Rejection Killings : Why Women Can’t “Just Say No”

As an app centered around women’s safety, here at Parry, we understand that saying “no” or “I’m not interested” are not necessarily responses women can safely rely on. Literally. Rejection killings refer to when women are met with violence because they have chosen to say no or they are not interested – the act of rejection itself results in their harm, and sometimes ultimately their death.

Medium wrote an article on this topic and the importance of rejection killings being tracked – women are dying as a result of this and it is largely going unnoticed. The article shed light on the stories of multiple women. Two, in particular, were killed as a result of ending a marriage and also calling off an engagement. These women were met with intimate partner violence for refusing to stay in the relationship. While four other women were brutally attacked, two of which ended up being killed, because they rejected a stranger’s advances.

Riley Whitelaw was another woman who was killed because she refused her co-worker’s advances. She was just 17 years old and was working at Walgreens. Prior to her death, she expressed to her managers that she felt uncomfortable working with her 28-year-old co-worker, Joshua Taylor Johnson, who had a crush on her. She had denied his advances and then asked her manager for shifts that did not coincide with his so she would not have to work with him. She was told that she would still have to work alongside him, and several weeks later during her shift, her body was found in the Walgreens breakroom, where Johnson had murdered her.

This is a topic that needs more awareness surrounding it – as women, we often hear “just say no if you’re not interested.”  It is a very sad and terrifying reality we live in, that saying “no” is no longer necessarily a safe option in order to ward off someone’s advances. It can feel impossible to know how to respond, when denying someone could result in being harmed, but also not wanting to lead someone on or give them the wrong impression. At the end of the day, the best response is the one that keeps you safest, which is a large reason why we came up with Parry. Sometimes it is the safest option to avoid answering altogether when something like a fake phone call can give you a discreet exit strategy. While Parry, or any other diversion, is not a permanent solution to this issue, we hope it’s something that can help women feel safer in situations that can arise.


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