Monday, 19 January 2009

Quick hit: Here we go again - no drinkeez for the ladeez

From the Herald website, women are attacked in Dunedin and apparently their alcohol intake is the culprit, not the people who assaulted them:
[Senior Sergeant] Aitken said woman needed to take care when out drinking in town.

"All we can do is warn people, and advise people, to look after their personal safety.

"To be aware of what they are drinking, or how much they are drinking, and be able to look after themselves...

"Be aware of where you are and what you are doing at all times," he said.
At least he said "people" not girlies I guess?

Not a big fan of the Herald's title for this article either:
Alcohol warnings after women attacked in Dunedin


Anonymous said...

Well it would help, if people, that's all people, were careful before getting hammered and walking around Dunedin at 4:30am onwards. That's just plain stupid.

It isn't a safe city, I got assaulted there pretty badly many many years ago. Women should of course be careful - which I think is the tone of the article. Being wasted around those streets at that time of the day is going to invite all sorts of deviants.

Anna said...

Anon, the whole point is that it's the job of these so-called deviants to control their own behaviour. No matter what a woman is doing when she is assaulted, the blame for the attack lies 100% with the attacker. When a person is subjected to a racial attack, we don't say, 'You should have known better than to go out - you know there are racists out there'. That's just making excuses for the behaviour of those who cause the streets to be unsafe.

All people have the right to go out in public safely. It doesn't matter whether they're doing something dumb or not - they still have that important right.

There are a lot of good reasons not to get excessively drunk, but telling victims of crime that they're to blame for someone else's actions is crap. It also makes it very difficult for women to report these crimes, as the Police will look down on them and people like yourself will call them 'just plain stupid'.

The ex-expat said...

Also given that many of the attackers are likely to be under the influence of booze perhaps we might have a campaign with a far catchier title than 'don't drink you might rape someone'

Alison said...

This is why I was so pissed off when the "Safe in the City" campaign hit Wellington in the weeks before Christmas (probably the rest of the country too, but I wasn't there).

Not only does the message lay blame for rape on the victim if she has been drinking (and who is to decide what's "too much" on her behalf?), it maintains the myth that most rape offenders are strangers on the street, and that women who don't drink and stay with their "lady friends" are safe, all of which is utter crap.

Julie said...

We've been having a bit of an email conversation amongst the Hand Mirrovians about the Wellington campaign and Anna's hoping to get a snap of a sign tomorrow so we can post about it. Thanks for bringing that into the conversation Alison.

AWicken said...

The ex-expat, are you suggesting that alcohol is an excuse? :)

I'm not sure it's entirely fair to criticize Aitken based on his heavily edited comments in this short article (what the heck does "..." mean? Meaningful pause, or extensive qualification of his comments?).

It is a bit of a minefield hitting the right note of cautionary advice to lower overall rates (particularly if there is a spike in a particular type of offending, so you're addressing the comments to the target group for that particular offence - and in this case we ARE basically talking about stranger-rape) but not apportioning blame away from the perpetrator. To be fair, police in North Dunedin do tend to say the same thing when males get assaulted. Media don't tend to pick up those incidents as much, though.

Conflict of interest - I work for one of the non-police organisations working in a "street patrol" mode in North Dunedin. Last I counted there were around half a dozen such organisations. Some quiet nights I think we outnumber members of the public.

But if everybody stopped drinking, I wouldn't quite be out of a job.

The ex-expat said...

It was more tongue and cheek remark...

Julie said...

Is it not generally accepted that there is a difference between an excuse (justification, gets you off the hook) and a contributing factor (acknowledgement of what contributed to X, not letting you off the hook)? I need to come up with a better way of putting that, but do people know what I'm getting at?

Drunken intent is still intent and all that.

AWicken said...

Yes, there is often a distinction between "excuse" and "contributing factor", although I must say the subtlety is frequently lost in practise.

Okay, the "Lisa" advert pisses me off because it outright claims ("it's how we're drinking") that the implied rape incident was caused or contributed to by "Lisa's" drinking.

The Herald article is distasteful because it is clumsy (headline, unclear quotes and even poor grammar - should "woman" be especially aware at the moment, or just in general?).

The original ODT article ( was headlined "alert on two sex attacks in city" - i.e. more focussed on advising people of (to use an americanism) "an elevated threat level". There was even a cute invitation for the male(s) to come forward "to give their side of the story". It might work.

In other words, it was a local "heads up" that might also encourage people who were in the area to come forward with additional information that they might not otherwise have thought twice about, thus hopefully catching the male(s) responsible.

And the spelling is better in the ODT's article as well, for some reason.

I didn't pick it as an ODT article until I reread the Herald version and noticed he was giving an interview to the ODT. Looked it up on their website.

Anonymous said...

My 17-year-old sister who is moving to Auckland in about 3 weeks was out drinking with friends today (Wellington anniversary day) and didn't come home when she had planned to. Her boyfriend and my parents managed to track her down, she had drunk so much that she couldn't walk and had ended up passing out in some random person's bed. My dad said, "I think she was ok [ie, hadn't been raped]. I guess we'll have to wait until she wakes up so we can talk to her and make sure".

We all really hope she learns to think about keeping safe when she is drinking before she starts her engineering degree at Auckland uni in February. I guess we see it not so much as who would be at fault if something did happen, but who will have to bear the consequences of harm.


Bevan11 said...

I'm not sure how this is different to the police advising people to keep their cars locked.
People are going to go out and drive around and park their cars in unsecure places that aren't their own garage. So why not be a little bit careful and lock your car?

People are always going to commit crimes - it seems to be part of human nature.

Bevan11 said...

That said, I can agree that it would also be nice to have campaigns to get men to behave better, as noted in:

AWicken said...

I think a nice way of thinking about the problem of "public advisory" vs "blaming the victim" is:

Has it been historical practise that a burglary victim has less investigation of the crime because they left the front door unlocked that day, or burglars at trial were let off by a judge or jury who felt the victim had provoked it, or indeed that some nations legislated that a non-consensual burglary cannot be committed in a city because neighbours would hear sounds of a break-in (so therefore the burglary victim also gets charged with insurance fraud)?

Public advisories that might lessen the overall risk of a particular offence in a local area need to be phrased carefully in order to minimise the tendency of many societies to blame the victim for a specific sexual assault.

This week has been a bad week in Dunedin for what one might call "stranger danger" sexual assaults and attempts. A local advisory that some of the perpetrators have not yet been identified and people in their specific target profile are therefore at a bit more risk improves the chance that these guys will be identified and their next attempt might be prevented (because people recognised the description and pre-assault technique)

However, cutting most of the local information and turning it into a "women who drink get attacked, so women shouldn't drink" article in a paper of which most female readers *aren't* in the area of increased risk could do more harm than good.

So I guess I believe the ODT article was okay, but the Herald reprint was not.