Monday, August 11, 2014

Locking Your Door - About Reasonable Precaution, and Bears

I think I failed the previous post about this subject. But that's part of the point, to think, rethink, be educated.

Our original question was whether one could compare the precaution of locking your door with the precaution of wearing certain clothes to decrease the risk of being the target of crime, namely theft and rape.

I know it still sounds insane, but that's because in the current social climate, asking such a question is highly provocative. But that is also kind of the point, right. Ask all questions, sort them out, find some sort of truth to believe in.

In the previous post, I think I lost my way. What I was really trying to think about was, since we do put some kind of demand on people to take precautions for safety, such as wearing bike helmets or not go looking for bears, are there reasonable precautions for not being raped, and where does that line go? But perhaps I looked at it from the wrong angle. When a houseowner is robbed and left their door unlocked, the criminals are no less punished. But do the judge ask if the door was locked? Does the question have any relevance to the case? (Let's ignore insurance claims because insurances are strange and mystical creatures.)

We live in a world where women are raped. No doubt men too, but to a smaller extent. Nevermind. We live in a world where people are raped. This is fact. We (as in the majority of people, me included) would like to live in a world where we never have to be afraid of being raped. I'm sure this applies to people that currently aren't afraid too, just they never think about it. But realistically, even if we do take steps to ensure that safety, we at least won't be there in many years. So there is the situation. It is reality, just like "if I go into the forest there may be bears". The difference is that the perpetrators are humans. So the bike helmet thing is a better comparison. "If I ride my bike, some idiot may hit me with his car." Let's assume all people who hit cyclists are drunk drivers, so there are no real accidents, only people doing stupid things. The moment you get on a bike, you risk being the victim of a crime that will severely damage you physically and probably mentally. Now we've simulated something remotely similar. "The moment you walk alone in the evening or get in an intimate situation with a person, whether known or unknown to you, you risk being raped."

It would stand to reason that if you decided to bike, despite the danger of drunk drivers, you should take every reasonable precaution. Put on helmet. Use bike lights. It's not fair, because it's the drunk drivers doing wrong here, but nonetheless. What is reasonable? Is it reasonable to not get to wear what you want? Clearly you don't go around naked, but that's not for fear of being raped. When Jews for fear of violence hide their holy symbols, they are protecting themselves, but is it reasonable? Is it the society we want?

It is better to work the other end of the problem, than be rebellious for its sake. Try to encourage people to stop drunk people from driving, increase the penalties for doing so, or heck, ban alcohol. Better than not wearing a helmet and not using bike lights. But does that mean I'm saying, Jews, don't wear your holy symbols? For the individual it is surely safer that way. But for society, it's terrible. We give power to the criminals; we let them dictate. So where does the line go between reasonable precaution, and giving up?

There is of course another side to this line of thinking. When someone asks what a woman was wearing, why does it piss me off? Because it's a transfer of blame. If a drunk driver hits a cyclist, and the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet and dies, the driver caused the death, not the decision to not wear a helmet. The victim doesn't cause the crime, they fail to prevent it (as we would all like to prevent all crimes, I imagine). Failing to prevent a crime is not a cause of blame for the original crime. She wasn't raped because she was wearing this or that, even if she wouldn't have been if she wore something else. She failed to protect herself, but that's no cause to lessen the punishment on the criminal, any more than saying that a knife stab victim failed to deflect the knife. Someone made the decision to do something criminal; whatever the outcome, they bear the blame. Since the victim isn't on trial, the question is irrelevant.

Although to be honest, part of me stops and thinks at the "the driver caused the death, not the decision to not wear a helmet". I do think that the driver should be charged with the full crime, disregarding the decision to wear a helmet or not, so as far as law and order it's clear cut for me. But did the decision to not wear a helmet cause the death? Did wearing a short skirt cause the rape? Logically, procedurally... maybe? The funny thing is that we can never know; we can make statistical models and talk about probability, but we can never know for each individual case, because we can't exactly replicate it. Did the rapist decide to do it because of the short skirt or not, we can't know that. Even if the rapist says this or that, even if the rapists truly believes this or that, still we can't know. Which means we don't know. No proof either way. No grounds for assumption one way or the other. Which makes for difficult thinking.

Another side again. Most rapes are done by someone the victim knows, in more intimate settings than "dark alleyways", where many other factors come into play. We get a return of true accidents and not just drunk drivers, because I do think in a few cases the rapist is too daft to actually realize what is going on, or perhaps the victim is too afraid to make an abundance of protests. There's also culturally fucked up ideas about courtship and gender roles and the built-in differences in what the traditional male and female roles say is initiative, invitation and agreement.

A man said to me the other day, "men are animals." It was unclear if he included himself in the statement, but he insisted that so was the case, from what he'd seen. Gender equality work in all honor, there's still plenty of animals out there, he said. Men who wouldn't be civilized no matter how equal the world was. Men who, regardless of what culture says, will take what their arms can grab.

The original question was sparked in my mind because I read a woman being angry because she'd walked with her keys ready to stab an attacker with, and she was angry because she had to be afraid in this modern society. I guess all this thinking boils down to whether or not I agree with her. Because a large part of me thought she was silly. I have walked with keys in my hands ready to stab an attacker, and I've been afraid, but I've never been angry because of it. Because to me, it would be like being angry at there being bears in the forest. It is that way, take it or leave it. Thinking that way however triggered the alarms in my head. Was this reasonable? Who was right? Where did her anger come from, and my acceptance?

We can't just accept people doing wrong. However if some men are truly animals (and surely some women too, just smaller ones than bears), perhaps in the end we have to think of them as bears. If most rapes happen in intimate situations, then the actual dark-alley rapists are rare, are metaphorical bears in the metaphorical city woods. Being angry at them doesn't accomplish anything. It's the intimate rapists we have to worry about. The drunk drivers. The humans.

There are bears in the forest. There are drunk drivers. I bike in the forest and on the roads, but I'm more afraid on the road.


ShadoWolf said...

There'll always be people who don't realize when they inflict pain on others, people who don't care if they do or not and people who wants to inflict pain on others. No one is safe. No matter how you look, walk, scream or fight- there'll always be someone stronger and meaner that might want to hurt you. Accepting that only means that when the "accident" happen you'll know there was nothing you could've done to change the outcome, because usually you can't. Thinking that there is a way to protect oneself from harm, and even make people stop doing harm, is only the mind's way of protecting itself from the staggering fact- that there is no safety. At all. You can't trust anyone. Not even yourself. Most people can't deal with that so they come up with excuses and half-logical reasons as to why it happened and how it can be prevented. Sometimes it helps in reality too but mostly it works like all other human rituals for making sense of life in a chaotic uncontrolable world.

Or some other cynical thought like that came to mind while reading ;)

Yeonni said...

I agree with you completely. I use bears as some symbolic creature for "things that are dangerous that we cannot control", which may be unfair on the bears, but I agree completely.

I think this series of thoughts came from the fact that society teaches us that thinking that way, just accepting bad things, is not right. But I think it may be much more right, in the cases of bears. We should accept the things we can't do anything about, and focus on the things we can. It was just a whole hell of a lot of text for a fairly simple concept, but well, such is the way of the mind :P