Sexual assault: The philosophical defence

A woman is sexually assaulted in a public bar in Arizona. When passing sentence, the judge tells the victim “if you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened”. While I’m no expert in English grammar, I find the use of tenses here quite shocking (surely “hadn’t been there”? Or is it me?). Nevertheless, the actual logic is flawless. If that particular woman had not been in that particular bar, that particular event would not have occurred. The judge has since apologised, but I don’t know why; after all, she’s right, isn’t she?

I fully understand that it’s annoying for judges to waste precious court time in stating the bleedin’ obvious. Even so, a public apology seems a bit extreme. I’m sure there are plenty of other things that judges say which don’t need saying. Even the standard stuff – such as “has the jury reached a verdict?” – is perhaps unnecessary, what with the number of Law & Order re-runs we get these days.

A common problem with sexual assault cases is women “being” there. Women and their insistence on going around, “being” in places. It’s bound to end in trouble. In the early hours of this morning a 19-year-old woman was raped by two men on Brighton Beach, while another man stood watch. While the complicity of three men in this – three grown men – is shocking, what really disturbs a great number of those commenting on the Daily Mail website is this woman’s insistence on being there at all:

When will women learn not to be out on their own at night when drunk? There are evil men out there…it’s a fact of life.

It is not safe for women to be walking alone in the early hours, even in a busy city full of CCTV cameras.

Why don´t young Ladies take a local taxi companies number with them you may have to wait 20 minutes or so but at least you would be safe.

Ladies, do yourselves a favour and make sure you go home with friends. Sad to say but there are men out there that view a woman on her own as a legitimate target. Wrong, yes but that is the way it is.

I can’t help thinking that someone needs to send out a message to women that there will always be vile and depraved men walking the streets in the early hours looking for vulnerable women to attack! And no, I am not suggesting that this woman is to blame in any way, but women should never leave clubs on their own unless there is a registered taxi waiting outside or you at least they have a friend to walk with – preferably male.

Helpful as all these suggestions attempt to be, I can’t help wondering whether it’s something of a violation to simply expect women to adjust their behaviour in this way – and whether this in itself doesn’t feed into the self-justification of Those Bad Men Who Have Nothing To Do With Us. But in any case, that doesn’t solve the problem.

So what is the solution? Is it enough to ask women to stop all this “being” in particular locations? The trouble is, they’ll only go and “be” in other locations – at home, on public transport, with nice male chaperones who don’t actually want to assault them but whose heads might get turned by all this wanton “being”. And then even if some women have avoided “being” in the random danger zones, that’s not to say that other women won’t. And does that then make the first group of women, the ones who absented themselves, in some way responsible for the assaults on the latter, the ones who might not have been attacked had it not been for other possible victims not being around? Seriously, I just don’t know. Would it count as culpable negligence?

When I was assaulted, I was drunk, it was dark and I was – until the attacker appeared – on my own. I have never regretted being there, then. I resent what that loser did to me. I resent that he made me feel that I needed to behave differently to the men around me. That, if anything, is the worse part. This feeling of potential culpability for anything that might happen to you whenever you’re not pandering to the prejudices of potential assailants. This feeling that when you’re there, just there, you’re practically inviting a crime to take place.

Anyhow, none of this has stopped me “being”. I trot around existing here, there and everywhere. But what else can any of us, male or female, ever do? And when you look at it that way, aren’t we all just walking, talking potential crime scenes?

4 thoughts on “Sexual assault: The philosophical defence

  1. I find it interesting that the same people who say ‘it’s a fact of life that some men will rape you if you go round at night on your own’ are the same ones who scream bloody blue murder that feminists tar all men with the same brush and say they’re all rapists. No feminist of my acquaintance has ever said that, but a lot of chauvinists like to scare us with the all men are ready for it no matter what schtick themselves…

    Oh and I was in my kitchen when I was raped. I thought that’s where women were meant to be. I’m confused now.

    1. The ‘fact of life’ argument suggests that some degree of fear should be a natural state for women, and that it’s all a matter of choosing between permanent low-level fear and behavioural restriction, or being ‘naive’/’idealistic’ and then being attacked as a result. When actually the only thing you can choose is not to be overpowered by the fear. And it really doesn’t have to be this way (and yes, there’s me, being all naive / idealistic / man-hating again…).
      Btw, this post of yours always makes me feel hopeful that some people really can make a huge difference (like you did):

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