Bec Sparrow challenges the notion that it’s victim blaming to teach your children to take care of themselves. We need to take care of ourselves – because the world is broken…
Close to twenty years ago I spent my time travelling the world alone. It was my job as a travel writer. And so I was paid to wander the streets of Kuwait City, Alice Springs, New York, Wellington and Borneo alone – visiting monuments and landmarks, eating in cafes and striking up conversations with locals and fellow travellers along the way.
I loved that job but in truth I was always just a little on edge. Because I was alone. Nearly always alone. And I felt that made me an easy target.
So I took precautions. I took care of myself.
I removed the hire-car swing-tags and signage out of any hire cars before I drove them out of the airport car park.
When walking I studied where I was going BEFORE I left my hotel and tried as much as possible not to walk the streets with my face in a map or guidebook.
I left the DO NOT DISTURB sign on my hotel room door whilst I was out.
I read up on notorious ‘dodgy’ spots and steered clear. At different times and in different places I avoided walking anywhere alone at night
And always in the back of my head was the advice I’d heard from a self-defence expert: opportunistic attackers need the element of surprise on their side to succeed. So they’re looking for the easiest target, the person who’s drunk or stoned or pre-occupied and won’t see them coming.
I’ve never forgotten it.
Yesterday, like many, my circle of friends was consumed with conversations about the random brutal murders of two women and one man. All of them out alone. All of them minding their own business. All of them doing what they have a RIGHT to do. LIVE THEIR LIVES. But when I went on to mention that I planned to teach my sons and daughter to be smart, to be vigilant when out walking alone at night or in secluded areas (at any time of day or night) I was accused of victim-blaming. I was told I was part of the problem.
Me saying that I would tell my kids to pay attention to their surroundings should they be walking home from a train station or a bus stop at 11pm makes me part of the problem?
ARE YOU JOKING? HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?
Why should WE change our behaviour and live in fear? One friend said to me, “Why should WE have to be vigilant?”
For the counter argument: The one safety tip that will stop women being killed.
I’ll tell you why.
Because we live in a country that is woefully inept at providing adequate care for society’s most high-risk mentally ill citizens.
Because we live at a time when our judges and parole boards seem breathtakingly incapable of taking crimes of male violence against women anywhere near seriously. A history of sexual violence against women or children isn’t enough to keep a man behind bars, it seems.