Thursday, 17 July 2014

This is why safety advice is not enough

Between yesterday and today, two news items have come to my attention involving sexual assault. Today Peel Regional Police released information on a man they arrested for a series of sexual assaults in a park area near Barbertown Road and Mississauga Road.
Mississauga – Investigators from the Special Victims Unit have arrested a male for several sex assaults in Mississauga.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. on Monday, June 30, 2014, three teenagers were in a park area near Barbertown Road and Mississauga Road, Mississauga, when they were accosted by an unknown male. The suspect threatened the three girls with a weapon and sexually assaulted them. The suspect was scared off by a citizen who was walking in the area.
A subsequent sexual assault occurred at approximately 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in the same area. The victim was walking with her boyfriend when they were confronted by the accused. Both victims were threatened with a weapon and confined, and the female victim was sexually assaulted. The victims called police and provided a detailed description of the suspect.
Randy BLACKWOOD, a 22 year-old resident of Mississauga, was located by police a short time later in the area.  He was arrested and charged with the following offences:
-          Sexual Assault with a Weapon
-          Utter Threat to Cause Death or Bodily Harm ( 2 counts)
-          Forcible Confinement (5 counts)
-          Sexual Interference (3 counts)
-          Sexual assault (3 counts)
That's good information for anyone living and visiting in the area, to be aware of what happened, where, by whom, and how. It can help them to protect themselves potentially in the future, and if they were assaulted and did not yet come forward, this information may give them the confidence to now do so.

The release ended with some further safety advice to the public:
Investigators are reminding the public to use caution when walking alone, avoid isolated areas and to report any suspicious activity to police.  Walk in pairs and be cognizant of those around you.  Make sure someone knows your route and when you are expected to return home.
Now, I'm not pointing this out to give the police a hard time or to gather an army with torches and pitchforks, but I want to draw attention to something I think is pretty important. The police advise to "use caution when walking alone, avoid isolated areas" and "walk in pairs". These assaults all happened to folks who were with one or more people, in a public park, during daylight hours. The reason I bring this up is because I want to emphasize that this is some of the "common sense" safety advice that is given out pretty much daily. I'm sure sometimes it can help to deter a potential attacker. But it's not a guarantee of safety. The only guarantee of safety is to not be in the vicinity of someone who would attack you, and we generally don't know who or where that is.

The other story is of a Winnipeg cab driver who picked up and sexually assaulted a woman on Saturday night. Included in the story are several other accounts of people being assaulted or threatened by cab drivers.

Again, use whatever safety measures you feel make sense for yourself. But if you're giving out blanket safety advice to folks to end all rape ever, I urge you to spend some time asking and researching whether your "common sense" advice is really as practical and foolproof as you presently think it is.

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