Blame the perpetrator, not the victim

Would you refuse to wear a condom because there’s a chance that even if you do, you might get an STD?

Would you refuse to wear a condom because there’s a chance that even if you do, you might get an STD? That is the attitude that many people are taking toward safety tips for women and other demographics who are often targets of violence.

As a woman, I am certainly no stranger to messages about taking precautions in a dangerous world. Don’t walk alone in shady neighborhoods, especially at night. Don’t talk on your cell phone while using an ATM. Don’t get into your car at night without checking underneath, the backseat, who is parked next to you, etc.

I usually take these suggestions to heart and don’t ponder them much more beyond that. However, there are many people out there who are angry at these messages. They feel that by asking women to be safer, they are excusing criminal behavior. After all, if a woman doesn’t do these things and she is attacked, isn’t it her fault? Absolutely not! With that said, I disagree with the anger and the idea that these messages are harmful.

The anger that is directed toward the media, family, friends or whomever is making these statements about safety awareness is displaced. Society should be angry with the criminals who make many of these precautions necessary in the first place. When your friend sends an e-mail with the subject “Through the eyes of a rapist,” they are not doing it because they want to say, “I told you so.” They are doing it because they care.

The reality is that the world is not safe. In a utopian paradise, we wouldn’t have to think about ever being a victim of violent crime. We could do whatever we liked without fear. We could let our kids play outside without worrying about kidnapping, or walk in any neighborhood at any time of day or night.  

Don’t get me wrong, I would love that! I hate that being a woman makes me a target for sick, demented people out there on the fringe. Nonetheless, I accept that there are people in this world who are just not good.

I don’t get angry about these messages because it gives me a sense of empowerment. I don’t want to feel helpless to do anything to keep myself safe. I want to know that I have control, whether it’s a lot or just a little, over my safety. If being aware of my surroundings, for example, has even the smallest chance of deterring a violent offender, then I am going to take it and run with it.

For example, I wear my seatbelt. Now, if a drunk driver hits me, is that my fault? Of course not. But if the seatbelt I wore has a chance of saving my life, is that not a good thing? If I don’t wear my seatbelt, does it make it OK that the drunk driver hit me? Again, not at all. The seatbelt is merely a safety precaution; it by no means guarantees that I am going to be accident-free.

Some may argue that things such as self-defense courses and safety tips are just giving women and other frequently targeted populations a false sense of control. After all, we can’t stop someone if they really want to hurt us. We can try, but there is always the chance that we will fail. And to an extent, that is right. We can’t.
This, however, does not mean that we shouldn’t try.  

Maybe there are ignorant people out there who think that a woman who wears a short skirt or is distracted at an ATM “had it coming.” But that is, as I said, ignorant and not representative of the general population. Not to mention that it is completely incorrect. The only person who is ever to blame for a violent crime is the person who committed that crime. Period.

I support these messages and encourage people to keep them in mind. Anything you can do to keep yourself safe, no matter how small, is valuable. Until that day comes when we don’t have to worry about crime, let’s take back the control we can and promote awareness.