Is speaking of rape , abuse and violence “fear mongering”?

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As anyone who has read The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism by Katie Roiphe will know there is a general belief that talking about sexual violence, abuse, and other crimes can lead to a fear of violence and therefore is fear mongering. Roiphe argues that that by exaggerating the dangers faced by women, feminists have taken away the sexual freedom that were fought for so hard by so many. By implying that women are victims, they have made women feel weak and afraid. Fear of violence is, therefore, far greater than its actual incidence.
This may have some degree of reality within it. However, unfortunately this naivety can lead to the dismissal of the real threat by creating black/white thinking of either “the world is dangerous and scary, everyone is evil” or “the world is safe, everyone is nice and kind, and anyone who says it isn’t is lying”, this fails to realise that in reality the world is neither black nor white in fact it is generally grey. Naivety can also put people at risk, studies have shown that women who are aware of the potential hazards are not over trusting and are less likely to be assaulted. Not all people are violent, not all rape and not all are dangerous, but it is difficult (if not impossible) to tell those who are/do from others. I mean people don’t walk around with giant florescent lights above their heads naming their intensions.

I admit there may be a contradicting here, of wanting people to be free and independent but at the same time wanting people to be careful which may seem to infringe upon this independence. However, surely the resolution of this conflict involves speaking out about violence and campaigning for change to what society seems to regard as an acceptable level of violence. Until such a changes occur, however, we have no choice but to prepare our friends, children and others for what the world is, and regrettably this includes warning them of the dangers. A balance must be struck between empowering people to be independent, taking precautions’, in so far as possible, and campaigning for a change in the status quo. As much as I wish we could, we cannot alter the world to protect people from the truth, and I feel it would be irresponsible to go around telling people that everything is safe and to never be on their guard as it’s not needed… being on your guard and taking precautions’ is part of life, I mean you’d never cross the road without checking for cars would you? But first you need to know that roads and cars can be dangerous, same with people, people can be dangerous, people are vulnerable to harm, but there are things we can do to limit this vulnerability.

But how can we limit our vulnerability unless we know we are vulnerable to start with?


5 Responses to “Is speaking of rape , abuse and violence “fear mongering”?”

  1. Elizabeth @ If She Cry Out Says:

    The problem isn’t the discussion of sexual violence but the tendency to put the burden of prevention on the victim. Women are fearful not only because rape could happen, but if they fail to follow the proper checklist they are afraid they will be blamed for their own victimization.

    But imagine if there were advice like this blogger proposes:

    There is in fact an emerging trend in rape prevention that does just that – it focuses on the behavior that turns a blind eye to disrespect towards women or the early stages of a date rape. Here is a rather lengthy study prepared for the US Department of Justice, in case you are interested:

    • Elizabeth @ If She Cry Out Says:

      As rational or mostly rational creatures, most behaviors have a “social function” at least at some point in their existence. The question always is: do we as a society feel that social function is a net good? And if not do we want to change it? And if so, what do we DO to change it?

      The fact that something serves a social function simply is not justification for its continued existence. Slavery served a social function, but we’ve come to understand that isn’t cool. Allowing mature adults to drive home drunk after a party served a social and practical function, but we’ve decided that isn’t such a good idea either.

      In the article you link to you mention two “benefits” of victim blaming: reaffirming the belief in a just world an reaffirming the belief that “it can’t happen to me”. Talking about violent crime changes social norms (victims should disappear) and in fact undermines both of the social functions you discuss in the article you linked to: “it can’t happen to me” and “its a just world”. Seeing a real person up close – a person “just like me” – same income, same profession, same smile – makes denial much harder.

      If we are going to undermine the social function of rape myths we also have an obligation to give people alternate tools for dealing with the problems rape myths are meant to solve. They can no longer serve their “social function” effectively. To wit:

      * we need to help people find the spiritual and religious tools to deal with deep questions like “how do bad things happen to good people” in a constructive way. Without those tools people have little choice but to hide their hearts away in indifference.
      * we need to help people feel secure taking risks in an imperfect and sometimes dangerous world.
      * we need to give people effective ways to make the world less dangerous

      Furthermore, focusing _only_ on the social function of victim blaming neglects the possibility that perp blaming also serves a social function. Social forces themselves can be directed towards the perp much more effectively than towards the victim. That is the concept behind “bystander education” – the prevention approach discussed in the DoJ funded study I mentioned in my previous comment. Since the perp is the initiator only the perp can choose not to initiate. Victim blaming is in fact a futile attempt at preserving normalcy.

      Even if I didn’t think victim blaming was despicable, I would still say it needs to stop because it does nothing to actually make it TRUE that the world is a just place or that “it can’t happen to me”. The only way to make those true is to focus our attention at the source of injustice and risk: the one who offends.

    • shadowlight and co Says:

      I only wrote this particular blog as people were telling me to “shut up” and “stop spreading fear” when all I was doing was telling the truth of what happened to me… it just got me thinking and so I tried to see it all from their side. I believe that the only way to counter some veiws is to try to understand them and see why they occur, as only then can you counter any and all arguments that they throw at you and show any flaws in the logic of their arguments.

      I have been raped. I have been abused. I have been beeten and abused to the point where my pysche has fragmented into several identities and I can’t remember over 15 year of my life. I would NEVER NEVER blaim a victim. But I also am not strong enough emotionally right now to take on the world and try to get things changed in a big way, for now I am happy with telling the truth of how things are and try to work out why – so that in the future once I am stronger I can try to counter them as I will know why they exist and so can work on changing peoples veiws and then maybe work up to changing other things such as the rediculas joke of a legal system we have regarding sexual crimes. For now though, this is the best I can do

      • Elizabeth @ If She Cry Out Says:

        You are doing much more than you realize. For one, you have made _me_ think and given me a chance to articulate things I feel, but had not yet put into words.

        Never discount even small steps. I’m also a survivor – of only one rape at age 30, but that was quite enough. We all work together, giving what we are able, when we are able.

        Best, beth

  2. accident lawyer Says:

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