And another thing

This article from CBC about an horrific sexual assault perpetrated by someone who broke in to the woman’s home while she was napping on the couch is terrible. But there’s something I don’t like about it, aside from the nature of the violent attack.

What I don’t like about the article is the strong admonition from the police that you should lock your doors at all times. First of all, I think it’s bee ess. Second, I really resent the culture of fear that whole suggestion fosters. I think a culture of fear is a dangerous culture.

When we fear each other, we begin to be reticent to see that which makes us the same. We begin to focus on differences. That serves to increase the gulf that grows between us, because while we tend to fear what we don’t understand, we also often refuse to try to understand the things we fear.

So the minute someone says, “LOCK YOUR DOORS OR YOU COULD BE NEXT” is the minute that person begins to spread panic unnecessarily.

Back to point one: don’t get me wrong; sure there are people out there doing terrible things and making wrong decisions. For some of those people, a locked door might slow them down somewhat. For most of them who are bent on getting what it is they came for, whether that’s your electronics or your health, they’re going to take it no matter what you do with the door.

And I’m certainly not saying that every time you lock your doors a faery dies. Well, maybe. I’ll get back to you on that one.

For every time someone tries every door on the block and finds one open, I ask myself a couple of things: 1) why didn’t the neighbours notice? Why didn’t they call the police and tell them some dude is going from door to door wiggling doorknobs? 2) How often does this *really* happen?

On the first count, how many of us know our neighbours’ names? How many of us know how many people live in our neighbours’ houses? How many of us would recognise someone who doesn’t live in the neighbourhood going from door to door? Would you? That makes me pretty sad. We live within fifteen feet of each other in most cases, and we don’t even know each other. If the power went out in the middle of winter, would you go next door to ask for help? Would you let your neighbours in to your house? Okay, so that’s one thing.

On the second count, the answer might be ‘more frequently than you think’. I doubt that. But, let’s give the benefit of the doubt here. Which do you think is more prevalent, the kind of crime where someone randomly breaks into a house and assaults the people inside, or the kind of crime where an assault is perpetrated by someone you know? Date rape? Drugging someone at the pub? Sure, maybe I’m comparing apples to oranges, and I’m not saying this by way of making this kind of assault any less terrible than any other.

And another thing. How do you think the woman who was assaulted feels, having the police and everyone screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth about how “you should always lock your doors”? She’s just been assaulted, for God’s sake. It’s rather like being victimised (as much as I hate that word) twice.

I’m also not saying don’t take precautions. Everyone knows it’s stupid to put a sign on your front mailbox that says “we’re out of the country for a month! Please put all mail in the garage, next to the house key! Thanks!” when you go to Morocco for January. Everyone knows that if you trust the guy who promises to double your money in a week, you’re probably going to lose whatever you give him. There are things you can do to increase your personal safety.

I just don’t believe that locking your doors is one of them. I believe that being an active, engaged, and caring part of your community is one of them. Or three of them, depending on how you want to read that sentence.

So.

It’s awful that a woman was sexually assaulted. My heart goes out to her. I want to take that away from her. I also think she oughn’t be made to feel guilty.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

25 Comments

  1. Jill, you ignorant slut. Of course a libertine with the morals of an alleycat and the keen desire to spread her colony of social diseases would take this viewpoint. Of course you have no fear. What sociopath does? Never mind that the average city dweller has plenty of reason to fear, dwelling as they do in a pool of human sewage. Never mind that the government has let all the lunatics and gibbering rapists loose upon the streets rather than keep them confiend or treated. Never mind the simple human need to keep their dens secure, with full knowledge of those who pass in or out.

    Never mind any of that. Oh no, we must leave our doors wide open and let the chips fall where they may.

    Fine. But when you find yourself tied to the bed, missing a kidney and a cornea, your belongings on their way by container car to Somalia, don’t say you weren’t warned.

  2. When an Edmonton woman who went for a walk at 11am on a Saturday disappeared, here’s what someone on cbc.ca’s comment board had to say:

    Wild Woman, you are right, how sad it is that a woman can not go for a walk in the middle of the day. I hope for the sake of the family and all females out there, that it was in fact health related. My condolences! That being said, it is just as unfortunate that some women feel the need to prove certain things. Not at all directed to this paticular case, but a generalization. There are mean people out there, there are rapists, murderers, theives, molesters and all other sorts of degenerates out there. we all know this, it is a sad sad fact of life. And until women in general accept this fact, women will continually be killed, raped, and taken advantage of. There was a story about a woman in BC last year, that was murdered in a park that she ran in every day. Every day she went she was with one or more persons, except the day she was killed. She made a conscious choice to ignore all safety factors and proceed with her jog. Is going for a jog worth your life? And I know some are thinking, “but i have that right” I have the right to feel safe and be safe wherever I am” You are right, you do have the right. But by having that right, it does not take away the fact that there are murderers and rapists walking the streets with you. You also have the right/obligation to ensure your own safety. Fortunately for me, my wife agrees with this thinking, and she would never venture off alone, even in broad daylight, why, cause it happens. Same reason I wear my seatbelt everyday, never had an accident, never needed my seatbelt, would I ever not use? Heck no, why, cause many people have died by not using it, why would I want to take that chance.

    I sent this to a friend and she and I immediately made a pact that, if either of us is murdered, the other will blame the murderer

    1. But if you blame the *murderer*, that’s not a good news story. Nobody’s going to want to read about MURDERERS. They want to read about how the victims’ actions caused the horrible accident.

      1. Perhaps there is also an element of wanting to believe they have control over the situation – the flip side of “If I am attacked, it is my fault” is “I can prevent myself from being attacked.” I think it should be obvious why people would want to believe the later.

        I am reminded strangely about reading about “old sergeants’ syndrome” and how soldiers sort of have a window they are best for combat. When they are inexperienced, battle frightens them because it seems so random and chaotic and they don’t know what to do to survive. Then there is a sweet spot where the know what battle is like, have learned survival skills and think they know how to mitigate their risk of death. But after they get enough experience, they realize that no, actually, battle *is* random and chaotic – the chief trait in determining whether you live or die is how lucky you are, and they essentially become fatalistic.

        So even if the media’s reporting were responsible(and I ain’t saying it is), it is hard to know what to convey. We want people to feel both that they are in control of their own lives, *and* that if they are victimized it isn’t their fault. But those two ideas don’t live together well in the brain, so folks have to choose whether they want to think of themselves as irresponsible or as helpless.

        1. I certainly wouldn’t give the media the ego boost of calling them responsible for crime…or for anything, really. And it wasn’t the media in this case that got my knickers twisted; it was the police, telling folks to “KEEP YOUR DOOR LOCKED AT ALL TIMES. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200. KEEP MOVING. KEEP TO THE RIGHT. DO NOT UNLOCK YOUR DOORS. THERE ARE ZOMBIES OUT THERE. REAL, LIVE, **ZOMBIES**. OKAY, UH, WELL, NOT “LIVE” ZOMBIES, BUT YOU GET THE POINT. DO NOT UNLOCK YOUR DOORS!”

          But. Point well taken. And it’s interesting. Add to the ‘fatalism’ thing the fact that with some folks, attitude is everything.

          1. Heh, I didn’t mean “responsible for crime”, I did mean “responsible in their reporting”, but yeah. :)

            Really though, part of it is just how information gets processed. People aren’t going to parse any reasonable advisory from the police. They’ll either see “LOCK YOUR DOORS EVERYONE IS AN ENEMY BE AFRAID!”, or they’ll read “LEAVE A SIGN DECLARING YOUR VALUABLES IN A WINDOW, LEAVE ALL DOORS UNLOCKED, AND WANDER DOWN DARK ALLYS AT NIGHT FOR THE WORLD IS COMPLETELY SAFE, CITIZEN”. Like, both are bad messages. And I can understand why the police – who are first and foremost concerned with keeping crime stats down – would go for the first one, of the two choices.

    2. My brother-in-law (who is 6’2″, heavily-built, and moderately tough-looking got knifed and robbed in Winnipeg while we were down there. He was walking home during the middle of the evening.

      A night or two earlier, my father-in-law had been walking (a few blocks) in a rough neighbourhood saw two guys coming up on a smaller woman. She turned around, ready to take them on, and said “What do you want?” loudly. The guys hightailed it.

      Certain neighbourhoods are dangerous. Certain responses to an attack are dangerous. But being a woman has very little to do with the overall danger level (though it certainly affects whether rape is part of the equation).

      1. I don’t think being female has much to do with whether rape is part of the equation. If someone really wants to exert their control, whether their target is male or female makes no difference at all in a sexual assault.

        That’s another thing that I think a lot of folks have wrong.

  3. I didn’t think it was common for someone to lock their doors during the day. I have to agree though and it seems that Saskatchewan, as it grows, so does its culture of fear…something we didn’t have so much before.

    1. Even at night – it has always been much more common to leave your doors unlocked *all the time*. In fact, the only locks on the doors were on the outside. And they weren’t used very often in our family.

      1. When I was growing up, the only time doors were locked was when we went on vacation. This changed for me somewhat when I left an abusive relationship but even now when I am home and awake, the doors are open. I guess I am just of the opinion that no one really wants to break in all that badly when you are home. When things are locked it is more from a paranoia of one particular and dangerous individual than it is of the general population…but as you say, a locked door probably won’t stop him if he is determined.

  4. The culture not just of fear, but of fear of strangers, I really do think does more harm than good for society. It separates us from each other, creates excess fear and anxiety, and in general makes us less safe. Reducing risk is good(and thus, I would generally recommend to folks they lock their doors, but I’d also recommend everyone gets 30 minutes of vigorous exercise each day and I certainly don’t do that), but it is a dangerous mindset to start to get into that risk can or should be eliminated entirely. Firstly, because the drawbacks far outweigh the potential benefits – after all, if you are afraid of being sexually assaulted, or having your children taken away, or just plain being robbed, the first people you should cut out of your life are your family and your romantic partners. Second though, is it does create a sense that when something bad happens we should immediately ask what the victim did wrong. Yeah, sure, maybe if they had done something different the crime wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I picked the right numbers I’d win the lotto, too. The person committing the crime is the one whose actions are at fault. Not to say we shouldn’t still be engaged in risk management, of course, but there is such a thing as reasonableness.

    And, of course…like you said, the best defense against crimes against you where you live is a nosy neighbour. And the culture that says “Be afraid of everyone” makes it a lot harder for people to form communities in the first place. And not just communities at home, but broader ones, too. It is easy to forget that, even lost and alone in a strange city, the average person you run into on the street is more interested in helping you than harming you(though, again, risk management is still important). Also, I think a culture where we view everyone as dangerous strangers makes people *more* likely to victimize each other – not necessarily on a sexual assault level, but all the little petty crimes are a lot easier to commit when you’ve always been told everyone else is out to get you.

    1. If you really want to reduce your chances of being murdered, avoid everyone you know–stranger murders are far less common than family or acquaintance murders.

      I do lock my doors at night and often during the day, depending on whether I’m expecting guests and where I am in the house and whether I’m alone… but that’s my neighbourhood. I usually bring Spenser with me when I go to answer the door, also because of the neighbourhood. I find the sight of an 108-lb dog who is taller than most people when he stands on his hind legs makes meth addicts think twice about intimidating me into giving them $20.

      People who live in areas that don’t have door-to-door tweeking panhandlers are probably more relaxed about locking doors.

  5. I honestly can’t remember the last time I locked the doors to my house, day or night. In fact, I have no idea where I put my house keys, I don’t think I’ve seen them in over a year.

    That might, of course, have something to do with living in a town of 400 people. I seem to recall locking my house at night when I lived in the Big City.

    G – That comment you copied, that is the reason I ought not be reading the CBC comment boards.

    1. I know. I’ll admit, the thought of tracking this man down, or at least posting an open letter to his wife, did cross my mind.

    1. I haven’t been a victim, but my house/car has been broken into at least four times. And I have been sexually assaulted by a stranger who came into the house I was staying at.

      1. I was home, asleep the last time my house was broken into. I physically caught one of the teens that broke in. He managed to squirm loose and run from me while I was trying to call 911. I lock all the doors now even when I’m home. We even have a deadbolt on the back door that you need a key to unlock because one of the guys got out that door while I was chasing them down.
        I’m in awe of you being able to keep your doors unlocked after being broken into four times and attacked once though. You’re made of sterner stuff than me.

        1. Well, it could be that I’m just asking for trouble.

          I just figure that if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. If someone’s going to steal my stuff, they clearly need it more than I do. If someone is going to attempt to harm my family, that’s a different story, but I’m not going to live in fear of that happening. I choose to believe in the goodness of people. I choose not to live in fear.

          I think I’ve used my house keys once in the past year.

  6. I think you guys are blowing an unlocked door way out of proportion.
    Locking a door is indicative of the collapse of society and the failure of gov’t?

    It’s called *prudence* – nothing more.

    1. Uh.
      Smarty Pants?
      Who the haitch said that locking a door is indicative of the collapse of society and the failure of government? I mean, who said it *sincerely*?
      *MY* point was that inciting fear by telling people that they should keep their doors locked is a symptom of fear, and living in fear is Not Cool.

      For some folks, they might feel that locking their doors while they’re at home to be prudent. I think it’s ridiculous.

  7. I don’t lock my doors regularly, either. But to be fair, I live in an apartment building with exterior doors that lock automatically.

    The last apartment I lived in initially didn’t have security locks on the outside doors. And still…I locked my doors, but largely because a) it had an “auto-lock” spring mechanism and b) I didn’t trust my landlord that much, and wanted to make sure they knocked/checked before entering. Fear of break-ins, not so major.

    On the other hand, after having my car stolen from where it was parked while I was at work one night (years ago), I am more conscientious about locking my car doors in some places. But not all.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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