The rape prevention controversy - Livre d'Or








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livredor
The rape prevention controversy
Sunday, 04 December 2005 at 04:21 pm
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I'm a little bit behind the times on this, but there has been a fair amount of discussion around LJ about this survey on attitudes to rape organized by Amnesty. This parody of dumb rape prevention advice has been doing the rounds a bit (I think I have the original version, thanks to redbird, but it's a bit hard to trace memes to their source), and itself has provoked a range of reactions.

I'm not sure how much the survey actually proves (I'm not crazy about Amnesty anyway). There are some people out there with really horrifying attitudes; does this really surprise anyone? Just just about any survey at all is going to get a proportion of people who will chose headline-grabbingly bad options. I'm more interested in responding to how this survey has been received than in the survey itself.

shreena has a really interesting post about linguistic confusion in the survey results, and in this kind of discussion generally. Thank you shreena; as I've been saying for a long time, it's useful to have philosophers among my friends, particularly if they make articulate LJ posts I can link to.

erbie's piece is the one that has really generated a buzz. I believe the point she is trying to make is that people have total control over whether or not they commit rape, but people have essentially no control over whether someone else rapes them. I don't think she makes the point as clearly as she could make it, however. Some people object to the post because it makes gendered assumptions; I've seen it reposted with disclaimers that make it more gender neutral. I don't really want to get into the debate about whether it's appropriate to talk about men raping women or people raping other people.

My immediate response to it was, that advice is all very well, but it's not going to stop rape. It's like saying, there are a billion people in the world who don't have enough to eat, so you should combat malnutrition by making sure that you eat a balanced diet, and if you see a starving person, don't steal their food. There are probably very approximately a billion people in the world who either have been raped or will be raped at some point in their lives; I would dearly like some reasonable suggestions about what I can do about this intolerable situation, and really, me not raping anyone is not the answer. I'm being overly literal, though, and I'm fairly certain erbie was not intending to simplistically instruct her readers not to rape (though I am not the only one who has read her meme that way).

There does seem to be a consensus emerging out of this debate, namely:

Rape is wrong, and it is never justified by anything a victim may do or fail to do. But women should still take reasonable precautions to avoid being raped, and should be aware that doing stupid things may lead to bad consequences.

This does seem pretty reasonable, on the face of it, so it may be surprising that I want to take issue with it. In fact, erbie herself ended up editing her original list as a concession to this line of argument. I hope the summary I have written above isn't a straw man; I think that's very close to what a lot of people are saying, particularly in objecting to erbie's list.

There are some sick people out there who would actually directly blame victims for being raped; this group probably accounts for some (though I would suggest not all, because of the psychology of the way people answer surveys) of the people who gave the disgusting answers in the Amnesty survey. This post isn't addressed to people who think like that, any more than erbie's post was addressed to actual rapists. No, I want to argue with the apparently reasonable people.

IMO, people who pontificate about what women should do to avoid being raped are well-meaning, but misguided. Many people draw an analogy with robbery: there is no debate that robbery is wrong, and is the fault of the robber, not the victim, but there is also little debate that it is stupid to leave all your doors and windows open when you go out. Again, seems uncontroversial, but I'm going to reject that analogy.

Let's start with Snopes.com on this issue. Because really, if you're going into an internet discussion without starting without even checking whether you're quoting facts or urban legends, you're not getting very far. There's an awful lot of stuff out there about how to avoid getting raped which is sheer and utter bullshit, and the Snopes email forward is a good example. That goes for advice like "Learn unarmed combat" and "Carry a gun" (even though that's illegal in most civilized countries...) and "Wear a spiky thing in your vagina". But hey, sensible advice is ok, right?

No, not really. It's possible to make up all kinds of extreme examples. Let's say... a blind drunk woman who wanders down dark alleys at 3 am while wearing nothing but sexy underwear and high heeled shoes, well, she doesn't deserve to get raped, but she's being pretty stupid and irresponsible, right? Sure, but how many women need someone to point that out to them? Anyway, what if she's wearing normal clothes, or clothes that completely cover her skin according to some religious modesty code? What if she's sober? What if she sticks to well-lit main streets? What if it's the middle of the day rather than 3 am? If you believe that nobody ever gets raped in busy streets in broad daylight, you are sadly naive.

What if she is in fact a he, and he stupidly imagines that rape is something that only women need to worry about? What if our hypothetical woman decides to drive everywhere and not be out on any streets at all, at any time? Of course, sometimes she isn't going to be able to find a parking space right next to the place she wants to go, and what if she's attacked while walking to or from her car, or across the carpark? What if she makes sure she always has someone to escort her, and the person who is supposed to protect her turns out to be a scumbag? What if she gives up her car and takes taxis everywhere? Of course, she's sensible and follows safety advice, so she only takes licensed cabs; do you seriously believe that no holder of a cab licence has ever committed rape?

We're already getting into the realms of the ridiculous. Supposing it's somehow possible for her to stay at home at all times. Someone might come along with some "helpful" advice and point out to her that a great many women are raped in their own homes. And anyway, she would most certainly be responsible for the bad effects on her life of living as an agoraphobic recluse. My question to all the "women should take precautions" people is: which of those situations do you really think is analogous to going out of your house and leaving all your doors and windows unlocked?

The problem with all this reasonable precautions stuff is that it assumes that there are certain rituals you can go through which will stop bad things from happening to you. It's supersitious thinking, essentially. It's comforting to believe that by being "sensible" and putting up with a few minor inconveniences, you can avoid horrible consequences. Sadly, the world doesn't work like that.

A rapist is someone who is depraved enough to think it's ok to force someone into sexual activity against their will. You can't expect someone like that to refrain from harming you because you take care not to dress "provocatively" and to avoid certain places at certain times. You can't expect someone like that to behave rationally; one might think that even an evil rapist is going to prefer to rape in situations where they are less likely to get caught, namely dark, deserted places rather than crowded places with lots of witnesses. The facts don't seem to bear that out, though.

Read misia's Virgin Stories and her commentary on that essay. Being sensible and taking precautions doesn't prevent rape, any more than being a good person prevents bad things from happening to you. Following this sort of advice might, just possibly, increase your chances of being believed if you are raped, rather than being assumed to have consented because why would you put yourself in such a situation if you weren't planning to have sex? But I'm not even sure that's the case, and I should think it's pretty small comfort.

The other problem I have with this sort of helpful advice is that the flip side of it is that it leads to rape victims finding themselves questioning what they might have done to provoke rape, or where they took an unacceptable risk, and feeling like it's somehow their fault. Even though there is a first half to the statement: Rape is wrong, and it is never justified, this disclaimer is weakened by the But women should still take reasonable precautions.

I'm going to give some links to personal testimonies, which are pretty harrowing. Please do read them if you feel at all able, and please think about people like these, before you start mouthing off about the precautions women should be taking to reduce their risk of rape.
deborah_c feels she must have brought her assault on herself by something she did
"Barbados Butterfly" felt that she was to blame for her rape
"HC" was your classic case of did everything risky

I have also read accounts in friends locked entries by people who were raped as very young children, and still worry whether it was their fault. You know what? It's just as unacceptable to imply any degree of blame to someone like HC as it is to a four-year-old. Just as unacceptable. No qualifiers.


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From:tattycat
Date:December 4th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
13 minutes after journal entry
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I reread the Dougal article just now, and one thing sticks out in my head. The prosecution's case collapsed because the woman was so drunk she couldn't remember if she gave consent or not.

Why was this not a clear signal to the on duty security guard that she was too drunk to give consent?
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livredor: ewe
From:livredor
Date:December 4th, 2005 10:34 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, 11:34 pm (livredor's time)
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That story is just too awful. The thing is, this particular story made the news because of the judge in the case making such a bizarre ruling. But I really wonder how often it happens that women do the "sensible" thing of making sure they have someone to escort them home, and that person turns round and rapes them. And if they're extra-cautious, they ask someone in a position of trust to do the escorting, not just a random male acquaintance, but even that doesn't protect them. I would like to believe that Dougal is exceptionally evil, but I just can't convince myself of this.
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(no subject) - pseudomonas (12/4/05 10:44 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (12/4/05 11:23 pm)
(no subject) - pw201 (12/4/05 11:41 pm)
(no subject) - pseudomonas (12/5/05 10:25 am)
(no subject) - neonchameleon (12/5/05 10:40 am)
(no subject) - livredor (12/5/05 10:41 am)
(no subject) - neonchameleon (12/5/05 10:44 am)
(no subject) - livredor (12/6/05 09:20 am)
(no subject) - pw201 (12/6/05 10:39 pm)
redbird: default
From:redbird
Date:December 4th, 2005 06:42 pm (UTC)
14 minutes after journal entry, 02:42 pm (redbird's time)
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Part of why I linked to erzie's piece is that it points out that the man who rapes his stepdaughter is not entirely different in kind from the fraternity members who deliberately get women drunk and then rape them when they pass out, are not entirely different from the man who takes a woman out to dinner, drives her home, and forces himself on her because he wasn't expecting her not to want sex and cares more about his desires than her desire or autonomy. And because it points out that part of the problem is people who insist that their son/brother/friend couldn't possibly have committed rape, or who are sure that even if he did, the police shouldn't be called because being arrested is a big deal and will hurt him, whereas being raped, well, they don't think about the victim if they can help it.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:December 4th, 2005 07:01 pm (UTC)
33 minutes after journal entry, 08:01 pm (livredor's time)
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I think these are all good points, but tbh I don't think erbie's list really makes them very well. Of course, she probably wasn't expecting her post to be quoted out of context all over LJ, so don't think I'm criticizing her (or you for linking to her post). If one starts with the sort of assumptions you're describing here, erbie's post works as a satire. But for people who aren't already taking this moral position as a given, I don't think erbie's list is going to make them aware of it.

I agree with you, there's no such thing as excusable rape, not if the victim behaves "irresponsibly," and not if the rapist is a friend or relative. There are certainly people out there who don't realize these things. But I don't think anybody in my circle would start from the assumption that some kinds of rape are ok. I'm arguing against people who take the position that rape is always, absolutely wrong (just as you outline in your comment), but women should still take some responsibility for protecting themselves. I'm taking issue with that but.
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(no subject) - leora (12/5/05 02:01 am)
(no subject) - livredor (12/6/05 09:49 am)
rho: default
From:rho
Date:December 4th, 2005 07:02 pm (UTC)
34 minutes after journal entry, 08:02 pm (rho's time)
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It's comforting to believe that by being "sensible" and putting up with a few minor inconveniences, you can avoid horrible consequences. Sadly, the world doesn't work like that.

You can't avoid horrible consequences, but I rather suspect that you can increase or decrease their probability. Your logic seems a little iffy, since it seems to be dealing in a world of black and whites where rape is either possible or it isn't, with no consideration as to the probability. Taking sensible precautions is something that I would generally consider advisable, not because it prevents a person from being raped, but because it cuts down the probability.

However, I do think I agree with you overall, at least in part. Women (and men, for that matter) should do whatever they wish to do (provided t doesn't infringe on the rights of others) and take precautions or not as they see fit. They ought to be able to do so without fear of rape, so they should carry no burden of responsibility.

For myself, I wish to take certain precautions. I would also recommend that my friends take similar precautions. I see no moral imperative for others to do so, however. Though others should be educated, so they can make an informed decission as to whether the benefits of such precautions outweigh the drawbacks.

I guess it all depends on what is meant by "should". If it means "I believe it is advisable" (as in "you really should watch this movie some time") then I agree with the original statement. If it's taken to mean "they have a moral imperative to" (as in "civilised societies should not condone torture") then I disagree.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:December 4th, 2005 11:02 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, December 5th, 2005 12:02 am (livredor's time)
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You can't avoid horrible consequences, but I rather suspect that you can increase or decrease their probability.
In general, this is true, and you are right to point out that my argument doesn't make a clear distinction between preventing rape, and making rape less likely. It would seem that actions which reduce the probability of rape are desirable, even if they don't eliminate the possibility. In the specific case of avoiding rape by not being alone in dangerous places after dark, I don't think this holds though.

Why? Mainly because the situation of violent psychos jumping on women in dark alleys and raping them is rare. One can take precautions to avoid genuinely random, completely unprovoked assault by strangers, but in the end, this is not something that happens a whole lot (and that goes for all kinds of violent crime, not limited to rape). What I've tried to explain in this post is that avoiding this sort of attack is extremely limiting; it's not just a minor inconvenience, it's essentially impossible to live a normal life if you can never be on your own in public after dark. And even if you are able and willing to do that, the change you would be making to your probability of being raped is very small if not negligible.

That said, if a woman feels safer taking a taxi home rather than walking, or making sure she has someone with her when she's out at night, or whatever, then I am the last person to criticize her for making those decisions. My problem is with advising women that they should be taking these near-useless precautions, particularly if the corollorary is that not doing so is stupid and irresponsible.

I'm sure you've heard that rapists are known to their victim. I'm trying to expound the implications of that. Nobody would seriously think of advising women never to have romantic relationships, even though people are vastly more likely to be raped by partners than by strangers. Going on and on about how women should avoid obviously dangerous places does not address the issue that the huge majority of rapes occur in supposedly safe places. Most people know to avoid obviously dangerous places without being told.

Similarly, most people know not to put themselves in intimate situations with strangers, but at some point a person ceases to be a stranger. Part of being human is that you have to make a decision to trust at least some people at some point, and most people who are raped are people who miscall that trust decision. You don't advise women (or, indeed, anyone) never to trust anyone at all; see my comments about living as an agoraphobic recluse.
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shreena: default
From:shreena
Date:December 4th, 2005 07:10 pm (UTC)
42 minutes after journal entry, 08:10 pm (shreena's time)
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I think there's quite a big difference between "women should take precautions.." and "women can choose to take precautions". I incline more to the latter phrasing and what I mean by it is that, if there are common factors in the choosing of a rape victim, women can choose to avoid them. If they don't choose to avoid them, that does not change the fact that they are not responsible for someone else raping them. Additionally, even if they are raped, they may never know whether any of the actions they took were or weren't partial causes behind their being chosen as victims because the factors in question can just be very random. But that does not alter the fact that women can choose to minimise their risk factors if they want to.

Everyone generally in life decides on the balance they want to strike between being safe and, y'know, having a life. Personally, it would restrict my social life more than I am happy with, for me to never walk home on my own after a few drinks. On the other hand, I consider it a matter of principle not to drink so much that I couldn't cope with getting home although this is more a desire to avoid inconveniencing my friends than a safety concern per se. Nor would I ever invite a complete stranger into my home or go home with them. That's my balancing act. Other people choose different balancing acts.

But, yes, in general, I think people do not stress enough the very basic "no-one is responsible for other people's crimes" point in the first half of the consensus reaced over rape. The other mildly interesting linguistic thing that happens in this debate is that people describe what happens to victims as "being raped" which strikes me as a very manipulative use of the passive and puts quite a different emphasis on it to the much more accurate active voice.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:December 6th, 2005 10:21 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:21 am (livredor's time)
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Thank you, shreena, for making precise distinctions with your usual clarity. Yes, women can choose to take precautions, and if those precautions make them feel better about themselves, or even make them objectively safer, all power to them. My problem is precisely with the should.

if there are common factors in the choosing of a rape victim
This is the bit that's more problematic than you might expect. There probably are, but I've not seen any convincing explication of what those factors actually are. Sure, being female increases your risk; clearly, a woman can't choose not to be female.

But if you look at the standard assumptions in this kind of debate about whether or not women should take responsiblity to protect themselves from rape, I'm just not sure whether they're true. You get statements like: well, obviously going into dark alleys when you're drunk and wearing a short miniskirt is risky behaviour... I don't know; are there any statistics that convincingly show that women are more likely to be raped when wearing miniskirts than any other kind of clothes, or more likely to be raped in dark alleys than in well-lit streets, or more likely to be raped while drunk than while sober? A lot of my problem with this rape prevention stuff is that I'm not so convinced that these apparently common-sense precautions are actually meaningfully altering the risk.
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From:neonchameleon
Date:December 5th, 2005 09:11 am (UTC)
14 hours after journal entry
(Link)
Oh, good grief. I don't expect strawmen from you.

1: I've seen no one round here say that you can eliminate the possibility of being raped any more than you can eliminate the possibility of being robbed. What you can do is make it less likely.

2: Just because your snopes list is a pile of hogwash doesn't mean that nothing works. From your own snopes link (and the analysis, not the e-mail): "As always, the best defence to an attempted rape is not to be there when it happens ... Leave the Wonder Woman stuff for Linda Carter and make like a track star vying for a gold medal in the 100m ... The e-mail did contain one bit of valuable advice: Stay aware of your surroundings ... Those looking to prey upon others — whether their aim is robbery, rape, or mayhem — generally choose as victims those who appear preoccupied or tentative in preference to those who exude a sense of purpose. Or, as I was told long ago, "Always look like you know exactly where you're going and move like you're expected to be there at exactly a certain time.""

3: "The problem with all this reasonable precautions stuff is that it assumes that there are certain rituals you can go through which will stop bad things from happening to you. It's supersitious thinking, essentially." - only if you don't actually understand the advice. Again, see your own snopes.com link for details.

4: "people have total control over whether or not they commit rape, but people have essentially no control over whether someone else rapes them" - if you want to bring up edge cases (as you seemingly do), this one isn't true either. First there are cases of ambiguous consent (see leora's post). Secondly, if you want to worry about small minority examples (and fact checking) your claim isn't true in all cases anyway.

5: "It's just as unacceptable to imply any degree of blame to someone like HC as it is to a four-year-old. Just as unacceptable. No qualifiers." And, as I've been through before, responsibility for your own actions != blame when the consequences are massively disproportionate to the actions.
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livredor: ewe
From:livredor
Date:December 6th, 2005 10:54 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 11:54 am (livredor's time)
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Why are you so insistent that it's useful to go about saying "women should take responsibility for their actions" whenever rape is being discussed? Why is it important to you to do that? I said in my original post that I have a problem with apparently sensible advice as well as with dumb advice such as in the Snopes link.

Do you have any actual advice which you believe is effective at reducing the risk of rape, which is not either too obvious to need stating, or completely impractical in the real world? Not to be there when it happens is stupid advice unless you can actually predict where rape is going to happen; my contention is that you can't, meaningfully. Also, you can't avoid all dangerous places (even assuming you can identify them) unless you are very rich and prepared to live a very reclusive life. Stay aware of your surroundings is possibly good advice, but generally you don't get people saying, when a rape case is reported, oh, she probably wasn't aware of her surroundings, she was probably taking a risk by looking preoccupied and tentative.

I also said in my original post that I don't think the analogy with robbery holds. Let me expand on that. You can protect your property from robbery by not being the most insecure; that's pretty much all it takes. Most robbers are opportunists; this is generally agreed. Most agree that if someone really, personally wants to break into your house, there's nothing (reasonable) you can do to stop them, but you can reduce your risk from opportunists. However, you can't protect your person from rape by not being the most rapable. Firstly because protecting yourself by letting some other woman get raped is not morally acceptable (unlike letting some other idiot get their bike stolen). And secondly because most rapists are not opportunists. They do want to rape a specific individual. So the sorts of precautions one takes to prevent being robbed are going to be ineffective.
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(no subject) - neonchameleon (12/6/05 04:22 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (12/6/05 10:06 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (12/6/05 10:19 pm)
(no subject) - neonchameleon (12/7/05 11:52 am)
(no subject) - livredor (12/6/05 10:59 am)
j4: southpark
From:j4
Date:December 5th, 2005 10:58 am (UTC)
16 hours after journal entry, 11:58 am (j4's time)
(Link)
I wrote a bit about this in a comment when someone else posted those guidelines. Trying to expand/clarify my position here:

I agree wholeheartedly that rape is absolutely unacceptable in any circumstances; I would not wish to even appear to apply any degree of blame to the victims of rape, and if I have ever done that, I can only offer sincere and unreserved apologies. I don't see that this viewpoint is incompatible with giving people (men, women, either, neither) information about how they can be more in control of their environment, and how they may be able to lessen the risk of becoming victims of violent crime.

In fact, I find it quite disturbing that withholding information about personal safety is considered good protection against the guilt that victims of violent crime frequently feel. The idea of (either explicitly or implicitly) telling a rape victim "You should have been able to prevent this" is utterly abhorrent -- but equally so, to me, is the idea of at some point having to tell my hypothetical teenage daughters "If you do try to protect yourself against rape then you're implicitly accepting that it's okay for men to attempt it."

I used the (admittedly imperfect) locked-door analogy before, but recent events have brought another (also imperfect) one closer to the front of my mind: do you think that giving people information on how to recognise the signs of depression is implicitly ascribing blame to those whose friends or relations commit suicide?

I think an important aspect of my personal worldview to bear in mind here is that I don't believe that ANYTHING can make you 100% safe from anything, anywhere, at any time. And only the individual can decide what "precautions" are worth taking -- at what point the (possibly tiny) lessening of risk is outweighed by the (possibly great) reduction in their freedom / independence / quality of life. But I don't think people can make meaningful choices about these things if the information is withheld from them on the grounds that in an ideal world they shouldn't need it.
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pseudomonas: default
From:pseudomonas
Date:December 5th, 2005 11:07 am (UTC)
16 hours after journal entry, 12:07 pm (pseudomonas's time)
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Do you have ideas on how to break the currently implicit link between rape being something whose risk can be lessened, and its being the fault of the victim for not having done X? (I'm not trying to imply that you have to in order to justify your point, btw).
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(no subject) - j4 (12/5/05 12:06 pm)
(no subject) - rysmiel (12/5/05 04:07 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (12/6/05 11:48 am)
elemy: default
From:elemy
Date:December 5th, 2005 11:55 am (UTC)
17 hours after journal entry
(Link)
It's comforting to believe that by being "sensible" and putting up with a few minor inconveniences, you can avoid horrible consequences. Sadly, the world doesn't work like that.

This applies equally to the burglary analogy. There are burglars determined or ingenious enough that a few locks and a burlgar alarm won't stop them, but this doesn't mean that locking your door has no value. I think the difference in the case of rape is that while locking my front door behind me is genuinely a minor inconvenience, I would regard giving up every vestige of independence and my right to choose my own clothes as an unacceptable infringement of my civil liberties rather than a minor inconvenience.
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From:neonchameleon
Date:December 5th, 2005 12:54 pm (UTC)
18 hours after journal entry
(Link)
... And continue your anlogy please.

The equivalent to giving up your independence and right to chose your own clothes would not be using burglar alarms, but using inch thick iron doors, about a dozen locks, permenant CCTV and security guards etc.

Instead, in both cases, you are chosing to discard some of your freedom for some security - but not to take every possible precaution. It is your responsibility where you set this trade off.
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(no subject) - elemy (12/5/05 03:57 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (12/6/05 12:06 pm)
(no subject) - neonchameleon (12/7/05 10:05 am)
(no subject) - neonchameleon (12/7/05 11:55 am)
beckyzoole: default
From:beckyzoole
Date:December 6th, 2005 12:34 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, December 5th, 2005 07:34 pm (beckyzoole's time)
(Link)
Agreed, most rape is inflicted by a acquaintance of the victim, so the common "common-sense" advice about not walking down a dark alley alone is really not useful.

And yet there are some rapes that can be prevented, the rapes committed by the person who is looking for an easy target. In the 1990s my city, St. Louis, was afflicted by a serial rapist who would try ground-floor back apartment windows in the wee hours of the morning. If he could easily open the window from outside, he'd enter the home and prowl about, looking for a woman sleeping alone. When caught, the perpetrator claimed not to have stalked or targeted any of his 20+ victims. He had always tried the windows of small apartments instead of detached homes, because home owners are more likely to be couples, but other than that his attacks were completely random. He often left a flat as surreptitiously as he had entered it as soon as he saw a sleeping man.

Every woman he raped had gone to sleep with a ground-floor window open. Women who had closed and locked their windows were not attacked. He looked for easy targets only.

So, sure, it's easy for someone who is determined to enter a specific home to break a window or jimmy open a door, but locking your windows does deter opportunists. Few as they may be.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:December 6th, 2005 12:20 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 01:20 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Yes, I agree, as other commenters have mentioned, that some precautions are worth taking. But most of these are general precautions that any person should take to avoid random, opportunistic violence. My point is that there aren't really precautions that women can usefully take to avoid rape.

If a particular woman feels safer because she avoids situations where she may be in danger from violent strangers, all power to her. But I don't see the point in constantly harping on about how women should take such precautions. Thank you for this counter-example of an incident of rape that could have been avoided by taking really straightforward safety precautions; the point is, as you have said, that most rape can't be avoided like that.
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deborah_c: octaine
From:deborah_c
Date:December 7th, 2005 01:19 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 02:19 am (deborah_c's time)
(Link)
(Here via pw201's journal)

I think your point is well made. I still partly blame myself for what happened to me, not in any rational way, but in some kind of emotional reaction. After all, it didn't happen to everyone else there... And I'm naive; at 37 I'm learning lessons about my personal safety that maybe I should have learnt when I was much younger.

But then, what should I have done? If there's a safe place, then a cathedral in broad daylight ought to be one. And if there are no safe spaces any more, then the big question is why? And what can we, the human race as a whole, do to make everywhere safe?

Of course, we can't. There are Bad People, no matter where we go, and there's no way of knowing who they are. There are people who may behave badly even when we have lots of history and a reasonable assumption that they're Good People. We can at least try to remove the attitude that women who get raped are responsible for it; I fear that that's an uphill struggle, though, if it's so deeply ingrained in society that I can believe it of myself, even if not in a sensible way.

I was lucky, at least. I wasn't actually raped, and what happened was very minor in physical terms. Two months later, though, I'm still trying to deal with what happened to me, and with the terror of what might have happened, which is worse. I hate that I'm now so aware of everyone around me, reacting to the whole world in terms of the threat they might pose; that I'm constantly, if mostly subconsciously, wondering if anything I'm doing might be putting me at risk again. I've spent this evening finally giving a statement to the police, and I feel as if it's all just happened to me all over again.

I want my life back.
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livredor: portrait
From:livredor
Date:December 9th, 2005 09:15 pm (UTC)
5 days after journal entry, 10:15 pm (livredor's time)
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Thank you for commenting, deborah_c. And thank you for telling your story in the first place; it was a major part of the inspiration for this post. You have been forced to deal with all kinds of tough things, but you chose for yourself to tell the story of what happened to you on the internet in front of strangers. I salute you for that. And for going to the police, because I can hardly imagine how much of an ordeal that must be, and it's the best thing you can do to protect other women from experiences like yours. Thank you for that.

I too want to do what I can to make apparently safe places really safe, and then to make apparently dangerous places less dangerous. I think bringing stories like yours to the attention of people who are complacent about rape is one thing that an ordinary person with not much power can do, and that may help, which is why I made this post.

I hope you won't mind if I wish you healing. Getting your life back is the least you deserve.
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