Accused of a fallacy? Suspect a fallacy? Ask Dr. Bo and the community!

Quickly register to comment, ask and respond to questions, and get FREE access to our passive online course on cognitive biases!
Register!

one moment please...


Blog Home Tags:
rape
responsibility
Print

Women, Rape, and Responsibility

posted Tuesday Jul 11, 2017 12:00 AM

image loading...

Bo Bennett, PhD


About Bo Bennett, PhD

Sorry, this user has not created a bio yet.

A question was asked recently about women, rape, and responsibility. Paraphrasing, the argument went something like this:

Women have some responsibility in doing things to prevent rape. Women are (or at least should be) responsible for doing things that make them less of a target (being out with friends instead of being alone, not wearing extremely revealing clothing, etc.).

To which the response was:

If "hanging out in groups" or "dressing more conservatively" helped to prevent rape, explain why children get raped. Explain why women dressed modestly or who are covered head to toe get raped. Rape happens to the elderly, too. Explain that. No one, regardless of dress, gender, age or behavior, is asking to be raped. Predators are the problem, not the behavior of potential victims.

This exchange is ripe with fallacious reasoning—at least the response is. This is often what happends when emotion or idiology trumps reason and critical thinking, which is not uncommon with politically-charged issues such as rape and responsibility. First, let's consider the initial argument:

Women are (or at least should be) responsible for doing things that make them less of a target (being out with friends instead of being alone, not wearing extremely revealing clothing, etc.).

There is an implied claim in here: that women can do things to lessen their chances of getting raped (as indicated by "less of a target"). This claim is either true or false—so it would not be fallacious, but a factual error (for the record, it is true—I have linked to research on this in my article on blaming the victim). Now this person turns this "is" into an "ought." It is the case that women can do things to be less of a target for rape, therefore, they should (ought to). This might be a bit nit-picky, but one could say this is the Naturalistic Fallacy. The naturalistic and moralistic fallacies, in general, are controversial because many people agree that going from an "is" to an ought—especially in examples like this—is perfectly justified without further argumentation. It should be clear to most people that less rape is a good thing. So in summary, as for the initial argument, I don't think it is problematic—although a little more explanation would make it "less of a target" for fallacies.

Now for the fallacy-ridden response:

If "hanging out in groups" or "dressing more conservatively"helped to prevent rape, explain why children get raped. Explain why women dressed modestly or who are covered head to toe get raped. Rape happens to the elderly, too. Explain that.

Oversimplified Cause Fallacy. This is the big one. The person is erroneously reasoning that "the cause" of rape is lack of personal responsibility on the part of the victim (e.g., being alone, dressing provocatively, etc.).

Strawman Fallacy. The person could be deliberately misrepresenting the claim of being a deterrent as a claim of causality, thus creating a strawman argument.

Political Correctness Fallacy. The idea that women bear some of the responsibility when it comes to the chances that they will be a victim of sexual assault is politically incorrect, therefore, it must be false.

Argument from Ignorance. Just because the arguer cannot explain why elderly people get raped, this does not mean that his or her initial argument is false.

Non-sequitur. The person is asking to explain why the elderly and children also get raped as a response to provocative dress and not being in groups. This doesn't follow since children and the elderly can also not be in groups, and can dress proactively (less so for really old people or really young children).

No one, regardless of dress, gender, age or behavior, is asking to be raped. Predators are the problem, not the behavior of potential victims.

Strawman again. The arguer never claimed that people are asking to be raped, nor suggested it.

Political Correctness Fallacy again. The line "predators are the problem, not the behavior of potential victims" might get a standing ovation, but my guess is that everyone who cheers at this who has a teenage daughter wouldn't hesitate to instruct her how to be safe.

Strawman again. By asserting that "predators are the problem," the person is ignoring the valid claim of lessening the chances of becoming a victim and attempting to reframe the argument as "solving the problem." This would be like arguing that we shouldn't have to wear seat belts; cars are the problem (of why people die in auto accidents).

This boils down to confusion of blaming the victim with the victim sharing some of the responsibility for the situation. It is incredibly important for people to understand because we cannot control the behaviors of every person in the world, but we can alter certain behaviors to increase our chances of not being victim. I am not to blame if a member of ISIS cuts off my head, but it would be wise of me not to march through Syria wearing a "Born Again Atheist" t-shirt. ISIS is still the problem, but I can certainly take actions to avoid the problem.


Podcast Episode: Women, Rape, and Responsibility


Private, Anonymous Comment On This Post (no login required)Your comment below will be anonymously sent to the post owner, it will not be posted, and you will not get a response. To make a public comment, post below (login required).

Send Comment sending comment...

Registered User Comments

Peter Allebone
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 05:04:24 PM
Hi,

Thanks for this interesting article.

The link you describe here "I have linked to research on this in my article on blaming the victim"
does not work.

How can I access this link?

Kind regards
Pete

login to reply
1 reply
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...
 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 05:15:52 PM
Sorry about that. https://www.thedrboshow.com/tools/bg/Bo/TheDrBoShow/TMNELu72/To-Blame-or-Not-To-Blame--A-Look-at-Victim-Blaming

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Randy Burton
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 11:08:52 AM
This is a logically fallacioius argument. I assumed, apparently wrongly, that this site was designed to help people better understand the principles of logic. I did not believe that it was a site for the personal opinions or political positions of Mr. Bennett. This argument is loaded with examples of the author's bias on the subject of violence against women since it includes the writer's alternative facts that are easily disproven. The author should confine himself to topics that he has thoroughly researched before asserting positions as proven fact. The only way that a woman can protect herself from rape by a man is to eliminate the presence of men. Even the "option" of never leaving her home does not mean a woman is safe from a rapist. Since a woman's appearance, age, geographical location and physical surroundings cannot protect her from the designs of a rapist -- most of whose motives are unknown or unknowable to the victim -- a woman can never eliminate or mitigate the chance the she will be raped. Walking to class on a college campus or going on a date with a stranger can be just as dangerous as walking down a dark alley at night. Former Chief Prosecutor of Family Crimes, Houston, Texas.

login to reply
5 replies
-5 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...
 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 11:16:34 AM
Hi Randy. Just to be clear, this was an argument made by someone else and posted on this site because of potential fallacies. I pointed out the fallacies in the argument(s). As for your comment:

a woman can never eliminate or mitigate the chance the she will be raped.

Of course nobody can eliminate the chances of being a victim, but it is extremely dangerous and ignorant to suggest that women cannot do things to protect themselves and lessen the chances that they will be victims of rape. Unless I am misunderstanding what you mean, you appear to be saying that women's self defense classes, carrying mace (or even a gun), walking in large groups in questionable areas, etc. won't make a difference?

login to reply
 
2 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...
 

Randy Burton
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 11:22:57 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: What I find amusing is that you resort to straw dog responses such as my statements are "ignorant" and "dangerous." I would encourage you to immerse yourself in the criminal justice statistics and literature before resorting to personal attacks. Self-defense classes, carrying mace, and carrying guns do not protect a woman from a highly motivated rapist. I could list a number of cases where none of those forms of defense made any difference. Most rape, incidentally, does not occur -- statistically speaking -- in either a dark alley or in front of a lot of witnesses.

login to reply
 
-2 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...
 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 11:29:57 AM
@Randy Burton: Saying women could do NOTHING to "mitigate the chances" of becoming rape victims is factually wrong and ignorant. You don't get a pass on this one, especially since your position puts women at risk. The fact that you can list "a number of cases" does not prove your point. All we need is ONE case where a woman defended herself against an attacker and your horribly dangerous position is falsified. There are thousands of these.

login to reply
 
3 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...
 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 12:11:09 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Just in case others are reading this and think "perhaps women are helpless and can do absolutely nothing about being raped," let me provide some academic evidence-based sources on sexual violence programs:

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/207262.pdf

https://aifs.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication-documents/w11.pdf

In fact, if in doubt, go to Google Scholar simply search for "evidence based rape prevention" and hundreds of documents and research papers will be displayed, all of which demonstrate some level of effectiveness.

Again, the claim that women can do NOTHING to protect themselves against being a victim of rape is patently false.

login to reply
 
2 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...
 

Bryan
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 12:35:57 PM
@Randy Burton:
I'm curious, do you understand what logic is? Can you describe it please?

By the way, you can't mitigate the chance of something occuring, you mitigate the effects or damage caused by something.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Bryan
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 12:21:31 PM
Very interesting and you raise points that weren't initially obvious to me. I think it would be useful to change the premise a bit to highlight where emotion comes in to the discussion:

If we suggest that, instead of walking around a crowded marketplace with your old fashioned money pouch proudly displayed on your belt , you place your cash in a money belt which you wear underneath your clothes, your far less likely to have a cutpurse make off with your money.

Or for women not to walk around with a purse (wallet) sat at the top of their open handbag (purse (brackets used for US vernacular)).

I think most people would just take this as good advice and realise that it in no way advocates stealing, though conversely there are indeed people who say "well you were asking for it" (in both scenarios), and these people are making a claim that the victim caused the crime.

login to reply
0 replies
1 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Stephen
Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - 11:20:52 AM
Bo, I get you. For those interested, check out the "Christian" cult of Calvinism/Reformed Theology, and see how that lot handles rape and child molestation. They simply hide the crime, and when they are exposed, they turn the victim into the aggressor by suggesting she/he does not want to "forgive" them for what the rapist did to them. They are appealing to Religion, so to speak.
What makes this topic so difficult is that it is often committed by people in "trustworthy" positions.
But, Bo, I get your point.

login to reply
0 replies
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

Keir Fabian
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 - 06:59:45 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Your last comparison seems unfortunate, Bo: somebody who chooses to "march through Syria wearing a 'Born Again Atheist' t-shirt" would appear to be *actively seeking* to provoke a reaction - which is plainly *not* a valid comparison to someone who *leaves* themselves in a vulnerable position through carelessness. And the problem is, this is exactly the kind of comparison that might be made by someone who *does* seek to blame the victim.

When you say "women can do things to lessen their chances of getting raped", that is, in my opinion, a simple statement of fact that is unarguable. But when one uses the word "responsibility" when discussing such a topic, I think one has to be very careful to clarify that this *doesn't* imply blame. If I had been the first party in this debate, I would have gone out of my way to clarify that, *regardless* of how careless someone has been in leaving themselves in a vulnerable position, it doesn't make getting raped any less traumatic, or their attacker any less accountable: nobody but the attacker is responsible for taking *advantage* of someone's vulnerability. And, in fact, I would probably avoid the word "responsibility" altogether when referring to the victim, and instead say something like "it is sensible for women to take precautions with their safety".

In fairness, you do say that "a little more explanation would make it 'less of a target' for fallacies" - which *is* important: it is important to avoid unnecessarily provoking an emotive or defensive reaction, for the sake of enabling constructive debate.

But you then go on to speak of "the victim sharing some of the responsibility for the situation". Well, share responsibility with who? With the perpetrator? That would be patently ridiculous: *without* the perpetrator there *is* no "situation". And again, this is exactly the kind of thing that someone who *does* seek to shift blame onto the victim might say.

There is no shortage of people who do shift part of the blame onto the victim in many rape cases (in fact, I even remember Helena Kennedy QC describing her reaction to a judge giving a lesser sentence to a rapist on the basis that the victim was guilty of "contributory negligence"). So it's really very important, in my opinion, to show due care in one's wording when discussing this subject, both for the sake of *enabling* a constructive exchange, and for the sake of *avoiding* providing ammunition to those who *do* seek to shift blame onto the victim. And I say this with all respect, Bo, but I feel in this case you have failed to show due care.

login to reply
Show All 15 Replies

currently showing last 10

loading...
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Keir Fabian
Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - 06:15:25 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:

I wonder if we’ve hit a wall, Bo, but I’ll respond.

Your analogy is a very poor one in any case in relation to sexual assault, so I’ll pose an example.

Suppose a woman has far too much to drink at a party, and ends up crashed out somewhere in the house, and somebody rapes her while she’s unconscious. She could, of course, have avoided leaving herself vulnerable by drinking less. Does that mean she shares responsibility with her rapist for leaving herself vulnerable to him? Is that a statement you would agree with? Yes or no?

If no, then please clarify. Who does she share responsibility *with* if not her rapist? Or what does she share responsibility *for* if not for leaving herself vulnerable to her rapist?

If yes, then I’m stumped. I don’t know if we somehow just have a completely different understanding about what is meant by that statement. Either way, it baffles me that you cannot perceive any problem with the way such a statement is likely to come across.

I hope I can make myself clear here: I have no logical problem with the notion of *individual* responsibility. She is responsible for her own carelessness or recklessness in leaving herself in a vulnerable position. And he is responsible for taking advantage of her vulnerability to rape her. She is responsible for her own conduct (and *only* her own conduct). And he is responsible for *his*. That's logical.

What *isn't* logical, to my mind, is to state that she *shares* responsibility *with* her rapist for leaving herself vulnerable *to* him. That is a statement I cannot logically understand. And that is the only interpretation I have been able to come up with when you state that she shares responsibility for the situation. So if I have misinterpreted, if you meant she shares responsibility with someone other than her rapist, and/or is responsible for something other than leaving herself vulnerable to her rapist, then I am offering you the opportunity to clarify - which is what I have done in every message I've sent you!

This is not a matter of softening your message: it is a matter of LOGIC.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - 07:54:45 AM
@Keir Fabian : I am not sure if you, like many others, are ignoring facts and reality due to strong emotion and political correctness, or if you and I simply disagree on what "responsibility" entails. As it is generally a good idea to go with the more charitable interpretation, so let me explain responsibility:

The definition in this context is the quality or state of being responsible, where "responsible" is liable to be called to account as the primary cause (necessary and sufficient cause of the effect). To be partially responsible is for one's actions to be a necessary but not sufficient causal factor. When we are referring to the effect, we can say that the effect is the crime or the situation. The "crime" comes with moral and legal connotations, so has a different set of causal factors. The situation is the facts without moral or legal implications.

If I ask someone for financial help, and they give me money, I likely share responsibility for the fact that I was given money.

If I tell someone I love them, and they hug me, I likely share responsibility for the fact that I was hugged.

If I tell someone their kids are ugly, and they punch me, I likely share responsibility for the fact that I was punched.


There should be nothing controversial here and our logic and reason is not clouded by political correctness.

Suppose a woman has far too much to drink at a party, and ends up crashed out somewhere in the house, and somebody rapes her while she’s unconscious. She could, of course, have avoided leaving herself vulnerable by drinking less. Does that mean she shares responsibility with her rapist for leaving herself vulnerable to him? Is that a statement you would agree with? Yes or no?

Specifically, you ask

Does that mean she shares responsibility with her rapist for leaving herself vulnerable to him?

Your question is ambiguous. Share responsibility for what? Your question leaves open the possibility that we are referring to the crime of rape with all of its moral and legal ramifications, and to that the answer is an emphatic no (the rapist is 100% responsible for the crime of rape—legally and morally). She might share responsibility for the situation (that is, her being drunk and passed out might have been a necessary condition of the rape... or she might have been raped anyway, we don't know for sure).

My analogy is a very strong one and it does exactly what analogies are meant to do: remove the bias and emotion in order to isolate the logic. Let's look at this again with some variations:

I give a mugger the finger when the mugger asks for my wallet. In a rage, the mugger then stabs me. I am not at all responsible for assault with a deadly weapon, but it is likely that I do share some of the responsibility for situation in which I find myself: stabbed. In other words, had I not given the mugger the finger and had given him my wallet instead, I probably would not be stabbed.

Now your example with immaterial changes:

I have far too much to drink at a party, and end up crashed out somewhere in the house, and somebody snags my wallet from my pocket while I am unconscious. I am not at all responsible for theft, but it is likely that I do share some of the responsibility for situation in which I find myself: without a wallet. In other words, had I not passed out, I probably would not have had my wallet stolen.

I can almost guarantee you that you agree with me in the above example. You are realizing that the logic is solid, and the reason you find your example horrifying but mine reasonable, is because political correctness fallacy, not because of the logic.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - 09:07:47 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Another thought: "responsibility" could refer to legal, moral, or causal responsibility. Perhaps making it clear that victims rarely share any legal or moral responsibility would make what I am saying more palatable, rather than assuming one understands that by separating the crime from the situation.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Keir Fabian
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 - 08:42:49 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:

I'm a little confused, Bo, as to why you would begin by saying that you will give me the benefit of the doubt in assuming that I'm not being influenced by political correctness, but then finish by saying I am being politically correct! But never mind!

You are evidently puzzled as to what it is we disagree on. Okay, lets have one more attempt to disentangle this.

Can you define, specifically, what you mean by "the situation"? You say that you cannot give a yes or no answer to my question because you find it ambiguous. But you don't find anything ambiguous about the statement that "she shares responsibility for the situation"? It puzzles me that you find ambiguity in my question but not in your statement. My question was actually much more specific. Or, to put it another way, "she shares responsibility with her rapist for leaving herself vulnerable to him" is a much more specific statement than "she shares responsibility for the situation": your statement does not specify who she shares responsibility with, or what the situation is she shares responsibility for. The statement within my question does specify those things, and I hoped you would be specific in your response (i.e. if that's not what you mean, what specifically do you mean?).

First of all, I am going to assume that the person she shares responsibility with in your statement is her attacker, as you haven't said otherwise.

And you ask "share responsibility for what?", which is exactly the question I was asking you!

You appear to state that the "situation" is "her being drunk and passed out" (and let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this was a necessary condition for the rape). So she shares responsibility with her attacker for being drunk and passed out? Well, not unless he played a role in that, for instance by encouraging her or pressuring her to drink (in which case, of course, he is even more culpable, as she shares no responsibility for the rape itself, as you have clearly agreed).

She is responsible for her own conduct, and she could have avoided rape by conducting herself differently. It doesn't make sense to me to say that she shares responsibility for her own conduct with her attacker (again, unless her attacker had played a role in manipulating her conduct, which, again, makes him even more culpable).

So what specifically does she share responsibility with her attacker for? If it's not for leaving herself vulnerable to her attacker, or if that's not specific enough, then please spell it out to me. Be as specific as you can.

And let's keep this tight: let's focus on the example in hand.

Also, part of the definition you gave for "responsibility" is, "liable to be called to account..." (and, yes, responsibility does imply accountability). So that's one more thing to specify: if she and her attacker share responsibility for something, to whom do they share accountability? The attacker is accountable to his victim for raping her. She is accountable only to herself for leaving herself in a vulnerable position that enabled him to rape her. So to whom do they share accountability?



N.B. In regards to your distinction between legal, moral and causal responsibility, you still need to be very specific as to what it is they share responsibility for. Are you saying she shares responsibility with her attacker for causing the rape? Be very specific.

And in regards to your analogy at the end, your use of the word "share" in this example still confuses me: I could not imagine saying to you that "you share responsibility for the fact that you no longer have your wallet with the thief who stole it". I would consider that to be a very odd thing to say. You are accountable only to yourself for the consequences of your own carelessness (and possibly to your wife and kids if they're left short!). The thief, on the other hand, is accountable to you. And the thief is no less accountable just because the theft was made easy for him. So how do you share accountability? And to who?

And you have already stated that the thief is 100% responsible for the theft. But you would say to this thief that that he only shares responsibility for the fact that you no longer have your wallet (assuming no one else would have taken it)?

As I have made very clear, I have no logical problem with the idea of individual responsibility. And I have no problem with your factual statement that "had I not passed out, I probably would not have had my wallet stolen". And it is useful to take personal accountability: to consider what you could have done differently to avoid this outcome, and to act on that in the future.

It is specifically this notion of "shared" responsibility - that the victim shares responsibility with the perpetrator - that I find baffling and wholly unhelpful. And, of course, I find it much more troubling in the context of the much more serious crime of rape. To say to a rape victim that "you share responsibility for the fact that you have experienced a rape with the man who raped you" would strike me not only as a very odd thing to say, but a wholly disgusting and irresponsible thing to say. Wouldn't you? And the same with saying to the rapist that "you share responsibility for the fact that this woman has experienced a rape".

Let us please stick to the example of rape I gave for the rest of this discussion.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Thursday, July 05, 2018 - 07:24:00 AM
@Keir Fabian :
I'm a little confused, Bo, as to why you would begin by saying that you will give me the benefit of the doubt in assuming that I'm not being influenced by political correctness, but then finish by saying I am being politically correct!

You're right. I changed my mind over the course of the post. I am more confident now than ever that this is all about the PC fallacy because of your instance to stick with the example of rape. You seem to be acting in bad faith... that is, you are more interested in getting a sound bite for me that is carefully worded to sound like I am making a general statement blaming women for getting raped. I will make one more attempt here.

Can you define, specifically, what you mean by "the situation"?

The situation is the effect of the cause(s), free from moral or legal responsibility. Causal responsibility is concerned with the situation, legal responsibility is concerned with the crime, and moral responsibility is concerned with the moral decisions made. In your example, the situation is the woman being raped. The rape is the effect of one or more causes (contributing factors).

You say that you cannot give a yes or no answer to my question because you find it ambiguous. But you don't find anything ambiguous about the statement...

That is a whataboutism. The ambiguity of my statement doesn't excuse yours. "[S]he shares responsibility with her rapist for leaving herself vulnerable to him" does not specify what kind of responsibility—causal, legal, or moral. I already addressed this. This is an extremely important piece of information you left out as it could mean the difference between deserving life in prison... and not.

First of all, I am going to assume that the person she shares responsibility with in your statement is her attacker, as you haven't said otherwise.

The victim would share causal responsibility (or responsibility for the situation) with all the parties that played a necessary role in the situation. This includes the attacker and could include the person who hosted the party, the friend who encouraged the woman to get drunk to the point of unconsciousness, and even the mechanic who finished fixing the attacker's car a day early which made it possible for the attacker to attend the party where he committed the crime. All of these people were part of the causal chain of events that led to the crime, therefore, by definition, share causal responsibility for the situation.

You appear to state that the "situation" is "her being drunk and passed out"

Just in case it was not crystal clear by now, her being drunk and passed out is a cause not the effect about which we are speaking. The situation is the fact that she was raped.

She is responsible for her own conduct, and she could have avoided rape by conducting herself differently. It doesn't make sense to me to say that she shares responsibility for her own conduct with her attacker (again, unless her attacker had played a role in manipulating her conduct, which, again, makes him even more culpable).

That's because we are not talking about responsibility for her own conduct. Since the original post I have been talking about the situation.

So what specifically does she share responsibility with her attacker for? If it's not for leaving herself vulnerable to her attacker, or if that's not specific enough, then please spell it out to me. Be as specific as you can.

She shares responsibility with all necessary parties for the effect brought on by the causes. In this case, the effect is the fact that she was raped (the "situation"). Denying this is denying cause and effect. This is exactly what causal responsibility is (Google it). The laws of cause and effect don't change because women are involved or because the crime is rape.

Also, part of the definition you gave for "responsibility" is, "liable to be called to account..." (and, yes, responsibility does imply accountability). So that's one more thing to specify: if she and her attacker share responsibility for something, to whom do they share accountability?

Curious as to why you didn't finish the definition I quoted. I will do it for you: "liable to be called to account as the primary cause". You are begging the question when you demand that there is an object of accountability.

Are you saying she shares responsibility with her attacker for causing the rape? Be very specific.

Given the assumption that the woman's actions played a necessary role in the rape, then yes. It could not be otherwise. Again, just because we are talking about a woman and the crime of rape doesn't mean the laws of causality can be broken. If person X's action is a necessary condition of effect Y, then person X is at least partly responsible for effect Y.

I could not imagine saying to you that "you share responsibility for the fact that you no longer have your wallet with the thief who stole it". I would consider that to be a very odd thing to say.

Yes, it would... because people don't talk like that. What we would say is "You idiot! If you were going to get wasted, couldn't you leave your wallet in the car? Or even your front pocket??" Of course, the more serious the crime, the more diplomatic we tend to be. The point is, it is clear that the victim's actions contributed to the likelihood of the crime, and preventative measures could have been taken (or they can be taken in the future) to reduce the likelihood of one becoming a victim. This is what this is all about.

It is specifically this notion of "shared" responsibility - that the victim shares responsibility with the perpetrator - that I find baffling and wholly unhelpful.

I don't care. And causal responsibility does not care if you find it unhelpful. Again, reality does not bend because people don't like it or find it unhelpful. The facts of reality remain. I urge you to research "causal responsibility."

What's the alternative? You are suggesting (or outright stating) that two or more parties cannot share responsibility for an event. You can't make an exception to women and rape, but allow everything else. This is logically inconsistent and simply wrong. The terms "victim" and "perpetrator" are legal/moral terms that have no place when discussing causal responsibility. In other words, the moral or legal "blame" has no effect on the responsibility. One party can certainly share more of the responsibility than the other, but without question, there is shared causal responsibility.

In the simplest terms, if a person does some necessary action for an event to take place, that person is at least partly responsible for that event (i.e., causally responsible). It doesn't matter who the person is, what the event is, or who else shares the responsibility.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Keir Fabian
Thursday, July 05, 2018 - 11:08:56 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:

You seem to be acting in bad faith... that is, you are more interested in getting a sound bite for me that is carefully worded to sound like I am making a general statement blaming women for getting raped.

Given the fact that I have outright stated that I am in wholehearted agreement with what you were trying to say, that really doesn't make sense, does it, Bo?

I have already made it very clear that my issue here is with clarity.

And, yes, after responding in full to your analogy regarding the stolen wallet, I did insist that we now stick with the example of rape - which I am very glad I did, as you have now responded with far greater specificity to my questions, and I now feel we're actually getting somewhere instead of going round in circles!

So let's go over this again, bearing in mind your very helpful clarifications.

Firstly, what you mean by "responsibility" in this instance is now very clear to me, thank you. You are referring solely to causal responsibility, and that applies to anyone whose actions played a role in causing the rape to occur - "even the mechanic who finished fixing the attacker's car a day early which made it possible for the attacker to attend the party where he committed the crime". This makes it very clear that "causal" responsibility does not automatically infer moral accountability.

And it is useful to consider causal responsibility in as far as possible consequences for a given action were predictable: as you quite rightly say, it is only by examining the causes - all the causes, ideally - of an undesirable event that we can consider how to reduce the incidence of such events

So far, there is no logical problem with any of this. Though I would add that this use of the term "responsibility" is very specific, and somewhat differs from how the term is normally applied (I don't think anyone would normally think of the car mechanic as bearing any responsibility; but by your definition, yes, he does bear "causal responsibility"). And in common usage, the term "responsibility" often does infer moral accountability. So if you are going to use a term in a very specific way, then it is wise to be very clear about what you mean by this term in this instance.

And one of the issues I had with your post is that you appear to assume that the person who says "women have some responsibility in doing things to prevent rape" is using the term "responsibility" in a similar way to you. But they might not be. Somebody who feels that a woman is, in part, morally responsible for the consequences if she fails "to do things that make her less of a target" would be just as likely to make such a statement. In your analysis you did not acknowledge the ambiguity of the term "responsibility". As I said, had I been the first party, I would either have been very careful to qualify what I meant by "responsibility", or I would have avoided the term altogether (while still making my point).

Next.

You clarify that "The situation is the fact that she was raped". Thank you for the clarification. And, no, that wasn't "crystal clear" to me, because that leads to what seems to me the very odd conclusion that she shares causal responsibility for the fact that she was raped with the man who raped her. Her rapist did not "cause" the rape: he committed the rape. Even if the statement makes sense to you, can you at least see why it's confusing to me?

Without clarifications can you see how the statement "the victim shares some of the responsibility for the situation with her attacker" might sound, at the least, confusing, if not downright offensive?

As I've said, Bo, it is not what you were trying to say I have an issue with: I am in full agreement with what you were trying to say. My issue is with the confusing way you said it (and also your failure to pick up on the possibility that the first party in the exchange you described may have had a moral element in mind, as well as a causal element, when he spoke of women's "responsibility". And, in fact, this may have been partly why the second party reacted defensively: their perception, at least, may have been that the first party was implying a moral accountability).

Your assumptions about my motives were way off the mark.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, July 06, 2018 - 06:20:23 AM
@Keir Fabian : Keir, my apologies for the "acting in bad faith" comment. It is difficult to tell over this form of communication.

The most important part of my stance on this issue is empowering people with the knowledge that they can make better choices to minimize their chances of becoming a victim. As we have seen, this message causes us to walk a fine line that can be seen as blaming the victim. If you don't mind, I have a few questions for you. Based on our conversation (and one I have been watching unfold on Facebook due to this article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/world/australia/eurydice-dixon-murder.html), I will be creating a second part to my first article on victim blaming. I really do appreciate your dialog.

1) Could a victim of rape make a poor choice that result in her getting raped? In other words, if a better choice were made, the rape would unlikely have occurred.

2) In your example of the woman who drinks to unconsciousness, would you say that it was her poor choice that increased her chances of becoming victim?

3) Would you agree that you and I could make poor choices that compromise our personal safety?

4) If you answered "no" to question 1 and "yes" to 3, what is the justification for the different answer?

5) Do you consider judgements of "better" actions moral accountability? To put another way, if a woman chose to drink to unconsciousness would you see this as an issue of morality?

6) If no to #5, do you see how people could, and how a message of "you have the power to make better choices that lead to increased personal safety and overall enhanced well-being" can be seen as victim blaming?

Thank you in advance for your answers!

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Keir Fabian
Friday, July 06, 2018 - 07:34:37 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:

Happy to help, Bo.

My answer to your first three questions is yes (though technically there's room for nuance in Q2: there could be reasons other than poor choice that she got far more drunk than she intended - medication that interacted with the alcohol, a misjudgment of her own tolerance because she hadn't drunk in a long time, etc.).

My answer to Q5 is no - except insofar as she bears a responsibility to those close to her, or dependent on her. For my own part, for instance, I certainly feel I have a moral responsibility towards my children to keep myself safe.

You have the power to make better choices that lead to increased personal safety and overall enhanced well-being.


I don't think it is reasonable to see this statement as victim blaming. Having said that, I am aware of how polarised debate can lead to black and white thinking, and automatic defensive reactions: each side forms their views and arguments in opposition to the other side, and neither side wants to concede anything that could be used or interpreted to support the other sides position. Within this, nuance becomes lost.

There was another part to Q6 which appears to be a separate question? If you are asking if I can see reasons why some people might place blame on the victim in this instance (and if that's not quite what you're asking, please feel free to get back to me) - well, yes, I can see reasons. Not reasons that are in any way based on objectivity and fairness, but I can see reasons.

I think for many women who would place blame on the victim, their victim blaming is fear driven: if what happened to her only happened because of her own stupidity and irresponsibility, that means that what happened to her cannot happen to me. It's not hard to see how a desire to distance herself from the possibility that she herself could ever be raped could translate into an element of contempt for the victim in this case.

And I think many men, to some extent, share the desires of a rapist, even if they don't actually condone rape* - whether that desire is sexual gratification, a venting of resentment, a desire to experience dominance, or a mixture. So in a rape case where there is possible pretext to shift blame away from the perpetrator and onto the victim, it is not surprising that some men will do so: on some level, shifting the blame onto the victim mitigates their own private desires or resentments.

This is not necessarily a comprehensive answer to why victim blaming occurs, but I think it goes a long way towards it.


*though having said that, both this article, https://www.thecut.com/2015/01/lots-of-men-dont-think-rape-is-rape.html, and the relevant section of this report, http://ec.europa.eu/COMMFrontOffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/Survey/getSurveyDetail/instruments/SPECIAL/surveyKy/2115 (pp31-32 of the summary report), make disturbing reading.

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, July 06, 2018 - 09:58:44 PM
@Keir Fabian : Thank you. I am sorry again for assuming bad faith on your part. These damn emotions keep getting in the way of reason :) I really appreciate your contribution here!

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...

 

Keir Fabian
Saturday, July 07, 2018 - 04:35:40 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:

You are most welcome.

And I don't think it's any bad thing that we've illustrated the importance of continuing to communicate despite our emotional reactions : )

login to reply
 
0 votes
 
Reply To Comment
working...



Become a Logical Fallacy Master. Choose Your Poison.

Logically Fallacious is one of the most comprehensive collections of logical fallacies with all original examples and easy to understand descriptions; perfect for educators, debaters, or anyone who wants to improve his or her reasoning skills.

Get the book, Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:


Not Much of a Reader? No Problem!

Enroll in the Mastering Logical Fallacies Online Course. Over 10 hours of video and interactive learning. Go beyond the book!

Enroll in the Fallacy-A-Day Passive Course. Sit back and learn fallacies the easy way—in just a few minutes per day, via e-mail delivery.

Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.


About Archieboy Holdings, LLC. Privacy Policy Other Books Written by Bo
 Website Software Copyright 2019, Archieboy Holdings, LLC. 

Component Viewer

A component is the HTML code for a section of a webpage that can be combined with other components to make a complete webpage. Click the component to insert the component code at the bottom of your current page, then customize it.