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Assault and Privilege: Women Worry, Men Get Jumped

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You know what's the greatest thing about facts?

How facty they are.

In a post on the Feminist Law Prof's blog, Kaimi Wenger (Thomas Jefferson) wrote the following, while discussing the world of online harassment:

At one point during class I was talking about male privilege, and one student asked me to explain. He noted that he is a man and he doesn’t feel particularly privileged. In response, I noted my own privilege: “When I leave the building late at night, I don’t give a second thought to my safety as I walk to my car. If it’s ten at night, if it’s dark, I just assume that I’ll be fine. But for many women, there is a constant thought process: Do I find someone to walk me to my car? Is it safe at this hour? What are my options?” And then I asked, “who has gone through that train of thought recently?,” and every woman in the class raised her hand. And then they told stories: About avoiding parts of town; about setting their schedule in certain ways; about making sure that they had someone to walk them out; about being on their guard, all the time. The need to guard against the possibility of sexual assault is simply not part of most men’s everyday thought process, while it is a major part of many women’s everyday lived experience.

And the fact that as a man I don’t have to spend mental energy thinking about protecting myself from sexual assault is itself part of male privilege. One part of male privilege is that you never have to notice the ways in which you benefit from male privilege.

Wenger, prepared to get pwned, you n00b:

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2009 the incidence of rape and sexual assault for women was 0.8 per 1,000, and for men was 0.2 per 1,000. So, yes, women are far more likely to be the victim of a rape or sexual assault than men, although a .2 rate for men doesn't exactly mean you should be running around dark alleys late at night.

Where the facts really start to deflate Wenger's argument is when you look at all violent crimes (excluding homicide). The rate for women was 15.8. The rate for men was 18.4. So, while women are 4x more likely to be the victim of a sexual assault, men are 16.5% more likely to be the victim of any type of assault.

Looking at the stats for murder, men are 4x more likely than women to be killed, with rates of about .1 for men and .025 for women.

So, yes, Wenger doesn't have to worry about rape as much as a woman, but should he be worried about his safety walking to his car? Oh hells yes. About 17% more worried, counting all crimes equally, and even more worried if you consider that murder is, you know, ...you're dead.

There's one last piece to the puzzle though in determining how scared you should be when walking to your car, who actually attacks men and women. 38% of attacks against women are done by strangers. A large amount of violence against women is domestic violence, date rape, etc, crimes where you know your attacker. 63% of attacks against men are by strangers.

Now, this doesn't mean that women shouldn't be vigilant in protecting themselves while out by themselves late at night. But, it does mean that men should be even more vigilant.

Wenger is right that he has the privilege of not worrying. But, that's a very weak privilege, born out of ignorance of the facts, not an actual decreased likelihood of attack. There's a pretty meaningful difference between the privilege of not worrying and the privilege of not being attacked.


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