Editorial | Caution isn’t a solution

caution

Illustrated by Gaby Fantone

On Sept. 18, Newport Beach surgeon Grant Robicheaux and his girlfriend, Chapman alumna Cerissa Riley, were charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two Orange County women. Since the two were charged, at least 12 more potential victims have come forward, according to the District Attorney’s office.

The pair found potential victims at Newport Beach bars and restaurants, according to the DA’s office, and prosecutors also believe that Robicheaux may have also targeted potential victims using dating apps like Bumble.

But Robicheaux and Riley don’t fit the idea of what many people often picture when thinking of sexual predators. The two are conventionally attractive and live in a wealthy, relatively low-crime area in Orange County, California. Robicheaux is a well-reviewed orthopedic surgeon, described in Yelp reviews before his arrest as “caring” and “honest.” It’s not difficult to imagine the couple striking up an easy conversation with a woman at a restaurant or bar and making her feel comfortable.

“We believe the defendants used their good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey,” said the District Attorney Tony Rackauckas at a Sept. 18 press conference.

Women are often told to be vigilant in environments like bars to protect themselves from the actions of sexual predators and harassers, who are overwhelmingly male, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But there’s one thing that most women don’t usually feel the need to look out for – other women.

Riley played an equal part to Robicheaux in the alleged assaults, helping Robicheaux drug and assault the women, according to court documents obtained by The Panther.

Her alleged participation is a prime example of how despite the fact women often feel they can put their guard down around other seemingly trustworthy people, that misplaced trust can have disastrous results. While more than half of female rape victims report being sexually assaulted by an intimate partner, 49 percent did not know their attacker, according to the CDC.

But women should not have to be permanently on guard in public places, searching the face of every stranger for dishonesty and analyzing every casual conversation for signs of danger. While it’s important for anyone in a bar or crowded area to stay vigilant by watching their drinks and the behavior of others around them, it’s unreasonable to expect constant caution.

By always telling women to “protect themselves” and “stay safe,” society perpetrates a culture of victim-blaming and shame. As a result, people who are raped often feel a sense of guilt for not preventing the assault and are reluctant to report.

Instead of constantly cautioning women to avoid sexual assault, society needs to hold abusers accountable, no matter what they look like or how trustworthy they appear to be.