Saturday, January 14, 2017

Conducing Factors

Here’s a little meme-type thing that I came across the other day:

So the graphic is making the point that the only cause of rape is rapists themselves. And it also emphasizes that things like revealing clothes and intoxication are not causes of rape.

I’d like to offer some thoughts in response to that, but let me preface them with an analogy. If your house were to get burglarized, it’s true that the blame would rest solely on the burglar. He’s the only one who is truly at fault for the crime itself. However, if it’s discovered that the doors of your house were all unlocked, then the incident also serves as a reminder that it’s really not a good idea to leave your doors unlocked.

But when people point this out, they’re not blaming the victim for what happened. The unlocked doors were not the cause of the burglary, but they were definitely a conducing factor (if that’s the correct term). What I mean is, the unlocked doors made your house conducive to burglary. And keep in mind that what I’m calling a conducing factor is not the same thing as a mitigating factor. The burglar’s guilt is not lessened at all by the fact that your doors were unlocked.

Moreover, we would rightly be incredulous toward any insistence that homeowners shouldn’t have to keep their doors locked if they don’t wish to. Because that’s just not realistic. Sure, it would be great if we lived in a perfect world where burglars didn’t exist and therefore no one had to keep their doors locked. But that’s not the kind of world we live in.

So to bring this back to the issue at hand: It’s absolutely true that the blame for rape rests solely on rapists. Rape is never in any sense the victim’s fault. But there’s also a place for offering some advice as to additional conducing factors. What I mean is, in terms of certain rape scenarios, it’s perfectly rational to caution women against wearing revealing clothing and getting drunk in bad places with bad people. The only problem is that nowadays anyone who suggests such common-sensical advice can count on being reflexively accused of victim-blaming. So it goes.

But just to be clear about a few things, I’m not talking about heartlessly dismissing actual rape victims because they should’ve known better than to get drunk with scumbags. What I’m talking about is preemptively cautioning women ahead of time, so as to decrease the likelihood of this kind of crap happening to them. And also remember that a conducing factor is not a mitigating factor. The victim may have made unwise decisions, but that does not at all mitigate the rapist’s crime.

One question that might be raised at this point is where to draw the line. Say a mass shooting were to occur at a large public gathering, something like a sporting event. Could the large gathering itself be described as a “conducing factor,” and does that mean we should avoid such gatherings? And you wouldn’t have gotten injured in that car accident had you not been driving a car, so maybe we should avoid driving cars? Where should the line be drawn?

I guess the key is in whatever level of value is assigned to the “conducing factor.” Large gatherings and automobiles (at least in this day and age) seem like relatively indispensable aspects of life. Would we say the same about wearing revealing clothing and getting drunk in bad places with bad people? Is that an indispensable aspect of a woman’s life?

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