Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Let's go ahead and get one thing straight here. Is rape a crime committed by rapists? Yes? Ok, good we agree. Are rape victims in any way to blame for the fact that they were raped? No. Ok, good. We agreed again. We're on a roll here. Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way...

As you might have read on Unfair Park, FrontBurner or Jezebel today, the Dallas Chief of Police David said something that was controversial. FrontBurner seemed to handle it best by presenting Bethany's take on the whole thing while also offering up a link to the video allowing readers to come to their own conclusions. Only the problem is that, before video of his actual quote surfaced, what he said was purportedly something along the lines of, "Women, ya'll are getting date raped more frequently than you were last year. Wise up, ladies! Don't be going out and drinking that firewater around a bunch of men who can only respond to their natural, biological rapey urges. Geez, wominz. Come on! Help us out a little!"

The headlines summed up his quote as, "Dallas Police Chief tells women to not drink so they won't get raped." Now obviously, that would be grounds for immediate dismissal followed by torches and pitchforks. But would Chief Brown say that? Surely not. I mean a lot of public figures have said a lot of dumb stuff in their time. So it's not outside the realm of possibility.

Oh, but it turns out he didn't say that. In fact, what he said was:

"A little bit of known offenders. Date rape primarily. Where alcohol is involved. We're needing to create a message to the victims of these types of crimes, on a prevention kind of component, related to you know, first date, second date, someone you don't know that well, but you're at a club, you've had a little bit too much to drink, having friends or someone help watch you, and maybe have someone that doesn't drink in the group."

"We're finding that these are people that you may go on a date with, and have a little bit too much to drink. You don't know them that well. And it ends in a sexual assault. We're needing to do quite a bit of awareness education campaign to that victim's group. That's causing this spike."

To report that quote as the Chief in any way victim blaming or slut shaming is wholly irresponsible in my humble little blogger's opinion. The analogy has already been made dozens of times that, "This is like saying to not leave valuables in your car and to lock your car. If your car gets broken into whether you took these preventative measures or not, you are still the victim of a crime, you did not bring this upon yourself and you are in no way a guilty party." And they're right.

But let's use a different scenario, since car burglary is not a violent crime unless you consider inanimate objects potential victims of violence. Let's say that instead of the inflammatory topic of rape, this had been a meeting about people, specifically women, getting jumped in parking lots near bars after closing time. They are beaten, robbed, mugged, threatened. It's a bad scene. Now let's say that Chief Brown advised potential victims of these attacks, specifically women who are probably physically smaller than their attackers and therefore more likely to be attacked, to try to be more aware of their surroundings. Maybe being drunk dulls your reflexes or allows you to let your guard down, right?

Now the Chief should not have to preface that reminder with, "But before I say this, let me ease your fears by reminding you that we do still consider aggravated assault and burglary illegal and even if you are shitfaced, that doesn't mean it's your fault. You still should not have been attacked in the first place." We're all adults and know what is legal and what is not. Ergo, I know that Chief Brown is not insinuating that me having too many kamikazes at karaoke night equals open season on me for any predator, criminal or violent offender to attack me and go unpunished.

The idea that anyone is implying that the Chief Brown is only concerned with chastising women for going out and having fun is so absurd to me, I feel like it's been written for a sketch comedy show. So when people say things like, "he should be worrying about preventing rape instead of telling people how to avoid it", my response is: and how exactly does one, in a city council meeting, introduce a "don't rape people, rapists" initiative? Suggest mandatory talks between parents and their sons about how not to rape? Pass out "How Not to Raise a Rapist" literature at PTA meetings? Maybe, though that seems as absurd as the original, hysterical reporting of the quote that started this whole thing.

Should he have prefaced his quote with a long list of the initiatives and steps that DPD is taking to make sure that they catch rapists, a plan to get the funding to process the backlog of cold case rape kits, a reminder of the jail time a convicted rapist faces or a display of some newly updated sex offender database website that the public can access? Sure. But it seems like he was answering a specific question that was asked of him about the rise in rapes, which are increasingly date rapes.

You can report this story one of two ways: you can use common sense, which seems to be the boring mousey blonde stepsister of the much foxier journalistic angle, SHOCK! HORROR! OUTRAGE! My common sense tells me that you don't become Chief of Police by not knowing that rape is a crime perpetrated upon a victim not enabled by one. My common sense also tells me that a Chief of Police with a rising number of rapes on his watch isn't cool with treating the people who are committing the assaults with kid gloves.

Chief Brown is right. As a woman (and I might add, one who has more than one friend who has been raped), I know that he's talking some sense. My parents taught me to not get in cars with strangers, to not leave my house unlocked, to watch out for myself. If anything bad happens to me, they know that I am the victim even if I forgot to lock the door or accepted that ride. And no, I've not always followed my parents sage advice on these matters. But I also don't begrudge them for teaching me those lessons, whether or not I choose to adhere to them, because I know that they are trying to help keep me safe.

Sharp upticks in page views are awesome for any publication. National exposure is pretty great as well. But twisting a completely innocent comment into something sinister, misogynist and offensive is not cool. That's sensationalism and while it is what seems to get the most eyeballs on the story and garner the most comments, it's anything but right.

But you can be the judge:

The original reporting of the quote and the context and the defense of the way it was originally reported, post-video and post comments from the council member to whom he was speaking (A WOMAN!) which deny that the quote should be seen as inflammatory or degrading to women.

The video

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