Creative Destruction

May 16, 2006

G’head, Blame the Victim (some)

Filed under: Political Correctness,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 6:17 pm

Comments on another post have attempted to separate the behaviors of the victim from those of the victimizer as though they aren't or at least shouldn't be related. The frequently repeated trope is "don't blame the victim." I thought the discussion should have its own post, so here are my thoughts.

I'll start with a hypothetical. Let's say I get it in my head that I want to walk around in public with $1000 bills taped to the outside of my clothing. It's my money, and I should be able to display it in any fashion I choose. Rather than a Rolex or a fancy car, I decide upon the money suit (literally). Now, theft is wrong, so no one should consider the money I display fair game for the taking. Any sane person, however, should expect that sooner or later, walking around reeking of money, some bloke is going to get the idea to conk me over the head and relieve me of my $1000 bills.

Don't-blame-the-victim folks protest that the crime is punishable, but the victim's precipitating behavior, akin to walking around waving a "rob me" sign, shouldn't be considered in prosecuting the alleged criminal. Frankly, I agree. The criminal did something wrong and crime should be punished. Maybe I had only $4000 on my suit, maybe $100,000. Shouldn't matter to the prosecution as we have an expectation in civil society that people resist (absolutely?) criminal temptations. Maybe I was killed in the robbery attempt, nearly killed, or merely knocked unconscious, and the robber took only $1000, all $4000, or all $100,000. Those things matter because severity of the crime is one thing we consider in meting out proper punishment.

Where I guess I differ from conventional wisdom is whether the victim's precipitating behavior should be given any attention — in short, blamed. In the context of a criminal trial, probably not; yet one would have to wonder "what on earth were you thinking walking around literally wearing your money? Of course you were going to be victimized. You were asking for it." No, we don't prosecute the victim for stupid behaviors such as this, but it's worthwhile to observe that one would be wise to avoid that sort of behavior if one doesn't wish to be a criminal target. That's where the victim contributes to the crime and shares some blame, by tempting human actors into a logical response.

The same is true of the crime of rape. A person (not just women) has the right to say "no" at any stage of human interaction. However, if one works an acquaintance (or stranger) into a state of sexual excitement and then says "no," in effect pulling the rug out from under the other person, then I think a subsequent rape is more likely to occur than, say, if the two were playing bridge. We prosecute the rapist, sure, but we should also admonish (not prosecute) the victim that it's unwise to get someone all hot and bothered, reeking of the promise of sex, only to expect the other person to act with complete self-control and restraint when told "no."

In a wider context, it's also strange to apply don't-blame-the-victime thinking to terrorist acts. As heinous as terrorism is, precipitating events and behaviors, when present, are worthy of attention, too. In civil society, we want not only to prosecute the terrorists after the fact but to avoid recurrence. The current rhetoric is that nothing justifies terrorism. That thinking is equivalent to wanting to wear our money suits and strut our sexuality and still expecting no one to victimize us. We shift all the responsibility to the terrorist and demonize him; we vow to destroy him in our righteous victimhood. That's just stupid.

If we really wanted to be safe, we need the wisdom to look inward and ask "why does the terrorist hate us so much that he's willing to kill himself just to inflict harm on us? What have we done to precipitate events?" In the U.S., we have a notable tendency to recklessly interfere with the politics of other countries and impose our agenda on them. Worse, our cultural exports and economic terrorism are known to have immediate destructive effects abroad. We pretend not to notice, or we may even fully acknowledge it and blithely wave away criticism with the perspective that it's just tough for them. Might makes right, even if it's merely purchasing power, so get used to it. No wonder we're hated so much.

Disclaimer: these ideas apply to a large extent to fairly extreme situations. I don't know for certain, but I expect that in the bulk of criminal activity, the victim is truly blameless. Rape is a particularly problematical crime where blaming the victim occurs regularly at least in part because rape victims frequently know the attacker. That said, I don't mean to imply that victims always share blame to some degree. I only mean to say that it's not unheard of for victims to knowingly or naively put themselves in harm's way.

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60 Comments »

  1. “Members of the Jury, I know the defense will try to convince you of extreme extenuating circumstances and convince you not to find the defendant guilty of murder, but the law is clear, guilty is guilty, what ever the circumstances!

    It should be irrelevant to your determination if in fact the defendant’s family was grounded and sold at Arby’s by the victim, if the victim used the proceeds to hire a hitman and shoot the defendant paralizing him for life. The fact remain that one night, the victim got drunk, fell on the ground and defendant used his mouth to roll his chair over the victim’s neck. There was intent, there was motive, there was opportunity!”

    My point: “Circumstances matter in criminal law!”

    Comment by Vilon — May 16, 2006 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  2. Brutus, look at your wording. The victim “works” the rapist into excitement, then “pulls the rug” out; i.e., the victim is the actor, the rapist is the passive victim up until the moment where the tables turn.

    Where you’re getting muddy here is in making two distinctions:

    –Recognizing less-than-optimal behavior from the victim vs. using that behavior to blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator. (For example, we might tell a mugging victim it was dumb to be out in a bad neighborhood wearing expensive jewelry. We don’t excuse the thief, or tell the mugging victim he asked for it.)

    –Assuming that what behavior is ‘in harm’s way’ is fairly obvious and widely agreed-upon. As any rape victim knows, there is nothing that can’t be seized on by blamers: your skirt wasn’t long enough, you went out of your house alone, everybody knows that women who go to that bar are looking to get laid, and so on.

    Comment by mythago — May 17, 2006 @ 12:40 am | Reply

  3. Getting worked up is the point of sexuality, unless I misunderstand. And saying “no” at any point, including the last moment, is a right we recognize everyone possesses. Neither of those behaviors are criminal. So I wouldn’t call someone who goes on to rape a victim.

    I tried to distinguish (perhaps poorly) between blaming the victim as a strategy used in a court of law, which I believe improper, and blame that springs from common sense. I also disclaimed that the common sense blame I’m prepared to assess applies in fairly extreme circumstances, not from some of the more mundane ideas seized upon by the sort of blamers you note. As with most things, judgment is called for, not absolutism.

    Comment by Brutus — May 17, 2006 @ 1:07 am | Reply

  4. Brutus, I see your point, but I am not sure that I agree. Yes, some women do excite men sexually and then “pull the rug” from under them. There are examples of young men charged with rape even though they stopped when asked to. However, a heightened state of sexual arousal does not cause men or women to rape. While sexual arousal certainly plays a significant role in the assault, rape is implicitly tied to the rapist’s sense of control and power, either over him or herself or over the victim (the former being the most common). Some cases of such “sexually excited” rape probably happen, but I doubt they make up the majority of rapes.

    That said, I do agree that a victim’s behavior (assuming the rape actually occurred) should not be ignored. Switch the genders and it would never be ignored. One’s actions, particularly reckless actions, often do lead to situations that could otherwise have been avoided. Drinking to the point of unconsciousness with unfamiliar people is stupid and careless. If something happens as a result, one shares some of the blame. The same goes for other situations. It makes people feel uncomfortable, but we do not exist in a vacuum and one’s actions do affect those around you, including those who would harm you as a result.

    As a recent college graduate, I can attest to the utterly moronic behavior my age group willing participates in, most of which is done with full knowledge that it is reckless and stupid. They simply do not care… until something bad happens. It would be better to teach people to drink responsibly, to be wary of unfamiliar people, to be aware of one’s environment and so on. However, that will not happen if there is not at least some admonishment for foolish behavior. That is not to say we should excuse the behavior of the assaulter, only that one is responsible for one’s own actions, and if those actions lead to something horrible happening to you, then one does bear some responsibility.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 18, 2006 @ 11:07 am | Reply

  5. I guess I’m an absolutist, then, since I think the fact that some men are rapists shouldn’t have much bearing on normal human realtions like flirting (oh, sorry. That would be “working someone into sexual excitent and then pulling the rug under them” Sneer quotes intentional.), or making foreign policy based on fear of terrorist reprisal is wrong.

    We have a problem with the common sense -argument too. See, my common sense tells me that it is bigger than your common sense (;)), and that better common sense advice would be something like learning to recognize potential danger signs of potential rapist personality or avoiding drunkenness etc. impairment (without backup, and this applies to men equally) are better advice than the slippery slope of do not work men up (women dressed in burqas, and not allowed to talk to men, in extreme end of the slope). Really, the average guy has been worked up about hot women probably thousands of times since teens, and somehow managed to not rape anyone.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 18, 2006 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  6. realtions

    Duh!

    relations-

    working into excitent

    Double duh!

    excitement.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 18, 2006 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  7. My problem with most “blame the victim” stuff is that it is entirely off point. It’s well established that how the woman dresses has nothing to do with why she’s chosen as a rape victim, for instance, but people always tell women their clothes are at fault. I know one woman who was raped who always wears ankle length skirts and long sleeved shirts – people told her that, “Well, of course you were raped – he wanted to know what you were hiding.”

    Most “blame the victim” comments are about that useful – which is to say, not useful at all. One problem I have with blaming the victim who “said ‘no’ too late” is that quite often, if you talk to them, the women feel they’d been saying ‘no’ quite clearly all along, but the guy just wouldn’t listen. Every “no” was met with an argument while he just kept moving in – the “no” he remembers is when she finally screamed it, but it wasn’t that she’d lost interest at that point, it’s when he finally heard that she wasn’t interested. He’d gone way past her cut off point by then, way past where she wanted to stop, and then he flips it around and says it’s her fault because she got him hot.

    Another big problem I have with the “blame the victim” thing is, how many people manage to date and eventually marry without spending time alone with various prospective mates? Unless you’re doing the whole Christian courtship thing, where mom and dad basically serve as duennas, women are going to be alone with men who find them sexually attractive. That’s just a given in just about all of American society – but if the woman gets raped, she’s blamed for being alone with the guy. Tell me how to date at all without being alone with a guy now and again; I’ve yet to figure it out.

    Tuomas,
    I thought your site made some good points, and I knew when I was in high school (30 years back!) that the guy they outline was a Big Risk. But I have some problems with some of the other stuff they say. They claim that 98% of rapes involve alcohol – that has not been my observation at all. I don’t drink, and as a general rule I don’t hang out with people who drink. I only know two women (out of 15, I think it is) in real life whose rape or attempted rape involved alcohol. I know a lot more women who’ve been raped on the Internet, and there alcohol is a pretty common factor, but I still think 98% is way too high.

    I agree with that site that a lot of rapes are situations where he wants sex, she doesn’t, and he takes it anyway, but I don’t think their list of warning factors covers all of those sort of rapists. I’ve known a couple of rapists (one of them pretty well, the other just an acquaintance) who were even-tempered, non-drinking geekish guys who generally treated people with respect. One of them was pretty much a feminist, but they both had this quirky belief that women had been “socialized” to “think they didn’t want sex”, so the guys believed they “needed to push it a little.” Both of them, while low key, were over six foot tall, and got what they wanted through intimidation, maybe without even consciously realizing that’s what they were doing – then when they saw how messed up the girl was, after, they regretted it and realized they’d been in the wrong. A bit too late for the ladies involved.

    And I found the diatribe on that site about women who hit guys who’re coming on too strong completely bizarre. The only women I’ve ever heard say they hit the guy were one woman who was violently stranger raped (he hit first), and a couple more who were in long-term relationships that were violent overall, before the rape.

    Same with the “women getting caught because they want the last word” thing – most women I know who felt “something’s not right here” tried to talk their way out of it, but they weren’t angry. Their problem was that they couldn’t or didn’t assert themselves enough to get out, and the guy didn’t accept any of their “let’s make escapees” sort of excuses (“Have to get home, mom’s waiting” kind of stuff).

    Actually, while I wouldn’t characterize all of them as passive people overall (because they usually handle themselves pretty well and get things done socially), most of the women I’ve known who were raped felt that they were totally passive in the situation – they felt they couldn’t get past that “be polite” thing enough to tell the guy “Let me out of here NOW!” or scream and make a fuss or do whatever would have been necessary to get free of him in time. Or they just froze up as it became more and more clear he wasn’t interested in taking ‘no’ as an answer, which is a valid autonomic response but in retrospect they felt that if they hadn’t been so afraid they might have gotten away.

    I don’t think it’s a bad site, but it’s missing at least one “subgroup” of rapists and rape situations. Naybe one that’s more common to the upper middle class than the angry jock subtype, I dunno. I didn’t see mention of guys who play on a woman’s unwillingness to make waves, either – where the guy tells her there’ll be more people, only there aren’t, or he asks if they can stop “for just a minute” somewhere for something he forgot and gets her in an isolated area that way or where she otherwise ends up alone with him when she’d prefer not to be. I’ve known more women cornered by rapists for being too polite or too compassionate (a couple of Internet pals got caught by helping guys who were pretending to be too sick to get to their apartment without help) than I have women caught by being reckless and arrogant.

    Comment by shiloh — May 19, 2006 @ 12:35 am | Reply

  8. shiloh:

    My problem with most “blame the victim” stuff is that it is entirely off point. It’s well established that how the woman dresses has nothing to do with why she’s chosen as a rape victim,

    How is this well-established and by whom? Can you cite?

    Comment by Daran — May 19, 2006 @ 2:16 am | Reply

  9. Shiloh:
    I don’t agree with everything in that site either.

    Personally I found that particular part to be quite good and it seems to be quite similar to what criminal psychologists etc. say about criminals.

    I also find the alcohol thing little over the top — for one, as a Finnish university student I am familiar with mixed sauna. It is basically when you put very drunken young men and women together in a hot room, and somehow it doesn’t include rape (I guess some socially conservative types who like to claim horny young men+alcohol+women=rape will find this disappointing).

    Comment by Tuomas — May 19, 2006 @ 7:52 am | Reply

  10. How is this well-established and by whom?

    The only study info I hung onto (because it was the only one that indicated that a victim’s dress might have any influence on whether she was raped) was:

    Richards, L., Rollerson, B., & Phillips, J. (1991). Perceptions of submissiveness: Implications for victimization. The Journal of Psychology, 125(4), 407-411.

    Richards and company believe that submissive women, who wear body-concealing clothing, are more likely to be attacked. This has been my observation as well – the women I know who dress sexually provocatively are also very assertive, and bullies of all types steer clear of them. Rapists are basically bullies, so…

    Plus the women I know who’ve been raped tend to be conservative dressers. But since every other study I’ve seen could find nothing distinctive in how women who were raped dressed I am not sure that my personal observations are valid across the spectrum.

    Do you know of any studies indicating that how a woman dresses influences the odds of her being raped? I’ve read a lot of those “hints to avoid rape” lists that talk about rapists looking for women whose clothes can easily be removed, but I have my doubts, particularly when you consider the fact that many acquaintance rapists plan the rape before they even see what she’s wearing that night.

    Comment by shiloh — May 19, 2006 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  11. Actually, I’ll have to backpedal a bit, Shiloh. I couldn’t find where the site mentions 98% percent.

    Possible strawman.

    Also, when you mention that not all rapists fit the stereotype of an angry jock — the site doesn’t claim that. In fact, when you write:

    I’ve known a couple of rapists (one of them pretty well, the other just an acquaintance) who were even-tempered, non-drinking geekish guys who generally treated people with respect. One of them was pretty much a feminist, but they both had this quirky belief that women had been “socialized” to “think they didn’t want sex”, so the guys believed they “needed to push it a little.” Both of them, while low key, were over six foot tall, and got what they wanted through intimidation, maybe without even consciously realizing that’s what they were doing – then when they saw how messed up the girl was, after, they regretted it and realized they’d been in the wrong.

    Emphases mine. Perhaps they were really sorry so their GF:s wouldn’t press charges, hmm?

    I wouldn’t trust their sincerity one bit — actually those guys IMHO fit some of the descriptors perfectly. I also knew a guy who made a big deal about his commitment to feminism… And on one-on-one situations, or among the guys, he was probably one of the most obnoxious misogynists I have known. And he was very convincing either way.

    It sounds very similar to (from the chapter so Slick he could slide up the hill) :

    Or they will have a long and elaborate story how it really wasn’t their fault. These stories however, while tending to have great depths in some areas are prone to be as shallow as a puddle in a parking lot when it comes to their involvement. Not about what they did or what they were feeling – those are in depth areas – but rather why they chose a course of action that they knew was wrong. That will be quickly glazed over. Unfortunately this subject has massive influence on everything else they are telling you. But if they can baffle you with BS about other details, you won’t notice that this issue is prominently lacking in their story.

    Emphasis mine.

    And I found the diatribe on that site about women who hit guys who’re coming on too strong completely bizarre.

    and

    Their problem was that they couldn’t or didn’t assert themselves enough to get out, and the guy didn’t accept any of their “let’s make escapees” sort of excuses (”Have to get home, mom’s waiting” kind of stuff).

    The site has an attitude of:

    Our attitude of “Winning be damned, just get the hell out of there!” And by whatever means necessary to keep you from being raped. You can deal with your anger later, now is the time for effective action. And that means get out of there by whatever means possible. If you cannot do this, and you let your emotions and anger rule you, then odds are you will be raped.

    The site does address this, and specifically mentions that it is often a problem for young women that they do not want to hurt other people’ feelings:

    See also link to Nicholas Groth’s professional work among rapists:

    In Groth’s study, victims able to resist assault successful:

    -managed to keep self-control and refused to be intimidated
    -did not counterattack, were assertive without being
    aggressive
    -did or said something that registered with the offender and
    communicated to him that she was a real person not just an
    object.
    But there is no one defense strategy that will work
    successfully for all victims against all offenders in all
    situations, The goal of survival is more important than the goal
    of escape.
    Every strategy that has succeeded in some cases has failed in
    others. There is no guarantee that any other strategy a woman
    decided to use would have been more effective.

    I’ve known more women cornered by rapists for being too polite or too compassionate (a couple of Internet pals got caught by helping guys who were pretending to be too sick to get to their apartment without help) than I have women caught by being reckless and arrogant.

    Actually, the site covers this quite well, too. They do talk about the fact that many young women (people in general, too, but especially women) basically ignore their insticts because they do not want to hurt the feelings of the man who ends up victimizing her.

    I think what you have said does not contradict the site really that much. Basically you are saying the same things, perhaps you didn’t look closer.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 19, 2006 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  12. The last blockquote is from Shiloh, to clarify.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 19, 2006 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  13. actually those guys IMHO fit some of the descriptors perfectly.

    I can’t say about the acquaintance, but the other guy’s turnaround was sincere and lasting (still in contact with him and his family). The other guys in the group were as shocked as I was, and initially tried to convince him it’d been a misunderstanding, which was the victim’s perspective as well; he was the one who said, “I was there, I know what happened, and it was rape.” I remember this so vividly because I was shocked over how he took responsibility – never heard of that happening before or since.

    The acquaintance certainly could have been a whole different fellow in an all male environment – we didn’t have that many friends in common.

    The 98% bit is from here:

    http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/arrogance.html

    approximately 98% of all rapes occur when one, or both parties, are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

    Tuomas said:
    I think what you have said does not contradict the site really that much. Basically you are saying the same things, perhaps you didn’t look closer.

    I’m just following inner links around and I don’t think I’ve read the entire site, so you could be right. I agree with the Groth quote, so far as it goes, and I think one thing that would help women in potentially dangerous situations is understanding how the body responds to fear – with men the “fight or flight” reflex is more likely to kick in, but women are more likely to respond by going passive, and it is not a consciously chosen response.

    I suspect that response has something to do with the fact that women who were raped as kids/raped before are twice as likely to be raped again as a woman who was never raped. The formerly-raped woman panics earlier, so the autonomic response kicks in earlier.

    Tuomas:
    They do talk about the fact that many young women (people in general, too, but especially women) basically ignore their insticts because they do not want to hurt the feelings of the man who ends up victimizing her.

    I personally think child-rearing systems that demand instant obedience to any authority handicap women severely in these sort of situations – women raised that way have been specifically taught to ignore their instincts, taught to submit to authority and that men are an authority, systematically and repeatedly overpowered and blamed for things they cannot control. Talk about grooming a woman for a rapist!

    I’ve seen other women on parenting boards argue this as well – that it is very difficult to get past that conditioning in order to get out of a rape situation. And it really is conditioning – although the only physical punishment he discusses is spanking, Gary Ezzo recommends some of the same techniques used by cults and torturers. Few children have the resources to fight that.

    I really think teaching women to be assertive would help a great deal, but even that isn’t a garuntee. I like what Linda Fairstein says; “most sexual assaults occur when there is a combination of two critical conditions: opportunity and vulnerability. The rapist needs the opportunity to commit the crime, and he succeeds when a victim is vulnerable at the moment of his opportunity.”

    Probably the closest I ever came to full rape as an adult, I was suffering an undiagnosed chronic condition that had cost me a third of my hemoglobin – I’m normally a fairly assertive person, I think, but at that point I just flat didn’t have the energy to deal with the situation very well. If he’d tried it two weeks after I was hospitalized and transfused with packed cells, instead of two weeks before, he probably wouldn’t have gotten as far as he did. I was definitely more vulnerable than usual.

    Comment by shiloh — May 19, 2006 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  14. Thanks for the link on 98%.

    he was the one who said, “I was there, I know what happened, and it was rape.” I remember this so vividly because I was shocked over how he took responsibility – never heard of that happening before or since.

    Is he in jail, then? Or was this “taking responsibility” mere rhetorical responsibility that apparently worked to convince you that he really is a good guy (I disagree due to the rape)?

    I’m sorry, but the taking responsibility (rhetorically) is just one trick among many for people adept at manipulating others and telling what they want to hear. If a man is vile enough to rape, he probably won’t think twice about faking “responsibility” and “regret”.

    The recidivism rate for rapists is very high, he might very well rape again if he hasn’t already. I don’t know for sure, but it might be that he just figured out that he needs to be more careful about choosing his victims since.

    – women raised that way have been specifically taught to ignore their instincts, taught to submit to authority and that men are an authority, systematically and repeatedly overpowered and blamed for things they cannot control.

    I agree 100%. This indeed is a problem, and one of legitimate areas for education and –dare I say– feminism.

    I like what Linda Fairstein says; “most sexual assaults occur when there is a combination of two critical conditions: opportunity and vulnerability. The rapist needs the opportunity to commit the crime, and he succeeds when a victim is vulnerable at the moment of his opportunity.”

    The site gives a triad of opportunity, ability and intent.

    Same things again, basically.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 19, 2006 @ 3:20 pm | Reply

  15. Tuomas,

    Actually, the page that most set me off is this one:

    http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/arrogance.html

    Which does not, IMHO, have the more balanced presentation of much of the rest of site. If someone pops in and reads just that page, I think they will get a very skewed perspective. Most of my friends and I had little tolerance for the sort of high risk behavior he discusses – I did think the two raped ladies I know where drinking was involved were “pushing the envelope” a bit, simply by getting drunk with a guy around (which I consider a high risk behavior), but as a rule the ladies I’ve known who were raped were pretty conservative and conformist.

    I think it’s true that most rapes occur under reckless circumstances – as I recall, Koss’ study showed that a fair percentage of raped women were raped somewhere during the first six weeks of the Freshman year, when they were probably “feeling their oats” a bit – but, particularly if you include childhood rapes (which I do; not sure if others do), I suspect there’s a sizeable percentage of rapes that don’t include the reckless behavior and arrogance this page refers to.

    Comment by shiloh — May 19, 2006 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

  16. Yes, that particular page isn’t as good as the rest of their content, which is usually well-researched and reasonable. Perhaps this is where the authors’s own bias is showing.

    I agree with you that naivete and lack of feeling of one’s own boundaries — and willingness to assert them — is more of a problem than arrogance. (Of course, no one deserves to get raped, ever.) I suspect that what you mean by arrogance is somewhat different than what they mean. After all, sometimes (esp. women) who are simply assertive (which is good for personal safety) are pegged as “arrogant”.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 19, 2006 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

  17. I suspect that what you mean by arrogance is somewhat different than what they mean.

    I thought they meant someone who seriously overestimates their ability to handle the situation, and/or someone who ignores warnings that the situation isn’t safe (they offered both those as examples, I think). Deliberately indulging in reckless behavior on the theory that you’re special and won’t get hurt.

    That last link you offered reminds me of Gavin DeBecker’s The Gift of Fear, another good resource, I think.

    Comment by shiloh — May 19, 2006 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  18. Getting worked up is the point of sexuality

    You presented sexual excitement as something the woman does to the man, and refusing to engage in sexual activities he then wants as “pulling the rug” out from under him. That’s very different than merely noting sexual activity can lead to arousal.

    Your logic also doesn’t merely apply to extreme situations–and I was pointing out that what you might consider “common sense” or “extreme” may not be “common sense” to another reasonable person.

    If something happens as a result, one shares some of the blame.

    Which is, again, removing the moral onus of the criminal’s actions and putting it onto the victim. If I choose to rape, why is my behavior less ‘bad’ if I pick a drunk, unconscious victim rather than an awake one? Why assume that the rape is the result of the drinking?

    Most of the ‘common sense’ admonitions women are given are either ineffectual (‘don’t wear provocative clothing’, whatever that means) or are made without much thought as to their implications. (I’ve yet to hear anyone who warns “don’t go out by yourself after dark” explain that, yes, they DO mean that I shouldn’t go to work in the morning unless driven there by my husband.)

    Comment by mythago — May 19, 2006 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  19. Mythago:

    You presented sexual excitement as something the woman does to the man, and refusing to engage in sexual activities he then wants as “pulling the rug” out from under him. That’s very different than merely noting sexual activity can lead to arousal.

    I was gender neutral. Yes, I presented a particular viewpoint, and several examples, where a person might indulge in fully legal and consensual behaviors that might provoke a logical criminal response. I’m not attempting to make a case for all behaviors, or all manners in which rape is committed.

    Your logic also doesn’t merely apply to extreme situations–and I was pointing out that what you might consider “common sense” or “extreme” may not be “common sense” to another reasonable person

    Yes, my logic applies beyond extreme circumstances. That’s a good thing. However, I’m not trying to establish a golden rule, I’m merely attempting to diffuse the absolutism surrounding don’t-blame-the-victim arguments. The idea of common sense is consensus, not universality. So saying common sense is relative, not universal, is fully consistent with my thinking.

    Which is, again, removing the moral onus of the criminal’s actions and putting it onto the victim. If I choose to rape, why is my behavior less ‘bad’ if I pick a drunk, unconscious victim rather than an awake one?

    Removing? That’s not my argument. Try sharing, and not in a criminal context. We punish criminal behaviors on their own merits, without consideration of the victim’s behaviors. See my third paragraph in the original post.

    As to your question, I haven’t argued that judging criminals be weighted according to choice of victim. So I won’t answer that question, either.

    Most of the ‘common sense’ admonitions women are given are either ineffectual (’don’t wear provocative clothing’, whatever that means) or are made without much thought as to their implications.

    That may be true. One can be a crime victim by sheer, random, dumb luck. Still, my common sense admonition that shifts some responsibility onto a victim (again, why always a woman?) is “don’t go willingly all the way to the threshold, then say no, and expect another to maintain full self-control.” The same is true for pregnancy: “don’t have sex without contraception with the expectation that pulling out will keep you safe from pregnancy.” Applies to both men and women.

    Comment by Brutus — May 19, 2006 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  20. Tuomas:
    Perhaps this is where the authors’s own bias is showing.

    I think it shows even more clearly in their comments on the book I Never Called It Rape:

    http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/bonding_process.html

    If a woman doesn’t know if she was raped (until an advocate tells her that she was) doesn’t the door swing both ways? Is it not possible that the man often didn’t think of it that way, either? … It is not unreasonable that the man really did think it was consensual sex if the woman didn’t ferociously resist.

    (in a footnote)

    See, I think it is unreasonable of men to think it was consensual sex just because the woman didn’t ferociously resist. Because, statistically speaking, most women won’t. Most women assaulted by stranger rapists don’t ferociously resist, so I think it unreasonable to assume they’ll get violent with someone they know.

    Plus the fact that the women in the study didn’t think of their experience as “rape for sure” didn’t save them from the fallout of rape – suicidal thoughts, depression, etc. Koss used the legal definition for rape in some state at the time (Ohio?). The damage is done by the man taking sex when she doesn’t want it – he causes the damage, so he has the greater responsibility to prevent it.

    I can understand the idea that we need to teach people to protect themselves from preditors, best they can, but that strategy needs to be combined with one that puts the responsibility squarely on the preditors. If we excuse guys for raping, the number of rapists is going to be higher than if society holds the guy responsible.

    Society’s expectations often have more impact than than laws. Society’s expectations have more to do with whether people obey the law, and even with whether the people who break the law are prosecuted. Witness dueling in the 1800’s – even when technically illegal, it was still socially accepted in the South, still practiced, and few duelists actually got hauled into court. Northerners didn’t approve of it, and it wasn’t an issue there.

    I believe that social attitudes have more impact on behavior than the law does. That’s why I find victim blame so offensive – I believe it literally does harm. Not that the blamers are out there actively hurting women – but they are encouraging and supporting those who do. Justification is a crucial step in deciding to hurt someone.

    Tuomas:
    I’m sorry, but the taking responsibility (rhetorically) is just one trick among many for people adept at manipulating others and telling what they want to hear.

    I worry about this – that I just want to believe he’s changed – but after thinking about it yet again I still think he has. The victim didn’t want to involve the police (I don’t know anyone IRL who has, voluntarily; I really admire those who take their case to the cops). Frankly, I don’t think punishment works, anyhow. I believe in restitution – serving those you’ve offended or representatives of those you’ve offended for a period of time to at least demonstrate your regret – and there’s a sense where that’s what this guy ended up doing.

    The woman he married dealt with childhood sexual abuse, and so she is really sensitive on the subject, and she held his feet to the fire when it came to all sorts of his attitudes about women and sex. I think switching from the rapist mentality to being truly respectful of women is about as far a move as an anarchist atheist who becomes a compassionate Christian, but that it can be done with time and someone to hold you accountable.

    This guy’s wife was calling him on stuff for years – not necessarily big stuff, but attitudes betrayed by a comment. Apparently he’d slide back into his old habits of thinking when under stress, because after doing pretty well for a while he got really controlling (in the sense of “not hearing” when she challenged his attitude, not in the sense of trying to make her do stuff) eleven years into the marriage. But she hung in there and he straightened out again and now it’s been eight years since any of us have heard anything that sounded even remotely iffy.

    Maybe he’s just gotten better at hiding it, but I don’t think so. Why would he put up with the hell she put him through sometimes if he didn’t truly believe he’d done wrong? People bail on marriages all the time – I really believe that he felt he had a responsibility to stick with her and to become the man she thought he ought to be (in terms of his attitudes toward sex with women), and I think he sees that as a form of restitution for his own actions.

    I don’t mean he married her to create his own hell – he says he’s really happy with her and I’m not even sure he knew about the CSA when they got married – but that he views that aspect of his marriage as a karmic sort of thing, or as motivation to change something in himself he was determined to change anyhow.

    But I’m very committed to the idea that people can change, and I admit that may be influencing me a bit. Still hope I’m right, though.

    Comment by shiloh — May 20, 2006 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

  21. Still, my common sense admonition that shifts some responsibility onto a victim (again, why always a woman?) is “don’t go willingly all the way to the threshold, then say no, and expect another to maintain full self-control.”

    But I think that’s a straw man, because how often does it happen that way? How often is a woman willingly involved right up to the very brink, then she says, “Oh, wait, changed my mind”? How stupid are women? I mean, even the radicals who do the “a woman should be able to walk naked into a biker bar and not get hassled” do not actually try that at home, y’know?

    I suspect that, when a guy perceives it as happening that way, it’s generally because she’s been telling him “I don’t want this” for quite some time and he hasn’t been listening. Her “no” has finally gotten strong enough he can’t ignore its existence, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there earlier. Unless you’re talking a virgin who lost her nerve (you can only have sex once as a virgin, so that probably isn’t all that common), or a guy who is rough or for some other reason is causing her pain, why would a woman change her mind at the last minute?

    Women are rational creatures, and subject to the same sex drive guys are. This whole scenario assumes that women don’t know their own minds, are just using sex to tease the guy, etc. etc. I don’t see how else to rationalize it. If you truly believe this is a common event, something women seriously need to be warned to avoid, that says a lot to me about your assumptions regarding women.

    Comment by shiloh — May 20, 2006 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

  22. Yes, I presented a particular viewpoint, and several examples, where a person might indulge in fully legal and consensual behaviors that might provoke a logical criminal response.

    Again, Brutus: you phrased your example of the victim sexually arousing the eventual rapist, and then “pulling the rug” out. You’ve shaded your language to portray the victim as the aggressor and as acting in bad faith.

    We punish criminal behaviors on their own merits, without consideration of the victim’s behaviors.

    Not in the case of rape. That’s the whole reason there is a debate about ‘blaming the victim’, and why rape shield laws attempt to remove the The Bitch Asked For It defense. And yes, sharing the blame is removing blame from the aggressor.

    Nobody talks about how someone who is burglarized “shares the blame” with the burglar because they didn’t have a good enough lock, or because they left curtains open so that valuables are clearly visible to passersby.

    Comment by mythago — May 20, 2006 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

  23. Not in the case of rape. That’s the whole reason there is a debate about ‘blaming the victim’, and why rape shield laws attempt to remove the The Bitch Asked For It defense. And yes, sharing the blame is removing blame from the aggressor.

    I disagree. A person’s actions do not occur in a vacuum. A person’s behavior can create a situation that an unscrupulous person would take advantage of. Acknowledging this does not remove blame from the aggressor because the aggressor is still responsible for her or his actions.

    Nobody talks about how someone who is burglarized “shares the blame” with the burglar because they didn’t have a good enough lock, or because they left curtains open so that valuables are clearly visible to passersby.

    That is not entirely true. In courtrooms it is not unusual for a judge to admonish a complainant for her or his reckless actions leading to said assault. Female rape just happens to be the only situation where the victim’s actions prior, during and following the alleged acts cannot be questioned. In every other case, whether driving while eating to being physically assaulted in a bar room brawl, those people will be questioned.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 20, 2006 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  24. A person’s behavior can create a situation that an unscrupulous person would take advantage of.

    Certainly. Recognizing that some behavior is riskier than others is quite different than assuming that anyone who engages in that behavior is stupid, deserving of whatever s/he gets, or both.

    Female rape just happens to be the only situation where the victim’s actions prior, during and following the alleged acts cannot be questioned.

    This is absolutely false. Where on earth did you come up with this?

    Comment by mythago — May 20, 2006 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  25. Certainly. Recognizing that some behavior is riskier than others is quite different than assuming that anyone who engages in that behavior is stupid, deserving of whatever s/he gets, or both.

    Absolutely. However, no one has suggested that the victim deserved it, only that the victim’s actions could have contributed to or initiated the assault.

    This is absolutely false.

    In what context?

    Comment by toysoldier — May 20, 2006 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  26. only that the victim’s actions could have contributed to or initiated the assault

    Which is, again, blaming the victim for the criminal’s actions.

    In what context?

    You’re the one who made the statement. It’s flat-out false in a court of law as well as out of it.

    Comment by mythago — May 21, 2006 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

  27. Which is, again, blaming the victim for the criminal’s actions.

    How did you come to that conclusion? Perhaps initiate was an inappropriate word. The victim’s actions can instigate a response, but they does not force a response. Nevertheless, the actions of the victim are still his or her responsibility. The aggressor does not suddenly become responsible for another person’s actions simply because he of she assaulted said person.

    You’re the one who made the statement. It’s flat-out false in a court of law as well as out of it.

    Where did you get that from? Rape shield laws do not extend to non-sexual assault cases, and even among sex crimes they are not often fairly extended to every victim. Outside of the courtroom, people’s actions are continuously questioned. The focus of this discussion is why one specific group’s behavior is apparently off limits.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 21, 2006 @ 8:30 pm | Reply

  28. Outside of the courtroom, people’s actions are continuously questioned. The focus of this discussion is why one specific group’s behavior is apparently off limits.

    No one is stopping you, or Brutus, or anyone from discussing this, so off limits is false. Getting criticized for your views does not mean that you are stopped from expressing them, so it sounds like a strawman.

    You may also note that rape shield laws have no effect outside courtrooms (as for the actual content of the said laws, I somehow suspect that mythago as a lawyer has professional knowledge that makes me trust her rather than you), so bringing them up when discussing standards outside courtrooms is not relevant.

    However, no one has suggested that the victim deserved it, only that the victim’s actions could have contributed to or initiated the assault.

    Yes, and people are disagreeing with that. How does a woman initiate rape, when she is a victim of it? Sounds nonsensical.

    Saying that this does NOT blame the woman does not mean that it does blame the woman. I don’t know about the rest of you, but IMHO someone who initiates violence and gets beaten up did (in small part) deserve it (and is not completely a victim, in other words), so even if it is true for some, it is not true for all (altough few people actually admit it). Whether some behaviours are more likely to give rapists an opportunity to rape may very well be true, but it does not mean that women are contributing or initiate rape. Both these words, by their very definition, place direct responsibility for the rape to the victim.

    I do not initiate burglary when I mistakenly leave a door open, I initiate burglary when I am doing it (=being a burglar).

    Comment by Tuomas — May 21, 2006 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

  29. Somehow the links in contributing and initiate were messed up.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 21, 2006 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

  30. No one is stopping you, or Brutus, or anyone from discussing this, so off limits is false. Getting criticized for your views does not mean that you are stopped from expressing them, so it sounds like a strawman.

    I did not say anyone was stopping the discussion. The point of contention is that some people think such instances are off limits as they consider it “blaming the victim.”

    You may also note that rape shield laws have no effect outside courtrooms (as for the actual content of the said laws, I somehow suspect that mythago as a lawyer has professional knowledge that makes me trust her rather than you), so bringing them up when discussing standards outside courtrooms is not relevant.

    I agree they are irrelevant. You may notice, however, that I stated, “In courtrooms it is not unusual for a judge to admonish a complainant for her or his reckless actions leading to said assault.” I asked mythago in what context she meant as her statement was rather general and sounded like a strawman.

    I do not initiate burglary when I mistakenly leave a door open, I initiate burglary when I am doing it (=being a burglar).

    As I stated, perhaps initiate was an inappropriate word. However, I also stated that one’s actions do not occur in a vacuum. If you leave your door open and someone burglarizes your house, is the burglar responsible for you leaving your door open? Certainly the burglar is a criminal and at fault for stealing. However, you left the door open allowing him to seize the opportunity. Perhaps he would have broken into your house anyway. It is wholly irrelevant because the burglar is responsible for his actions and you yours.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but IMHO someone who initiates violence and gets beaten up did (in small part) deserve it (and is not completely a victim, in other words), so even if it is true for some, it is not true for all (although few people actually admit it).

    Just to make sure I understand you correctly, are you saying if a man gets beaten up for initiating the situation he deserved it, but if a woman gets raped for initiating (definition: To set going by taking the first step; begin) the situation she does not? This is a double standard based solely on the act of violence and specifically to whom it is done to, not whether the person’s actions contributed to the situation. Again, we come back to people’s behaviors being off limits to questioning, which you are admitting (if I understood you correctly) does not extend to all people. Also, why are we using two different situations (male:physical assault, female:sexual assault) for comparison? Such a comparison would be more effective if the situations were similar.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 21, 2006 @ 9:56 pm | Reply

  31. Tags

    Comment by toysoldier — May 21, 2006 @ 9:56 pm | Reply

  32. Shiloh:

    believe that social attitudes have more impact on behavior than the law does. That’s why I find victim blame so offensive – I believe it literally does harm. Not that the blamers are out there actively hurting women – but they are encouraging and supporting those who do.

    Yes, but social attitudes have to do with law: If society thinks something is wrong and punishable (like rape) it will have laws against it, and conversely if the law says it is wrong and punishable to rape a woman it will seep into society. In a society that is not homogenous, like America, there of course exists different “unofficial laws” in different areas.

    I can understand the idea that we need to teach people to protect themselves from preditors, best they can, but that strategy needs to be combined with one that puts the responsibility squarely on the preditors. If we excuse guys for raping, the number of rapists is going to be higher than if society holds the guy responsible.

    Absolutely. It does seem that sometimes the advice given on women how to avoid does distract from the latter goal, and it is clearly wrong then. This isn’t limited to rape (but is especially common there, IMO) but it is something of a surrender.

    Thanks for the background on the guy, (I don’t believe punishment works for changing people, but then, I don’t think that’s what jails are for anyway). It is true that people can change if they themselves genuinely want it, and I too hope I am wrong about his sincerity.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 21, 2006 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

  33. If you leave your door open and someone burglarizes your house, is the burglar responsible for you leaving your door open? Certainly the burglar is a criminal and at fault for stealing. However, you left the door open allowing him to seize the opportunity. Perhaps he would have broken into your house anyway. It is wholly irrelevant because the burglar is responsible for his actions and you yours.

    Just to make sure I understand you correctly, are you saying if a man gets beaten up for initiating the situation he deserved it, but if a woman gets raped for initiating (definition: To set going by taking the first step; begin) the situation she does not?

    I do not think initiating rape exists, whereas if I punch some guy and get beaten up, then yes, it is partly my fault.

    It has nothing to do with men and women. If a man is raped, he has not “initiated” the rape either.

    I used the “double standard” (different crime) because the reality of rape is that women make the most of the victims (and men most the perps), and for assault men make the most of victims and perps.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 21, 2006 @ 10:16 pm | Reply

  34. Messed up the blockquote: The last part is mine.

    The whole idea that rape victims contribute or initiate rape is ridiculous and subjective, and prone to hindsight bias.

    Sure, there is advice on how to reduce your changes of being victimized, but you should take your own advice from the burglary example:

    It is wholly irrelevant because the burglar is responsible for his actions and you yours.

    So make it irrelevant to this case too.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 21, 2006 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

  35. The focus of this discussion is why one specific group’s behavior is apparently off limits.

    Actually, the focus of this discussion is your begging the question by assuming only the behavior of rape victims is off-limits (it isn’t) or that rape victims’ behavior is never questioned (ditto). I suggest you learn what rape-shield laws do and don’t do. And think for a minute about how, if your assumption were true, any defendant could raise self-defense in a homicide claim.

    Nobody is disputing that there are things people can do to reduce the risk that a criminal will choose them as his or her next victim; it’s only in rape cases that the victim is assumed to have provoked the crime and bears moral responsibility for the attacker’s actions( cf. Brutus’s comments about the victim ‘working up’ the rapist and then ‘pulling the rug out’). We might tell a burglarly victim that it was stupid to leave his door unlocked. We would never suggest he provoked the burglarly.

    Comment by mythago — May 21, 2006 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

  36. shiloh:

    I think [the authors’bias] shows even more clearly in their comments on the book I Never Called It Rape:

    http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/bonding_process.html

    If a woman doesn’t know if she was raped (until an advocate tells her that she was) doesn’t the door swing both ways? Is it not possible that the man often didn’t think of it that way, either? … It is not unreasonable that the man really did think it was consensual sex if the woman didn’t ferociously resist.

    (in a footnote)

    See, I think it is unreasonable of men to think it was consensual sex just because the woman didn’t ferociously resist. Because, statistically speaking, most women won’t.

    You know that, and I know that, but why should these men know that? In any case, the Authors’ claim as I read it, is not it is reasonable for a man to think this way, but that it is reasonable for us to believe that some men think this way.

    Most women assaulted by stranger rapists don’t ferociously resist, so I think it unreasonable to assume they’ll get violent with someone they know.

    I agree, but I do so from the perspective of knowing rather more about the subject than the average college student.

    Plus the fact that the women in the study didn’t think of their experience as “rape for sure” didn’t save them from the fallout of rape – suicidal thoughts, depression, etc. Koss used the legal definition for rape in some state at the time (Ohio?). The damage is done by the man taking sex when she doesn’t want it

    What does this have to do with the question of whether the rapists thought of these acts as rape?

    – he causes the damage, so he has the greater responsibility to prevent it

    I can understand the idea that we need to teach people to protect themselves from preditors, best they can, but that strategy needs to be combined with one that puts the responsibility squarely on the preditors. If we excuse guys for raping, the number of rapists is going to be higher than if society holds the guy responsible.

    Are you suggesting that the authors are excusing guys for raping, either in the paragraph quoted or elsewhere in the site? Because I don’t see it.

    Society’s expectations often have more impact than than laws. Society’s expectations have more to do with whether people obey the law, and even with whether the people who break the law are prosecuted. … I believe that social attitudes have more impact on behavior than the law does.

    Indeed, and there is an implicit endorsement of rape-awareness programs earlier in the paragraph from which you quoted: ‘Granted that with the “no means no” campaign, this argument begins (and rightly so) to erode.’.

    If the authors have a bias, it is this: They want to tell you things which will help you to reduce your risk of being raped today, tomorrow, and next week. That bias is right in the name of the site: Self Defence.

    Educational programs aimed at rapists, or at men, or at society in general may reduce your risk over a longer period, but they won’t reduce your risk today, tomorrow, or next week.

    Saying “he causes the damage, so he has the greater responsibility to prevent it” won’t reduce your risk.

    Blaming the Patriarchy won’t reduce your risk.

    Blaming men won’t reduce you risk.

    Blaming rapists won’t reduce your risk.

    Advising you to make appropriate changes to your behaviour will reduce your risk.

    That’s why I find victim blame so offensive – I believe it literally does harm. Not that the blamers are out there actively hurting women – but they are encouraging and supporting those who do. Justification is a crucial step in deciding to hurt someone.

    Again, what has this got to do with the quote or the site in general, unless you’re saying that this is what they’re doing?

    I agree that victim-blaming is harmful and offensive. In addition to the points you’ve raised above, it’s directly harmful to victims. I’ve spoken out against victim-blaming at Alas, on usenet, and here on Creative Destruction.

    But also harmful is the attitude that regards as victim-blaming any advice at all to people on how to avoid rape. It’s harmful because it surpresses legitimate messages about safety or self-defence.

    If there is a difference between the authors’ pages on the subject of rape, and the remainder of the site, it is not that they’ve engaged in any victim-blaming or perp-exoneration. It’s that they’ve had to preemptorily defend themselves from the charge. Your response has shown how sadly necessary this was for them.

    Comment by Daran — May 22, 2006 @ 12:06 am | Reply

  37. Hey

    mythago:

    We might tell a burglarly victim that it was stupid to leave his door unlocked. We would never suggest he provoked the burglarly.

    Yet if someone on Alas, say, told a rape victim that she was stupid for leaving her door unlocked there would be a queue of people condemning them for victim-blaming.

    And I’d be first in line. That’s because it is. It’s not a legitimate crime-prevention message because 1. You can’t prevent a crime that’s already happened, and 2. it’s stating the bleedin’ obvious. The only purpose served by making this kind of comment is to put responsibility for the crime on the victim’s head. It doesn’t matter whether or not the ‘advisor’ does or does not explicitly ‘suggest he provoked her’, and whether or not the crime is rape or burglary or something else.

    Comment by Daran — May 22, 2006 @ 12:38 am | Reply

  38. Hey can someone unbork Tuomos’s earlier post? Also if an earlier version of this comment got posted, please delete it.

    mythago:

    We might tell a burglarly victim that it was stupid to leave his door unlocked. We would never suggest he provoked the burglarly.

    Yet if someone on Alas, say, told a rape victim that she was stupid for leaving her door unlocked there would be a queue of people condemning them for victim-blaming.

    And I’d be first in line. That’s because it is. It’s not a legitimate crime-prevention message because 1. You can’t prevent a crime that’s already happened, and 2. it’s stating the bleedin’ obvious. The only purpose served by making this kind of comment is to put responsibility for the crime on the victim’s head. It doesn’t matter whether or not the ‘advisor’ does or does not explicitly ‘suggest he provoked her’, and whether or not the crime is rape or burglary or something else.

    Comment by Daran — May 22, 2006 @ 12:40 am | Reply

  39. Hey, wouldja look at that? My borked earlier effort had the effect of cancelling the effect of tuomas’s bork.

    Comment by Daran — May 22, 2006 @ 12:44 am | Reply

  40. Tuomas:

    I can understand the idea that we need to teach people to protect themselves from preditors, best they can, but that strategy needs to be combined with one that puts the responsibility squarely on the preditors. If we excuse guys for raping, the number of rapists is going to be higher than if society holds the guy responsible.

    Absolutely. It does seem that sometimes the advice given on women how to avoid does distract from the latter goal, and it is clearly wrong then. This isn’t limited to rape (but is especially common there, IMO) but it is something of a surrender.

    I don’t agree. I’d say rather that some of the “advice” given to rape victims or women in general purportedly on how to avoid rape is in reality nothing of the sort; it is victim-blaming dressed up as advice.

    An unfortunate result of this is that some people have started to regard all advice on how to avoid rape in this light. I don’t agree that self-protection and efforts to alter societal attitudes “need to be combined”. The two strategies have different but complementary goals. Combining them will inevitably lead to one distracting from the other.

    Comment by Daran — May 22, 2006 @ 12:59 am | Reply

  41. ToySoldier:

    If you leave your door open and someone burglarizes your house, is the burglar responsible for you leaving your door open?

    You are, of course

    Certainly the burglar is a criminal and at fault for stealing. However, you left the door open allowing him to seize the opportunity.

    There’s no moral equivalence between the two. The burglar is committing an offence (both legally, and morally) against you by burgling. You’re not committing an offence against the burglar or anyone else by leaving your door open. The two acts have a quite different legal and moral standing.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but IMHO someone who initiates violence and gets beaten up did (in small part) deserve it (and is not completely a victim, in other words), so even if it is true for some, it is not true for all (although few people actually admit it).

    Just to make sure I understand you correctly, are you saying if a man gets beaten up for initiating the situation he deserved it, but if a woman gets raped for initiating (definition: To set going by taking the first step; begin) the situation she does not? This is a double standard based solely on the act of violence and specifically to whom it is done to, not whether the person’s actions contributed to the situation.

    Again by characterising both persons’ acts as “initiating” you are implying equivalence. They’re not equivalent. In this scenario the man “initiates” by violating the rights of another person, whose response differs from legitimate self-defence only in degree. In none of the “woman initiating” scenarios does the victim criminally offend against or violate the rights of the rapist, and in only a few cases is there an arguably moral offence.

    Comment by Daran — May 22, 2006 @ 1:28 am | Reply

  42. I don’t agree. I’d say rather that some of the “advice” given to rape victims or women in general purportedly on how to avoid rape is in reality nothing of the sort; it is victim-blaming dressed up as advice.

    An unfortunate result of this is that some people have started to regard all advice on how to avoid rape in this light. I don’t agree that self-protection and efforts to alter societal attitudes “need to be combined”. The two strategies have different but complementary goals. Combining them will inevitably lead to one distracting from the other.

    Actually, I agree here.

    I have written before (comment #42) that it would be helpful if people could sparate two different things: Rape reduction and risk reduction.

    I don’t mean that these two should be combined into one, but rather that each should acknowledge the validity of other. Perhaps this (combining)is what shiloh wants, but I honestly I was rather trying to wrap things up.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 2:08 am | Reply

  43. separate… not “sparate”.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 2:10 am | Reply

  44. Daran:
    I guess the problem is that both people who have tendency to blame the victim and people who fight societal attitudes that excuse rape tend to view legitimate advice with their own biased lens:
    The first group will cherry-pick everything that will support their theses and the second group will then blame the legitimate advice for this. Which does not make sense: The fact that some facts can be used for wrong purposes does not make them less facts.

    Which is what I believe you are saying, too.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 2:19 am | Reply

  45. Actually, the focus of this discussion is your begging the question by assuming only the behavior of rape victims is off-limits (it isn’t) or that rape victims’ behavior is never questioned (ditto).

    Actually, the point Brutus brought up was “Comments on another post have attempted to separate the behaviors of the victim from those of the victimizer as though they aren’t or at least shouldn’t be related. The frequently repeated trope is “don’t blame the victim”,” so I am not begging the question. That is the focus of the discussion.

    Nobody is disputing that there are things people can do to reduce the risk that a criminal will choose them as his or her next victim; it’s only in rape cases that the victim is assumed to have provoked the crime and bears moral responsibility for the attacker’s actions…

    That is a strawman. As an attorney, you know that both complainants and defendants often have their behaviors questioned. It just so happens that only rape victims have greater protection from such questioning. Outside the courtroom, people routinely question the behaviors of people who are in accidents, altercations and victims of crimes.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 22, 2006 @ 9:55 am | Reply

  46. There’s no moral equivalence between the two. The burglar is committing an offence (both legally, and morally) against you by burgling. You’re not committing an offence against the burglar or anyone else by leaving your door open. The two acts have a quite different legal and moral standing.

    I agree. However, my point is not who has legal or moral standing, but how the situation occurred. Such situations can be and often are influenced, whether intentionally or not, by one’s actions. Leaving your door open increases the possibility that you will be burglarized. You are responsible for increasing that possibility. That does not mean, however, that anyone has the right to take advantage of said situation (which is apparently the conclusion being reached), or that you are responsible if someone does so.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 22, 2006 @ 10:07 am | Reply

  47. It just so happens that only rape victims have greater protection from such questioning.

    Again, it’s pretty clear that you don’t understand what rape-shield laws are or what they do, as they don’t prevent questioning about the “victim’s actions prior, during and following the alleged acts”. What they do is to presume that particular evidence is not sufficiently relevant to be admissible, unless the defense demonstrates to the court otherwise. That evidence is of the “but she’s a slut and deserved it” variety.

    For example, you can’t generally introduce evidence that the accuser had sex with her boyfriend, unless you are trying to show that the boyfriend is the source of semen on injuries; you can’t merely present that fact in order to show that the accuser is a tramp who has sex outside of marriage.

    An unfortunate result of this is that some people have started to regard all advice on how to avoid rape in this light.

    Very true–especially since so little of that advice is actually useful, and since there is so little focus on preventing rape, rather than merely avoiding being a rapist’s next victim.

    Comment by mythago — May 22, 2006 @ 10:27 am | Reply

  48. It has nothing to do with men and women. If a man is raped, he has not “initiated” the rape either.

    Let us keep the discussion within the realm of realistic possibilities and avoid drifting off topic. Can a person’s actions lead to him or her being victimized?

    I do not think initiating rape exists, whereas if I punch some guy and get beaten up, then yes, it is partly my fault.

    Your example is not a fair comparison. A better example would be a man accidentally brushing up against another man. He certainly initiated the situation (by accident), but he hardly deserves (I assume) to be beaten up for it.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 22, 2006 @ 10:32 am | Reply

  49. I’ve gotten pretty confused by now who is advocating for what position. Mythago, could you prepare a post (not a comment) outlining the nature and purpose of rape shield laws? You keep referring to them, but I don’t know what they are or how to research them (other than by Googling).

    Also, I’ve been careful to be gender neutral in my statements. Most of the comments rely on gender, which adds variables to the issue. I realize that certain crimes skew heavily to one side or the other, but my larger interest is distinguishing between the victim and the perpetrator, and more specifically, discussing how a victim’s actions can provoke a crime — which doesn’t excuse the perpetrator but does reflect on the victim.

    Comment by Brutus — May 22, 2006 @ 10:51 am | Reply

  50. Again, it’s pretty clear that you don’t understand what rape-shield laws are or what they do, as they don’t prevent questioning about the “victim’s actions prior, during and following the alleged acts”. What they do is to presume that particular evidence is not sufficiently relevant to be admissible, unless the defense demonstrates to the court otherwise. That evidence is of the “but she’s a slut and deserved it” variety.

    Again, that is not necessarily true. For instance, if an individual has a previous record of making false allegations, such evidence may not be allowed into open court, despite its relevancy. While it is to the judge’s discretion (depending on the state), such protection in this instance stems from rape shield laws (and is often argued as such), and has nothing to do with whether or not the accuser is “a slut and deserved it.”

    Likewise, the example of the boyfriend also may not be allowed into evidence. Even if the defense can demonstrate sufficient relevance, such as the accuser had sex with her boyfriend just prior to the rape or had sex just before going to the hospital for a rape kit examination (I believe this was a major point of contention in the Kobe Bryant case), it could be, and often is, protected under rape shield laws.

    I do understand that in all cases one must demonstrate relevancy in order for evidence to be allowed in. However, rape shield laws, by your own statement, automatically presume evidence is not relevant until the defense can sufficiently demonstrate that it is within the realm of the rape shield laws.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 22, 2006 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  51. I’d probably serve you better by linking to a post by someone who’s explained the laws better than I could 🙂

    Comment by mythago — May 22, 2006 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  52. Let us keep the discussion within the realm of realistic possibilities and avoid drifting off topic. Can a person’s actions lead to him or her being victimized?

    You think men can not be raped? You attempted to suggest that I have a double standard regarding men and women in post #30, and I presented this as evidence that I do not hold such double standard. Perhaps you should admit being wrong instead of going on about thread drift when your strawman gets burned (you don’t really need to answer this, as we should indeed move on)?

    To answer your question: I wouldn’t use the term “lead” here. I would say, as I have said, that a persons actions can increase his/her changes of being victimized. I don’t like being smart after something has already happened — saying that because a rape happened, x led to it, when the x is anything other than the criminal deciding to commit a crime.

    That is why dislike the contribution, initiation and leading that you constantly push.

    Your example is not a fair comparison. A better example would be a man accidentally brushing up against another man. He certainly initiated the situation (by accident), but he hardly deserves (I assume) to be beaten up for it.

    It is not meant as a comparison. It is meant as desciptive of intiating — and in the example you offered the man clearly has not initiated assault. Again you are advancing (by the sly insult in parentheticals) that I think an innocent man deserves to get beaten.

    To make it simple, I will offer comparisons for crimes, for possible justification:

    Assault: But he attacked me, so I had no chance but beat him up. Fair defense, if it is true.

    Rape: But she led me on, so I had no choice but to rape her. Not fair defense, even if it true.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  53. Rape: But she led me on, so I had no choice but to rape her. Not fair defense, even if it true.

    To clarify: The I had no choice… Part can not be true, I was referring to the she led me on part.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 10:57 am | Reply

  54. I realize that certain crimes skew heavily to one side or the other, but my larger interest is distinguishing between the victim and the perpetrator, and more specifically, discussing how a victim’s actions can provoke a crime — which doesn’t excuse the perpetrator but does reflect on the victim.

    I think the issue is provocation, at least in instances of female rape. Perhaps you could list other examples in which one’s behavior may cause, provoke or instigate a situation that leads to a person being victimized.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 22, 2006 @ 10:58 am | Reply

  55. For instance, if an individual has a previous record of making false allegations, such evidence may not be allowed into open court, despite its relevancy.

    Such evidence would almost certainly be allowed in open court. Rape-shield laws do not prevent evidence of actually false allegations from being admitted. And perjury is admissible to impeach credibility, regardless of the subject of the perjury.

    The evidence you cite could be excluded without rape-shield laws ever existing. Any judge could rule that such evidence is ‘more prejudicial than probative’ and exclude it, without such laws. The goal of rape shield laws is to say that certain kinds of evidence are presumed more prejudicial than probative (rather than leaving it up to the court on a case-by-case basis)–just as hearsay is presumed unreliable, or evidence of subsequent remedial measures is excluded for public-policy reasons.*

    *Not really relevant to the discussion, but the reasons are so that we don’t discourage people from taking remedial measures. If I slip on your icy steps, we don’t want you to say to yourself “I’d better not salt these steps in case that’s used against me in court”–and so the next person to use those steps is in danger.

    Comment by mythago — May 22, 2006 @ 11:13 am | Reply

  56. It is not meant as a comparison. It is meant as desciptive of intiating — and in the example you offered the man clearly has not initiated assault. Again you are advancing (by the sly insult in parentheticals) that I think an innocent man deserves to get beaten.

    That is a strawman. You stated in post #28 “I don’t know about the rest of you, but IMHO someone who initiates violence and gets beaten up did (in small part) deserve it (and is not completely a victim, in other words).” The implication there is fairly clear. You further go on to say “… so even if it is true for some, it is not true for all (altough few people actually admit it).” If it does not mean it is appropriate to do to some, yet inappropriate to do to others, then could you clarify your intent?

    We are not discussing innocence or guilt, simply whether one’s actions can cause a situation where one is later assaulted.

    You attempted to suggest that I have a double standard regarding men and women in post #30, and I presented this as evidence that I do not hold such double standard.

    You still “describe” male physical assault to female sexual assault. You could “describe” the instances using two women as examples, but you have so far chosen not to. As these are all hypothetical examples for the point of discussion, there is no reason to pick and choose gender based on debatable statistics. For example, if a woman got drunk, grabbed a man’s genitals and got beaten up, did she not initiate the situation? Neither of us would say she deserved to be beaten, but she did provoke the situation, correct?

    Comment by toysoldier — May 22, 2006 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  57. The evidence you cite could be excluded without rape-shield laws ever existing. Any judge could rule that such evidence is ‘more prejudicial than probative’ and exclude it, without such laws.

    That is true. However, it is often argued against using rape shield laws, not insufficient probative value. The majority of our laws have loopholes that both the defense and prosecution can exploit. As a no law is perfect, it is likely that rape shield laws also have many loopholes that either side can use to allow or block evidence questioning the accusers credibility.

    Comment by toysoldier — May 22, 2006 @ 11:50 am | Reply

  58. That is a strawman.

    You should familiarize yourself with the meaning of the word strawman.

    You still “describe” male physical assault to female sexual assault. You could “describe” the instances using two women as examples, but you have so far chosen not to.

    For fucks sake already! I chose them because of which crimes men and women are more likely to face. I do not describe “female sexual assault” to “male physical assault”.

    Okay, If a woman punches another woman, she has initiated violence. Happy?

    And I repeat my question, which you have chosen to ignore so far, how exactly does a rape victim initiate rape?

    For example, if a woman got drunk, grabbed a man’s genitals and got beaten up, did she not initiate the situation?

    Depends on the force applied. What has her drunkenness have to do with it?

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  59. Or if a woman punches a man, or otherwise uses violence against him, and gets beaten up, she has initiated violence (and does share moral responsibility for what follows).

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 11:54 am | Reply

  60. We are not discussing innocence or guilt, simply whether one’s actions can cause a situation where one is later assaulted.

    Who’s we? I am, I think the initiating implies a cerain amount of guilt, hence the confusion.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 22, 2006 @ 11:57 am | Reply


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