Some Thoughts on Victim Blaming & Why Your Rights Don't Matter

I rarely share my political beliefs with anyone but my inner circle, and even then I don’t share much. I practically never get political on this blog. But there are multiple places where political beliefs and personal defense intersect. You must navigate these intersections for yourself. In a real situation you can’t afford to hesitate because of a cognitive dissonance between your belief and the reality of a dangerous scenario.

I’m not writing to change the way you think. I’m writing simply to get you to think.

Please take a moment to read and look at the pictures in the linked article below.

Here’s the article from Buzzfeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/women-are-showing-what-weapons-they-carry-to-protect-themsel

The photographer’s original article:

http://www.tayloryo.com/photography-1/#/photography/

I understand the overall point the author is trying to make. At the same time, the article brought up several important points that I think should be considered.

Some Small Training Points

1) I agree with my friend Thomas Bobay that the idea that men do not carry defensive tools is bullshit. I have at least three items on me at any given time. Not sure what kind of “men” these ladies are going to school with as to be shocked by their carrying of defensive tools. Real men adults are in touch with reality, the dangers of real life, and prepare accordingly.

2) It’s a good bet that most of these women have not taken a quality self defense course. A rape whistle might scare off an uncommitted/opportunistic attacker, but it is not a replacement for skills. No defensive tool, whether it be a gun, knife, pepper spray, or keys as an improvised weapon, is a replacement for skills. Which brings us to the key indicator (pun intended) that they’ve likely not engaged in quality training…

3) The keys between the fingers is a myth and a good way to injure yourself. I’ve written about a couple of the reasons why in this article from a few years ago. In addition to those points your car’s ignition key and door key are usually one in the same. It’s probably your largest key. It makes a better stabbing weapon than your other keys. Think about the soft sensitive skin between your fingers. Look at the teeth on the key. Do you really want to punch someone with a serrated object in contact with that soft skin?

Now on to the deeper stuff…

Your Rights Don’t Matter

Rape is among women’s greatest fears. I while I agree that we all should be doing what we can to combat misogyny and rape culture, it’s going to be long time before it goes away – if it ever does. Until then you need to get quality training.

In our courses we tell students that in regards to real world violence, your legal rights don’t matter.

It’s our right in America to walk down any street we wish at any time of day that we wish.

It’s a woman’s right to not have to worry about being raped.

But our rights don’t matter when we look at real world violence. To stay safe, you must understand the unwritten rules of the environment that you are in. If you break those unwritten rules, whether out of ignorance or, especially, on purpose, your risk factor increases.

I understand it’s my right to walk down any street at anytime, but I also understand the unwritten rules that if I walk down certain streets at certain times I increase my risk of being attacked. It’s my right to not have to worry about my car being broken into, to not have to lock my doors, to not have to keep valuables out of plain sight. But I understand the rules that I do need to lock my doors and keep my valuables out of sight. Free speech is your right, but in certain situations you keep your thoughts to yourself because the consequences aren’t worth the trouble.

Your rights don’t matter. The rules of the environment and the people in control of that environment are what matter.

It’s essential to understand the difference between victim blaming and risk management. Know this and tattoo it onto your brain: If you are the victim of an unprovoked attack, it is always the bad guy’s fault! Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. Regardless of man made rights or rules, written or unwritten, or your knowledge or ignorance thereof, rape is NEVER okay.

However, you can and should manage your risk. It just takes a little knowledge and training.

More than just Rape and Sexual Assault

One of the reasons I bring up victim blaming vs. risk management is that it seems the recent conversations on women’s safety in the public view is very narrowly focused solely on rape/sexual assault. The big outcry is that, “Women shouldn’t have to defend themselves. Men should stop raping.” And while that is true, it is a naive and unrealistic approach.

The author of the linked article seems to imply that carrying a defensive tool is a form of victim blaming. Since when did taking proactive steps to keep yourself safe from violence become victim blaming? Why does all the media attention with the “victim blaming” buzzword only focus on women and only in terms of rape/sexual assault.

What about men? No one says anything about men arming themselves as a form of victim blaming. It seems just par for the course. You never hear anything about victim blaming when a man is the victim of an unprovoked attack. Does that imply that only women are true victims? Does that mean men are too strong to be victimized and therefore women are to weak to prepare themselves, protect themselves, and not be victims?

Victim blaming vs. risk management applies to all kinds of violence and crime.

Many times, attacks on women have nothing to do with rape or sexual assault. Many times it’s plain robbery. Very recently there were two incidents of a woman being robbed at gunpoint in the parking decks of the Riverchase Galleria. There was a recent incident of a woman being carjacked and robbed just outside of the Avondale Brewery (I’ll be writing a post soon about what actionable things we can learn from the Avondale incident, so stay tuned). No attempted rape. No attempted sexual assault.

Is locking your doors on your car and house as a proactive defense against burglary a form of victim blaming? Or is it simply risk management?

You may feel that you shouldn’t be required to learn to protect yourself from rape. You may feel that instead we should be teaching our young boys and men to not rape – and we should. But, you must also realize that you could be targeted for other crimes besides rape. If for no other reason than that, acquire some skills to make yourself safer. Because the criminal doesn’t care what your philosophies or politics are. He doesn’t care about your rights. To him, you are not a human being. You are a potential target. You are potential prey. If that happens, you are the only one you can depend on to survive.

In Conclusion

I believe the best approach is a multiple prong strategy. Raise our children right. Teach our boys to be protectors, not conquerors. Teach our girls to not put up with misogynistic bullshit and how to protect themselves physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

As a personal defense coach, I believe it’s my job to put myself out of work. It’s a warrior philosophy. I can only protect those in my immediate presence. But I can train others to protect themselves. Teach a man to fish if you will. Train them to the level that I am no longer needed. When one person isn’t forced to depend on another…that’s what I call freedom. But when you depend on criminals to not commit crime…when you depend on rapists to not rape, are you really free?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Please leave a comment. Share this post if you find it valuable.

2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Victim Blaming & Why Your Rights Don't Matter”

  1. I have a lot of thoughts on this. Mostly minor, though – I agree with the heart of the blog.

    “The author of the linked article seems to imply that carrying a defensive tool is a form of victim blaming.” I don’t think the BuzzFeed or original article were attempting to label these protective measures as evidence of victim blaming. I think it was the opposite – I think the photography project was intended to *counter* the victim blaming mentality by visually showing that it is common for women to have at least some idea of how they might defend themselves, right there with their key chain. To me, it communicates on behalf of the general female populace, “Look – we aren’t victims, we are thinking about possibly having to defend ourselves.” (Side note, I agree wholeheartedly with you that some improvements can definitely be made on those defense options. Especially the Wolverine keys.)

    Also, in defense of the males in the classroom when the photographer initially had the motivation for this project, I didn’t see any evidence that they meant they didn’t carry any weapons or defensive tools at all. It sounded to me that they were just surprised at the notion of women having to carry protective weapons, and even more so that they were so casual about it. Of course, it’s entirely possible that those guys didn’t regularly carry any sort of weapon, but it seems to me more likely that they do carry something, but maybe don’t really think they’re going to be attacked. Either way, there’s certainly room for improvement in preparation. (Similar mentality with women, too, btw. If one of those women doing the Wolverine with their keys really thought they were going to be attacked, and really planned for it, you’d think it would occur to them that the Wolverine isn’t the best approach. Weapon doesn’t equal preparation.)

    1. I must disagree.

      From the BuzzFeed article quoting the photographer (I’m guessing via interview)…

      “The men in our class were shocked,” she said. “They didn’t even have to think of having these objects.” I believe she is saying this because men don’t have to worry about being raped, so they don’t even have to think about carrying defensive tools. That’s why I wrote that I don’t know what kind of “men” those women are going to school with. Men rarely get attacked for rape, but they do get attacked for other things.

      I still think that she’s saying that carrying these defensive tools is a form of victim blaming:

      “These loaded objects on key chains where trinkets should be really do portray how women are expected to always be on guard to protect themselves…when the rapists should not be raping,” she said.

      What she’s saying here is that the general public attitude is that the bulk of responsibility in order to not get raped falls on women via protecting/defending themselves instead of being the responsibility of men by not raping.

      In other words, telling women that if you don’t want to be raped, learn to defend yourself. Rather than telling men to not rape women. The true responsibility is on men.

      Again, the true responsibility is on men. Don’t rape. But the reality is that there are still going to be rapists regardless of the message we teach boys and men. In that case, women should still learn to protect themselves.

      That’s why I say it should be a multiple pronged approach to keep women safe.

      Hopefully that makes sense.

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