bioephemera

Last week, 3QuarksDaily quoted Shane Austen with this list of “sexual assault prevention tips guaranteed to work”. It reads in part,

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

You can read the whole thing here, but you get the idea.

Honestly, my first response to something like this is “Hey, rape isn’t funny.” (I think that’s probably the response many of you will have as well.) Personally, I don’t find the list humorous. So why am I blogging about it? Because satire can have a value beyond humor: it reveals deep contradictions in how we look at the world.

Ask yourself what’s so surprising about this “sexual assault prevention” list. Why does it seem strange, unusual, even funny, to put the burden of prevention on the perpetrator? Shouldn’t it be a little bit strange that we expect the exact opposite – that the victim should be the one taking actions to protect herself?

Coincidentally, I was discussing a prevention list aimed at the parents of bullied children just a few days before I saw the piece at 3QD. These kinds of lists are common enough in our society. I think they’re supposed to empower the public, by giving people who feel helpless something constructive to do. Sometimes the tips may be helpful. But when you’re given a list of ten tips to avoid being bullied, mugged, or raped, what if you don’t do those ten things? From society’s perspective, would you somehow be complicit in a crime against you, because you didn’t do all you could/should to prevent it?

Since this is Scienceblogs, let’s consider another type of list: the ubiquitous “ten ways to prevent [your health problem of choice]” list. The health problem might be obesity, lung cancer, skin cancer, wrinkles, tooth decay, heartburn, insomnia, or heart attacks; there is no criminal, no attacker, involved – just lifestyle, genetics, and other factors.

Do we really think these lists are scientifically valid, implementable strategies for prevention? And if so, should we blame someone with one of these health problems for failing to do everything possible (on the list) to prevent it?

Consider this typical list of “Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for an Overweight Person” (from a website devoted entirely to lists, listafterlist.com):

Eat less fast food
Cook more meals at home
Order more salads and wraps
Stop drinking pop
Do 25 pushups and 100 crunches every morning
Run 3 times per week
Watch less TV
Buy a bicycle
Buy rollerblades
Join a gym
Join a rec league
Cut out potato chips, cookies and ice cream
Walk to work

The interesting thing about this list, which I’m sure is well-meaning, is that it presumes the overweight person is doing everything wrong. They must be – they’re overweight, right? So they can’t possibly own a bike, or belong to a gym, or be walking to work. They must be indulging in soda or potato chips or fast food. There must be some glaring reason, probably more than one, that they are overweight.

Well, yes. There is an obvious reason overweight people are overweight: their caloric intake is more than their caloric expenditure. But outside the realm of the medical textbook, in a real-life context, you can’t identify an individual’s problem behaviors without knowing that individual’s unique situation. The list doesn’t address or fix the underlying reasons why someone has a weight problem. Perhaps they have a bad knee and can’t exercise. Perhaps they’ve gotten terrible nutritional advice and are on some kind of fad diet involving large quantities of bacon. Perhaps they have a metabolic disorder. Perhaps between the commute and the kids, they can’t make time to join that rec league. Perhaps they lost their gym privileges when they lost their job. Perhaps they can’t afford to cook at home – either because of the time involved or because fresh ingredients are expensive. Who knows?

How-to lists make a complex social problem, obesity, seem so simple to fix. But unfortunately it’s not so simple. You can’t solve obesity with a one-size-fits-all, Letterman-style Top Ten list: either the recommendations don’t take individual differences into account, or they’re so broad and nonspecific as to be useless to the average person (“Don’t let your daily exercise drop below the level necessary to maintain your healthy weight! Don’t consume more calories than you expend in a given day!”)

If I have an overweight reader out there who does none of the things on the “New Year’s Resolutions” list – or a healthy reader who does all of them – leave a comment and let me know, because those scenarios seem very unlikely to me. The “less” and “more” qualifiers in the list are especially problematic – you can always cook “more” meals at home, and the only way you could unequivocally satisfy “eating less fast food” or “watching less TV” would be to never eat fast food or watch TV. Very few people go to those extremes. Very few healthy people do everything on this list, so clearly these things are not all necessary to health. The list itself doesn’t say these things are all necessary. And yet, if an overweight person fails to do one of the things on the list – even if he/she does some of the others – it’s fairly common to blame him/her for not having done everything possible to avoid being overweight. (“Jess, if you really wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t drink that soda.”)

Ask yourself: if someone were obese, despite doing every single thing on this list, would you feel differently about him or her than you did about an obese person who did none of the things on the list? Why?

What if the list were about preventing skin cancer?

Prevention lists are well-meaning. They’re meant to give people ideas, to help them feel empowered, to help them help themselves. For many people, lists may inspire them to exercise more, or to cut out that soda pop. But as a side effect, the ubiquity and simplicity of such lists may create unrealistic expectations about individuals’ ability to fix their health problems. Lists can reinforce stereotypes (“obese people never exercise – they don’t even own bicycles”), exclude other solutions (what about using the stairs instead of the elevator?) or foster a false sense of security (“I do pretty much everything on this list, so I don’t have to worry about my heavy drinking.”)

Crime prevention lists, unfortunately, may also mislead people – if people assume that crime victims somehow failed to take simple preventative measures, and that those measures would have protected them sufficiently. The saddest recent instance of a “crime prevention” list that I can think of is this one, from Yale’s February 2009 B Magazine:

1. Pay attention to where you are.
2. Avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim.
3. Do not be distracted by ipods and phone calls.
4. Reduce your exposure (use the Yale escort and shuttle services).
5. Walk with a purpose.
6. Keep a minimum amount on your person.

That’s from a story by murder victim Annie Le. She was quoting the Yale University Police Chief, who added “crime prevention is nothing more than recognizing a risk and taking steps to prevent it.” Annie Le knew how to recognize risks around her. She did take steps to protect herself. We can’t know for sure, but perhaps this list did help her avoid random crimes like mugging – although it’s hard to know how one is expected to succeed in something as vague as “avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim,” especially when one is a 90-pound female.

Unfortunately, despite her efforts, Annie Le appears to have fallen victim to a lethal risk she didn’t recognize – one in her own workplace. Does that mean the list above is useless? Of course not – but no one can possibly avoid every risk in life, unless they live in a bubble. Does it mean Annie Le is responsible for failing to protect herself – that she did something “wrong”? Of course not. Her killer is the responsible party.

So back to the list that started this post, the one from 3QD. Does a rape victim do something “wrong” by going out with someone she doesn’t know well, or dressing provocatively, or walking home alone at night? No. The only person who does something “wrong” is the rapist. This list makes it abundantly clear how ludicrous it is to pretend rapists doesn’t have control of their actions – obviously they do. They commit sexual assault not because others fail to stop them, but because they choose to. So why do some people still act like it’s the victim’s responsibility to avoid being raped?

It’s food for thought.

Comments

  1. #1 Comrade PhysioProf
    September 23, 2009

    (1) The humor of the list you linked to is a sad humor: how fucking ridiculous it is that we expect sexual assault victims to “take responsibility for their own safety”–i.e., take responsibility for the anti-social behavior of others.

    (2) Lists like that exist and are popular because they give people a sense of control over shit that they mostly don’t have any control over whatsoever. There isn’t jack diddly fucking shit that Annie Le could have done to “prevent” being murdered. As horrible as it is to contemplate, people sometimes do horrible things, and other people are at the receiving end of those horrible things. Shit happens.

    (3) Telling people what to do is pretty much the single least effective way possible to actually get people to do things. The only effective way to get people to do things is to create a system of incentives and reinforcers–both negative and positive–that make them *want* to do the things you want them to do. This is why those “Ten Things To Do To Lose Weight” lists are such a pathetic joke.

  2. #2 Scicurious
    September 23, 2009

    I love this post! Just wanted to say. Also, a real problem that I have with lists that are designed to “help women avoid rape”, is that they do nothing about the actual PROBLEM. They might make you feel empowered, but they don’t do much to stop people from getting raped at all.

  3. #3 Jessica Palmer
    September 23, 2009

    Excellent point PP, about motivation, incentives and reinforcers.

    It’s kind of amazing how in drug treatment programs, trivial, largely symbolic incentives like small gift certificates and so on have amazing impact in terms of motivating people. It’s unfortunate that some people oppose using such incentives at all, because they feel drug users should not be “rewarded” for sobriety, but rather, expected to be sober of their own accord. I’m a pragmatist: if using incentives in treatment would significantly benefit the public health, far over and above the incentives’ cost, it’s nuts not to use them. Ditto for weight loss.

  4. #4 Jessica Palmer
    September 23, 2009

    SciC, I totally agree with you. These lists rarely address acquaintance/date rapes, for example, even though 3/4 of women know their assailants. But this makes a twisted kind of sense: if the goal of a list is to make women feel empowered and reduce fear, it would be utterly ineffectual if the list said “actually, there is not that much you can do in advance to avoid being raped” – even if that’s the truth. So rape prevention lists concentrate on situations where there are some elements that the victim might be able to control, and ignore other types of situations. The problem I have with that is it makes people feel like they are “doing something” productive about the problem of rape simply by sharing and following these lists, when really we need different kinds of serious social investment to actually reduce rape rates.

  5. #5 Jessica Palmer
    September 23, 2009

    PS. Check out RAINN for statistics on rape, and for their version of “rape prevention lists” – yes they have them, but they also have some careful wording to make it clear there is nothing you can do to eliminate your risk of being raped. Interestingly, they also have a prevention list specifically for men – aimed at bystanders, not rapists.

  6. #6 Mark, Seattle WA
    September 23, 2009

    George Carlin had something to say about this:

    Ohhh, some people don’t like you to talk like that. Ohh, some people like to shut you up for saying those things. You know that. Lots of people. Lots of groups in this country want to tell you how to talk. Tell you what you can’t talk about. Well, sometimes they’ll say, well you can talk about something but you can’t joke about it. Say you can’t joke about something because it’s not funny. Comedians run into that shit all the time. Like rape. They’ll say, “you can’t joke about rape. Rape’s not funny.” I say, “fuck you, I think it’s hilarious. How do you like that?” I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. See, hey why do you think they call him “Porky,” eh? I know what you’re going to say. “Elmer was asking for it. Elmer was coming on to Porky. Porky couldn’t help himself, he got a hard- on, he got horney, he lost control, he went out of his mind.” A lot of men talk like that. A lot of men think that way. They think it’s the woman’s fault. They like to blame the rape on the woman. Say, “she had it coming, she was wearing a short skirt.” These guys think women ought to go to prison for being cock teasers. Don’t seem fair to me. Don’t seem right, but you can joke about it. I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is. What the exaggeration is. Because every joke needs one exaggeration.

  7. #7 mdvlist
    September 23, 2009

    The medical prevention checklists do seem to blame more than they educate. They may be aiming for Oprah-style empowerment, but they make one feel so helpless and defeated when adhering to them fails to yield the desired results. I started suffering sudden, severe, inexplicable, and eventually chronic acid reflux this spring, I couldn’t have been more disappointed to go to the doctor and hear the exact same advice that I had encountered repeatedly online. I wouldn’t have sought professional medical help if I could have cured the problem merely by elevating my bed, cutting out caffeine and alcohol, eating small meals and making my diet as bland as possible! I realize that chain-smoking alcoholic fast-food addicts probably do go to the doctor complaining of mysterious digestive discomfort, but really. All the emphasis on “lifestyle changes” makes me feel like nobody will even believe me if I say, “I’m already doing everything I can. Now refer me to a specialist.”

  8. #8 Mike Olson
    September 23, 2009

    You’re right of course. Real rape isn’t funny. Neither is real murder. However, we can watch a man being mutilated in, “The Holy Grail,” and it is flippin’ hilarious. We can also watch any number of video clips showing men getting punched, kicked, falling onto rails so that their testicles are nearly crushed and that is also considered hilarious. How ’bout a guy stepping on a rake? Remember sideshow Bob on the Simpsons? The whole bit with all the rakes? After being drug through a cactus patch? If that really happened would it be funny? Look, the list is funny. The problem of course is that most humor is about laughing at those things which makes us uncomfortable…happening to someone else. Current trends are altering our sense of humor in such a way that any group which lacks power is considered an inappropriate target for humor…that means, women, ethnic minorites, jokes about pedophiles of any stripe…Frankly, I don’t have a sick sense of humor, nor do I find things funny that are just gross. But, in the book, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the character McMurphy, who coincidentally had been accused at one point of statutory rape, makes the following statement, “You gotta laugh. Man, when they’ve taken your ability to laugh, they’ve taken everything you’ve got.” That was, of course a statement about facing a power so great that eventually it destroyed his mind, and led his friend to kill him. Of course that occurred, after he finally stopped laughing, got angry and assaulted the woman who ran the show. If you’re not in power. If you are weaker…you gotta laugh…or they will find a way to make sure you never point out their problems and weaknesses again.

  9. #9 rambler
    September 23, 2009

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this (unlike the first responder who apparently didn’t read any of it).

    Ignoring the question of whether it comes from misguided origins, such a list made me think of the way that conversations (on tv at least) are carefully crafted between hostage negotiators and captors to reinforce the perception of victims as people.

    I don’t know if an actual focused campaign to emphasize the humanity of victims would have any effect on either perpetrators or people-who-look-the-other-way, but it seems to have more potential than more victim blaming.

  10. #10 Susannah
    September 23, 2009

    This was a helpful post.

    A year ago, we suffered a burglary. The police questioned us carefully on precisely this point; what did we do that could have encouraged a break-in?

    I have since had a niggling sense of culpability: I “should have” been more alert to sounds downstairs in the night. I shouldn’t have hung the car keys on a hook in the office. (The thief took them, and the car. He totaled it.) I should not have left a wallet full of ID and cash in the downstairs bookcase. I should have kept the steering wheel club key in a separate location from the car keys. …

    I see now, that is silly. The kid should not have entered a stranger’s house and taken their stuff. End of story.

  11. #11 Poppy
    September 23, 2009

    As a rape survivor, I generally find rape jokes to be humourless, distasteful, and used by unoriginal people for “shock factor” (which given our rape-accepting society, usually means they aren’t that shocking.) I thought this list was HILARIOUS though, as it was less a rape joke and more a parody of all those harmful lists that put the onus of prevention on the victim – and none of the items on those lists would have prevented my rape. As you said, I do think humour like this can point out ridiculous contradictions in society, but it does walk a very fine line between thought-provoking and offensive.

  12. #12 Tsu Dho Nimh
    September 23, 2009

    Years ago, there was a surge in the incidence of rape in Tel Aviv.

    The police chief wanted to put a curfew on women. The Prime Minister – Golda Meir – said the curfew should be on men, because why punish women for something men were doing.

  13. #13 daedalus2u
    September 23, 2009

    This reminds me of the response I always have when people talk about eugenics and who should not be allowed to reproduce. I always tell such people that they do have that right. If they ever meet someone they feel should not reproduce, I feel they have an absolute right to not reproduce with that person and that no one should be able to force them to. This is why women need the right to choose.

  14. #14 llewelly
    September 23, 2009

    Perhaps they’ve gotten terrible nutritional advice and are on some kind of fad diet involving large quantities of bacon.

    Hey! Don’t knock bacon! It’s the PERFECT diet food. No carbohydrates at all!

  15. #15 Jessica Palmer
    September 23, 2009

    Mike said,

    “We can also watch any number of video clips showing men getting punched, kicked, falling onto rails so that their testicles are nearly crushed and that is also considered hilarious. How ’bout a guy stepping on a rake? Remember sideshow Bob on the Simpsons? The whole bit with all the rakes? After being drug through a cactus patch? If that really happened would it be funny?”

    Yeah, actually I don’t find any of that funny either. It doesn’t mean no one else is allowed to find it funny, though – just that I don’t. 🙂

  16. #16 Jessica Palmer
    September 23, 2009

    llewelly, you remind me of the bacon martini I had once – sounds awesome, but in reality the large blobs of congealed grease floating it in left a bit to be desired. 😉

  17. #17 LAJ
    September 23, 2009

    It’s not clear to me if the resolutions on the list for overweight people were made BY overweight people or FOR them (okay, us). If it is the former, then such resolutions will never last unless there is an actual plan and sufficient motivation. If it is the latter, then they are next to useless (I’m not about to do 100 crunches tomorrow morning, even if I did have the time).

    I think these “how to protect yourself” lists come across as smug and are mostly used as filler in places such as newspaper lifestyle sections.

    @12, I need to learn more about Golda Meir.

  18. #18 Ethan Siegel
    September 24, 2009

    Jessica, I am going to have to come on over here more often. Your blog is really, really great!

  19. #19 Diane G.
    September 24, 2009

    Thank you for expressing this so well–it is a concept I’ve been harping on for years. It’s essentially just the old “blame the victim” crap gussied up and repeatedly put out, not only as filler for periodicals (and I agree with LAJ that that represents a big part of it) but in many more insidious situations as well. Two that come to mind:
    1. When my kids (now in or through with college) were young, anti-bullying programs were big in grade school & high school. In particular I remember “Project Charlie” and “Challenge Day.” Especially in the latter case, kids were brought to states of emotional angst & encouraged to “share” their experiences, and many of them would be quite explicit about their experiences, dysfunctional families, etc. Many tears, much hugging. People (mostly adults) swore by these programs. And afterwards, kids resumed their same (sometimes vicious) cliques as before. My daughter & I often noted that the only net result of these annoying exercises was to give false hope to the “victims” that somehow, from here on out, bullies would radically change. In other words, false hope leading to even more devastation. (Note–more on topic, both programs included all the lists of ways to not be a victim, leading to the same result. The only kids who absorbed the messages were those who were already empathetic & caring; the bullies just joked their way through…)
    2. When I had a full-term still-born (greatly wanted) baby I turned to books to cope. Most contained helpful science & psychological advice about coping, but one turned out to be New Age. It essentially wanted one to center oneself & concentrate on what one could do to avoid having the same outcome again (and it listed plenty of particulars). Or, as I realized, looking at things the other way, it was basically saying don’t do what you did wrong the last time or else! Just what I wanted to hear.

    Parts of the problem include: a society full of know-it-alls; full of people who truly never believe something can happen to them until–duh–it happens to them, at which point they do a 180 & become crusaders; and the typically-but-not-limited-to male propensity to provide a “solution” for everything.

    IME, the women who feel the most “empowered” are the ones who take self-defense courses. (And I have a friend whose wife swears by the confidence boost of concealed carry firearms…)

  20. #20 Tyrone Slothrop
    September 24, 2009

    Yeah, actually I don’t find any of that funny either.

    B… b… but what about that Black Knight? From the ‘Holy Grail’…?

    You do find that funny, or…

    Jeepers, the mere thought of someone not laughing at that mutilated Cleese – sends shivers down the spine!

  21. #21 Burt
    September 24, 2009

    The problem with the victim mentality is everyone is a victim – almost nobody takes responsibility for those events that are considered less than ideal. People readily take responsibility for events that they consider favorable and when they believe they have defied the “odds” and avoided negative circumstances or reaped substantial rewards, they congratulate themselves on their acumen and believe they deserve their good fortune.

    One cannot have it both ways – if you take credit for positive outcomes, then you also must take credit for negative outcomes. Luck doesn’t enter into it – there is no such thing, save one’s perception.

    There are NO VICTIMS – everyone traverses space-time coordinates and arrives at the interstice where a drama (positive, negative, or neutral) occurs. There are infinite possible paths that one could have chosen which would not intersect the putative negative locale in which the drama unfolds. Even within the drama there are infinite possibilities for various outcomes. In the case of a rape (I do not condone violence of any sort), the aggrieved party could have decided not to venture in the path of the perpetrator by delaying the sortie or turning down an invitation from a casual acquaintance or any number of actions which would not place one in the drama. Once confronted there are other actions that one could try to extricate oneself from the situation. Running away, screaming “Fire”, crying, fighting back, or reasoning with the aggressor might be enough. Nothing is set in concrete until an event occurs.

    I realize that my position vis-à-vis taking responsibility for all of one’s experience is not widely held. Very few believe that they play an active part in unwanted events but that is to be expected. Most believe they are a product of circumstances beyond their control and that they exist in an indifferent universe (if not a hostile one.) One can believe in an anthropomorphic God if that assuages the fear which holds most in thrall (actually substituting fear of God for fear of humans and nature) or believe that randomness is in control of everything and hope that “bad stuff” doesn’t happen too often or one can believe that one is in control of everything and therefore the only thing to fear is oneself. I choose the latter and it has worked very well for decades for me and my family and I expect only positive results in the future. Peace…

  22. #22 Mike Olson
    September 24, 2009

    Perhaps I gave to much information to ensure my point was understood. It wasn’t intended to be about slapstick comedy or barnyard humor taken to the extreme. And frankly, my sense of humor is kind of difficult to explain, but I did like “Airplane!” As well as “Young Frankenstien.” I also tend to like humor based on good natured, harmless scares about the supernatural. You know, you don’t believe it, but it is midnight and there you are in the grave yard…At any rate the post was intended to make the statement that the most powerful thing a person can do is to learn to laugh, not just at themselves, but at the sort of people who would hurt them, hold them down or abuse them. Granted, sometimes it is about a time and place, but ultimately when you can luagh, really laugh and laugh hard at the most vile, evil son of a bitch you’ve ever known, that person loses and loses big…you hurt them in ways they never would have dreamed possible…you rob them of all the power they thought they had….”you gotta laugh man, or they’ve taken everything you’ve got…” It is more true in the case of genuine horror and terror than almost any other time…don’t let them ever take your humanity or turn you into something as bad or worse than they are.

  23. #23 Jessica Palmer
    September 24, 2009

    Tyrone and Mike: Yes, for the record Monty Python and the Holy Grail is awesomely hilarious. 🙂

  24. #24 LAJ
    September 24, 2009

    @ Burt: Sure, you can believe that you are in control of everything. All I know is that I am only in control of myself, and can only protect myself with the knowledge and experience that I have.

    I have been very lucky in my life that nothing bad has happened to me so far (and yes, I do consider it to be luck, at least in part), but if I did decide, for instance, to accept an invitation from a casual acquaintance, it will be because, in my judgment, that I will be safe. If I am wrong, that is not my fault, but the fault of the jerk who misled me. The same with venturing in the path of the perpetrator, as you put it. If I am unaware of the perpetrator’s presence, how can I make an informed decision? Therefore, not my fault. Or my responsibility. (Also, please tell me, what is the best way to reason with an aggressor? Especially, one not willing to listen to reason.)

    I wish you the continued safety, health and happiness of your family.

    @ Mike Olson: I think I heard Mel Brooks say that that’s why he wrote “The Producers” and “Springtime for Hitler”.

    By the way Jessica, I love your blog.

  25. #25 Tyrone Slothrop
    September 25, 2009

    I realize that my position vis-à-vis taking responsibility for all of one’s experience is not widely held. Very few believe that they play an active part in unwanted events but that is to be expected.

    Actually, Burt, that view is more or less run of the mill in New Age circles.

    It leads to views on the Holocaust which I find absolutely dis-gus-ting.

  26. #26 pip
    September 25, 2009

    It seems to me that the analogy between a rape victim and an overweight person is flawed. Obviously a rape victim is not responsible for being raped – for the rapist’s failure to control his own behavior. But how is an overweight person not responsible for his or her failure to not eat too much or to not exercise enough? If you blame the fast food companies and the TV networks for providing too ‘seductive’ a product, then isn’t that the equivalent of accepting the rapist’s excuse that his victim was ‘asking for it’?

  27. #27 Jessica Palmer
    September 25, 2009

    “If you blame the fast food companies and the TV networks for providing too ‘seductive’ a product, then isn’t that the equivalent of accepting the rapist’s excuse that his victim was ‘asking for it’?”

    plp, I’m not aware that anyone said the TV networks and fast food companies were solely to blame for obesity in the comments. I certainly didn’t say it in the post. So I have no idea where you are getting that (and I disagree with your logic).

    The rape prevention list situation and the disease prevention list are two separate situations. What these lists both represent is a general tendency in the media to oversimplify complex social problems. If the problem looks simple, and fits in a little top-ten list, it implies we have more control over it – that it can be solved unilaterally. This makes everyone feel better in the short-term. But the problem with these oversimplifications is that the proposed solutions are usually unrealistic (telling an obese person to start doing a military-style fitness routine each morning) and/or inadequate (expecting a rape victim’s precautions to fully protect her against someone who intends her harm). Plus, they give people cover to make unfair claims like “well, if you had done the things on this list, this event wouldn’t have happened.” (See Burt’s comment). Oversimplification obscures other important factors which need to be addressed to solve the underlying problem.

  28. #28 Coriolis
    September 25, 2009

    Eh I think things are a bit more complicated depending on your perspective.

    If you’re trying to limit rape from the point of view of society as a whole you can ask, would it be better to train all women to be super-aware ninjas able to beat a man into a bloody pulp or should we try and impress upon men that rape is really bad and we (as in the law) are going to find you and punish you for it? I think at this level you are quite correct and we should be trying to stop the perpetrators, not tell the victims how to protect themselves.

    On the other hand, as an individual, while you can work at changing society it’s much faster to change yourself. It doesn’t mean that it’s the “right” thing to do, or that it’s fair, but it is more effective.

    So I don’t have that much of a problem with these lists, if they were actually providing proper guidance on what you can do to change things for yourself (the fact that they almost never do is actually a much bigger problem for them IMO). They shouldn’t be used to blame the victim, and you’re probably correct that infact that is likely one of their main effects. But I’d rather argue against this simply on the principle that you’re always an idiot to blame the victim in a crime, rather than to say that you shouldn’t promote safety instructions. Provided those instructions do actually promote safety – I’m doubtful that most of these really do.

  29. #29 C.A.
    September 25, 2009

    I don’t really think such lists are a problem when people use them as intended. It’s a collection of suggestions to minimize risk – nothing more.

    Why see such a thing as evidence of victim blaming? A list about protecting oneself from sexual assault, for instance: isn’t the real implication that there are bad people out there who will take advantage of trusting natures? A list for rapists isn’t often offered, it’s true, but it’s not because people don’t think the rapist is at fault. It’s because of an assumption that those ‘bad people’ know they’re doing something wrong and simply do not care.

    It makes sense for a person to do everything they can to try to protect themselves. It makes sense to give the avoidance advice to the people who actually experience the negative effects from a situation. And yes, it’s still bad when someone takes advantage of people who do not take these measures. And yes, bad things can happen even if you do everything ‘right.’

    Simplified lists aren’t as good as personalized advice, but they’re better than nothing. Throwing up one’s hands and deciding it’s not one’s responsibility – that it’s someone ELSE causing these bad things, after all – rarely gets anything done.

  30. #30 Burt
    September 25, 2009

    @LAJ[24]

    All I know is that I am only in control of myself

    True, as are we all, and you control ALL of your experiences.

    and yes, I do consider it to be luck, at least in part

    So what is the physics of “luck”? There is no scientific basis for luck, it’s a perception that one formulates to explain one’s circumstances so responsibility can be avoided.

    If I am wrong, that is not my fault

    Fault has a pejorative connotation; it is your responsibility – your judgment may have ignored red flags or perhaps there were psychological factors which led to the drama. Anyway it is subjunctive until you actualize an event and hindsight and introspection may reveal the salient factors in its creation. You weren’t misled, in this scenario, you chose to involve your self with the jerk for your own reasons.

    If I am unaware of the perpetrator’s presence, how can I make an informed decision?

    You obviously can’t make a consciously informed decision other than being aware of your environment and companions. Unconsciously you might get a “bad feeling’ and choose an alternative path. Again people who don’t choose to interact in a drama with a “perpetrator” will not have the dramatic experience. If you choose (consciously or subconsciously) to participate in a drama it is your responsibility – you want to abdicate responsibility for what you consider negative consequences resulting from choices you made.

    what is the best way to reason with an aggressor? Especially, one not willing to listen to reason.

    The best way is to not create a drama in which one has to deal with such personalities – often they are not reasonable as they are in thrall to inner fear and one must intuit whatever means one has to mitigate the unpleasantness.

    I thank you for your good wishes and am confident that whatever happens it is for our growth as peaceful human beings. Take responsibility for your “good luck” you are obviously behaving in ways that create your environment as you desire.

    @Tyrone[25]

    If it’s run of the mill, then we humans could use more of that grist. BTW the holocaust could not have happened without the cooperation of the participants on both sides – those who didn’t cooperate either gave their lives in an immediate way or survived because they didn’t want to participate in such a drama and those who cooperated either gave their lives as an example to others who needed a lesson in humanity – the drama enabled certain persons to rise to acts of heroism and altruism that perhaps they would not have experienced otherwise (Schindler and the Gies come to mind.) The holocaust was a terrible drama for the participants – again on both sides and I do not condone violence in any way. Each participant had reasons for the outcome personally and collectively. Bringing it up as a polemic to chastise one’s opinion is another form of Godwin’s law.

  31. #31 pip
    September 25, 2009

    Okay, I accept your focus is more on the issue of ‘oversimplification’ than on who needs to take responsbility for addressing the problem. And I agree it may not be helpful to tell someone who is 50 pounds overweight to start running 5 miles a day. That person needs more comprehensive support so he or she can identify and address the lifestyle factors that are contributing to obesity.

    I think it all comes down to reasonably assessing the abililty you have to control, or at least, to affect, aspects of your life. As my brother says, ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’, meaning that he recognizes the conributions he makes to his own success, whereas others put it down to mere chance. A rapist would absolutely be responsible for his actions if he raped me – even if I had walked down a dark alley in the middle of he night with nothing on. But could I have influenced the likelihood that I would be raped that night. Of course I could. That doesn’t make me responsible for the rape, but it does raise the question of whether I had acted responsibly. Suppose I had taken my 5 year old daughter with me on this midnight jaunt down the alley and she was raped or murdered. Could I be justifiably criticized by others for putting my child in danger. Absolutely! I failed to take reasonable steps to avoid the foreseeable consequences of my actions – even though those foreseeable consequences are caused by someone else acting voluntarily – and I failed to act responsibly.

  32. #32 LAJ
    September 26, 2009

    @ Burt: Yes, I do believe that you make your own luck. But I believe “luck” can also mean “chance”. I am responsible for putting myself in a position, but once there, any number of incidents may occur. Am I responsible for each of those incidents, whichever one happens? Sure, maybe there would be subconscious clues, but maybe there wouldn’t be. (And frankly, for me personally, my gut instinct, for both good and bad, is only about 50% accurate.)

    To take a somewhat silly and benign example, I like to walk through my local park. I’ve done it many, many times without incident (this is during the day, with lots of people around, so no danger). One time I got “bombed” by a bird. I had no idea the bird was there and it was gone by the time I felt the you-know-what. So, was this my responsibility? Yes, I put myself there in that position, but I’d been in that position many times before without incident. You said before that people should take responsibility for poor outcomes*, and yes, I could berate myself for turning left instead of right, but why would I have changed a route that I had taken so many times before? And I can’t really blame the bird for doing what it does naturally. I call a situation like this “chance”. (Superstitious people might also say it was good luck!) Perhaps in every situation there are varying degrees of responsibility vs. chance, but I believe both may be factors at the same time.

    Maybe we have different definitions of responsibility. Perhaps I misunderstand you, but what you call responsibility, I call living my life. Maybe if I ever am attacked, I would blame myself and wonder what I should have done differently, but looking at it objectively, I say the attacker is to blame. Maybe it’s wrong to equate blame with responsibility, but sometimes they amount to the same thing in some peoples’ minds.

    “The best way is to not create a drama in which one has to deal with such personalities” … yeah, that’s actually how I tend to live my life, but it doesn’t really give you practice when you have to argue with the phone company. 🙂

    *I was going to write “crappy outcomes”, but had second thoughts.

  33. #33 Comrade PhysioProf
    September 26, 2009

    To take a somewhat silly and benign example, I like to walk through my local park. I’ve done it many, many times without incident (this is during the day, with lots of people around, so no danger). One time I got “bombed” by a bird. I had no idea the bird was there and it was gone by the time I felt the you-know-what. So, was this my responsibility? Yes, I put myself there in that position, but I’d been in that position many times before without incident. You said before that people should take responsibility for poor outcomes*, and yes, I could berate myself for turning left instead of right, but why would I have changed a route that I had taken so many times before? And I can’t really blame the bird for doing what it does naturally. I call a situation like this “chance”.

    This is exactly the difference between what legal scholars call “but for cause” and “proximate cause”.

    But for your turning right instead of left, you would not have been bombed, and in that sense you caused yourself to be bombed. However, being bombed was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of your turning right instead of left, and thus your turning right was not a proximate cause of your being bombed.

    This is a codification of the usual standard that ordinary people employ to assess fault and responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions. Burt’s idiocy is in failing to make this distinction.

  34. #34 MichaelE
    September 27, 2009

    I think the lists should be viewed in a different way: In dealing with any kind of risk there is a level of diminishing return. To lose weight, most people in most circumstances will benefit from applying the suggestions on the list, but some will not. Then they and their health-care professionals will go to the next level of intervention, see what the results are, etc. If people are able to but do not perform the suggestiosn on the list, and they go to the doc hoping for salvation from being overweight – what good will the medical treatment be in the long run?

    Most problem solving is a process of elimination: Deal with the most likely causes first (like not being conscious of how much and what one eats and when), then moving to the next most likely, etc. This is a basic process in science, as well, at least so Kuhn would have us believe, no?

    As a financial advisor, I deal with this with many people quite often: They ask which stocks they should buy to get rich, and I ask how much they are saving and how much they are using to decrease their debt. Many people treat their money health like they treat their physical health. They think they can make up for a lifetime of negligence with a quick fix of a big killing in the stock or housing market. What happens most often is they get killed.

    I wouldn’t disparage the lists so much, since they describe the actions to take to solve the problems for most people in most situations.

  35. #35 Lab Rat
    September 27, 2009

    Know something that isn’t funny? The film “something about mary”. I phyiscally threw up during the first fifteen minutes of it (those who’ve seen it will know which bit) and spent the rest crying, pained and confused as horrible, painful and unfair things happened to vaguelly unobjectional people.

    I still have no idea why that film is meant to be a comedy.

  36. #36 Jessica Palmer
    September 27, 2009

    I think some of us are not cut out to watch slapstick comedy. I had a similar problem with all the Chevy Chase vacation films – I was always thinking “Oh! the medical bills! The property damage!” with a sense of dread and nausea. (Kill Bill, on the other hand, I found hilarious. Clearly there is some way to toggle my suspend-anxiety switch, but I don’t know what it is.)

  37. #37 Jessica Palmer
    September 27, 2009

    @Michael E:

    “Deal with the most likely causes first.”

    Aha. Here’s the rub. Are the stereotypical “causes” that top many rape prevention lists – don’t walk alone late at night, don’t look like a victim – really the most likely “causes” of sexual assault? Probably not. First off PP makes a good point about the complexity of causation in the real world (vs. a controlled experiment). Secondly, statistics show that most rapes are committed by someone the victim already knows, so “walking alone at night” is probably not the most likely cause of rape, and avoiding it is not “the action to take to solve the problem for most people in most situations.” It will only be helpful for some in some very specific situations which do not represent the majority of sexual assaults.

    These lists are arranged to highlight the easiest to control or easiest to articulate factors first, whether or not they are the most likely causes. That’s not necessarily useless, but it can be misleading when people conflate the different kinds of factors, and think easy-to-control = most effective prevention. The lists I’ve seen are definitely not arranged in some empirically derived hierarchy of most effective solutions for most people. If they were indeed arranged that way, I would not have such a problem with them.

  38. #38 Tyrone Slothrop
    September 27, 2009

    @burt #30
    well, as the incomparable wisdom of wiki would have it:

    Godwin’s Law itself can be abused, as a distraction, diversion or even censorship, that fallaciously miscasts an opponent’s argument as hyperbole, especially if the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate.

    If you claim there are NO VICTIMS, then I think it is appropriate to bring up the, as it were, victimest victims in recent history.
    The problem lies in your comment that some

    survived because they didn’t want to participate in such a drama

    this seems to be tantamount to stating that not surviving is caused by somehow wanting to ‘participate in such a drama’.
    No one in his right mind could think that any of the victims wanted to participate in it.

  39. #39 Azkyroth
    September 27, 2009

    There are NO VICTIMS – everyone traverses space-time coordinates and arrives at the interstice where a drama (positive, negative, or neutral) occurs. There are infinite possible paths that one could have chosen which would not intersect the putative negative locale in which the drama unfolds. Even within the drama there are infinite possibilities for various outcomes. In the case of a rape (I do not condone violence of any sort), the aggrieved party could have decided not to venture in the path of the perpetrator by delaying the sortie or turning down an invitation from a casual acquaintance or any number of actions which would not place one in the drama.

    How exactly do you propose people acquire the perfect foresight necessary to never place themselves in a dangerous position (or, for that matter, the ability to actually live without ever leaving their houses – oh, wait, home invasions, fire, floods, terrorist attacks, war – I guess people shouldn’t put themselves in the “path” of those, either).

    Once confronted there are other actions that one could try to extricate oneself from the situation. Running away, screaming “Fire”, crying, fighting back, or reasoning with the aggressor might be enough. Nothing is set in concrete until an event occurs.

    …you think rape victims never try any of this? Try knowingly talking to some.

    You. Stupid. Fuck.

  40. #40 Azkyroth
    September 27, 2009

    While my more strongly worded comment is stuck in moderation, burt, there are two problems with your argument. The first is either a borderline-psychopathic lack of empathy of the people around you, or a very good impression of one. While this does not, strictly speaking, have any bearing on the truth of your argument, it should explain the reception you’re getting.

    The second is the idiotic, illogical, and completely unsupported insistence that, if a person can control ANY factors impinging on the outcome of a situation, then the person can control ALL of them. This sort of infantile binary “thinking” never leads one to logical conclusions, and it seats your argument squarely in the “not even wrong” section.

  41. #41 Donna B.
    September 28, 2009

    Burt — you are an ass. And a stupid one.

    You ask what is the physics of luck. It’s not physics you need to look at, but mathematics. Take randomness out for a spin.

  42. #42 Burt
    September 28, 2009

    @Pip[31]

    I think it all comes down to reasonably assessing the ability you have to control, or at least, to affect, aspects of your life.

    The word “reasonably” indicates that you have decided that it is unreasonable to believe that one controls ALL aspects of one’s life. Ability has little to do with control – control is exercised unconsciously in most people regardless of ability but with practice one can enhance that ability by learning to consciously control events as well.

    A rapist would absolutely be responsible for his actions if he raped me

    Absolutely indeed – the rapist is unequivocally responsible for his actions and the rape; however it takes at least 2 to tango (there would be no rape without the raped party) and the other parties in the drama are also responsible for their actions. The likelihood of being raped is not affected by statistics, one is either raped or not, but as far as influencing that likelihood, if you create and participate in the drama, you have obviously influenced the action. It is not irresponsible per se to insinuate yourself in what would be considered by many to be an area/situation in which a high probability of something untoward happening exists. If one chooses to insert oneself into the situation, one might benefit from an introspective audit as to the motivation for such action. If your daughter was harmed due to your ill considered route then you are all responsible for the dramas – in the above scenario, there are 7 dramas taking place: The individual (personal) dramas – (the perp’s, yours, and your daughters); the combined dramas (you and perp), (your daughter and perp), (your daughter and you); and all three of the participants together. One cannot foresee consequences, one can envision probable/possible scenarios but the future is subjunctive until it has been fixed in the now. Again the consequences (if actualized) are caused by all parties acting voluntarily. Simply because one says “No way in Hell would I have wanted this event to occur” does not negate the underlying/subconscious reasons that precipitated the drama.

    @LAJ[32]

    I am responsible for putting myself in a position, but once there, any number of incidents may occur.

    Yes, any number of possible/probable events may occur and you choose the one which best suits your psychological need and actualize it and are responsible for that one. There are always subconscious clues; it is a matter of deciphering them. When one believes one is responsible for whatever happens to one, the events acquire another meaning; good and bad is a point of view; As Hamlet notes: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. When one realizes that “devils” are “angels” in disguise and so-called “bad” events are opportunities to learn how not to actualize unpleasant circumstances, the likelihood of undesirable situations diminishes.

    Perhaps in every situation there are varying degrees of responsibility vs. chance, but I believe both may be factors at the same time.

    I don’t believe in chance, happenstance, luck, or random events – As I stated previously, adducing these as factors is a mechanism that is used to deny responsibility for participating in events – good, bad, or neutral. As far as your avian excremental encounter, perhaps you were having a shitty day and the guano reinforced the mood. If one delves just beneath the surface it is often easy to see why one’s events occur and it usually has a remarkably literal explanation.

    what you call responsibility, I call living my life

    I call it living my life as well but I accept the responsibility for ALL events and believe I’m in control and have created the events for my edification. Just as I created the flames below to reinforce my belief that most people do not accept responsibility for their experience and are reduced to posting epithets with no substantive comments or creativity. I appreciate your civil discourse and willingness to engage on an intellectual level.

    Maybe if I ever am attacked, I would blame myself and wonder what I should have done differently, but looking at it objectively, I say the attacker is to blame.

    One shouldn’t blame oneself, there is no blame, only acknowledgment of responsibility and the opportunity for psychic growth. There can be no objectivity, all is subjective – save tautology. BTW if you need practice arguing (settling) with the phone company, politely ascend the hierarchy until your situation is resolved, assuming that the phone company is in error. Even if they are not, I’ve witnessed people who were definitely trying to put one over on the phone company turn the event into their favor. *Crappy outcomes was literal in your case – why not express it?

    @CPP[33]

    Burt’s idiocy is in failing to make this distinction. There is NO distinction, for cause is the intersection of guano and pate as is proximate cause – you just want to semantically dodge the flying shit, regarding at which, you are somewhat of an expert according to Greg Laden.

    @Tyrone[38]

    not surviving is caused by somehow wanting to ‘participate in such a drama’. No one in his right mind could think that any of the victims wanted to participate in it.

    The holocaust participants weren’t the victimist “victims”, try the aboriginal genocides, the Stalin (1 death a tragedy, 1 million a statistic) purges, the “victims” of World wars 1 & 2. Just because a great number of people participate in an event in which millions suffer and die doesn’t mean they didn’t have a choice or didn’t choose to be responsible for their choice. They may have not CONSCIOUSLY chosen to participate in the drama but those who participated en masse chose to make a mass statement to their antagonists and future generations as a cautionary event. It seems that their sacrifice didn’t sway humanity by and large to refrain from such behavior. I assure you my mind believes that ALL participants consciously or unconsciously chose their responses to the events – yours doesn’t believe it because you can’t imagine making such a choice yourself, so it’s unlikely you would find yourself in such a drama but there are many examples of conscious choices made by altruistic personalities which result in participation in events from which you would term them “not in their right mind.”

    @Azkyroth[39&40]

    How exactly do you propose people acquire the perfect foresight necessary to never place themselves in a dangerous position

    When one believes they are in control of their experience, the danger disappears (it was never really there anyway.) People who don’t believe in personal danger don’t create it their experience. People create events to fulfill a psychic (not the fortune teller) lack or edification. Nothing IS set in concrete until an event occurs – that is tautologically true. Many potential rape participants have successfully employed those methods and avoided the drama, many didn’t and there are always reasons for the outcome. I have known several persons who were raped and worse and while no one likes to believe they chose the situation some of them have understood the reasons and healed far more than the others.

    Your name calling is without merit – you just don’t agree with my position – that hardly equates to an unintelligent (word which is used when one is frustrated and the appropriate epithets are not at the forefront of one’s vocabulary.)

    I have total empathy for ALL (animate and inanimate) and a see/feel imagination. The reception is to be expected as my thesis is one that most do not wish to believe or adopt. The insistence that ALL is in each of our control is unsupported in your belief system and doesn’t comport with your sense of logic but logic is variable and it does comport with mine. Again with the belittling rhetoric, you seem emotionally distraught – would you say that you or I am responsible for your mental state?

    @Donna[41]

    See the last paragraph as it applies to you as well. There is no mathematics, physics or any other explanation for luck as it doesn’t exist. Randomness exists on a quantum level but that’s as far as it goes. Chaos seems random but as the new math is revealing it is decidedly not. Can’t you confine yourself to a cogent reply instead of emotional vitriol?

    Peace…

  43. #43 MichaelE
    September 28, 2009

    My error.

    I followed along the trail that led to health improvement lists which generally are the simplest and most effective ways of avoiding ill health.

    As you pointed out not only in your reply to me, but more than once up-thread, the “avoid assault this way” lists have little to do with the most common situations from which assaults arise. I was responding to the less important part of the discussion. Sorry.

    Some of these ideas discussed in this post and comments were brought up in an episode of a cancelled TV show (available on Hulu) called “New Amsterdam.”

    The lead character was investigating a series of rapes and homicides commited against women randomly by the perp who worked as a cab driver and picked up his victims as fares.

    The flash-back story from earlier in his 400 year-long life was that the landlord he worked for was raping his housemaids on a regular basis.

    Another plotline looked at the idea of “honor killings” through the situation that one of the modern-day rape victims was an Indian Muslim, and she was killed by her father for bringing shame on the family – for being raped.

    As you say; In which situation would following the checklists have saved the victims from assault?

  44. #44 Monado
    September 29, 2009

    I think that this list reminds us where the responsibility lies. It may be foolish not to lock your car, but it’s still wrong for someone to steal it. My favorite analogy is “of course you were robbed, look how rich you dress.”

    When the new state of Israel was newly formed, in spite of all the camaraderie women were being assaulted in the streets at night. Some legislators suggested that perhaps there should be a curfew on women to protect them. Golda Meir provided the female perspective: women were not the problem. Perhaps there should be a curfew on men to protect women. The idea of curfews was immediately dropped.

    Similarly, outside of Muslim countries we have mostly learned that lust is a man’s problem, and it’s his responsibility to avoid temptation by not staring. If women are tempting, then responsible Muslim men will wear blinders or eyeshades to keep them from being tempted.

  45. #45 Azkyroth
    September 29, 2009

    Again with the belittling rhetoric, you seem emotionally distraught – would you say that you or I am responsible for your mental state?

    I am not distraught, I am annoyed and justifiably contemptuous. You have adopted a blame-the-victim position yet pretend not to lack empathy, you are adopting a logically absurd position that assigns total responsibility for an event to every individual participant (or do you believe that the rapist in these situations is just “along for the ride” and the woman is the one who causes it to happen?) and that either assumes that people should be treated as if they were omniscient for purposes of responsibility or asserts with no supporting evidence or even evidence of remote plausibility that people’s thoughts, in and of themselves, determine the behavior of the physical and social systems around them. I’m very sorry to hear about the women you know and I sincerely hope your despicable victim-blaming and/or magical thinking has not further traumatized them.

    And if you object to being called names, maybe you shouldn’t choose to put yourself in the path of people who are more than happy to rip you and your claims to shreds. 🙂

  46. #46 Jessica Palmer
    September 29, 2009

    Just a note: while I don’t want to squash the vocal debate going on in this comment thread, I have to warn everyone that I will not publish comments here that identify, label, blame, or otherwise discuss non-participants in the discussion. If you want to talk about your personal experiences with violent crime, that’s your decision. But if I see a comment that identifies a third party victim, I am not comfortable publishing that — even if it does not give their full name. Identity is not that hard to figure out on the internet, and I simply don’t think it’s appropriate to expose anyone, even potentially, to criticism and speculation here without their consent. People are welcome to rephrase such comments to express their personal sentiments on a general basis.

  47. #47 Comrade PhysioProf
    September 29, 2009

    Burt, we’ve got two possibilites here:

    (1) You are an iconoclastic genius who has transcended the grotesque errors embodied in many hundreds of years of mainstream jurisprudence and moral philosophy.

    (2) You are a delusional wackaloon fuckup who is impressed with the sound of his own voice.

  48. #48 Isis the Scientist
    September 29, 2009

    Burt, you make me sick.

  49. #49 LAJ
    September 29, 2009

    Jessica, I don’t think this violates your rule…

    Several years ago in Toronto, where I live, there was a court case involving a woman known as Jane Doe. She was woken up and raped by a so-called “Balcony Rapist”, a serial rapist who broke into women’s apartments via the balcony and assaulted them. Jane Doe successfully sued the Toronto Police for their failure to warn women in the area about him, and for using the women as bait for the rapist’s capture (he was caught after he raped her).

    Jane Doe is now an activist for women’s and victims’ rights. She has helped bring about changes to the way the police treat sexual assaults, but argues that there is still more work that needs to be done. (To my knowledge, her real name and photograph have never been published, but she has written a book about the experience.)

    http://www.sgmlaw.com/en/about/JaneDoev.MetropolitanTorontoMunicipalityCommissionersofPolice.cfm

    http://www.thestar.com/comment/columnists/article/524492

    Some people may argue (or even put it in a list) that as a general rule a woman should never leave her windows open, even on a hot summer night in an apartment with no air conditioning, and even though 99.99% of the time it is safe to do so. But that means living your life in fear, which is no way to live. However, if a specific threat is known, actions can be taken. That, of course, still doesn’t mean the victim is to blame if she fails to take these actions.

  50. #50 Jessica Palmer
    September 30, 2009

    LAJ, that’s fine – Jane Doe has become an activist and gotten involved in discussions about violent crime by her own choice, and kudos to her for being brave enough to do it! To clarify, I’m talking about commenters describing crimes that happened to “my sister” or “my wife” or “the other postdoc in my lab” – if you are at all identifiable, your network is identifiable too. Generic terms like “A friend” or “A family member” are plenty of context for this discussion.

  51. #51 Burt
    September 30, 2009

    @Azkyroth[45]

    You have adopted a blame-the-victim position

    How can I blame the “victim” when there are no victims? I blame no one as I don’t believe in that pejorative (I would translate blame into the neutral phrase: Assign responsibility) and I say all participants are responsible for their roles in all the dramas in which they find themselves.

    people should be treated as if they were omniscient for purposes of responsibility

    Just because someone is responsible for a drama in no way means that they should be treated with disrespect or lack of sym/empathy. Most people believe they are “victims’ of circumstances and as such are not responsible for their “plight”. I sympathize with anyone in my experience who creates an unpleasant or painful personal drama.

    people’s thoughts, in and of themselves, determine the behavior of the physical and social systems around them

    Physical and social systems are created by one’s thoughts – it’s a function of consciousness/brain translation/reconstruction – these systems exist as mental constructs for everyone.

    I’m very sorry to hear about the women you know and I sincerely hope your despicable victim-blaming and/or magical thinking has not further traumatized them.

    A good friend of mine was raped as a teenager (losing her virginity in the bargain) and only by coming to terms with her role in the event and by trusting herself has she been able to neutralize the fear that she will experience a similar event. One of her close relatives was also raped, sodomized and suffered a heart attack during the ordeal a few years ago and does not accept responsibility for her role in the drama. She has not recovered mentally, lives in extreme fear and is socially crippled despite my friend’s many explanations regarding the nature of events. I do not offer my opinion out of respect for her beliefs – or for that matter adduce my thesis anent anyone’s specific drama unless asked my opinion for possible reasons why it came to pass – the abstract concept confers responsibility by implication but it’s interesting how some will allow that others created events by their actions but they bore no responsibility for their own.

    And if you object to being called names, maybe you shouldn’t choose to put yourself in the path of people who are more than happy to rip you and your claims to shreds.

    Such metaphorical violence…if people are happy to engage in such puerile exercises as a substitute for thought, it’s no wonder the “civil” is retreating from civilization. Name calling is a feeble trope – a substitute for lack of a cogent position; it says more about the caller than the callee. I put myself in their path for a philosophical discussion: Point and counterpoint, your words are my responsibility as mine are yours. I find flaming and such vituperative comments to be products of a person’s FUD and demonstrate a paucity of imagination. One can have a spirited philosophical discussion without resorting to such behavior. See LAJ’s comments. It doesn’t matter if my thesis is true in your mind or not (ALL truth is subjective except tautological truth,) it is true by my lights and I live my life in that manner and so far have benefitted greatly from that tack. Those who believe they are at the mercy of randomness in an indifferent universe are prisoners of their own device. (Apologies to the Eagles.)

    @CPP[47]

    I humbly gravitate toward #1. Moral philosophy is largely in the bailiwick of religious practice and as an autotheist, it does not concern me beyond my personal code. As you note mainstream jurisprudence is replete with grotty proscriptions and miscarriages of justice, however it is your responsibility if you involve yourself in legal dramas. I transgress no law with which I agree and I obey no law with which I disagree unless I’m knowingly under the purview of one who would usurp my freedom.

    Anent #2: I see you are intimate with the archetype, are you as familiar with psychological projection? See my reply to your[#33] on my [#42] – I believe Greg Laden would argue that your assessment applies to both of us.

    @Isis[47]

    Burt, you make me sick.

    Au contraire, YOU make you sick, take some responsibility for your reactions to concepts you are unable to countenance (or counter.) BTW are you to whom President Clinton was referring when he said “It depends on what the definition of is is?”

  52. #52 Azkyroth
    October 3, 2009

    Debating you is like arguing with the kitchen table.

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