Safety advice for women isn’t ‘blaming the victim.’

Taylor Swift’s sexual assault case important step for women

In four hours a jury decided 23-year-old pop star Taylor Swift had been groped by the DJ standing beside her as a publicity photo was taken four years ago.

Rather than go to police or news media and make a public issue of the incident, Swift passed along to the DJ’s manager the incriminating photo showing the DJ with his hand low behind Swift’s back. The manager promptly conducted an investigation.

Only after the DJ was fired and sued Taylor in civil court for having lost his six-figure job did Swift retaliate by suing him for $1. The DJ sought $3 million.

My suspicion is the internal investigation heard from a few of the DJ’s female co-workers who attested to either having been groped by the DJ, or having witnessed the DJ groping others.

In the words of Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver, this verdict is important because “we are getting to the point in society that women are believed in court. For many decades and centuries, that was not the case.”

As in many if not most sexual assault incidents , Swift did not invite or provoke the assault. The DJ, perhaps thinking like Donald Trump that his “celebrity status” gave him privileges, took advantage of her.

Following a recent sexual assault in Clyde River, Nunavut RCMP issued a list of tips women can follow to protect themselves as much as possible against predators. The tips included more than a few I had heard from a personal safety expert advising women on Oprah a decade or more ago:

— listening on headphones or talking on a cell phone makes you an easy target.

— be alert to your surroundings; don’t always think that you are safe.

—trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, get out of there.

—walk confidently, head up, at a steady pace facing traffic.

— walk close to the curb, avoiding doorways, bushes and alleys.

—keep your hands free (RCMP suggested wearing a backpack), car keys between your fingers in case you need a weapon.

—wear loose clothing, and shoes suitable for running should you need to get away.

— walk, drive and park your car in a well lit area.

The RCMP’s tips were immediately interpreted by some as blaming the assault victim for her assault.

I don’t follow this reasoning; it makes as much sense to me as a regular supermarket customer whining to the store manager each week about the chilly temperature in the meat section and demanding the thermostat be raised instead of arriving cosy in a sweater or jacket.

The president of the Qullit Nunavut Status of Women Council called the idea of RCMP targeting advice to women unfortunate.

“They’re only targeting the victim being a woman, telling them what not to do so they’re not a victim again. They have to go to the next step and talk to the abuser, or potential abuser, to remind them it’s not acceptable,” she said.

Good luck with that!

The principal at Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University was “dismayed to read that the first response of the police is to in effect, school women on how to protect themselves.”

Why dismayed? It’s only logical.

Ideally, all society would be trustworthy, considerate of women, children or anyone else vulnerable to attack. Bystanders would intercede at the first hint of abuse. Such utopia is unrealistic. Thus it behooves every woman to adopt measures to stay as safe as possible, not depend upon the goodness of others, whether strangers or ‘friends’.

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