Nineteen young women have been sexually assaulted after partying in Wellington’s central city this year, with most too drunk to remember what happened.
Police say the number of attacks on drunk young women is growing. “They are binge-drinking, make poor choices and can’t keep themselves safe,” Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Borrell said. “That’s a worry and that’s the preventable part of it.”
I won’t even try to compete with Queen of Thorns ability to express (out)rage, so this is after several deep breaths.
Is Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Borrell seriously intending to say that women are responsible when someone sexually assaults them? And that addressing rapists’ behaviour is not the way to prevent rape?
To be fair to him, he does go on to say that
“It’s up to friends of victims and potential offenders to do something about it. In my view, if something does happen, all of us have failed that person.”
So apparently it’s not entirely the young victim’s fault, it’s also the responsibility of her friends and (yay) the rapist’s friends, oh and pretty much everyone except the rapist (whose behaviour is apparently unpreventable).
I’ll leave the final words to Helen Sullivan, Wellington Sexual Abuse Help Foundation general manager, who says what the Police should have
“Why should the whole responsibility for a situation be put on women? The bottom line is we should be able to walk down the street or do anything without the threat of sexual violence.”
This post is ripe for a “redbaiter” or “dad4justice” misogynistic faux pas. Let’s just hope that “cactus kate” doesn’t get the blogsphere in an uproar by posting one of her little pieces of female misogyny … i remember her opining that “women shouldn’t complain about sexual harassment seeing as they should be able to put any man in their place, and if they can’t they’ve “failed as a woman”!? I’m starting to credit the theory that she derives her handle from her having a mescaline habit.
You wonder how progressive movements move society forward with dead-weights like this around our necks.
roger, worse are those who claim to be within the progressive movement but who hold much the same sort of positions as the three eminent regressives you’ve mentioned.
I hear you lew – “big jim” comes to mind ……
Meanwhile, back in the real world…
Does being able to “do anything” without the risk of sexual violence include:
– getting blind drunk.
– letting strangers buy your drinks for you.
– getting a lift home with a stranger.
– leaving your drunk mate behind at the club.
No-one is suggesting that the “whole responsibility” rests with women, but the reality is that there are some bad bastards out there who will take advantage of a situation. Always has been, always will be. There is no utopia where sexual predators do not exist, so once you accept that reality then the best advice you can give women is that a little planning ahead of the evening and taking a few precautions will go a long way to keeping her safe.
Pat, the point is that, of all the people who Police say ought to be modified, one group is missing: rapists. Of all the people being urged to take responsibility for their actions, the people actually committing the crime are exempt. You might think this was due to an assumption that rapists are evil predators lurking in dark allies someplace, but it’s not so:
If rapists stop raping – and if otherwise-decent people are made sufficiently aware that what they might be considering is rape, and that it’s not ok – the problem will be solved. Nothing else will solve it.
A. “Rapists” are not going to stop raping.
B. “Otherwise decent” men have some responsibility – no question. But there is a whole lot of grey in your black and white world. I’ve been married 20 years and can think of several occasions when after a night of drinking my wife has been, shall we say, enthusiastically amorous, but then can’t remember a damn thing in the morning. Did I rape her? Most emphatically, no. So I can understand how a young man and a young woman who have been drinking can get themselves into a situation where one’s recollection of events differs from the other.
Anita, do you think the point is a valid one – forget all implications of blaming the victim, or anyone apart from the real criminal for that matter. Do you think it is at all a valid or useful point to make (specifically, that it is in your best interests to not make yourself a target)?
I had a lot more to say but it all really depends on this.
The problem is that ‘rapists’ are, by and large, ‘otherwise decent men’ who haven’t done enough to secure consent. Rape, particularly date rape and acquaintance rape, isn’t something perpetrated by nefarious career-crims – it’s people who make poor decisions, or think they can get away with it, and they largely do so because society doesn’t enforce a sufficiently high standard of conduct around sexual relationships or the acquisition and verification of consent. part of that is the ‘they’ve only got themselves (and their friends) to blame’ attitude illustrated by this article.
And with due respect, if you don’t think things are different between you and your wife of 20 years and two people who’ve only just met or who vaguely know each other then there’s really no hope.
I’ll answer for me: I think it’s very important that people not make themselves targets – but this is no substitute for the clear and distinct message that rapists are responsible for committing rape, and it is them whose behaviour most needs to change.
Spot the huge, subjective, grey area.
The point of my anecdote (which I now wish I had not used) was that it seems reasonably common among women, and I would say more so than men, that they lose their memories of the evening when they have been drinking too much. This leads them vulnerable to being preyed upon, but also leaves the man vulnerable as well if her memory proves faulty. So both parties have a responsibility to be aware of what can go wrong in the whole acquaintance dating arena. And for both men and women it probably comes down to friends looking out for friends.
I am aware I am tiptoe-ing through a minefield by proposing such an opinion on this site, so I better leave it there.
BTW I am speaking as a father of a teenage daughter and a teenage son, so I can see both sides of the equation.
When someone says rape is partly the victim’s fault they’re also saying that the rapist isn’t entirely responsible for the rape.
Is that not dangerous?
The problems caused by the apparent subjectivity is the reasoning behind developing norms of positive consent, as opposed to the current norms we have where the standard is much lower, in some cases to the extent that an absence of dissent is all that’s required. This also doesn’t imply, as idiots frequently think it does, that people will need to sign waivers for sex; it’s about norms, not legal structures.
I agree that both parties are responsible – but only one person in a (canonical hetero) couple can prevent rape – the man, by not proceeding without positive and enthusiastic consent.
I also accept that ‘differing recollections’ are at issue, but I think you’ll find that you’re overestimating the prevalence of such cases.
Lew, I know you did not write the post here but do you think the comments by the police were intended as a substitute for that message?
Put another way, a job of policing is to prevent crime, among other things. They can target two areas – victim behaviour and criminal behaviour. Are they inherently wrong to target the former? Or is it a potential ‘quick win’, versus trying to change the culture you mention above?
I’m not so concerned with intent as I am with effect – refer to my post about text and context :)
The police left out (or the DomPost failed to print) any mention of rapist behaviour, while admitting that rapists were generally not pathological sex predators but people who were careless or ignorant. A message along the lines of ‘Guys, you need to be much more proactive about securing consent from your friends and acquaintances, even if they’re drunk’ would have gone a long way. Yes, it’s bleeding obvious – but so is the rest of the advice.
I think this is the way forward, but education is a bit difficult to implement. For Year 12 and 13 it is not yet a relevant issue since they are not yet 18 and can’t get into clubs etc, and Uni level it misses the large number of kids who are not at Uni.
Lobbing another stone into the minefield – I also think kids from co-ed schools develop better skills with their interactions with the opposite sex than kids from Boys or Girls schools. So, without any proof, I wonder whether more of the date rape incidents involve people (particularly men) from single-sex school backgrounds. Maybe a study has been done on this.
Maynard J writes,
I think it is useful in many contexts to provide people advice and encouragement about how to avoid bad things happening to them.
I don’t have time for lots of little responses right now (this evening tho! :) but I do for an analogy.
I cycle in Wellington, not to commute but to get places and collect groceries and enjoy the weather. I have reflectors and lights and a helmet and gloves. I have a healthy distrust of car drivers, tend to be over vigilant, avoid bad intersections and cycle defensively.
Imagine I am biking down to the local greengrocer, and I’ve taken all my usual precautions, and it’s a lovely day and I’m keeping and eye out for crazy drivers (but there aren’t many as I’m taking the back streets) so mostly I’m thinking about what I’m gonna cook for dinner. Some idiot in an SUV comes up behind me, overtakes and turns hard left – all without indicating – into a driveway in front of me knocking me off my bike. Who is responsible?
If there was a spate of similar accidents should the Police and Council run a campaign about how cyclists should be even more paranoid (or only cycle in groups, or stick to separated cycle lanes, or stay home altogether)? Or should they run a campaign aimed at drivers, particularly those of them who have no idea how to safely interact with cyclists? Or start a conscious traffic policing effort looking out for drivers with bad road ettiquette, poor overtaking and no respect for other road users?
Anita, I do not think your analogy fits, unless you are suggesting ‘all your usual precautions’ involve engaging in behaviour likely to get you run down; the gist of the police message is that this is what is not happening.
You ask who is responsible. To make it clear – the criminal is always ‘responsible’. But if you were biking at night, wearing black clothing without a helmet or lights – would you blame police for suggesting that there are things you could do better?
This analogy could cause miscommunication of ideas in one big way – I have to assume the intent of the driver was not to knock you down… but anyway – if the police are concerned at cyclist behaviour then they will comment on it. If there was someone in an SUV trying to mow people down, then you can imagine that is where they would focus their efforts.
Lew – so perhaps the article is unbalanced, or incomplete, or the police’s focus is on a specific aspect of the problem. I am relatively comfortable with that. I do not know what kicked it all off – police comment or media investigation – but they probably imagine that message will do more to keep people safe than the message you are suggesting.
I also question whether that is a message best heard from coming from police – my thinking towards that is probably because I imagine what they deal with are more likely to be the violent cases rather than the grey area-type instances. You sort of reinforced that by talking about norms, not legal structures. the former is not the forte of the Police.
In general (Lew and Anita) I think the message is a useful one to promote as a reminder – perhaps it is bleedingly obvious, but perhaps it is in need of reinforcement.
On the front page of the print Dominion:
The number of sex attacks on drunk young women is growing, forcing police to step up their fight against…
At this point, you’re expecting to read something like “criminals” or “rapists,” but in fact it reads:
…our binge-drinking culture.
There’s so much wrong with that it makes me want to bang my head on the desk. I actually have a lot of time for Cactus Kate’s view on this, in that expecting people to take some basic precautions against being raped is no more “blaming the victim” than is expecting them to lock their car and take the keys with them when they park it. But that header is nothing more than an admission of defeat by the Police: we can’t do much about the rapists, but maybe we can stop women being out on the street pissed.
There is a simple solution for both men and women … simply don’t drink enough so your natural human/ ‘animal’ desires overcome your normal sensible self. I worked out long ago, after the first and only time I got really drunk, that the whole business of partying is an absurd waste of money, which I didn’t have, which can lead you into a lot of trouble. But it seems these days that women want to be better, drunker, than men to show their equality. They don’t and can’t…
Feminists have a lot to answer for ….
There’s so much wrong with this line of argument, I don’t know where to begin.
And that’s actually what gets me *especially* pissy, Milt. In a perfect world, saying “drinking to the point of debilitation isn’t smart for anyone” would be value-neutral. But it’s not, because it’s always the first, if not only, thing mentioned. And the discussions all focus on the drinking, the attire, the “laddish” behaviour of young women – as though THAT weren’t a big pile of patriarchal crap all on its own.
I find myself rejecting “be aware of your environment and watch your own behaviour amongst strangers” messages not because they’re totally without merit, but because to say “sure, some people of whatever gender do stupid shit” is a line used far too often by conservatives who really just mean “Only Bad Girls get raped, I must blame them for their Naughty Behaviour because otherwise I’d have to admit that rape happens everywhere and plenty of men feel entitled to sex with any woman, not just The Slappers.”
And frankly when it’s why-didn’t-you-just-say-no-you-horrible-slut-Cactus Kate making the argument for “this is just commonsense, not victim-blaming” I have even less time for that line of thinking.
Eep, sorry about the length of that, Anita!
Maybe its time for policewomen to go undercover as vulnerable drunks …
I understand entirely your position that the criminal is to blame, not the victim. Absolutely.
But I think you are taking what the Police said out of context. It is about recognising the world we live in.
For example would it be sensible of me to walk home pissed through an area known for high crime rates with hundred dollar bills sticking out of my pockets?
No. And yes of course I should be able to. And no that does not mean the victim is to blame, And the mugger is still a criminal who should not have done it.
But would it be wrong for the Police to advise people not to walk home through high crime areas with hundred dollar bills sticking out of their pockets?
I like it – the knowledge that they are out there would serve for deterrence.
I don’t buy into the police/tory “blaming the victim” argument, and i don’t buy into the argument that all or even most rapists are intractable predators. It’s our cultural norms around consent which are at fault – in many cases rape would be avoided if the perpetrator simply asked “would you like to have sex” or if that’s too blunt/uncomfortable (i don’t think it should be) “i’d like to go further, what do you think”? would suffice. If the lady’s really into it, that kind of question isn’t going to put her off…
When I was working we had the annual report and one of the questions was about risk avoidance. I would rate those women very poorly. It is plain stupid to get blind drunk and loose control of your senses. Surely everybody on this thread is well aware that you can have a great time when drinking in moderation. When companionship is the important and valuable content of a gathering.
Alchohol reduces a person’s inhibitions, this can be a good thing in moderation but taken to the extreme is very dangerous as those women found out. Since many of the women couldn’t remember what happened, they just knew it had afterwards, I fail to see how it can be called rape with any certainty.
A more serious risk is from STD and AIDS that both male and female expose themselves to with this sort of behaviour.
Lew, I agree that my original solution is idealistic in the consumption society that apparently exists today in some circles.
QoT, Of course it is common sense to take precautions … don’t get blotto and put yourself in a situation where the male’s inhibitions have been reduced as well as the woman’s.
I wanted to edit on at the bottom “That’s asking for trouble” but the edit programme refuses to let me access the bottom of the comment.
“Uncovered meat”, anybody?
Apart from improved policing (deterrent), the other option is to define drunkenness in a public place by blood alcohol and expect/require bars and nightclubs (and also liquor outlets) to test people coming in the doors and later before they are served drinks.
At the moment many young people drink up supplies from outlets before hitting town (where drinks are more expensive) – they binge on the way in and it hits them soon after they arrive (some leave bars and clubs and get more from outlets to binge drink again etc).
(The original SPC).
jnz – i think you meant “lose”.
DPF – The idea that “people are always going to get intoxicated” has been proven over time by society after society.
It’s the assumption that “people are always going to rape” (which underpins the police’s press release) which is faulty.
Your analogy is reminiscent of an infamous one made by another regressive last year.
â€œIf you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park, or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, then whose fault will it be, the cats, or the uncovered meatâ€™s? The uncovered meat is the disaster. If the meat was covered the cats wouldnâ€™t roam around it. If the meat is inside the fridge, they wonâ€™t get it.â€
It is a pity Philip (Roger Nome) that you do not have the maturity to debate an issue without getting personal and nasty.
There is no comparison between analogies. I went out of my way to say the victim is not to blame, the criminal is. I said it twice.
The point I was making, is whether or not it is wrong for the Police to give advice to potential victims about hot to minimise risk. I don’t think it is wrong, even though the language used by the Police could have been better.
David, my objection is about the placement of responsibility. Since the police accept that rapists in these cases aren’t career sex-predators, but rather tend to be ordinary people who have their cues wrong, should they not bear as much or more responsibility for changing behaviour? Why is the low-hanging fruit (as it were) women’s (victims’) behaviour, rather than men’s (perpetrators’)? That’s the questionable assumption in the police position. Not to say that the women oughtn’t take better care, but that the campaign here isn’t focusing on the real problem, which is men who don’t get proper consent.
There is nothing wrong with the Police running a campaign to reduce unsafe binge drinking, and mentioning that the enormous list of possible negative consequences includes additional vulnerability to physical and sexual assault. This, however, is not what they did.
There is something wrong with the Police completely failing to address the behaviours and attitudes of the rapists and might-become-rapists. They could change attitudes and behaviours, they could reduce the number of people raped by reducing the number of rapists.
There is something wrong with the Police saying the only preventable part of the sexual assault of under 21 year old women in Wellington, is for the women to drink less. Firstly it’s simply not true, secondly it’s making sexual assault the victim’s responsibility.
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What would work is to
1. require a level of sobriety for entry (define drunknenss by a blood alcohol and require an evidential breath test) into licensed premises and for being served drinks in these premises (this would discourage binge drinking before people hit the town and also restrain drinking on the premises).
2. run a publicity campaign to define consent as requiring “active” verbal agreement in cases where there was no history of sexual “convergence”. Thus the lack of capacity of a drunk female to give such “active” verbal consent would preclude any such lawful activity.
I’ll buy both of those, as long as the first is discouraging binge drinking for a wide variety of social, personal and health reasons, rather than just as a way for women to stop getting themselves raped.
Breathalysers on the door or on the bar is becoming popular in some places overseas (Australia is what I know best), and generally it’s a discretionary thing which door or bar staff can require if there’s a dispute about intoxication. Customarily over there the bar is set at 1.5 times the drink-drive limit, at the equivalent of 0.12% BAC, which apparently is nine standard drinks in the previous three hours, for a man, or seven for a woman. The breathalysers used are hand-held electronic consumer models, and because they don’t undergo the same frequent testing and calibration as police units I don’t believe the reading is admissible in court. This is quite important, because it means there’s no incentive to use it as a widespread surveillance or monitoring device.
Apparently they result in significant changes to drinking behaviour, and are popular with owners as well for the reason you cite – because people don’t drink so much on the cheap before going into town, they drink more of the expensive stuff inside, and secondarily because rowdies are usually far more of a cost than they are a benefit to a proprietor.
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Are you suggesting the article will have a negative net effect? That it would have been better for the article not to have been written, that it would be better for police not to give advice that women have the ability to make themselves less of a target? If it helps avoid the rape of one young woman is it not beneficial?
No, it is not. For a couple of reasons.
First, there is an opportunity cost to employing this sort of coverage to minimal effect. Long-form public statements made by senior front-line police officers and printed in large type with splashy photos on the front page of a metropolitan daily newspaper do not, and cannot appear frequently due to public fatigue, the need for journalistic balance and the need to cover different issues; when they do appear, they should be used effectively.
Second, the objective here is not avoiding rape at any cost – if it were, we would require that women not drink, not dress in ways which suggest they are sexually available, and not go out in public without a chaperone. But while these methods are employed elsewhere, in NZ they are clearly not acceptable cultural compromises in the name of feminine safety.
What most of us complaining about the article are saying is that there is better advice the good officer ought to have given, including advice to potential rapists on how they could inadvertently become such. The objective isn’t avoiding all rapes at any cost, it’s a avoiding rapes by establishing a more equitable burden of responsibility for their prevention; one which doesn’t rely entirely on women living in abject fear, and men feeling like women who don’t live in abject fear deserve what they get.
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