Taboo Topics and Empirical Inquiry
I had read about this last week and I thought it interesting that the police officer was in full retraction mode and was being reprimanded and the like. I found it interesting because there was never any discussion about whether it was true or not. While I do believe women should be able to dress however they like and that does give a man a right to assault or harass them, I do(did) think that their manner of dress might matter in terms of who becomes victimized.
Consequently, when I commented on the story that is the approach I took. A fruitful discussion did not happen. Even though I clearly stated "I don't believe X, can we discuss Y?" I was vilified for believing X. It appears to me to be such a clear case of confusing explanation with exculpation (to quote Pinker).
I have cut and pasted the entire exchange below so you can form your own opinion of the situation. (Note: the FB thumbnail pictures didn't paste but I have kept the boxes there for ease of demarcation.)
I believe I made one, possibly two, errors. My primary error was that I presented an intuitive belief as a fact instead of more clearing stating it as a hypothesis subject to revision based on useful evidence and information. This error is visible in my first comment which is about 16 comments in.
My second potential error would be that I tried to engage people and seek evidence on a topic that is highly sensitive and that is already the subject of many misunderstandings and prejudices.
This second one is more just a saddening and frustrating fact about our world. If I had the chance to do it over, I probably would still engage but try to be even clearer in my reasons for seeking evidence and the fact I do not support blaming the victim.
Tactically (and actually to be honest), I think a good framing is "What can I tell my daughter, sister or mother?" If the person says, "Absolutely nothing, they can do nothing" I would debate this point as it seems unlikely, but I am willing to be convinced there is little that can be done (go where the evidence and logical rigour leads).
Looking back I can't help but think this::
My perception of my actions (at the time): Concerned and curious, seeking information.
Other perception of my actions: Apologist for sexual assaulters, may suffer from mental health issues. (ouch!)
Yes, "Someone on the Internet was Irrational" is not news, but when YOU become the target of attacks based on misunderstanding, mob mentality or willful ignorance, it is certainly a noteworthy event in the day.
Note: I am currently looking into the topic and it seems the data indicates that provocative dress has little impact on a the likelihood of a woman being assaulted.
The following post was a story linked by Mia on her page.