- What is the hazard, the potential source of harm?
- What is the resulting risk, the chance of being harmed?
- How can we remove the hazard, reduce the risk, or both?
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
There is no “should” in danger management. 15.04.14
Most people I know believe that everyone else drives like a dangerous moron and should not be allowed on the road. I shan’t try and disprove that statement, as there is far too much evidence to support it. The point is that when we drive we tend to be on the lookout for what could go wrong. We know that the world is full of unnecessary hazards; the idiot at the junction could pull out; the cyclist could fall over; the weaving car is probably a drunk driver, and could do absolutely anything; the stray dog could walk into the road.
If something is both serious and likely to happen, it changes out attitude and behaviour. For instance, if we are driving in front of a school at certain times of the day, we are probably more alert to the fact that there may be loose children. If we see a tiny child running towards the road right in front of us, we will probably slam on the brakes. Most of us are unlikely to think “Hey! They should not be doing that!” and carry on smack into them. We may have a couple of loud and pointed words to the parents about it afterwards, mind you. The bottom line is that knowing that there is an increased danger makes us more alert; we react to what could and does happen, not to what should happen.
It’s not rocket science. It's basic danger management, rooted in common sense. There are three simple elements to this game:
We can’t remove all hazards from the road, and we accept that. We just can’t guarantee an accident- or at least incident-free trip; it is not within our powers. That admission doesn’t make most of us give up driving. It does, however, ensure that we take certain safety precautions. We take those precautions based on what could happen, not what should happen. I should not need a seat belt, as I don’t intend to drive into anything and nobody should drive into me. However, this sort of thing could happen, so on goes the belt. The point of the precautions is to minimise the damage we suffer if things do go wrong. We have accepted the inherent hazards and risks of our chosen activity. Now we’re basically doing damage limitation.
This process doesn’t just apply to driving. We are constantly deciding what hazards we are facing, what their risks are, whether what we are doing is worth the danger it poses, and how to limit possible damage. We all do this. We may not approve of the conclusions other people come to, of course. If we don’t enjoy horses, high speeds or heights we are unlikely to understand the choices of jockeys, racers and paragliders. However, most of us are all not only perfectly able to run through this process, but also perfectly willing to admit that it’s an essential part of being a functional adult human. It’s part of what keeps us safe in this world. In fact, in some countries the inability to perceive the risk of physical dangers is considered a disability.
Can someone please kindly explain to me,
why the hell are we not able to do this when it comes to women self-defence?
Hazard identification, risk evaluation and damage limitation are a crucial aspect of self-defence. If you don’t know what the hazards and risks are, what the hell are you self-defending against? If you can’t work out how to remove hazards, reduce risks and/or minimise damage, how exactly are you self-defending? We recognise this as a logical approach to crime prevention for a variety of issues, but when it comes to women self-defence it all seems to go out the window.
Let’s say you write an article about “ten ways to minimise your chances of internet fraud”. Chances are that you will receive a mixed response. Some people may point out mistakes or omissions. Some people may thank you. The inevitable trolls will be their usual pathetic little selves. It is unlikely, however, that you will be subjected to virulent verbal assaults, complete with insults and accusations of iniquity because “internet fraud shouldn’t happen”. We know that it could and does happen, and that’s enough for us. The fact that you pointed out how to avoid it will not be seen as blaming those people who have already suffered from it, or justifying the people who are committing those crimes. Chances are that you will be seen, and rightfully so, as someone who is trying to help people who may not be aware of certain issues. You are trying to identify hazards, reduce risks and limit damage, and that will be accepted and generally appreciated.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you wrote about “ten ways to minimise your chances of getting raped”, you will get lynched. How DARE you suggest that women are responsible for their own assaults! You are JUSTIFYING the rapists! How DARE you upset past victims of this dreadful crime, who did not take those steps and may now feel awful about it! Don’t you understand the possible emotional damage your words could have? You, victim-blamer, rape-sympathiser, insensitive bastard! You are as bad as a rapist, for causing this injury to victims’ minds! Rape SHOULD NOT HAPPEN! NEVER! And that’s all there is to it!!!
(If you’ve not witnessed this phenomenon before, no, I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I’m being quite mild in my language choice.)
Rape should not happen. Roger that. The vast majority of us agree wholeheartedly. But it can and sometimes it does and chances are that it always will. It will continue happening while there is a proportion of the human population who has no empathy, or worse gets off on causing pain and suffering. Until we can cull our own according to psychometric tests, there will be people out there with the potential to commit this terrible crime. We cannot completely eliminate the hazard, but by our actions we may be able to reduce our risk. Why is this so offensive? Why is it considered to be pro-rape to try and teach women how to try and avoid it happening to them?
How does this make sense? We don’t apply this line of thought to other violent crimes. Muggings, robberies, stabbings and shootings should not happen. Unfortunately we live in a world where some people are desperate or callous enough to be willing to use force against others. We are happy with people suggesting measures by which we can reduce our chances of becoming victims of these crimes. We are also happy with people suggesting measures by which we can limit the damage to ourselves if any of this happens to us. Someone promulgating “home safety measures” is unlikely to get pilloried for being a “robbery sympathiser”.
Most of us modify our behaviour to avoid unnecessary danger without any qualms. We may change what we do to minimise our risks (drug crime should not happen, but I’ll keep crossing the road to avoid walking in front of the crack house at the end of town). We may avoid situations where the risks are disproportionate to our gain from the activity (fights should not happen, but I don’t like football/soccer that much so I’ll watch it on television instead). Sometimes we carry on as we are, but are extra alert (drunk driving should not happen, but if I have to drive at bar closing time on a Friday or Saturday night I will be doubly on my guard).
All these things are crimes. All these things can hurt or kill us. Things can still go wrong, and the fact that our precautions proved insufficient will not make the crime our fault. Nothing can ever shift the blame onto us; the only person responsible for the crime is the criminal, always. This doesn’t stop us taking precautions and encouraging the people we care for to do the same. We are perfectly happy to accept that our shoulds and our coulds don’t always match. We are happy to admit that, as individuals, we can only minimise our risks; we cannot remove the hazards.
As a society, we can and indeed do work together to reduce hazards. Our legislative, police and legal system serve that purpose by creating and enforcing laws that keep us safe. Chances are, however, that we may never be able to completely remove them. We might reduce them to the point that they are an infinitesimal chance, but we may have to accept that, while people are people, certain hazards are here to stay.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t fight for their cause. It is both important and worthwhile – plus, to tell you the truth, I am useless at that sort of thing, so I really appreciate people doing the hard work. If you want to campaign against drunk driving, muggings, robberies, stabbings, shootings, rapes, go right ahead. However, the moment you put your ideals and causes ahead of people’s safety you become a hindrance instead of a help. By preventing access to useful information, you are now an obstacle to reducing risks. Are you so blinded by the sanctity of your cause that you cannot admit firstly that you haven’t won yet, and secondly that you may in fact never do? Should we ignore clear and present dangers, pretend that they are just not there because they shouldn’t be there? While you’re fighting your crusade that may never be won, don’t we have the right to strive for safety?
It is possible to get so out of touch with reality that you are living in an imaginary world. It seems to me that plenty of campaigners seem to have reached that point and kept right on going. It’s entirely insane to say that because rape shouldn’t happen we should not be allowed to tell women how to reduce their risk of it happening to them. It’s entirely insane to say that prevention programmes should be scrapped because they may cause psychological damage to past victims. It’s entirely insane to say that suggesting ways to reduce risk or damage is somehow justifying rapists. Now, if that is not work you want to involve yourself with, that's just fine; but could you please very kindly leave alone those who are trying to help in this way? And if you truly believe that what should happen is more important than what could and does, well, how lovely for you; now can you please get off the subject of self-defence altogether, as clearly you completely fail to grasp the very basics of danger management?
If you think I’m being unduly harsh then answer this: would you take the same approach to paedophilia? Paedophilia should not exist. Most of us consider it a monstrous crime, including many paedophiles! The estimated number of paedophiles is much lower than the estimated number of rapists (although statistics are so shaky in this field that finding worthwhile data is almost impossible). Following a number of huge scandals, the lives of most children these days are structured in ways that automatically reduce their chances of bumping into an unidentified monster. We incarcerate and treat offenders like never before. Yet, we still teach children to take reasonable precautions. We still teach them what to look out for, what activities are too dangerous, and even what to do in case anything goes wrong and the worst happens. Our efforts often increase dramatically following an incident, with clubs, schools, and even the media getting involved, regardless of the fact that the victim is surely psychologically scarred by the ordeal. We consider children’s safety such a high priority that we breach this horrible subject, even though most of us find it about as unpalatable as can be. And, thankfully, I’ve never seen anyone insane enough to try and accuse the people teaching children how to stay safe of “paedophilia sympathising”.
I’d love to see that, actually. I’d love to see some of these campaigners change their focus, and try to lecture mothers and fathers about how wrong – or even evil – they are in trying to keep their children safe. I’d love to see some of these campaigners trying to explain why it is perfectly acceptable to teach an underage girl how to try and stay safe against a paedophile, but the moment she grows up you cannot teach her how to try and stay safe against a rapist. What is their cut-off line, anyway? Twelve? Fourteen? Sixteen? At what age do the safety and welfare of a female human become less important to them than their crusades and dogmas? If possible, I would like that explanation in words rather than buzzwords, but I guess that would be asking too much.
 Yes, men get raped too, but in these circumstances the shouting always seems to be about the women.
 If at this point you’re thinking “but property crimes and non-sexual violence are just not comparable with such a heinous attack against a person!” may I suggest you make friends with a trauma surgeon. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/kids-ask-me-is-there-a-safe-place-to-stab-someone-in-your-dreams-says-surgeon-who-teaches-children-reality-of-knife-violence-8920462.html