Thursday, 8 March 2012

Valuables in Plain View

In trawling through some old magazines over the summer break, I re-read some back issues of the Listener. Frances Rombel (Listener, 23 July 2011) in letters to the editor said "blaming a victim for inviting sexual violence is as logical as blaming the victim of a home invasion for having a home”. Frances went on to say that "Nobody deserves or invites rape, not the one in four females or one in eight males who, according to the NZ Rape Prevention Education website, are likely to have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. And of those one in eight males, how many were told they were 'asking for it' because of their clothing?"

In riposte (Listener, 6 August 2011), Rachel Priebee agreed with Frances' comment, but went on to say that, "However, it is also accepted common sense not to leave your valuables in plain view lest some lowlifes decide to help themselves".

Rachel's comments interesting, largely because, while I understand that vox pop would agree with her, I had always thought that rape was about power, not lust; a view that Rape Prevention Education promotes (n.d.). If rape is a perpetrator's way of gaining power, it explains why the elderly, infants, children and battered spouses become victims along with sex workers, partners, teenagers and anyone of consenting age. I haven't noticed many of the elderly or babies leaving their "valuables in plain view".

I understand Rachel means, by leaving our "valuables in plain view", that she feels we 'allow' temptation. I equally understand the other side that says we should all be grown up enough to know what is right, and what is wrong, and not be swayed by the temptation 'offered' by "valuables in plain view".

But, if rape is an act of power, not one of lust activated because there is temptation, then neither argument has any bearing on why rape happens. Neither Rachel's 'be paranoid' nor Frances' 'promiscuity should be OK' stance is relevant.

In addition, I also see an underlying and unspoken assumption in Rachel's comment. I feel what has gone unsaid is that "asking for it" is an excuse for sociopathic behaviour.

There may be reasons, but in my opinion there is no excuse.

  • Editor (6 August 2011). Letters to the Editor: Common Sense. NZ: New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 12 January 2012 from
  • Editor (23 July 2011). Letters to the Editor: Common Sense. NZ: New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 12 January 2012 from
  • RPE (n.d.). FAQs Text Questions & Answers. NZ: Rape Prevention Education - Whakatu Mauri. Retrieved 12 January 2012 from


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