?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile My Website Previous Previous Next Next
Is this blaming the victim, or suggesting precautions? (214.4) - Mark's Journal
mhaithaca
mhaithaca
Is this blaming the victim, or suggesting precautions? (214.4)
A Toronto police officer speaking at a campus safety information session last month is in trouble after saying "Don't dress like a slut" as advice on how to stay safe on campus and reduce the risk of sexual assault. Not dressing provocatively, avoiding dimly lit places, and not walking alone at night are among the tips Toronto police have stopped offering, for fear that a list of should-nots becomes patronizing to women.

I'm in full agreement that sexual assault is never the fault of the victim, and is always the fault of the attacker. Eliminating sexual assault at the source of the problem is a good goal, and how a woman dresses or behaves is never the source of the problem.

That said, from the perspective of an individual woman, there simply are things she can do to reduce the chances that she will be a victim. Pretending otherwise for the sake of political correctness? That's patronizing, if you ask me. "Don't dress like a slut" is an asinine thing for a police officer to say to a group of college students, but there's a valid message hidden in his poor choice of words.
34 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
slave2tehtink From: slave2tehtink Date: February 17th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Stranger rape is incredibly rare. If women REALLY want to reduce our chances of being raped, we should accordingly NEVER GET NEAR MEN. Ever. You know what would be a great anti-rape message? "Don't rape people." Screw telling women what to wear, we are not the problem when we get raped.

Suggesting that maybe the police officer should have just phrased it better (like what, "consult Biblical standards of modesty to protect yourself from sexual assault"?) buys right into the "what women wear is the problem" line. What would be an acceptable way to tell women they're just asking for it?

Why do anti-rape campaigns never focus on the real problem, which is the behavior of rapists? Why do they not focus on "how to spot when some dude is acting in a predatory manner and intervene"? Why are the victims being told that they have to curtail their lives, not the criminals? How could the police phrase "never go out alone, especially after dark. Never drink alcohol in public. Never wear something someone, somewhere, might consider sexy." that would be acceptable?

My theory is that there isn't. Because rape victims are not the problem. Rapists are the problem.
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: February 17th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree completely with you that rapists are the problem. I even said so. Solving that problem is the goal. I even said so. Women's behavior or attire is never the source of the problem. I even said so.

But until there's no more rape, a day I hope does come, I'm not comfortable with the idea of not telling individual women how they can reduce their individual risks of becoming individual victims, for fear of being patronizing. If that's offensive to you, I'm sorry.
verymelm From: verymelm Date: February 17th, 2011 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Honestly, that's like telling people who don't want their homes burglarized to be sure there's no way anyone could see anything of value in their homes through their windows or doors because the temptation might be too much for someone else to overcome.

Women's dress and behavior aren't the problem, so telling them they need to monitor how they dress or act aren't part of the solution; it just perpetuates the belief that women who are raped are responsible for the behavior of their rapist. Rapists are the problem. Talk to them about changing their behavior.
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: February 18th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd say it's more like telling people who don't want their homes burglarized that if there's a burglar out there who is going to rob a house, they want to minimize the odds that theirs will be the house. And we do tell people how to do just that.
mazzie From: mazzie Date: February 17th, 2011 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
That rapes only, mostly, or even OFTEN happen in dark alleys is a myth.

Suggesting that a victim of an assault do something to change her behavior or appearance to make herself more safe perpetuates victim blaming, no matter how it's presented. It can also cause (further) harm by victim shaming, wherein a woman would be more reluctant to report or tell anyone because she was walking alone at night in a "slutty" outfit when it happened. I'm not speaking in the abstract.

Women are raped in well-lit areas while they are wearing sweatpants. Women are raped when other people are near by, in the same house, in the same room, even. Women are even raped when they don't walk home alone.

I don't think it's political correctness (and, boy, do I hate that term). I think it's more widely known that the kind of advice he was perpetuating is ignorant and unhelpful.

And since you already said the way he said it was asinine, I won't even get STARTED on how loaded "Don't dress like a slut" is.
beeeej From: beeeej Date: February 18th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with almost everything you said here - except that I don't believe it perpetuates victim blaming or shaming to suggest that one ought not to walk alone at night in poorly-lit areas. I consider that good advice to anybody, including myself, because muggings (unlike rapes) really do happen mostly in such places. I won't walk in most parts of Central Park at night, and I'm a 6' tall, 220 pound guy who isn't afraid of an awful lot in my city. In other words, the fact that women are sometimes raped in well-lit areas is not, to my mind, reason enough for a woman to walk alone at night in a poorly-lit area because it shouldn't make any difference.

There may be a fine line between accepting partial responsibility for one's own likelihood of attack and simply making intelligent choices when such choices are available to you, but I nevertheless think that line does exist.
mazzie From: mazzie Date: February 18th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
"I don't think it perpetuates victim blaming ... There may be a fine line between accepting partial responsibility for one's own likelihood of attack..."


sethrates From: sethrates Date: February 19th, 2011 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Is there supposed to be an incongruity or other issue between the two clauses you quote? I don't see one.
mazzie From: mazzie Date: February 19th, 2011 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)

THIS IS BAITING

Yes. Responsibility and blame are opposite sides of the same coin.

And the notion that I might look SO HOT and be SO VULNERABLE that some man JUST HAS TO shove his dick in me is repulsive.
sethrates From: sethrates Date: February 19th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: THIS IS BAITING

Oh, but I think you may have misunderstood the second half of the last sentence. I read it as beeej saying that "accepting responsibility" and giving blame were both bad things. I read it like this:

"There may be a fine line between accepting partial responsibility for one's own likelihood of attack [an obviously inappropriate thing] and simply making intelligent choices when such choices are available to you [an unfortunate but possibly beneficial thing], but I nevertheless think that line does exist."

And yes, I agree it's repulsive.
mazzie From: mazzie Date: February 19th, 2011 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: THIS IS BAITING

"but I nevertheless think that line does exist."
sethrates From: sethrates Date: February 19th, 2011 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
So it's possible to differentiate between the obviously inappropriate thing on the one hand, and the unfortunate but possibly beneficial thing on the other. He's not saying that blaming victims or holding them responsible is ever ok. He's saying that it's possible for things that sound like blaming the victim to actually not be doing that at all.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
sethrates From: sethrates Date: February 19th, 2011 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: THIS IS BAITING

For what it's worth, and I fear that since you don't know me there's no way that you'll believe me, I really was trying to understand.
mazzie From: mazzie Date: February 19th, 2011 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: THIS IS BAITING

I feel the same way. I am trying, too. I started my last comment by saying I see where you are coming from, and I need to consider it.

But I lost sight of that when I reread beeej's comment.

We are reading it differently. That doesn't mean I am a bitch and you are an asshole. It doesn't even mean he is right or wrong.

I am struggling. I am hurt. I am angry.

None of those things make me lack respect for you, or cause me to not consider your words.
sethrates From: sethrates Date: February 19th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I thought this was a carefully-considered, nuanced invitation to discussion on a topic that is very sensitive (with very good reason, of course).

I think you are right, with all the caveats you gave, that it's appropriate to point out what factors are correlated with a higher probability of becoming the victim of a crime, and that that's not the same as saying a victim's actions caused the crime. (Not leaving a laptop visible through the front window, actually a common piece of advice, is a good example of that.)

However, as some others have mentioned, mode of dress isn't as strong a correlated factor in rape as many apparently imagine it is. My gut feeling is that drinking to incapacitation probably is such a factor, but of course the advice police give should be based on studies and the views of experts.
34 comments or Leave a comment