The Media in Dallas has all been abuzz over remarks made by Police Chief David Brown to City Council members. Those comments were made during a Public Safety Committee meeting while speaking about a reported 25 percent spike in sexual assaults so far this year compared to the same period last year. He pointed out that a lot of those assaults are connected to alcohol use and date rape.
In putting forth the department's plan to address this increase he said they are considering a public-education campaign urging women to exercise extra caution when going out with someone new, to be careful about drinking too much in those situations or to always have a trusted, sober friend present.
During the meeting a reporter from the Dallas Observer was doing a live feed to his blog and reported that the Chief was blaming women for sexual attacks. Later in the week, Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow, came to the Chief's defense saying this idea was no different than public safety campaigns to encourage people to lock their homes and cars and don't leave valuables in cars.
Blow was taken to task by letter writers who said that he was supporting the idea that women are to blame for sexual assaults and rape. Beth Newman, dirctor of Women's and Gender Studies at SMU, wrote, "A public education campaign emphasizing the responsibility of women to protect themselves merely reinforces the idea that a man's taking advantage of an "opportunity" to rape is to be expected."
In response to that letter, another woman wrote, "No woman drunk or sober ever deserves to be raped, even if she is dancing naked on a tabletop in a room full of convicted serial rapists. However, I would never advise my daughter to allow herself to get drunk while on a date with a man she barely knows."
This controversy has really resonated with me because I was assaulted once. And I was not the least bit offended by Chief Brown's comments. To me, what he was saying was, be careful that you don't make yourself prey. Rapists are looking for every opportunity to take advantage of a vulnerable person. Do what you can to make sure you are not that person.
That isn't blaming the victim.