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.
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.