Thoughts on Rape Prevention

Posted on March 7, 2013

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As long as we act like men are the entire problem and our own risk-taking has no bearing whatsoever on the crime, we will continue to have sky-high rape statistics among young women.

There has been a bit of a flurry in the press lately on the subject of rape, following some misguided discussions about how to defend against it.

So how does one prevent rape?  I think there is no single answer, because there are many different circumstances.  Preventing date rape is not the same as preventing an attack by a stranger, which is not the same as preventing rape by a spurned and obsessed acquaintance, which is not the same as preventing statutory rape.  And there is no such thing as 100% prevention of any crime, but we can reduce our chances of being victimized.

Zerlina Maxwell, a Democratic strategist, appeared recently on Sean Hannity’s show on the Fox network.  Apparently, she thinks the common denominator – the thing to focus on – is the men.  Her take is “teach men not to rape.”  I agree with that, but as for the women, well, I have a bone to pick with this statement:

“I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape.  In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”

Okay, let’s get this much up front:  rape is always, always the rapist’s fault.  The rapist is the criminal, the guilty party, the violator.  Yes, teaching men not to rape would be a good thing, and I don’t think women should have to walk around armed to be safe.  But the rest of Ms. Maxwell’s statement is an oft-repeated, politically correct mantra that completely ignores reality and does no one any favors, least of all young women.

Ideally, a woman should be able to dress like a complete harlot, wear a miniskirt with no underwear and sky-high stiletto heels, get falling-down drunk,  and stagger alone down dark alleys in complete safety.  But guess what?  We don’t live in an ideal world.  If we did, there would be no rape.

For any other type of crime, don’t we take reasonable precautions?  Ideally, no one should ever steal, but we lock our doors and don’t leave our wallets unattended.  Ideally, no one should ever kidnap a child, but we lock our schools and have all kinds of rules on who must pick them up from the bus stop.  Ideally, no one should ever hack into your computer, but we have firewalls and passwords. “Teach men not to rape” sounds good, but we teach people not to steal, too, and… well.

Why is rape different?  “I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything.”  Really?  How about how not to get raped, the same way we would advise a friend on how not to get robbed, mugged, kidnapped or hacked?  “Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”  Why not?  Don’t we put it on ourselves, to some extent, to prevent other crimes against ourselves or our property?

My beef with Maxwell’s statement is that it seems to say that women should be allowed to engage in risky behavior without any anticipation of consequence, and that is just unrealistic and wrong.  Where Maxwell focuses on the men as the common denominator, I tend to focus on the various circumstances that lend themselves to the crime.  Avoid those circumstances, and you have just greatly reduced (reduced, not eliminated) your chances of being a victim.  Just like any other crime.  Yet we don’t educate our young women on how to avoid some of the most common circumstances that can lead to rape, because to do so seems sexist, and seems to impinge on their “freedoms.”

Here’s the reality:  I have the freedom to walk the streets of Juarez alone at night while wearing three Rolexes and dripping with diamonds.  I choose not to, because it would be patently foolish.  I think my friends would advise against it, and no one would argue that there are predictable consequences to taking such a risk.  It does not excuse the mugger, but the fact remains that the behavior would have created the circumstances for the crime to occur.  I’m not wrong, just naive and setting myself up.

I also had the freedom to dress like a hooker and get trashed at frat parties, or to let guys be alone with me in my dorm room.  I chose not to, because that would have been patently foolish, too.  But would my friends advise against it?  Probably not, because they’re doing the same thing.  No one is thinking about consequences, or even realizing that they are taking a risk; it’s all just fun.  And maybe nothing happens.  But too often, there really are consequences to taking these risks.  No excuses for the rapist in such a case, but women need to understand that they sometimes create the circumstances for the crime to occur.  They are not wrong, but they can be naive and set themselves up.

I do not think women should have to dress like nuns.  I do not think they should have to be escorted everywhere.  I do not think they should never work late, or live alone, or any of those other Taliban-like “solutions” to gender violence.  I also think there’s something seriously wrong if women have to be armed to be safe.  We’re not in Mad Max World here.  But I do think women need to exercise some realistic common sense.  Prevention of rape is exactly like preventing any other crime: avoid those circumstances, and you reduce – reduce, not eliminate –  your chances of victimhood.   As long as we act like men are the entire problem and our own risk-taking has no bearing whatsoever on the crime, we will continue to have sky-high rape statistics among young women.

Excusing the rapist?  Absolutely not.  Victim-blaming?  No.  Just realism.

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