After the selfies and hugs and goodbyes, we say these six words:
Text me when you get home.
We don’t save this send-off for special occasions. There’s no time limit. It could be a Sunday brunch, a Saturday late night, a book club meeting, or a yoga workout. It always ends the same.
Text me when you get home.
Jassy Correia will never be home again. She had celebrated her 23rd birthday with friends at Venu nightclub in Boston’s Theatre District into the earliest hours of Feb. 24. Minutes after she left the club, Louis D. Coleman III walked up to her, they chatted, and they left together. On Thursday, her body was found in the trunk of his car when he was pulled over driving through Delaware.
Since Jassy went missing and then was found dead, I’ve seen the same tweets, memes, Groupme messages, and texts over and over.
Where were her friends?
Never leave your friends alone.
Why did they let her leave with a guy?
The Girl Code is we arrive together, we leave together.
Her friends have been shamed, blamed, and deemed fake friends by some on social media.
We are like this because girls are taught to never walk alone. Don’t use public restrooms solo. No drinks from strangers. We’re told to get to our cars quickly, start the car, and get driving. No lingering. Dress modestly, be aware of your surroundings, carry pepper spray, and learn basic self defense. The list of things we do to keep ourselves safe is long. But as Jackson Katz, an activist educator, found out through his research: Sexual assault safety is a nonissue for many men.
When asked what they do to keep themselves safe, the common response: “Nothing. I don’t think about it.”
But for women, it’s always on our minds. My friend Pam and I used to morbidly joke that whenever we walked from our cars to our doors we could hear the “Law & Order” dun-dun, our hearts beating fast, reminding us to hurry to safety. Don’t let the buzzer get you, best friend.
But, like Captain Marvel says in the new film, we’ve been fighting with one hand tied behind our back. As women, as them, as LGBTQ+, you are charged with your own safety and the safety of your friends while straight men, sexism, and rape culture are left unchecked.
Jassy’s friends did not stuff her in a suitcase and carry her across state lines. Jassy’s friends did not rob her of raising her daughter. Jassy’s friends did nothing wrong.
And neither did Jassy.
“Jassy was not in the wrong place at the right time,” Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said at a press conference on Friday. “She was right where every woman has every right to be — celebrating her birthday, on a night out with friends. Let’s not fall into a discussion about whether we should walk home alone or how many people we should call when we’re leaving the club. If anything, let’s remind the men in our lives that violence against women isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a problem that men take responsibility for in their lives, in their sons’ lives, and in the social lives with friends and colleagues.”
Do men text each other to say, “Don’t force her to do anything?” Do they say, “Remember, no means no?” Do they check the toxic masculinity that starts out with nasty catcalls and arm tugs before it grows into unwanted kisses, rape, or murder?
Nah. Because they don’t think it’s their business. They don’t think anyone they know is capable of this behavior. They think it’s just boys talk and guys being guys. It’s just a little ass-grab and a few hurt feelings.
It’s far more than that, fellas.
“Whatever narratives we have in our heads about who can be an offender are often wrong,” said Gina Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. “The common thread in cases of sexual assault is that it’s about an offender exerting power and control over someone else without their consent.”
Women know this. Because as girls, it’s the little boys we go to school with and play with and trust who touch and taunt our growing bodies. So even as adults, even when we return to college for a homecoming reunion, there’s a safety plan as thoroughly curated as our outfits.
According to the National Institute of Justice, about 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by an acquaintance. About half the perps are their dates. The CDC reports more than 10 million women and men are victims of intimate partner violence.
Even in a crowd of hundreds of familiar faces with friends we’ve had for decades, we share our location. On first dates with new guys, we drop digital pins from our phones linked to GPS. First dates can be fatal. One woman barely survived a stabbing by her Tinder date in Cohasset days after Christmas.
We have a safety roll call. Our mothers had one, too. It was landline phone calls, car pools, and waiting until the lights were on to drive away. Now, when we get home, we send texts.
We shouldn’t have to. But we do. It’s not much, yet it’s everything.
I love you, one of us will say, Kayleen Schaefer writes in her 2018 book, “Text Me When You Get Home.” Text me when you get home, the other will say. We’re saying the same thing.
In her ode to female friendships, she talks about how it’s more than safekeeping. It’s an invitation: Let’s keep talking.
She’s right. The text often leads to the chatty afterparty.
But not before we’ve announced our safety. Not until you’re out of the ride share, out of the garage, the dog is walked, the baby-sitter situation is wrapped, that last errand has been run, and you’re in the house for the night. Not until “Home” flashes across that smartphone screen.
Text me when you get home means make it back in one piece. Text me when you get home means come back to me. Text me when you get home means beat the “Law & Order” buzzer home because we have more life to do together.
Text me when you get home.
Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.