I get soooo tired whenever what would generally be considered useful advice on how to keep yourself safe gets tagged as “victim blaming.”
After Trayvon Martin was killed, I reflected on how my parents taught me that if you think someone’s following you, you shouldn’t turn around and confront them, and you shouldn’t run; but quickly walk to the nearest safe place and get help (see also call the police). I suggested that had Trayvon done any of those things...or used his cell phone to call 911 instead of his friend...he might still be alive.
The response from people? I was blaming the victim. Eff no. I still blame Zimmerman. But by being a little smarter about how to handle the situation, things might not have escalated to the point where Trayvon’s dead and a lot of us would like to see Zimmerman follow him.
Similarly, I learned early on that if I didn’t want to be jumped and robbed that I didn’t walk through certain neighborhoods at certain times of day, alone...and definitely not with a lot of money on me. If I got jumped and robbed...IT WAS STILL THE FAULT OF THE ROBBERS, but there were things I could do to keep myself relatively safe.
The simple fact of the matter is that THERE BE PREDATORS OUT THERE. I should be able to walk through any part of town at 11.00 at night with $100 bills pinned to my clothes, without anyone coming up to me and trying to take some. A woman should be able to walk through any neighborhood at any time of day, butt naked, without someone going up to her and trying to sexually assault her. These are all shoulds. But the fact of the matter is, as I’ve already said, THERE BE PREDATORS OUT THERE.
And it’s not enough to say that predators shouldn’t prey. One needs to be cognizant of the fact that these people are out there and learn how to keep yourself from falling victim to them. You can't just say “Well, I shouldn’t have to do this; they should just learn how to behave.”
That. Doesn’t. Work. Denial of the reality doesn’t work.
And giving advice on how to avoid the next person one of those predators preys upon isn’t “blaming the victim.”
It's trying to prevent one more person from becoming a victim.
I’ve heard this chorus of “blaming the victim” so many times that I’m beginning to wonder if it’s an unconscious way of trying to avoid any sense of personal responsibility for one’s own well-being, and of saying “I’ll do what I want. You’re not the boss over me.” But let me ask you this question: is it “blaming the victim” when we suggest that wearing seatbelts might prevent people from being thrown from the vehicle to their deaths in auto accidents…even those accidents caused by someone else?
Is it “blaming the victim” when we suggest that not being falling down drunk is a good way to avoid being jumped and robbed…or raped…or dying in a house fire that you’re too incapacitated to escape from?
Is it “blaming the victim” any time we suggest some simple ways that people might keep themselves safe.
To be sure, there are situations where people do seem to blame the victim. But let’s not confuse true victim blaming with good common sense advice.
I now await the hordes coming to uncritically accuse me of “blaming the victim.”
But remember...THERE BE PREDATORS OUT THERE.
And your opinion on whether or not there should be isn't going to change that.