in countries all throughout the world.
Cosby attempts to come to terms with the events in this memoir essay, looking back on
what happened and trying to make sense of it in the context of other women’s experiences.
According to her website, Cosby is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and the
University of Pittsburgh and has won several awards, including a fellowship at the MacDowell

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Artist Colony (Kristen). Her piece was written between the time of the events in 2003 and when
it was published in 2006 in Fourth Genre (Cosby).
Cosby uses a slightly disjointed style of writing, interspersing her own experience with
the experiences of Amina and Semse. It is a style that works to enhance her desire to compare
her experiences to those of the other women. Cosby’s overall tone is one of factuality
interspersed with a bit of regret and astonishment. Her limitations are a potential
misunderstanding of other cultures and possible misinterpretation of the events surrounding her
own assault, as well as possible backlash from the community. Limitations for the reader
include possible lack of sympathy and misunderstanding of other cultures. Another limitation for
the reader is the possibility that he or she does not agree with Cosby.
However, Cosby is rather effective in her rhetoric. Though I already believed her point to
be true from cases observed in the United States, my beliefs were only strengthened by her
memoir essay. Cosby puts forth facts and her own experiences to strengthen the rhetoric, using
both these facts and the reader’s own emotions to prove the point. Care must be taken not to
generalize the statement that women are punished more harshly than men when it comes to
sexual crimes, as it is evident that this statement is more true in undeveloped countries governed
by ancient, traditional, or religion-based laws. One must truly think critically about the way
women and men are both treated in a judicial system.
Cosby uses all three parts of the rhetorical triangle to make her point. She uses her
authority as a victim of assault and a near-victim of sexual assault, making her case from her
own point of view. She talks of her apprehension as Zayyanna appears in her room, her
discomfort as he begins talking of how much he loves her, her desire for him to leave. Cosby
uses logos by comparing the punishments of the men to those given to Amina and Semse. The

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man who raped and impregnated Amina denied his involvement and was acquitted thanks to the
antiquated and religion-based laws of Nigeria. Instead, the victim of his crime, Amina, was the
one punished. It took a team of lawyers to get Amina’s sentence repealed. Finally, Cosby uses
pathos to reach her audience, speaking of the way these men came into the women’s lives and
how they manipulated their beliefs in order to take advantage of them. Cosby speaks of the child
borne from Amina’s rape--the child Semse carried was miscarried after she was stoned and
stabbed into a coma.
Kristen Cosby writes a powerful narrative about the injustices women face in the judicial
system. She writes of the power men have over women--physical, emotional, and legal. Cosby
herself has experienced the fear of a man who could hurt her, a fear many women have gone
through at least once (and usually more than once) in their lives. We must be cautious. We must
be vigilant. We cannot close our eyes to this issue. We cannot blink.

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Works Cited

Cosby, Kristen. “Blink.” Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, vol. 8, no. 1, 2006, pp. 93107.
Kristen Cosby, www.kristencosby.com. Accessed 15 September 2016.
“Statistics About Sexual Violence.” National Sexual Violence Resource Center,
www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statisticsabout-sexual-violence_0.pdf. Accessed 14 September 2016.