Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Who has been responsible for more rapes: Women who walk alone at night or Rotorua Police Officers?

Given the events of the last few months, you'd think the police would try, at least a little bit, to avoid looking like they're blaming women who have been raped for their rape. You'd be wrong:

Police are warning young women against walking alone at night, after a Wanganui teenager was abducted and sexually violated on the weekend.
[...]

"It's a timely reminder to young girls that they shouldn't be walking on their own," Ms Mansell said.

"These types of attacks are rare but they do happen and girls who are walking the streets on their own at night-time are making themselves targets."
I wanted to write less about rape, not because I don't care, but because I feel like I was writing paint by numbers posts, where I assembled basic feminist ideas one after another.

1. The people who are responsible for rape are the rapists.
2. Blaming women for being raped is not acceptable.
3. If you tell women to modify their behaviour to avoid rape then you are placing the responsibility for rape in the wrong place.
4. Avoiding being out alone out night is a serious restriction on a woman's freedom.
5. Anti-rape advice isn't just victim-blaming, it's also wildly inaccurate.
6. Most rapists know the women that they are rape.
7. Rape is most likely to happen in someone's home.
8. A woman who walks home with a man she knows is at more danger from rape than a woman who walks home by herself.
9. Clint Rickards is a rapist.*

I guess I'll keep writing it till there are no longer people who need to hear it.

*Not strictly speaking relevant for this particular paint by numbers post, but I wanted a number for it.

43 comments:

  1. I'm nodding along with all of this. I wish some of these finger-wagging victim-blamers would recognize at last that when a woman gets raped, it's not because she did or didn't wear a short skirt, drink alcohol, flirt, walk home alone, etc etc etc - it's because she was in the presence of a rapist. When I got raped, I wasn't dressing or acting sexy, drinking, or wandering about in dark alleys at three in the morning. I was in my flat and the rapist was someone I knew.

    Oh yeah, and Clint Rickards is absolutely a rapist.

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  2. You are confusing moral responsibility for a crime with advice on how to minimise the risk of being victimised. Providing this advice is within the role of the police.

    There are countless examples unrelated to rape.

    My local railway station bears

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  3. I started hitching by myslef for the first time this year. Its an empowering experience to overcome my fear, follow my intuition and trust people. When people comment on the safety issue for young women hitching on their own, I point out that I am more likely to be attacked or killed in my own my home by someone I know.

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  4. > If you tell women to modify
    > their behaviour to avoid rape
    > then you are placing the
    > responsibility for rape in the
    > wrong place.

    Firstly, there are two separate issues: stranger rape, and rape by friends / family etc. I believe the latter is more prevalent than the former, but it is easier to prevent the former.

    With respect to stranger rape, I think Bobux is right: women should modify their behaviour in an effort to avoid rape.

    In particular, I think they should focus on being situationally aware, take (good) self-defence classes, and arm themselves as heavily as is legally possibly.

    I think it's reasonable to advise people to take precautions against violent crime without in any way implying a reduction or transfer of responsibility for the crime itself.

    For example, after we were burgled, I fitted a monitored burglar alarm, changed the locks, and so on, in an effort to reduce the chances of another burglary.

    Did those actions indicate that I was accepting responsiblity for the burglary? Did they indicate that future burglars would somehow be less responsible for burglarising me? Hell no.

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  5. Duncan, let's turn this around a little.

    The best way we could avoid stranger rape in the stereotypical circumstances would actually be to put a curfew on all men, or make them walk around at night with their hands cuffed and their penises in some kind of male chastity belt with a lock on them.

    That sounds pretty ridiculous doesn't it?

    Then why is it ok to effectively put a curfew on women, and basically say women should dress a certain way, and have to train to physically defend themselves?

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  6. Besides which, yet again, this is becoming all about stranger rape, when that most rapists know their victims. I'm getting a bit fed up with constantly having to go down this rat hole. That's not to minimise women who are raped by strangers, I know someone that happened to. But it's rather convenient I think for those who want to put responsibility for rape back on women to concentrate on stranger rape, despite the fact that it is the minority of cases.

    As Sofiya point out - if the rapist knows you then what you wear, whether or not you walk in the dark, whether you've been drinking or not, how you were acting, is not the causative factor.

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  7. I never said that any action (or inaction) on the part of the victim (for men are the victims of rape too) is a causative factor in rape.

    It isn't. The causative factor - the causative factor - is the conscious decision on the part of the rapist. End of story as far as causation, and responsibility, goes.

    However - the fact that there are rapists in the world means that it would behoove potential victims to take practical steps to avoid becoming victims.

    To do advocate such preparation isn't to blame the victims of rape, or in any way absolve the rapists. It's simply acknowledging reality (there are bad people in the world) and planning to defend oneself against them should the need arise.

    If advising people to take reasonable precautions to defend against rape is unreasonable, I should ask you: do you lock your doors at night? Have you fitted a car alarm? Do you have a burglar alarm?

    All of these are reasonable precautions against crime. Crime that should never happen, crime that is entirely the fault and responsibility of the criminal. But, crime that happens in the real world, and which we can at least attempt to prepare ourselves against.

    To do anything else is to deny reality, and expose yourself to greater risk than necessary. I would have assumed that feminism would have been about empowering women, rather than encouraging them to ignore reality.

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  8. Oh yeah, and genuine lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key life sentences for rapists would help too. Sadly, I don't see that happening any time soon :-(

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  9. Duncan - There are many problems with what you suggest.

    1. Unlike other crimes there is a long history of blaming the victims for rape. Precautionary

    2. What you (and the police officer) proposed are serious restrictions on women's freedom.

    3. All the advice women get to avoid rape is aimed at stranger rape, the vast majority of rape is acquaintance rape.

    4. One reason for this is that the standard advice for avoiding stranger rape is about curtailing women's freedom. The most logical advice for avoiding acquaintance rape is about avoiding men.

    5. Stranger rape avoidance advice and acquaintance rape avoidance advice would often directly contradict. To avoid acquaintance rape it would be better to walk home alone, than to walk home with just a man. Given the prevalence of acquaintance rape, it's ridiculous that when the two contradict advice to avoid stranger rape is given more prevalence.

    In a nutshell rape avoidance advice upholds rape myths which damage women.

    You're not saying anything that every feminist hasn't heard and refuted many times before. Please refrain from commenting on this thread (and possibly check out the Feminism 101 blog

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  10. Duncan - which part of don't post on this thread don't you understand?

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  11. Wow, that was petty.

    I never understood why Libertarians call themselves free radicals when free radicals cause cancer and other degenerative diseases in the body.

    *

    Personally I see walking alone at night as a radical act. Not one I always have the energy or sense of safety for but none the less it is also a form of resistance when done consciously.

    Women's defense teachers have said to me that one of the most useful tools or skills in avoiding and surviving attack is a sense of one's own strength and the willingness to be assertive at will.

    I agree with the political reasons given for not telling women to stay out of the night, and I think there it's also important in terms of not making women afraid of the dark. If we become more afraid of the dark then it becomes harder to keep ourselves safe.

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  12. ach, late at night commenting.

    "Women's self-defense teachers"

    and

    "the ability to be assertive at will"

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  13. "Police are warning young women against walking alone at night"

    This advises women not to walk home alone, NOT that they should walk home with a man. What about walking home with a group of other women.

    And I believe your reaction to Duncan's comment to be somewhat unfair as the advise he offers, i.e., "take (good) self-defence classes, and arm themselves as heavily as is legally possibly" would also empower women to fight back against the acquaintance rape which, as you have all pointed out, occurs more frequently than stranger rape.

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  14. Anonymous10:07 am

    I think "don't walk around alone at night" is pretty good advice for anybody, to be honest. You could just as much be robbed or otherwise assaulted as raped. I don't see why it's always presented as advice specifically to women and about rape.

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  15. Angry Infidel1:41 pm

    " I don't see why it's always presented as advice specifically to women and about rape."

    It's the sign of a tribalistic, victimhood mentality.

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  16. And I believe your reaction to Duncan's comment to be somewhat unfair as the advise he offers, i.e., "take (good) self-defence classes, and arm themselves as heavily as is legally possibly" would also empower women to fight back against the acquaintance rape which, as you have all pointed out, occurs more frequently than stranger rape.


    Personally, I find it pretty offensive to be told that I should take up firearms in order to make myself safer in the event that someone tries to rape me. That is just going to make my life more unsafe. You think that men won't take up firearms in order to continue raping women?

    The point is that men need to be the ones being told by police and newspapers how to modify their behaviour.

    Or, if you are going to offer tools to women, then do it in a way that affirms power for women, not in a way that blames them for the actions of rapists eg "girls who are walking the streets on their own at night-time are making themselves targets".

    Everytime something like that gets said by police or in the media (and then repeated in blogs) it reinforces to the public the myth that the solution to rape is for women to change (and that the reason rape happens is because of women).

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  17. Anonymous6:05 pm

    Thanks for the fem 101 link, very useful.

    I've often thought "wtf?" about stuff you've posted here, then kept my mouth shut cos I though my comment wouldn't be welcome.

    BTW, the comment policy link appears to be broken.

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  18. Just to clarify I was calling Duncan petty, not Maia ;-) (Duncan's post has been removed).

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  19. Angry Infidel8:18 pm

    "Or, if you are going to offer tools to women, then do it in a way that affirms power for women, not in a way that blames them for the actions of rapists"

    How does suggestions for women, as individuals, to take an active role in their self-defence, NOT affirm power for women? I don't understand.

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  20. As yet another clueless male, I must admit to confusion here. Maybe I'm odd, but I found doing a few self defence classes a great help to my self-confidence and willingness to do slightly risky things (which I do a lot of). Like wandering round (hopefully) deserted buildings at night waving expensive camera gear, for example. My current partner takes that to extremes, admittedly, having both a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and having chased a bag-snatcher to his home and got her bag back... afterwards she admitted that it was perhaps foolish to have done that, but at the time she was angry.

    I am far more comfortable with her than with women who (for example) become angry with "men in general" when they're too scared to go out at night. I'm sure this is old news to you, but stranger violence is much more common between men, and men are still four times more likely to be victims of violent crime than women are. But men are told to STFU and get on with it. I'm not thrilled about that, but I think it leads to better outcomes - men tend to do something about the fear.

    Maybe you could address the pressure that says "complaining is better than fixing"? At least, support women who want to learn to defend themselves.

    BTW, I'm talking about a few months of basic self defence every few years, not a black belt in an asian martial art.

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  21. How does suggestions for women, as individuals, to take an active role in their self-defence, NOT affirm power for women? I don't understand.


    I guess when it happens on a feminist blog in a conversation about rape myths and who is responsible for rape that includes an analysis about why telling women to not make themselves rape targets by walking alone at night perpetuates those myths, and where the poster does things like say that women should modify their behaviour, and posts a link to a picture of a woman pointing a hand gun.

    No-one is saying that it's wrong for women to learn self-defence, and it seems really odd to me that that is being picked out of this conversation and the other things are being ignored.

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  22. Weka, for me it's because the rest of it seems to be so basic that it's not in dispute (at least here).

    I guess I'm looking at it and going "how would the plod comment have been different if it was made by feminist pold", and I can't see much leeway. Saying "we blame the rapist, and while it is absolutely not any womans fault if she got raped..." would totally not go with any of the other "CrimeStoppers" messages that I've seen. Those are all "take action to make things hard for criminals" rather than "it's not your fault if crime happens to you". Sheesh, look at what they do to children "never talk to strangers" "if an adult approaches you, run away" "don't let anyone touch you". Faaarrk! That is the space that cops operate in.

    I personally would like to see more public support from the plod along positive lines, but I just don't see it happening.

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  23. Those following this thread may be interested in this post which shows the clear difference between the perceptions of blame for rape, as opposed to for example mugging:
    http://spanblather.blogspot.com/2007/05/asking-for-it.html

    For me it comes down to this - if the way you are saying people should prevent a crime against themselves is to curtail normal activities (not walk around alone at night), or learn an extra skill (self-defence), then you have things the wrong way around.

    Perhaps people got a bit distracted by my mention of chastity belts for men, but that's what I was trying to say in my earlier comment.

    The comparison with locking your house is facetious. If you were to end up in court, alleging that someone had burgled your house, NO ONE would suggest it was your fault for not locking the front door.

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  24. Bryan Goodall2:25 pm

    "If you were to end up in court, alleging that someone had burgled your house, NO ONE would suggest it was your fault for not locking the front door."

    Exactly. Thank you Span. Duncan Bayne is a far -right wing, gun loving troll who delights in hateful rants.

    He is not worth the intellectual acknowledgement of a reply.

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  25. OK, I'm a cyclist. People suggest all the time that cyclists need a whole bunch of extra skills just to avoid the crimes motorists commonly commit against us, and often also that it's our fault if something does happen. We're officially *banned* from certain roads because misbehaving motorists make it too dangerous. So maybe I'm desensitised to that sort of nonsense. Or maybe I just look at what happens to the rapists who *are* prosecuted and wish that the same thing happened to motorists who murder. Sorry, I mean, "drive without due care and regard", as it's so often phrased when someone runs down a cyclists and drives off leaving them dead in the gutter.

    So yes, full sympathy with the idea that anyone should be able to do what they want, when they want (modulo regard for others), but I don't see it as a likely outcome. Hence, taking steps to protect myself. would rather do that while campaigning for better protection than claim my right not to protect myself and suffer the likely consequences.

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  26. Angry Infidel4:53 pm

    "If you were to end up in court, alleging that someone had burgled your house, NO ONE would suggest it was your fault for not locking the front door."

    There are plenty of people who would say you are stupid for not locking your front door, especially if you lived in a high crime area. This is not the same as blaming you, and no one that I know of blames a women for being raped. If you put yourself into dangerous situations, and something bad happens, you aren't to blame for the crime, only the perp is, but it's been really stupid of you to put yourself into that dangerous position in the first place. There is nothing wrong with pointing this out, and it is not the same as blaming anyone for the crime.

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  27. Where I live we have signs in the car parks which blame the motorists for encouraging theft ie "don't encourage theft - lock you car/dont leave valuables in your car" (or similar). I find the blame aspect annoying and this is similar to the advice offered to potential rape victims but really it is the delivery that is bad - "Minimise your risk" is the messsage.

    I'm not sure what was considered hateful in Duncans' posts. Sounds like he cares enough about people to suggest that they should learn how to protect themselves. Maybe his deleted post had some hateful stuff in it?

    An action that I consider hateful is grouping people based on the actions of a few ie "men need to be the ones being told by police and newspapers how to modify their behaviour". It's rapists that are the problem not men.

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  28. Angry Infidel4:58 pm

    " and where the poster does things like say that women should modify their behaviour, and posts a link to a picture of a woman pointing a hand gun."

    Well, it makes a point doesn't it. I mean, what rapist is going to rape you if you've waved a gun in his face and shown him you're prepared to use it?

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  29. Bryan Goodall6:04 pm

    The responsibility for rape rests wit us men - not women. Men should not rape - end of story. A woman should be able to walk down the street naked if she so wants to.

    Duncan Bayne is known for misogynistic rants - his latest being about the woman from Subway, and he also chases some other woman around the blogs who once called him an extremist and racist, looking for vengeance.

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  30. I can't believe how patronizing some men can get sometimes when they tell women about all those handy precautions they can take to avoid encouraging rapists. Do they seriously think we haven't heard this stuff before? Do they seriously think we don't know about dangerous stuff?

    This post at a blog I belong to offers a pretty good idea of what women habitually do to protect themselves. http://avastconspiracy.blogspot.com/2007/04/hypervigilance.html News flash, guys - we don't need your paternalistic advice.

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  31. angry infidel6:45 pm

    " News flash, guys - we don't need your paternalistic advice."


    What about maternalistic advice? I could get my mum for you. She always has some good advice to offer.

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  32. Brian Goodall - You can only be responsible for your actions. If you are a rapist then stop it. If you are not a rapist stop claiming responsibility on behalf of others.

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  33. WRT: House burglary "...NO ONE would suggest it was your fault for not locking the front door."

    My insurance company would call it "contributary neglegence" and I am not sure they would pay out.

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  34. There are a number of free roaming dogs on the route to school and one street is an active gang area so my wife and I don't let the kids walk to and from school.

    It would be best if the problem was fixed but until it is (if ever) we have to modify our behaviour to reduce risk.

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  35. Reed - you're another person who needs to read the Feminism 101 blog. I'm asking you not to post again on this thread. Angry Infidel, unless you're will to listen rather than just talk then I ask you to refrain as well.

    The main point is that the advice women are given to protect them against rape isn't actually about protection against rape (then the advice would be avoid men you know) it's about controlling women's behaviour.

    Moz - I think the problem with the comparisons you're drawing is that it ignores the power dynamic between men and women, and the way women are repeatedly told to restrict their freedom. Has the stuff people has said been useful? As I've felt you've actually listened in this discussion I'd be more than happy to answer questions.

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  36. Just quickly, the point about leaving the door unlocked resulting in the insurance company not paying out - I'm not 100% sure about the situation of unlocked doors but when we were burgled and hadn't turned the alarm on it made no difference whatsoever to the insurance company, they paid out just the same.

    Many people do blame women for rape. Maia has posted about many court cases where the woman has been blamed. There's another one at the top of her blog now, although that is about murder (the fault of the female victim) rather than rape, I'll readily admit. How anyone can possibly have read this thread, or indeed lived in NZ in the last two years and paid any notice of the mainstream media, and still managed to avoid the clear and repetitive blaming of women for rape is completely beyond me.

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  37. ai and reed, can you not at least respect the blog owner's actions in moderating her own comment thread? Sheesh, talk about having a sense of entitlement.

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  38. Yeah, you have to laugh at the trolls who whine about "censorship". Jesus, we don't let someone we don't like come into our houses, so why should we let someone we don't like post comments on our blogs? Or maybe these dudes would like there to be government legislation that compels us to host all blog comments? Thought not...

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  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  40. Curtis12:16 pm

    weka - "I find it pretty offensive to be told that I should take up firearms in order to make myself safer in the event that someone tries to rape me"

    Duncan did not mention firearms. Just about anything can be used as a weapon and he listed self defence classes first (any weapon is just about useless for anything other than intimidation if you don't know how to use it)

    "The point is that men need to be the ones being told by police and newspapers how to modify their behaviour."

    I believe the jail sentence attached to the crime would fall into this category. Also it is possible for a man to be effectively raped as portrayed in the movie disclosure.

    Bryan Goodall - "The responsibility for rape rests wit us men - not women. Men should not rape - end of story. A woman should be able to walk down the street naked if she so wants to."

    As far as I can tell Duncan and others that have been asked not to post any more have not disputed the right of women to do as she likes, they have merely pointed out that a lone person is at greater risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

    "Duncan Bayne is known for misogynistic rants - his latest being about the woman from Subway, and he also chases some other woman around the blogs who once called him an extremist and racist, looking for vengeance."

    This does not sound like Duncan to me. Could you please point me towards some of these comments (the one about the Subway woman would be appreciated), as while I see some of his views as a bit extreme for my taste and he often rants, I have never found him to be particularly racist or misogynistic.

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  41. Duncan did not mention firearms.

    In the post about self-defense he posted a link to two pictures of women. One was in a self-defense 'pose', the other was pointing a gun.


    Maia, would you be able to put up a message in place of removed posts saying they have been removed by admin. I know it's probably more work for you, but it would allow better continuity of the comments.

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  42. When Duncan said women should "arm themselves as heavily as is legally possible" to defend against rape I assumed he meant with firearms. I don't think that was a strange conclusion to leap to.

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  43. Anonymous5:37 am

    I understand where you are going. It is true, women shouldnt have to change their everyday behavior to "minimize the risk of rape".

    It is the responsibility of the police as the protectors of the community, to activily pursue male and female rapists.

    I feel as though you might be looking into the matter alittle too thoroughly. The ploice, as much as they want to protect their citizens, can't be everywhere at all times, so they are pointing out a risk and giving suggestions. It is in no way some sort of conspiracy to specifically hinder female rights. There are both men AND women on the force that care about our well being.

    What would you like the police to do? What would be fair?

    The only FAIR thing would be to enstate a curfew for rapists, which is obviously impossible.

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