Help me work this out please? (Relates to sexual assault victim blaming)

(73 Posts)
PlumpFiction Fri 29-Jan-16 22:01:48

So I came across a Facebook post about an assault on a woman. (I'm not linking to it, sorry, I don't want to be outed). In among the comments were things like "What was she doing walking there at that time?" "I wouldn't walk there at that time of night!" etc. Crappy thing to say when someone has suffered a traumatic experience. Many people called them out on this, saying the only person to blame was the attacker, anyone should be free to walk anywhere, anytime, without being attacked. I quite agree.

Someone else made the point that you need to use common sense and take precautions - e.g. we lock up our houses and cars; we don't leave valuables on show in a parked car; etc. and saying it's the same with not walking in certain places at certain times. And this is where I feel conflict...

I agree that we should all take precautions to prevent us becoming victims of crime... If I was burgled because I'd left my house unlocked, it would be the burglar at fault but I would be kicking myself for forgetting to lock up... But something pisses me off about being told that women should not be in certain places at certain times in order to prevent them falling victim to a sex attack. Maybe this isn't a sexism/feminism issue, I don't know... because there were a few men who said things like "well I'm a 20st bearded man and I wouldn't walk there at that time"...

Help me work this out please? What are the issues here, why is there a difference? (Is there a difference?) Thank you :-)

MrsTerryPratchett Fri 29-Jan-16 22:26:28

There are precautions most people take with their safety. Certain areas we avoid or whatever. So far so good. If people are saying, "that's a rough area, I avoid it" that's one thing. But would they have said, "What was she doing walking there at that time?" if beardy man had been murdered for example? If not; sexism and victim blaming.

AND, most importantly, my vagina isn't an iPhone. I don't have to keep it locked up and it isn't a 'valuable' it's part of my body. It's part of the objectifying of women and is absolutely sexism.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 30-Jan-16 04:16:11

The idea of prevention of crime is an odd one. I "prevent crime" everyday because I simply never commit one.

Having your house alarmed up to resemble Fort Knox doesn't prevent crime- it just makes it more difficult for your house to be burgled or moves it elsewhere. It has no effect on the intention to commit a crime.

A crime is only prevented if a potential perpetrator is dissuaded by the case for not doing it being effectively presented.

Whether the same comments would be made about a man? probably not.

sashh Sat 30-Jan-16 06:35:48

Any woman is less likely to be attacked in the street (no matter how dodgy the area) than she is in her own home.

A 20 stone man is not very likely to be attacked in his own home.

partialderivative Sat 30-Jan-16 06:43:42

I would like to read more comments on this as I sometimes cannot sort it out in my head.

When I used to watch Chelsea play in the 70's as a teenage boy, there was no way I would have gone to an away match at, say, Spurs wearing my Chelsea scarf for fear of getting a kicking. This was a very real threat, I had a friend who was hospitalised after the 'crime' of wearing the wrong coloured scarf. A lot of people thought he was an idiot for walking in the wrong part of London.

Does this experience of mine have any relation to the victim blaming of sexual assault victims?

Is this a similar scenario, or completely different?

Lovelydiscusfish Sat 30-Jan-16 07:11:50

A woman has the right to go anywhere and do anything (legal) without fear of rape. Whatever happens, rape is never ever ever, even to the most minute extent, her fault. Responsibility lies entirely with the rapist in all cases.
That is not to say that a woman may not choose to make choices which she believes may lessen the risk of rape - avoiding certain areas, avoiding one night stands, etc etc. That is entirely her prerogative. In fact it is also unlikely to reduce her likelihood of being raped significantly because, as we know, most rapes are carried out by someone known to the victim. The important thing is, a woman who does NOT exercise these precautions is simply exercising her normal freedoms, and it is, to my eyes, hateful to judge her for that.
By the way, I also believe that people don't deserve to be robbed because they leave their house open, or beaten up because they wear a certain football shirt. What a world!

sashh Sat 30-Jan-16 08:47:55

I had a friend who was hospitalised after the 'crime' of wearing the wrong coloured scarf. A lot of people thought he was an idiot for walking in the wrong part of London.

There is a difference between being thought an idiot and being told it was his fault.

DrSeussRevived Sat 30-Jan-16 09:16:49

The people to blame for your friend getting beaten up are the people who beat him up, partial. I do not blame him. Do you, out of interest?

DrSeussRevived Sat 30-Jan-16 09:19:04

If every house had a burglar alarm, a few opportunist thieves might go and snatch a handbag instead. Others will learn about disarming alarms.

I can't put an alarm on my vagina.

partialderivative Sat 30-Jan-16 09:29:55

Of course I do not blame him for getting beaten up, why would I?

I would have thought it common sense not to stroll about N. London with a Chelsea scarf.

partialderivative Sat 30-Jan-16 09:31:59

OOPs! I stupidly ventured into victim blaming there.

Seriously, sorry.

DrSeussRevived Sat 30-Jan-16 09:33:01

And if no one walked about N London in Chelsea scarves, would fewer people get beaten up? Or would people be beaten up for some other "reason", do you think?

DrSeussRevived Sat 30-Jan-16 09:35:04

Well, you kinda showed you were among the "lot of people who thought he was an idiot", yes!

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 30-Jan-16 09:47:48

There is a difference between being thought an idiot and being told it was his fault

Is there? I don't see it. "He was an idiot for wearing that scarf there or ^it wouldn't have happened if he'd not been (asked for it by) wearing that scarf" .

I don't see a difference. Both ignore the cause of an attack is the violent, criminal tendency of the perpetrator.

peggyundercrackers Sat 30-Jan-16 10:02:21

People need to always be aware of their surroundings and how it affects them. It's completely unreasonable to say we should be able to do what we want when we want, suggesting we can leave our houses open, cars open and that no one should break in - we don't live in some weird utopian world unfortunately...

Destinysdaughter Sat 30-Jan-16 10:02:35

If a man had been mugged walking home late at night ( even if he was drunk), do you really think he would receive the same victim blaming as this woman?

Pretty unlikely.

To me, it's about women having the same freedom and rights as men, especially when it comes to public space.

Those attacks on women in Cologne are an extreme example of this and if seen in the same context as the rapes of women in Egypt during the mass public uprisings, have been described as 'a struggle for gendered public space'

A few years ago I was walking home at midnight in London. A man tried to attack me. Fortunately I screamed so loudly I scared him off. The attitude of the police was appalling. They basically said that I shouldn't have been out on my own late at night and that I should have got a taxi home. This was in London so public transport was good and still running. Complete fucking victim blaming! They didn't seem to care that there was a dangerous man out there basically roaming the streets looking for women to attack.

Holowiwi Sat 30-Jan-16 10:18:07

We do have to apply some common sense, yes people should be able to go where they want whenever they want but the real world doesn't work like that it never has and never will.

Is it the victims fault no, it is 100% the fault of the attacker/rapist/murderer etc. However if you can avoid exposing yourself to unnecessary risk by not going down a known drug den alley way at 11pm then do so.

LurcioAgain Sat 30-Jan-16 10:19:50

Partial - totally agree that to say "you shouldn't have worn that scarf" would be victim blaming. But here's one crucial difference. Your friend could take off his Chelsea scarf and no-one would know he was a Chelsea supporter. I cannot take off my vagina. It is obvious to anyone who looks at me that I am a woman. So the "don't go into xyz" part of town is in fact saying to women "these areas are no-go, they are forbidden to you, and you have only yourself to blame for going there." There is a whole range of places that then become off limits to women which are not off limits to men. As a young woman living in a rough bit of Leeds, I made a conscious decision that I wanted to visit my friends in the evenings and this meant walking around after dark in a rough area because I couldn't afford taxis (nor - Worboys, unlicences minicabs etc - would there have been any evidence that it was safer). The only alternative would have been what was in effect a curfew.

BeyondBootcampsAgain Sat 30-Jan-16 10:22:50

I think the difference with the chelsea scarf is that he can take it off and still be free to walk in the area? Whereas the womans option is to not go there at all, she cannot lock her femaleness up out of sight.

And yes, making yourself safe (be that avoiding an area/hiding valuables /house alarm) just moves the crime away from you, it doesnt stop it happening. Even a completely opportunistic crime was going to happen for a reason

BeyondBootcampsAgain Sat 30-Jan-16 10:23:51

Ah bugger x post grin

Destinysdaughter Sat 30-Jan-16 10:39:04

Was a good point, worth saying twice!

MelindaMay Sat 30-Jan-16 12:12:28

Damn, was about to say the same thing about the scarf! grin

I think there's a rough guide to sensible precaution versus victim blaming, which centres around whether the precaution is realistically going to make a difference, and whether the precaution is one that restricts women specifically when it wouldn't restrict men.

Comparisons to locking houses, hiding laptops and so on aren't realistic because women can't leave our orifices in safety deposit boxes until we want them.

Admonitions about where you can go, at what time, who with, via what mode of transport addressed only to women are a problem as well. For example, I think getting paralytic and stumbling round a city centre on your own is risky and would advise both my dd and my ds not to do this. Walking alone at night is something that can be risky as well, but tends to be something that women are girls are told to avoid, and men and boys are not, even though they might actually more at risk in those situations, because of non-sexual violence from other men.

Any any rape prevention advice for women can often be shown up by pointing out that it isn't saying things like don't have a male partner, or male friends. Which is the sort of risk that accounts for something like 90% of rapes. So those people who advocate the sort of advice that aims to restrict women and make us fearful on the grounds that pragmatically the price is worth paying, should ask themselves why they shy away from other, even more pragmatic advice that would in theory be even more preventative of harm.

Dervel Sat 30-Jan-16 12:49:04

There is a difference between pre-emptive risk assessment and victim blaming. You arm people with knowledge on how to minimise the risks to themselves and their property from crime. However once an actual crime has occurred making any point on what the victim should have done is victim blaming. Worse is it achieves nothing either, except to make the victims feel worse.

I often see a police campaign pilloried for victim blaming, which I don't think would necessarily happen if the unanimous reaction post crime to any victim was compassion and empathy.

partialderivative Sat 30-Jan-16 13:12:31

Your friend could take off his Chelsea scarf and no-one would know he was a Chelsea supporter.

Point taken

LurcioAgain Sat 30-Jan-16 13:20:04

Actually, thinking about it, my two closest calls on the near sexual assault front were when I accepted the offer of being walked home by a male acquaintance who turned out to be a sexual predator. My personal experience seems to be broadly in line with the stats - that it's not the stranger in the dark alley who poses the most imminent risk, but the guy on the fringe of your friendship circle that you sort of know, or (most horrifying of all) your actual partner.

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