Stop Asking Women If They’re Going To Have Kids »« Open Thread: How Do You Practice Self-Care?

Ten Ways Sexual Assault is Not Like Getting Robbed

[Content note: sexual assault]

Anytime someone speaks up about victim blaming and the expectation that women drastically limit their own lives in order to prevent themselves from being raped, someone will appear like clockwork to go, “Yeah, well, shouldn’t people lock their homes so they don’t get robbed?”

I am not an authority on what people should and should not do (besides not rape people), but I would argue that sexual assault has vanishingly little in common with robbery, and preventing sexual assault is not at all like locking your front door.

All analogies are imperfect by definition; if they were perfect, they would not be analogies anymore, but rather comparisons between two nearly or practically identical things. You can always find spots in which analogies fail.

But the sexual assault-robbery analogy fails on so many levels that I believe it to be useless for any sort of explanatory function.

None of this is to say which is “worse.” I’ll leave those pointless exercises to Richard Dawkins. I would personally imagine that most people who have experienced both found sexual assault to be “worse,” but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are sufficiently different that an analogy between them doesn’t really make any sense and is usually only used to silence people who speak out about sexual assault and victim blaming.

So, here’s how sexual assault is not at all like robbery.

1. We all know how to lock up a house. How do you “lock up” a human being? Seriously, what do you expect me to do? Wear a device that “locks up” my vagina? But sexual assault can happen without a vagina involved, and it can happen to people without vaginas. Lock myself inside and never go outside? Walk around in an armored body suit that requires a passcode to remove?

2. Locking your house is an effective way to prevent robbery (though, of course, not 100% effective). To my knowledge, there is no effective way to prevent rape except not raping. Most people are sexually assaulted by someone they know. Many people are sexually assaulted at home or at the home of a friend. The only factor present in the vast majority of rapes (99%) is a male rapist. So the only effective way to prevent rape would be to avoid men regardless of your own gender. Obviously, that’s not realistic. And since only a small percentage of men (~6%) are rapists, you’d be cutting yourself off from a lot of potentially great (or at least not-rapey) people.

3. Locking your house is easy and takes one second. The things women are told to do to “prevent rape” (aside from being ineffective) involve drastically limiting their social lives and other opportunities. The “perfect victim” would always cover up from her ankles to her neck, never go outside without a chaperone, especially after dark, never drink, never go to parties or bars, never be alone with a man (whether she knows him or not), and never have consensual sexual contact, since lots of sexual assaults occur once the victim has consented to something else, and many are perpetrated by boyfriends and husbands rather than strangers or acquaintances or friends. That sounds more like one of those fundamentalist countries you dudes are always criticizing than like a world we want to create.

4. When your house is robbed and you call the police, they will investigate to whatever extent they can*. Even if you left it unlocked. Even if your valuables were just lying there, visible from the windows. Even if you did everything “wrong.” Victims of sexual assault are frequently accused by the police (whose job it is not, by the way, to adjudicate this) of being the ones to blame. The police may even intimidate victims out of pressing charges, in some cases accusing them of outright lying, trying to “ruin” the rapist’s life, or being “confused” or “misunderstanding.” (And it’s not, by the way, as if people never lie about theft and robbery. Unlike false accusations of sexual assault, which are rare, insurance fraud is a major crime. Yet the police still take theft and robbery claims seriously unless they have a good reason not to.)

5. In general, we don’t shame and intimidate victims of robbery for “getting themselves robbed” or “asking for it.” I have been robbed and told by people that I should’ve been more careful, and I have been sexually assaulted and told by people that I should’ve been more careful. It felt different. Why? Because when I was robbed, nobody used the fact that I could’ve been more careful to deny that I really was robbed, that I didn’t want to be robbed, and that it sucked to be robbed. And because nobody ever denied that the robbery was the fault of the robber. (That said, those “why did you”/”why didn’t you” questions are never supportive and never helpful, so it’s best to refrain from that no matter what the situation. If the person wants your advice on securing their belongings, they will ask. Or, ask them if they want advice.)

6. There is something concrete that is taken from you when you are robbed. If you want to be super-safe, hiding that thing very well or choosing not to own it is an option. So is leaving it at home when going somewhere. I don’t take my expensive camera anywhere I can’t be carrying or watching it at all times, for instance. There is nothing that you can choose to hide or not have to prevent rape. Nothing is “taken” from you when you are raped. It is an act of violence against you as a person, not an attempt to take something that you have. I cannot leave my gender at home when I go out. Even if I could, men get raped too.

7. Many thefts and robberies are committed by people desperate for money. That doesn’t make the act ethically okay, but it does make analogies to sexual assault very flawed. Sexual assault is not a crime of desperation. You can read revolting comments made by admitted rapists if you can stomach it. They premeditate the crime. They groom their victims. They choose victims intentionally, picking the ones that they know won’t be believed if they make an accusation afterwards. They mislead their victims on purpose about things like the amount of alcohol in a drink or how many people are going up to their room or why they’re asking you to go back to their room with them. They gaslight their victims to convince them that it wasn’t really rape. They operate in social contexts where they know they won’t be challenged for their behavior, and they thrive on the approval of their peers. They do things like pause or act concerned if you say “no,” and then they keep going anyway. And, contrary to popular opinion, most of these men are not lonely, socially excluded men who can’t find anyone to have sex with and get desperate. They’re popular, socially powerful, and could easily have consensual sex (and often do) if they wanted it. (Though, even if they couldn’t, that still doesn’t excuse rape. Obviously. Obviously.)

8. While being robbed can feel very disempowering, the crime itself is not about power in the way that sexual assault is. People are rarely robbed by someone who holds lots of social power over them, whereas sexual assault is often perpetrated by someone with more power over someone with less: by a man against a woman or a “subordinate” man, by a straight-presenting person against a queer-presenting one, by an able-bodied person against a disabled person, by an older person against a younger person (or by a younger person against an elderly person, since elderly people also lack power) , by someone with social authority (a doctor, a priest, a police officer, a teacher) against someone without it. Having less power seems to be a risk factor for rape, and true rape prevention would probably require battling these power differentials. People are targeted for robbery because of things that they possess; people are targeted for rape because of who they are.

9. People do not continually insist on labeling certain types of robbery “not really robbery.” It’s not robbery if you didn’t lock your house. It’s not robbery if you were showing off a fancy gadget. It’s not robbery if you didn’t physically fight back when the item was being stolen. It’s not robbery if you were an uppity bitch who deserved it. It’s not robbery if you have willingly given or lent things to the person before. It’s not robbery if they really really want the item and it’s not a big deal for you to just give it to them. It’s not robbery if you were planning on giving the item to them but then you changed your mind and decided to keep it, because that’s just not fair. How much sense does any of this make? None. The fact that we view rape and robbery so differently (even though we shouldn’t) is one more reason it just doesn’t work as an analogy.

10. One of the most haunting things about sexual assault is the stuff they say to you. I didn’t see or interact with any of the people who have robbed me (most people probably don’t), but if I had, I can’t imagine them saying things like, “Nobody’s going to believe you.” “You know you want to give it to me.” “I can take anything I want from you and you can’t do anything about it.” “You asked for it.” “I’m only doing this because I love you so much.” “It’s your fault I can’t help myself.” And if someone did say that as they were robbing me, I’d probably just be very confused. That’s because robbery isn’t about intentionally trying to violate the victim at their very fucking core.

I suspect that one of the major reasons folks are always trying to compare rape to property theft is because that’s what it was, for millennia. The rape of a virgin was considered a theft from her father; the rape of a married woman was considered a theft from her husband. Further, sex is often seen as something women “give” to men, so when a woman is raped by a man, some people view it as “stealing” sex. (And by the way: raping a sex worker is also not theft.) These are antiquated and bigoted ways of looking at sexual assault and women.

The only things that rape and robbery seem to have in common is that they are both crimes and they are both generally unpleasant. That’s a pretty flimsy foundation on which to build a useful analogy, in my opinion.

~~~

*I realize that, as a white person, I cannot assume that the police would necessarily take everyone’s robbery as seriously as they would mine. However, if the police systematically refuse to investigate robberies reported by people of color, the conclusion there is not, “See, rape and robbery are totally similar!” but rather, “Yup, the police operate in a systematically sexist and racist fashion.” Another point, by the way, that the same folks who deny rape culture also tend to deny.

Comments

  1. Kevin Kehres says

    I agree with the vast majority of what you’re saying.

    However, I have to report that I’m still mystified that you appear to consider harm reduction strategies aimed at women to be somehow wrong, and that the only effective strategy is “don’t rape” campaigns aimed at men.

    Fact is, I do lock my doors at night and when I’m gone to protect my stuff from burglary. Will that prevent all burglaries? Obviously not, since I’ve been burglarized in two separate homes. Does that make me want to focus ALL my efforts on convincing burglars not to burgle?

    I also avoid certain parts of town, especially on foot at night. Why would I engage in my own personal “robbery prevention” program? Well, because I don’t want to get mugged. Should I instead go to those places and focus my efforts on convincing muggers not to mug people?

    And if those places I avoid might be exciting and edgy and filled with other kinds of fun — oh well. Sometimes you have to evaluate risk versus benefit. And sometimes risk trumps benefit. And sometimes, you take a chance but minimize risk in other ways — like going to such places in a taxi with friends and a back-up plan.

    You seem to be focusing on one side of the equation only. I agree that all of the things that have been posted recently — including the drug-sniffing nail polish — seem naive and silly. But surely not every harm reduction strategy is naive and silly, is it?

    I wear my seat belt, even though I’ve never been in an accident where I needed it. I wear a bicycle helmet, and was glad of it when I fell and cracked one completely in half, never mind the thousands of cycling hours spent accident-free. I check my surroundings in “sketchy” areas. How is this wrong? And how is it wrong to suggest that harm reduction is a legitimate part of preventing — not “rape” as in “all rape” — but more precisely “your rape” in specific situations where you might be at risk?

    And all the more reason to avoid “your rape” when everything else you say is absolutely spot on. Yes, it’s way harder to report rape and have it taken seriously by police than other kinds of crimes. And all that other stuff about victim blaming and everything else. You’re right. Completely and totally.

    But your argument suggesting that harm reduction is saying ‘lock yourself in and never, ever, ever go out’ is the purest of straw. Not one person is advocating anything like it. Nobody.

    From my perspective, you seem to be deliberately courting harm. And frankly, it scares me.

    • says

      I’ll respond to the rest of this later, but this jumped out at me:

      From my perspective, you seem to be deliberately courting harm. And frankly, it scares me.

      Stop concern trolling. You know absolutely nothing about my behavior, let alone enough to claim that I’m “deliberately courting harm.”

      And really, you have no information about what advice I do and do not give to people who may be targeted by rapists, because that’s not what this post is about. So your claim that I oppose “harm reduction” (not sure that term even applies here) isn’t based on anything.

      • karen says

        Thank you for the article and that comment, I like how you didn’t let the points you were making get muddled.

        If I could add something I always wanted to say about young women and rape education? Not to take away from anything you said, I don’t mean to be trolly to your points, I just always think about what I wish I could tell every single young woman. Awareness of their situation.

        That it’s hard for us to realize that a nice young guy who acts interested, and that she is interested in as well, would still want to hurt and rape her. I’m thinking of Mike Tyson, if you recall, and how the young woman went with him to “pick up something” from his room. People actually wondered why she went to his room, and I remember trying to explain to coworkers, she didn’t think he was going to rape her, that’s why! It probably never occurred to her he would. Maybe she thought they would have sex, and so who rapes someone who wants to have sex with them? That’s what i thought. Used to think. Why would she be afraid, they were having a great time, and he could have anybody, pro boxer. But they honestly didn’t believe, because she walked into the room, that she was raped. Hearing those comments was an eyeopener for me. Because i bet I would have stepped in his room too, AT her age. But not now.

        It’s something, that the cute guy, you might be looking Forward to being involved with, STILL might want to rape you. The chemistry might be great, but, have a better reason to trust him than that. Repeat, have a better reason to trust him that his great chemistry. It lies.

        Men and women are pretty different that way, and i don’t think there’s any argument, we hardly ever want to hurt the guy we think is cute and we desire. Wrapping your head around it can be a challange for women, or at least it was for me. I don’t know if it’s a much different culture with young women now, maybe there’s much more awareness. I hope so. I’d love to see the situation with male awareness change too.

        But mainly, I don’t know how many other people might have been like me, but I recall being pretty shocked, when I learned how often it happens, date rape, boyfriend. Not to paint young men with a huge horrible brush, but, it was a revelation for me. It was something that had never occurred to me. How much danger a simple date was. For me. For everyone. How many of my friends had been hurt too, but the stories were years later.

    • ButchKitties says

      Re: Your bicycle helmet/seat belt analogies.

      Car accidents are accidents. Bicycle accidents are accidents. Rape is something a person deliberately does to another person. You wear seat belts and helmets because people have accidents while driving or riding despite everyone’s best intentions. Rape would be impossible without the rapist’s intention to rape another person. When you are comparing an accident to a deliberate assault on another person, your analogy has already failed.

    • says

      “Harm reduction strategies aimed at women” (which are really harm deflection strategies, but never mind) have not been empirically verified. Miri discussed that in a post. Quite a few, I would imagine, but the one at the top of this very page comes immediately to mind. Pay particular attention to item 2.

      You are rarely going to see someone come out and say “lock yourself in and never, ever, ever go out” in so many words, but if you take the advice given to women, that’s about all you can do. Cynical people might suspect that those who give such advice are really just setting up an explanation of how being raped is the victim’s fault. (I’m not that cynical; I think a few people do that, but mostly people repeat the advice without giving it any thought, because telling people to lock themselves in is at least something concrete, as opposed to ending rape culture.)

  2. says

    11. When you’re robbed, you don’t have to be there, and you may not even know about it until much later.

    11a. And even then, the police will take you seriously, and at least make a show of trying to find the thief.

    11b. Sometimes they’ll even recover your property.

    • sambarge says

      11c. If your property is not recovered, your insurance company will likely replace that property with new versions of the items stolen. In time, you may opine that, as stressful and traumatic as the robbery was at the time, this new iPad is kind of worth it all. You won’t ever say that about rape.

    • sambarge says

      Oh! I have another:

      12. If you donate goods to a charity thrift store or have a yard sale on the weekend, no one claims that you can’t be robbed because you give stuff away or sell it.

  3. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Kevin Kehres @ 1

    All of those things you said you do because they’re reasonable things to do to avoid risk? They work. Because what you’re avoiding isn’t rape.

    None of that stuff works when it comes to rape. It doesn’t actually matter if you dress modestly or provocatively, get drunk or not, go out alone at night or not, none of that stuff reduces your chances of being raped. The vast, overwhelming majority of rapists operate in an environment that they manipulate. They know that they have people defending them, they gaslight their victims, they use positions of authority or relative social power over their victims to insulate themselves from consequences, they deliberately choose victims nobody will believe, etc. All of which Miri already covered in the OP.

    And that makes this:

    But your argument suggesting that harm reduction is saying ‘lock yourself in and never, ever, ever go out’ is the purest of straw. Not one person is advocating anything like it. Nobody.

    Utter nonsense. When the advice that’s given for avoiding rape doesn’t actually work? When nothing works because your rapist is manipulating the circumstances to be able to get away with it and the system is designed to ensure they get away with it? The only thing anyone can do to avoid being a victim that will actually work is to lock yourself up and never go out. It doesn’t matter a bit that nobody said so explicitly. It’s reality.

    And all of these risk avoidance tactics people advise women to use? Are designed to avoid stranger rape. Guess how often stranger rape happens. I’ll give you a hint: not very. As in maybe 10% of all rapes.

    And honestly your example of a bicycle helmet? Is frankly insulting. Where is the item I can grab off a shelf at Wal-Mart for $19.99 that’s going to prevent my rape and how is rape comparable to falling off your damn bike? “Gosh officer, I tripped on that rock there and next thing I knew my pants were off and my penis was inside her! It was the strangest thing!” Rape is an act committed by one human being against another. It’s not an accident or a natural disaster that can only be avoided by being somewhere else when it happens.

  4. smhll says

    There is no risk reduction strategy for an assault that has already happened that unravels time and makes it un-happen. So, in that circumstance, offering tips would be quite obnoxious.

    I’d also like to point out that “safety tips” from random commenters on the internet are often poorly thought out and quite useless.

    Advice like — don’t go to bad neighborhoods after dark is fairly tough for people who live in ‘bad’ neighborhoods because that’s what they can afford.

    Get a gun and learn to shoot is not good advice for someone who won’t pull the trigger before someone is close enough to grab the gun. I believe women who have guns for self-defense are more likely to have those guns used against them than to use them on an assailant successfully (statistically).

    Is there really (other than the new chem-detection nail polish) any new advice that women and other vulnerable people haven’t already heard?

    Thanks, Miri. I thought your arguments were terrific and well organized.

    For people who dislike the phrase “victim blaming”, as a mild substitute, please think of the not so great protective tips as a really overblown case of “Monday morning quarterbacking.” One actually cannot say for certain the exact outcome in life when a small variable is changed. (What would have happened if the Titanic lookout had had his binoculars. A second iceberg? Other, unexpected historical changes?)

    People who say “If you hadn’t left the house ten minutes early that day you wouldn’t have collided with that van” aren’t actually nice people in my book. I urge everyone not to be like that in an odd attempt to be “helpful”.

  5. Francisco Bacopa says

    Rape is just bullying with sexual assault involved. We have this narrative that bullies are angry loners, but quite the opposite is true. Bullies become popular by being bullies. Sure, a few bullies are loners from the wrong side of town, but they can get the approval of high-status bullies and join the ranks of the top dogs and queen bees.

    Likewise, date rapists are usually mid to high status individuals. They are few in number, but they have backup. Reduce this level of backup and almost none of them would rape. They thrive in rape culture, but would fade away as rape culture weakens.

    I was at my parent’s house this afternoon cutting out deadwood because it’s hurricane season. Somehow my mom likes to antagonize me as ultra-PC . She brought up a a couple of cases, and commented how in one case the fact that the victim was a “Good Girl ” prevented her from suffering further abuse. I told her I didn’t care whether she was a good girl or not, the coercive nature of the relationship means that there are no “Bad Girls”. Yes, I am glad that my father’s sister ditched her gig at the abusive pastor’s home and moved back to a piece of shit farm that could maybe support five kids but in no way could support nine and grandma was pregnant with number ten. But if Aunt L had not come home and gave in to the coercive sexual demands of the pastor does that make her a “Bad Girl” partly to blame?

    Gotta give my grandparents props that they left the SBC church and started attending the Christian Church DOC around the time my dad’s sister bailed from her gig. The CC-DOC helped my dad get his commercial truck license and helped his younger brother and two younger sisters go to college. Yeah, that’s Christian love. I am glad my father experienced it, though he was an atheist at that point.

    And then it came up again. I just said “I don’t care what any woman did or didn’t do. I may have my personal feelings, I believe they are corrupted lies. I will remain silent.

    I wonder if my mom brings it up so often because she was raped at UT in 58-61?

    • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

      Francisco Bacopa @ 5

      I wonder if my mom brings it up so often because she was raped at UT in 58-61?

      Obviously I can’t speak for your mother but it is pretty common for abuse victims to adopt victim blame-y attitudes at least in part because it implies that further abuse is preventable which is often preferable to feeling like there’s nothing you can do to stop it happening again.

  6. smrnda says

    I just thought – what if someone who robbed a house used the excuses used by rapists?

    If I left my house and clearly did not lock the door, and someone then went inside and took something and I reported it, I don’t think ‘well, she left with the door unlocked, so I assumed it was okay to take something” – not likely to work. However, a rapist can openly flaunt an equivalent ‘defense’ and will be taken seriously by a lot of people.

  7. Ed says

    This was a great explanation of how most rape prevention advice differs from, say, common sense discussions of avoiding being mugged or something.

    This kind of discourse usually centers on the minority of rapes which are sudden attacks by strangers. People who don’t understand or want to obscure the social and cultural aspects of rape talk like those cases are typical.

    To avoid rape by seemingly non-aggressive people that one already knows, a person would have to live a very isolated, regimented life. Since women are the primary (though far from only) victims, this advice means that women should shut themselves off from the world, which is simply not something practical for most people and would lead to a terrible quality of life if it was.

    No other anti-crime tips that I’m aware of have such a restrictive implication. And that is even before taking into account the specifically misogynistic content about clothing and so on.

    No other crime(besides non-sexual forms of of domestic violence) is so likely to be committed by a member of one’s close circle of supposedly trustworthy people. Yes, sometimes someone you thought was a friend turns out to be a thief or something, but stealing isn’t as harmful or normalized, and is not strongly linked statistically to close relationships.

    And there’s also something paternalistic and insulting about assuming that someone doesn’t know basic standards of safety that apply to all random street violence, sexual or not. Virtually all adults are well aware that spending much time in isolated, poorly lit areas can be risky, not to accept rides from strangers, and other guidelines like that.

  8. Thomas Hobbes says

    Excellent piece, thank you. I think it boils down to two questions: what can we reasonably expect from a woman to prevent being raped, and how do we respond when she does get raped?

    Well, sure not by telling the victim that it is her fault and defending the rapist because he has always been such a nice guy.

  9. Jackie says

    what can we reasonably expect from a woman to prevent being raped

    No.
    Just, no.

    Neither of your questions were, “How do we stop rapists from raping?”

    Why not?

    • Thomas Hobbes says

      @Jackie #9 – You’re right that’s the most important question, but I was responding on how society treats the women, not the rapists.

  10. Jack Fitz says

    Teaching my daughter not to walk alone at night will indirectly imply “if you do this, you might get raped (and it will be your fault for doing this). Not teaching my daughter not to walk alone at night may put her at risk. Miri, is it your position that there no way to pass on rape prevention advice aimed at potential victims that isn’t problematic? Is not teaching my daughter not to walk alone at night the lesser of two evils? Having a son would be easier because teaching him not to rape would be a no-brainer.

    • says

      I think there are practical things everyone of any gender can do to reduce their risk of violence and robbery that don’t have to do with rape, and it might be a good idea to give such advice to a child of any gender. It’s a good idea not to be alone in unsafe or unfamiliar areas at night, a good idea not to accept drinks from strangers, a good idea to develop a sense of when people are behaving suspiciously or dangerously and avoid those people. Remember that men, too, are at a risk of violence (sexual and otherwise) from other men. Not framing this as an issue of rape or femaleness specifically will help make it less victim-blamey.

      But also, it’s not as simple as “teaching [your] daughter not to walk alone at night.” You can tell her it’s a bad idea, and she’ll probably agree, but as she gets older, she will probably find that it is unavoidable. It is certainly unavoidable for me. And that’s really it, right there. You can have a conversation about safety tips that includes, “Try to bring a friend or take a cab if you can afford it” without being like “NEVER WALK ALONE AT NIGHT.” Remember to say, “I understand that sometimes you’ll need to,” or “I understand that sometimes your own cost-benefit analysis will lead you to do it.” Women are constantly admonished and blamed for doing things like walking alone at night when it is impossible to have a normal life that does not include at least occasionally walking alone at night.

      Finally, remember that a very small minority of rapes happen to someone who is walking alone at night. Most of them are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Unfortunately, it is unreasonable to ask your daughter not to socialize with men.

  11. Eristae says

    Teaching my daughter not to walk alone at night will indirectly imply “if you do this, you might get raped (and it will be your fault for doing this). Not teaching my daughter not to walk alone at night may put her at risk. Miri, is it your position that there no way to pass on rape prevention advice aimed at potential victims that isn’t problematic? Is not teaching my daughter not to walk alone at night the lesser of two evils? Having a son would be easier because teaching him not to rape would be a no-brainer.

    I’m so tired of “walking alone at night” being used as the whole, “Oh, clearly women shouldn’t be doing that!” default example. Statistically, your daughter is safer out walking at night by herself than she is being in the house with you. She’s safer out walking at night than she is at a friend’s house. She’s safer out walking at night than she is doing basically anything with anyone, especially if that “anyone” is a man. You want to keep your daughter safe from being raped? Keeping her inside after dark (even assuming it was plausible, and it isn’t) won’t work.

    I do all kinds of walking at night. It’s wonderful: no bright lights to give me migraines, no sun to give me sunburn, no people to have to struggle to interact with, cool air, few sounds . . . it’s glorious, and I would refuse to give it up even if it was risky. But you know what? I’ve been subjected to all kinds of groping, sexual abuse, lewd comments, etc, and not one of these situations happened while I was out walking at night. Not one. Broad daylight with people I know or semi-know? That’s where the danger lies.

  12. says

    Eristae #12

    I’m so tired of “walking alone at night” being used as the whole, “Oh, clearly women shouldn’t be doing that!” default example. Statistically, your daughter is safer out walking at night by herself than she is being in the house with you. She’s safer out walking at night than she is at a friend’s house. She’s safer out walking at night than she is doing basically anything with anyone, especially if that “anyone” is a man. You want to keep your daughter safe from being raped? Keeping her inside after dark (even assuming it was plausible, and it isn’t) won’t work.
    I do all kinds of walking at night. It’s wonderful: no bright lights to give me migraines, no sun to give me sunburn, no people to have to struggle to interact with, cool air, few sounds . . . it’s glorious, and I would refuse to give it up even if it was risky. But you know what? I’ve been subjected to all kinds of groping, sexual abuse, lewd comments, etc, and not one of these situations happened while I was out walking at night. Not one. Broad daylight with people I know or semi-know? That’s where the danger lies.

    (My bolding: I can say the same for myself.)

    This is worth repeating. Every single time the “walking at night” rule is brought up.

  13. Hunt says

    @13, 14. Highly dependent on exactly where you’re walking. Secluded, rural environment, yes. Dangerous inner city, no.

    • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

      No. It doesn’t matter where you are. Your rapist is far more likely to be known to you than someone opportunistically attacking you because you’re out alone at night.

    • smrnda says

      I think it’s a great error to assume that a secluded rural environment is safer than an ‘inner city’ if that is indeed what you are suggesting. In densely populated urban areas, wherever you go, there are always people around. In depopulated rural zones, it can be kind of scary since you may end up in the company of 1 or a few potentially hostile people with no other people around, and no buildings you can run into or towards, and no friends you can reach or contact quickly.

  14. Hunt says

    That’s not the assertion. Here’s the assertion:

    “Statistically, your daughter is safer out walking at night by herself than she is being in the house with you. She’s safer out walking at night than she is at a friend’s house. She’s safer out walking at night than she is doing basically anything with anyone, especially if that “anyone” is a man.”

    Yeah, kind of want to see the numbers on that one before I sign off on it.

    • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

      Yes it is the assertion unless you’re claiming that someone known to you is going to rape you while you’re out alone at night. Someone known to you is going to rape you while you’re with them.

      Here and here.

  15. Ze Madmax says

    *ahem*

    73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.

    [...]

    More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occured within 1 mile of their home or at their home.

    From https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-offenders

    So the numbers do indicate that a woman is at lower risk for sexual assault walking outside at night, compared to being at home/with an acquaintance. But you know, you could have a) looked these up yourself or, an even more outlandish idea, b) listen to the people whose experiences directly speak to this issue.

  16. Hunt says

    As I said before, this is all highly dependent on location and circumstance, while the original statement is unqualified. If your intention is to generate rhetorical sound bits, then this is the way to do it. “Out walking at night” can mean out walking in Bogota Columbia, and spending a night with a man can mean spending the night watching TV with your brother. Be specific and you can make a valid point, but of course, if you’re specific, it won’t be controversial.

    • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

      You know good and damn well what was meant, Hunt. You’ve been around FTB far too long to successfully pretend otherwise.

  17. Ze Madmax says

    Hunt @ #17:

    As I said before, this is all highly dependent on location and circumstance, while the original statement is unqualified.

    Except that the statement is not “unqualified:”

    Eristae @ #13:

    Statistically, your daughter is safer out walking at night by herself than she is being in the house with you. She’s safer out walking at night than she is at a friend’s house.

    Now one more time for those unaware that words have meaning*: The aggregate data on sexual assault shows that women, by and large, are at greater risk of being assaulted when in the company of an acquaintance compared to when they are by themselves.

    P.S.: Also, your hypothetical in #14 is not even right. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that the incidence of sexual assault in rural areas is actually greater than in urban areas (see http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvsv9410.pdf)

    P.P.S.: Also, Colombia != Columbia

  18. Eristae says

    Thanks to Seven of Mine and Ze Madmax for digging up those stats for me. I really appreciate it.

    Hunt:
    Two things. First, in reference to your statement about secluded rural vs dangerous inner city, I’m just going to put it out there that it isn’t at all clear that urban is actually more dangerous than rural.

    Having said that, I’ll move on to my second point, and that is to ask how exactly you feel that I should have clarified my statement. I personally do not feel that it is necessary to make clarifications like, “It’s very safe to walk alone at night, unless of course you’re walking alone at night through a minefield. Then you probably aren’t so safe.”

    Of course there are specific situations outside at night where a person isn’t safe, just like there are specific situations during the day when a person isn’t safe. It’s simply that “don’t go outside at night” is presented to women as a general rule, meant to apply in all situations despite the fact that the statistics simply don’t support the idea that being out at night, as a general rule that applies in all situations, is dangerous. I mean, there was a woman from the college that I attended who was abducted, raped, and murdered, and people took that opportunity to make comments about how they hoped this would teach women to not walk alone at night despite the fact that she had been kidnapped from a crowded mall parking lot in broad daylight! Yet none of these people spoke out against going to the mall in broad daylight. It doesn’t make any blasted sense, and I am beyond sick of it. Yes, something bad could happen to me outside, but something bad could happen to me inside, too. If I want to go outside, I should be able to do so without having it be simply accepted as a given that I’m being irresponsible.

  19. Hunt says

    I’m not going to bang my head against the wall trying to convince you that your statement is probably nonsense. If you really think sending your daughter out to walk at night (depending on where you live) is actually safer than staying at home, then that is your opinion to voice and hers to evaluate. If you live in a fairly safe area, then maybe you’re right. There’s always the chance your home might be invaded and by fluke she might avoid it exploring the neighborhood. If you live in a city or suburban area, then I think your advise is misguided.

    Here’s something to consider. Without actually addressing the statistics, you’ve got to be careful what a statement like “statistics show that women are safer outdoors than in” is actually telling you. Safety of an activity should really be expressed as a probability of mishap per time. Sure, the majority of rapes happen indoors, but the majority of time people spend is also indoors. So you may be taking a risky behavior and considering it safe relative to the brevity of time actually spent doing it. A woman is far more likely to be raped than eaten by a shark as well; however that doesn’t mean you should urge your daughter to engage in open water swimming for hours each day. At some point, you have to stand back and do a reality check. Is it really a good idea to formulate the meme that it’s better to walk anywhere you want at night because you’re actually safer than in a lighted place with people? I’m a largish man who enjoys the privilege (or at least enjoys the illusion) that I’m safe most places I go, and even *I* don’t give that one much credibility.

    • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

      Safety of an activity should really be expressed as a probability of mishap per time. Sure, the majority of rapes happen indoors, but the majority of time people spend is also indoors.

      You’re still assuming a stranger who is not targeting a specific individual; that it will happen eventually to whoever happens to be there. That’s absolute nonsense. The vast majority of rapists target specific victims who are known to them, who they know they can manipulate, etc. as Miri explained in the OP. That’s why we’ve been giving you statistics showing you how overwhelmingly often rapists are known to their victims.

      A woman is far more likely to be raped than eaten by a shark as well; however that doesn’t mean you should urge your daughter to engage in open water swimming for hours each day.

      Again, the shark is not targeting my daughter specifically. It’s existing in a place which is probably known to be frequented by sharks and it’s attacking her because she happens to be there. It would attack anyone who happened to be there. This is not how rape works.

  20. Hunt says

    Seven of Mine,
    At its heart, your argument is self-contradictory. Basically, you espouse ‘getting out of the house’ as a means to avoid rape because it minimizes exposure to risk; however, your argument isn’t one of risk exposure or rates of risk exposure. If a rapist is “targeting” a victim, he’s going to account for any ‘out of house’ time, and simply strike when the time is right. The entire indoor/outdoor argument is entirely irrelevant and should just be skipped in preference for other concerns, like exposure to crime in general when one is out and about as opposed to indoors. The argument is incoherent.

  21. Hunt says

    What you’re actually arguing is for rape profiling. What are the characteristics of a rapist. Who should be considered a potential rapist and who shouldn’t? A rapist is usually someone ‘known’ to you. That is a very broad specification. I ‘know’ probably several hundred people that I have no intimate knowledge about whatsoever. It verges on tautology. Rapists are usually known to a person because people known to a person have contact with that person. A person who doesn’t know you will never be your rapist, unless you happen to a victim stranger rape, which is rare.

    • smrnda says

      You seem to have inadvertently figured out why there is no sensible advice you can give women to avoid getting raped. Yes, rapists are people who will appear normal, won’t likely appear threatening and they won’t stand out.

  22. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Hunt

    At its heart, your argument is self-contradictory. Basically, you espouse ‘getting out of the house’ as a means to avoid rape because it minimizes exposure to risk; however, your argument isn’t one of risk exposure or rates of risk exposure.

    No, that’s not what anyone is saying. We’re talking about living your damn life; not going out for the explicit purpose of avoiding the risk of rape. Which you know full well. You’re just deflecting and derailing.

    The entire indoor/outdoor argument is entirely irrelevant and should just be skipped in preference for other concerns, like exposure to crime in general when one is out and about as opposed to indoors.

    We would be skipping it altogether if rape apologists didn’t keep bringing it up as the be-all-end-all rape prevention tactic. That’s entirely the point. Which you also know.

    What you’re actually arguing is for rape profiling.

    Uh, no it’s not because, as I pointed out above, and as you well know, we’re not advocating wandering around in dangerous parts of town alone at night as a risk avoidance tactic. We’re arguing that advising women to avoid ever going out alone at night specifically as a rape avoidance tactic is a useless and reality-denying exercise. Which you know.

    You’re going to hurt someone if you keep whipping those goalposts around like that.

  23. Hunt says

    “No, that’s not what anyone is saying. We’re talking about living your damn life; not going out for the explicit purpose of avoiding the risk of rape. Which you know full well. You’re just deflecting and derailing.”

    No, I’m not deflecting and derailing. Why are you so eager to assume the worst? As originally stated by Eristae, my inference is quite natural, but perhaps, you may be pleased to know, I now realize, probably mistaken. Paraphrase, “it’s safer to walk outside at night than to do anything with a man” is easily construed as a risk avoidance tactic. But, fine, I concede the point.

    • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

      Why are you so eager to assume the worst?

      It’s called pattern recognition, Hunt.

  24. Hunt says

    “She’s safer out walking at night than she is doing basically anything with anyone, especially if that “anyone” is a man.”

    Which, BTW, is one hell of a zinger. But, some other day.

  25. Eristae says

    Hunt:

    Do you have any idea how teeth grindingly frustrating it is to have someone demand “see the numbers on that one before I sign off on it” and then refuse to deal with the numbers? Because let me tell you, it’s frustrating. It’s also profoundly frustrating to have someone insist that you provide evidence and prove yourself and then not provide any themselves.

    Fine. You want to insist that going out at night alone is some massively dangerous activity that young women need to universally be discouraged from doing? You want to dispute my belief that it isn’t? Then prove it. Three people here have taken the time to provide you with statistics and citations that you have brushed aside “without actually addressing” them because you felt it was reasonable to ask for people to take time out of their lives to find statistics and citations even when you apparently don’t actually want them. You can have the common courtesy to do the same: show us the citations and statistics that show that women are in greater danger outside by themselves at night than they are elsewhere. Show us the evidence. Show us the numbers. Back up what you are saying.

  26. Hunt says

    Eristae,
    Look, I’ve conceded the point! You and ‘Seven of Mine’, in his or her irritable way, have corrected my misapprehension. Yes, warning women to not walk alone at night is probably not generally sound. There are still problems with the argument on theoretical grounds, and I’m not sure I want to deal with Seven of Mine enough to even bring up, but for the purposes of your point, I agree.

  27. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Yes, Hunt. I get really irritable when dishonest people attempt to refute an argument by bald assertion, demand statistics then refuse to look at them, then move the goalposts repeatedly til they back themselves into a corner and then whine that they’d love to actually defend their claims but they just can’t because people are being so very mean to them. *eyeroll*

  28. hoary puccoon says

    I was sexually assaulted (not raped, but I think that was only because a witness happened along) by a male acquaintance who insisted on walking me home in order to “protect” me! You’re damn straight I would have been safer walking alone that night.

  29. hoary puccoon says

    re @ 30–

    Also, I was cold sober and returning from work. Funny how all those other nights when I returned alone nobody molested me, isn’t it?

  30. Eristae says

    Hunt:

    I’m tired, sick, depressed, and I have to go to work, so I’ll try to keep this brief.

    If Seven of Mine is irritable right now (and I think Seven of Mine has been remarkably cordial to you) it’s because you’re being irritating. From the beginning you’ve been sitting there throwing out barbed comments like “Be specific and you can make a valid point, but of course, if you’re specific, it won’t be controversial” and “I’m not going to bang my head against the wall trying to convince you that your statement is probably nonsense” while demanding that we spend time and energy looking up statistics that you ultimately don’t want to look at. You have “conceded the point” but are careful to make sure to point out that there are “problems” with our argument that you aren’t going to spend your time on.

    A lot of us here, including myself, are bone achingly tired of going through this kind of interaction. For many of us, it just isn’t fun to spend our time trying to justify our existence in certain spheres (like the outdoors at night) to people who want us to spend more time and energy on our beliefs than they are willing to spend on their own. You urge us to do a “reality check” when it comes to the dangers of being outdoors at night, but you haven’t done any fact checking into it yourself.

    Whether or not it’s safe for women to be outside after dark isn’t theoretical to me. I have to make decisions about this reality today. I work the evening shift. When I get off after work, it will be dark. Will it be safe for me to walk from my workplace to my car? Is it acceptable to park my car on the street instead of in the parking lot? After I’m done with work, can I take my dog for a walk to unwind, help me sleep, and get some exercise? Is it safe for me to take a job where I am required to get off work after dark at all? These are all questions that I have had to answer in reality, not just in theory. So yes, this is somewhat of an emotional topic for me. I don’t like being required to make real life decisions with real life consequences based on real life experience and real life data and then having those decisions being dismissed as “nonsense” by people who have only theory and no data because they don’t feel it is important to gather anything else before passing judgement.

    Now, I’m going to go get dressed for work. I won’t be back for hours. It will be well after dark after I get off work. I may take my dog for a walk if I feel physically up to it. And I’m not going to be afraid.

    • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

      Well said Eristae. Indeed it is tiring. Hunt is one of those plausible deniability type trolls. He shows up in a space periodically, derails and gently pushes buttons and then, right when people are beginning to get noticeably frustrated with him, disappears for some time. This way they never get banned and can plausibly pass their behavior off as innocent cluelessness. Even though they seem familiar, it’s been such a long time and people aren’t quite sure what thread they last saw them in or if they’re even remembering correctly. They’re deliberately trying to make it difficult to pick up on a pattern of behavior from them.

      • Hunt says

        Well sorry for existing. This may seem unbelievable to you, but I have time requirements as well, and I don’t choose to be a regular on FtB because the blogs here usually turn me off, and I despise commenters like you. Thanks for explicitly stating that your preference would be to gather enough information to have me banned. What, have I deviated a bit too much from the script? That’s exactly what I have suspected of your motivation. Pattern recognition. Talk about having preconceived bias.

        • says

          Well sorry for existing.

          Hunt, Seven of Mine and Eristae were crystal-clear on what it is they think you did wrong. Whether or not you agree with that, it’s pretty clear that they don’t think that the problem here is your existence, so there’s no need to passive-aggressively apologize.

          Now, if the blogs here turn you off so much, you are welcome to discontinue reading and commenting on them. I’m interested in discussing stuff with people who are interested in reading my writing and discussing it with me, whether or not they agree. If it “turns you off” and you read and comment anyway, that suggests to me that you’re a troll who isn’t genuinely invested in discussing any of this with us.

        • says

          And by the way, Seven of Mine cannot “have” you banned. Nobody here can “have” anyone banned. The only person who can ban anyone here is me. I haven’t banned you and I’m not going to unless your behavior changes substantially.

          • Hunt says

            I’m not the one you should be directing that to. S of M is the one insinuating that I’m engaged in some kind of deceptive tactic.

        • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

          No Hunt, I don’t want to have you banned, not least because, as I pointed out, you seem to very carefully make sure to back off before the situation gets to that point. What I want from you is a willingness to put as much effort into your own arguments as you clearly expect from others. Eristae pointed out some time back that you asked for statistics and then, when several people dug multiple sources up for you, you just moved the goal posts. Then you finally “concede” the point, but not without first getting in a final dig that you still have problems with it “theoretically” but can’t be troubled to say what or defend the position.

          And I find it really difficult to believe that you genuinely misunderstood that Eristae wasn’t talking about going out at night in an attempt to avoid the risk of staying at home. You’ve been around FTB for a long time and I simply don’t believe that this is the first time you’ve encountered anyone expressing a similar idea. And if it is the first time, as Miri said, that smacks strongly of you not actually trying to engage meaningfully because it’s a very 101 idea that gets brought up all the time.

          • Hunt says

            Well if I know how to back off before banishment, it doesn’t seem to be serving me well, since I’m either outright banned or as good as banned on three FtB blogs that I can think of.

    • Hunt says

      First, the stats provided don’t prove your point for the reason that I mentioned. They are insufficient to show that walking alone at night is safe for women. In fact, they don’t even begin to prove that. It’s entirely possible that the current pattern of behavior often demonstrated by women of their own volition (whether due to fear mongering or not) is what is keeping them safe. Neither you, nor anyone else, has proven your case. I’ve changed my mind because I realized that I misinterpreted exactly what you’re saying, and my “gut feeling” is that you’re probably right. I don’t have the time or resources to find studies that might prove or disprove your case, IF they happen to exist.
      Second, this is supposed to be a blog, as in a discussion of the OP. Nobody is forcing you at gunpoint to engage with me or anyone else.
      And finally, I’m sorry you’re not feeling great.

      • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

        I don’t have the time or resources to find studies that might prove or disprove your case

        See. This. You don’t have the time or resources to find studies but you feel perfectly comfortable asking it of others.

        And no, nobody is being held at gunpoint to engage with you but, when you ask for something and someone obliges, and then you don’t even engage with it or show any willingness to put the same effort into the defense of your own position, others rightly find that frustrating.

        • Hunt says

          I initially responded to an extremely open-ended assertion, suggesting some qualification should be applied. Whether or not rural or urban settings are more dangerous, that is a minor point of correction and not the main one. Go ahead and look back up the thread. It’s all there in black and white. It was a very conservative point. From there a few general studies were cited, which IMO don’t prove the point. How can you statistically assess the risk women face walking at night when so few do it? But suddenly it becomes received wisdom that solid proof has been provided, and it’s up to me to disprove it. Well, sorry SM, I’m not playing the game if the deck has been stacked.

          • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

            The point is that, if a rapist is known to you, usually an intimate partner, they’re not jumping out from behind bushes at you as you stroll through the park alone. Even if the rapist chose to take that approach, and you even hinted at this before, that would be because the rapist planned it that way because they knew of the victim’s habit of being alone in a secluded place at that time of day. It’s not just a random occurrence; it requires the presence in the victim’s life of someone specifically targeting them for rape. It doesn’t speak to the general safety for all women of being in that place at that time of day. Therefor, statistics showing rapists are known to their victims the vast majority of the time indirectly speak to the relative safety of being outside alone at night. If 90% of rapists are known to their victims, that only leaves 10% of rapists opportunistically jumping out from behind bushes at random women who just happen to be passing by.

            Further, statistics showing most rapes occur in the victim’s own home speak directly to it. I don’t remember which study off the top of my head, but one of them even showed a majority of victims reporting that the activity they were engaging in before the rape happened was sleeping which is a pretty strong indicator that the rapist is someone with access to the victim’s house. And again, the majority of perpetrators are intimate partners, like 60+ %, another 30-ish % are known in other ways to the victims.

            Your assertions about mishaps over a unit of time were utter nonsense which treat rape as if it’s a natural disaster which happens at a certain rate in certain locations regardless of any other context. It’s not. It’s a deliberate, targeted act committed by one person against another person in circumstances manipulated by the rapist to ensure they avoid consequences.

            How can you statistically assess the risk women face walking at night when so few do it?

            How do you know that few women walk outside at night? Define “few”, then define “so few”. You’re making claims of your own and expecting others to simply take your word and then demanding statistics from us and then rejecting them out of hand with no explanation other than “I don’t think so.”

            But suddenly it becomes received wisdom that solid proof has been provided, and it’s up to me to disprove it.

            It’s up to you to have something to say about it other than “IMO [they] don’t prove the point” especially when you’re the one who asked to see them. Eristae made a claim and you made a counter claim. If you’re right there, should be statistics that show that. If you’re not willing to support your own claims then don’t make them in the first place. You’re dealing with people who are used to being expected to have citations ready to hand by people unwilling to similarly support their own claims. You’re not going to find anyone willing to just take your word for anything.

          • says

            How can you statistically assess the risk women face walking at night when so few do it?

            It looks to me like you’re assuming that walking at night is mainly for pleasure. Have you considered the huge number of women who come home every night from work well after dark? The ones who are taking evening classes? The ones who live in the north, where dark starts around 5 PM in the winter? The women who work evening shifts, both going and coming from work after dark?

            And in all that daily walking at night, they are still more likely to be raped after they get home, to “safety”.

          • Hunt says

            Your assertions about mishaps over a unit of time were utter nonsense which treat rape as if it’s a natural disaster which happens at a certain rate in certain locations regardless of any other context. It’s not. It’s a deliberate, targeted act committed by one person against another person in circumstances manipulated by the rapist to ensure they avoid consequences.

            That’s far more true of ‘known’ rapists than ‘stranger’ rape. Even if the stranger is planning the rape, unbeknownst to the victim, risk of stranger rape will follow a ‘rate’ model at least approximately. But to settle the matter definitively, one would need to study the MO of rapists (and no, I haven’tlooked). The percent of stranger rape, according to the DOJ study you linked before, is 16.7% as of 2000. That’s rare-“er” but far from rare, considering the total incidence of rape.

            How do you know that few women walk outside at night? Define “few”, then define “so few”. You’re making claims of your own and expecting others to simply take your word and then demanding statistics from us and then rejecting them out of hand with no explanation other than “I don’t think so.”

            I don’t know! I’m guessing. It’s an anecdotally informed guess, but it’s a guess. But you’re guessing too! Again, it’s back to swimming with the sharks. Humm, we don’t hear much of shark attack. It must be safe to swim in the ocean. Either that, or people spend very little time doing it, right?

            It’s up to you to have something to say about it other than “IMO [they] don’t prove the point” especially when you’re the one who asked to see them. Eristae made a claim and you made a counter claim. If you’re right there, should be statistics that show that. If you’re not willing to support your own claims then don’t make them in the first place.

            My claim was that their claim was ill-supported, and I’ve been arguing fairly consistently from the start. None of it seems to be registering, but I have. I don’t need to make any more positive claim than that. I don’t have to come up with jack in terms of a counter claim. Just showing, even in theory, or perhaps especially so, that there are problems with the initial claim is a valid point in itself. Perhaps this is the pattern you speak of. If so, you’re going to be met with consistent frustration throughout your debating career. Blowing holes in bad argument is a rather common technique.

          • Hunt says

            It looks to me like you’re assuming that walking at night is mainly for pleasure. Have you considered the huge number of women who come home every night from work well after dark? The ones who are taking evening classes? The ones who live in the north, where dark starts around 5 PM in the winter? The women who work evening shifts, both going and coming from work after dark?

            All I can say is that the majority of women I have known avoid night walking like the plague. It’s a sad commentary on the modern world, but there it is. They take pains to park close to entrances if they know they’re leaving work at night, they hurry to their cars, etc.

            I have to say one thing: this whole discussion is truly in striking contrast to the usual one in its place that nearly always laments the necessity of doing this, and in fact highlights that as the oppressing factor.

          • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

            Your assertions about mishaps over a unit of time were utter nonsense which treat rape as if it’s a natural disaster which happens at a certain rate in certain locations regardless of any other context. It’s not. It’s a deliberate, targeted act committed by one person against another person in circumstances manipulated by the rapist to ensure they avoid consequences.

            That’s far more true of ‘known’ rapists than ‘stranger’ rape. Even if the stranger is planning the rape, unbeknownst to the victim, risk of stranger rape will follow a ‘rate’ model at least approximately. But to settle the matter definitively, one would need to study the MO of rapists (and no, I haven’tlooked). The percent of stranger rape, according to the DOJ study you linked before, is 16.7% as of 2000. That’s rare-”er” but far from rare, considering the total incidence of rape.

            I know it’s far more true of known rapists than stranger rapists. That’s the point. That known rapists are far more common than stranger rapists so, when you talk about rape like it’s something committed by strangers (which is what you’re doing by wanting to look at it as mishaps per unit of time) you’re only addressing 15-20% of rapes.

            How do you know that few women walk outside at night? Define “few”, then define “so few”. You’re making claims of your own and expecting others to simply take your word and then demanding statistics from us and then rejecting them out of hand with no explanation other than “I don’t think so.”

            I don’t know! I’m guessing. It’s an anecdotally informed guess, but it’s a guess. But you’re guessing too!

            I made no claims about how many women walk alone at night.

            Again, it’s back to swimming with the sharks. Humm, we don’t hear much of shark attack. It must be safe to swim in the ocean. Either that, or people spend very little time doing it, right?

            And shark attacks are still random, opportunistic events and thus not analogous to the vast majority of rapes.

            My claim was that their claim was ill-supported, and I’ve been arguing fairly consistently from the start. None of it seems to be registering, but I have.

            You have not demonstrated that the claim is ill-supported. You’ve asserted that it is and moved the goal posts.

            I don’t need to make any more positive claim than that. I don’t have to come up with jack in terms of a counter claim.

            Are you seriously saying that you can just claim whatever the hell you want without supporting it? Someone said X is safer than Y (alone at night vs. people you know at any time). You then claimed that a certain kind of X was more dangerous than another kind of X (rural vs. urban). You only even obliquely addressed the claim let alone showed you were right.

            Just showing, even in theory, or perhaps especially so, that there are problems with the initial claim is a valid point in itself.

            You haven’t shown anything, even in theory. You’ve made assertions based on ill-informed assumptions and then failed to address the rebuttals to those assertions.

            Blowing holes in bad argument is a rather common technique.

            Sure it is, but you haven’t blown any holes in anything.

            I have to say one thing: this whole discussion is truly in striking contrast to the usual one in its place that nearly always laments the necessity of doing this, and in fact highlights that as the oppressing factor.

            For a woman who works a job where she gets off at night, it is a necessity. It’s not always an option to get a job where you finish in the day. If you’re not skilled and you’re a new employee, you don’t get to pick your shifts. If you’re poor you may not even have a driver’s license let alone the ability to afford a car. Which is why, when oblivious people say “well don’t go out alone at night” it’s frustrating because it’s useless advice for someone who has no other option. And it is an oppressing factor because there’s so much emphasis on pulling yourself up by your bootstraps in this culture and that attitude reckons completely without how many people are in situations where their hands are effectively tied. And that circumstance of your hands being tied is cultivated and maintained by our culture.

          • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

            Also, if you want to be taken seriously saying this:

            My claim was that their claim was ill-supported, and I’ve been arguing fairly consistently from the start.

            Then you need to address this explanation of how the data we produced does support the claim:

            The point is that, if a rapist is known to you, usually an intimate partner, they’re not jumping out from behind bushes at you as you stroll through the park alone. Even if the rapist chose to take that approach, and you even hinted at this before, that would be because the rapist planned it that way because they knew of the victim’s habit of being alone in a secluded place at that time of day. It’s not just a random occurrence; it requires the presence in the victim’s life of someone specifically targeting them for rape. It doesn’t speak to the general safety for all women of being in that place at that time of day. Therefor, statistics showing rapists are known to their victims the vast majority of the time indirectly speak to the relative safety of being outside alone at night. If 90% of rapists are known to their victims, that only leaves 10% of rapists opportunistically jumping out from behind bushes at random women who just happen to be passing by.

            Further, statistics showing most rapes occur in the victim’s own home speak directly to it. I don’t remember which study off the top of my head, but one of them even showed a majority of victims reporting that the activity they were engaging in before the rape happened was sleeping which is a pretty strong indicator that the rapist is someone with access to the victim’s house. And again, the majority of perpetrators are intimate partners, like 60+ %, another 30-ish % are known in other ways to the victims.

          • Hunt says

            I made no claims about how many women walk alone at night.

            I’ll take one more run at this and then I have to go to bed. I’m not getting the point across, and it’s probably my fault. The whole argument you’re advancing, Eristae’s original assertion, rests on the implicit assumption that enough women walk alone at night so that YOUR argument has something to say about its relative safety. It’s a subtle point and maybe you’re again going to charge me with goalpost moving, but it’s been there in my position from the start. Let’s do a thought experiment to show that this must, must!, be true. If walking at night is extraordinarily dangerous, yet no women do it, then there is no possible way you would know about it, no matter what evidence you adduce. You must be concerned with how many women walk alone at night, otherwise your argument is incoherent. QED That’s pretty much the entire point I’ve been trying to make. There isn’t enough info to settle the matter because nobody seems to know how much women are already walking at night, and my contention is that they probably aren’t doing much. And lest you say that it’s couldn’t possibly be extraordinarily dangerous, you will be pleased that I’ve actually done some homework. According to RAINN, there are about 237K rapes per year in the US. 90% are women and, say 15% are stranger rape, making about 32,000 stranger rapes of women per year.

  31. Biba says

    We should finally release this seriously sad and distorted belief that women have some responsibility for this. A very deep understanding of the crime of rape here: [link removed] It is worth watching.

    [I've removed your link because it links to a video spouting pseudoscientific bullshit, but allowed the rest of the comment because it's otherwise appropriate. Do not spread pseudoscience here. It is not welcome. -Miri]

  32. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    I’m not the one you should be directing that to. S of M is the one insinuating that I’m engaged in some kind of deceptive tactic.

    I’m describing a pattern of behavior that I’ve seen from you and numerous others during my time in social justice spaces that seems very carefully crafted to produce a certain result. If that’s not what you’re doing then maybe you should think about altering the way you interact because I’m clearly not the only one doubting the purity of your motives.

  33. queequack says

    I’ve never really thought about number 8 before. I guess it’s true, although I think we’re more looking at the consequence of a difference in physical strength than anything else. Like I’m not sure if it’s really the case that straight-presenting people are more likely to sexually assault queer-presenting people. I’ve never seen any sort of study on it, anyway.

  34. Eristae says

    Hunt:

    You repeatedly insist that you aren’t making any positive claims and thus don’t have to prove anything, but that simply is not true. Right now you are claiming that our statistics don’t apply because so few women are outside at night. You are arguing that it is more dangerous for women outside but that our statistics don’t reflect that because women spend most of their time outside. You are arguing that our argument is “ill supported” because the rates of women being raped outside at night is higher than the rates of women being raped inside at other times, but that the ultimate number of women who are inside is higher than the rate of women who are outside.

    That is a positive claim. You need to back that up.

    And I’m sorry, but you don’t get to use “All I can say is that the majority of women I have known avoid night walking like the plague” as justification and then demand peer reviewed statistics from us. Because you know what? The majority of women I’ve known have gone outside at night at night at various times in their lives. No, scratch that. Every women I have ever known has gone outside at night by herself. Every single one. And not one has been accosted while she was alone outside at night. Not one. Every single woman I have ever known who has been sexually assaulted had it happen inside with someone she knew. Every. Freaking. One. If you want to dismiss my personal experience out of hand, you don’t get to then insist that I accept your’s. If I have to give statistics, so do you. Show me evidence that most women being raped inside by someone they know is purely because women spend most of the time indoors with people they know and has nothing to do with the fact that they are inside with someone they know.

    • Hunt says

      You are arguing that it is more dangerous for women outside but that our statistics don’t reflect that because women spend most of their time outside.

      I assume you mean “inside” at the end. Yes.

      You are arguing that our argument is “ill supported” because the rates of women being raped outside at night is higher than the rates of women being raped inside at other times, but that the ultimate number of women who are inside is higher than the rate of women who are outside.

      I don’t remember arguing that, exactly, but that’s good. :-) But yeah, that’s it. If women are spending very little time walking at night, there’s no way statistically to spot the danger. The danger would only become apparent with an increasing trend of women walking at night. I can’t back it up with numbers. I don’t have the numbers. It’s only a theoretical point.

      The majority of women I’ve known have gone outside at night at night at various times in their lives. No, scratch that. Every women I have ever known has gone outside at night by herself. Every single one. And not one has been accosted while she was alone outside at night. Not one. Every single woman I have ever known who has been sexually assaulted had it happen inside with someone she knew. Every. Freaking. One.

      Then that indicates, by anecdote, that public opinion is skewed toward over caution. I have no problem with that.

  35. Fionnabhair says

    So, going back to the RAIIN stats for a moment, 4 of every 10 rapes or sexual assaults take place inside the victim’s home. While there’s no breakdown indicating how many of those assaults are committed by a stranger verses a non-stranger, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the rate of non-stranger rapes/sexual assaults that happen in the victim’s home is higher than the overall rate of stranger verses non-stranger rapes/sexual assaults.

    2 in 10 rapes/sexual assaults occur in the home of a friend, neighbour or relative.

    Most rapes (67% verses 33%) do take place at night, where “night” is defined as the period of time stretching from 6pm to 6am. Still, there’s not much intersection between the 4 in 10 rapes that could potentially occur outside* and at night. Now consider that 73% of sexual assaults are committed by a non-stranger (28% by an intimate partner, 7% by a relative). When all of this data is taken into account, the advice telling a woman not to walk alone at night really is quite terrible, because it really DOES look like she is safer doing that than being at home, or in the home of someone she knows. Walking alone at night is almost certainly safer than being at home if one lives with an intimate partner.


    *But this is being generous, and only because RAIIN isn’t giving data for rapes/sexual assaults that occur at, say, a place of business, public transit, the home of a stranger, etc
    **Sadly, there’s no gender breakdown of any of these numbers, so I can’t eliminate non-women victims to best illustrate the point

  36. Eristae says

    Hunt:

    Two more things.

    1) I want you to back up your assertion that my original statement applies, and I quote, “@13, 14. Highly dependent on exactly where you’re walking. Secluded, rural environment, yes. Dangerous inner city, no.” You have been saying that you feel my statement is reasonable, but only if I place additional qualifiers on it, such as “Secluded, rural environment, yes. Dangerous inner city, no.”

    2) What exactly are you trying to get at by arguing all this? What is your point? Because it seems to me that right now you’re saying that your only point is that there is no way to know if women are safe when they go outside after dark or not. If that’s the case, I’m going to be peeved. I don’t get to wait until statistics exist that are significant enough to convince you of anything before I decide whether or not I’m going outside at night. You may have the privilege of sitting here and saying something on par with, “Well, no one can know if it’s safe for her to go outside or not!” but I do not. Every bloody day I exist as a woman at night and I have to make a decision as to whether or not its safe for me to go outside.

    Now, I have to go to work again.

    • Hunt says

      #1 I’m not sure what you want here. All I was trying to say is that there are more and less dangerous places on Earth. That was the whole “walking in Bogota” thing.

      #2 No, I’m not saying that. See my response in 39. To recap, my goal is to prevent the meme that it’s safe for women to walk at night when nobody is justified saying it as a broad statement. That doesn’t mean that women aren’t safer than what public opinion would have them believe. You can be right for the wrong reasons, or you can be right for unjustified reasons.

  37. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    There isn’t enough info to settle the matter because nobody seems to know how much women are already walking at night, and my contention is that they probably aren’t doing much.

    *sigh* So. There isn’t enough information to produce a direct objective, measure of how dangerous walking alone at night is for women. Which is true because it requires knowing how often and where every woman on the planet walks alone at night. You might as well try to figure out how many people in the world were bitten by mosquitoes in the last 60 seconds.

    So, we have women who need to make actual real time, real life decisions about what risks are reasonable to take. We can’t produce a statistic with Hunt-approved levels of accuracy so we have to use the background knowledge that we have which is…

    wait for it….

    …the statistics regarding how often rapists are known to their victims since we can reasonably infer that there is not a great deal of overlap between “out alone at night rapes” and acquaintance/intimate partner rapes. No, it doesn’t prove the claim but it supports it and it’s the best we can do.

    Congratulations, Hunt. You just demonstrated that you had no grounds to object to Eristae’s claim in the first place.

    • Hunt says

      I think we’re now verging on beating a dead equine territory, so this will probably be my last comment on this topic. If you don’t think I have anything worthy to say on it by now then I doubt anything more from me will change that. I simply don’t think we know enough to make general statements about walking at night. Yes, I realize that misconstrues Eristae’s original point, which was that Eristae is tired of “walking at night” being a prime example of warning without statistical backing. However, that still doesn’t mean it’s safe, and if a TAKE BACK THE NIGHT movement spawns itself on that pretext, resulting in increased rape, and ten years from now some expert has so say something like “The public was misled because no statistics at the time had the power to indicate the level of danger,” (and honestly, how many times have you heard something similar) wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had thought of that now, not then.
      There’s a million ways to be wrong with statistics, and only one way to be entirely right. That should be everyone’s mantra. If you’re making a rhetorical point about the lack of statistical support to general public consensus, then fine. If you’re using statistics to justify behavior counter to general pubic consensus, then you’d better make sure you’re justified doing it.
      The general public consensus applies to women and men. When people talk about walking at night not being a good idea for women (or men), they’re talking about total violent crime, not just sexual assault, though sexual assault is often the focus of discussion. Sexual assault stas won’t bear on those other types of violent crime.
      So what is the bottom line (for me, anyway)? I thought Miri’s original response was a good one. Yes, women will have to walk at night. If individual risk assessment tells you you’re safe, and you’ve balanced costs and benefits, trust your instincts and they will probably keep you safe. DON’T cavort in the dark because you think some bogus statistical argument means you’re safe.

      • Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

        However, that still doesn’t mean it’s safe, and if a TAKE BACK THE NIGHT movement spawns itself on that pretext, resulting in increased rape, and ten years from now some expert has so say something like “The public was misled because no statistics at the time had the power to indicate the level of danger,” (and honestly, how many times have you heard something similar) wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had thought of that now, not then.

        Well, Hunt, if that happens, we’ll be sure to let you know so you can tell us all you told us so. *eyeroll*

  38. hoary puccoon says

    Let me see if I got this straight. I should realize that it’s completely foolhardy to take a 9-to-5 job in a city where, in the late fall and early winter, it’s dark at 5:00 pm. And anything that happens to me while going straight home from work is my own fault. However, if a man corners me in an elevator at 4:00 am and tries to get me to go to his hotel room alone with him, without telling anyone else where I’ll be, I should understand that’s just a “polite invitation to coffee,” and not even think it could be potentially dangerous!

    Did I get that right, guys?

  39. Nathanael says

    This seems like a good time to refer to the Panther Players’ radio sketch, “He was asking for it”.

    I cannot find a copy on the Internet, sadly. :-( It used to be played regularly on _Weekend Radio_. I should track down a copy and try to get it wider publication; the group still exists.

    http://homepages.sover.net/~panthers/cd.htm

Trackbacks