Victim blaming is problematic. It places the burden and the blame of a crime on the person against who it was committed, and excuses the perpetrator as someone merely subject to the pull of temptation. It allows us to ignore the fact that people have choices about whether or not they do bad things to other people. It requires folks to live defensively and suggests that fault lies with the one who is trying to live life fully and without harm to another.
Bad guys exist. Good guys who make bad choices exist. It’s smart to take ourselves out of their paths, if only to save ourselves from the hassle, the injury, the heartache that can follow when they do their thing. It’s not our shame if we don’t, but it is our pride if we do. And many of the steps we can take to avoid being victimized by them are simple, easy, just a moment or a thought out of our days. Pragmatically, they are worth taking to avoid the problems that can come up if we don’t. It’s not right and it’s not fair, but sometimes, they are still the best way to live so that we can avoid situations that are even less right and even less fair.
Take, for example, this small convertible in a public parking lot that I snapped a photo of recently. Absolutely, nobody should fear theft under such circumstances. It was a nice shopping center, with relatively busy foot traffic and shops and restaurants nearby. They may have thought they were only running into one for a few minutes, though I noted the car was there when I arrived and there when I left after dinner. Nobody was obviously watching the car, and there weren’t really any places inside where an unobstructed view was possible anyway. Still, a locked car should be fine, right?
But that open purse and that open tote bag were very visible to even a casual glance. They weren’t obviously full, but they also weren’t obviously empty. They were constructed of a nice-looking leather and looked like they were regularly being used by the car’s owner. Maybe the wallet and keys weren’t inside, but maybe other electronics. A laptop perhaps. It was nearly an invitation to anybody even vaguely open to the idea of a casual smash and grab.
How much effort would it have taken to bring those bags inside? Pop them into the footwell or between the front and back seats, or into the trunk? Zip them up, lie them down, toss a jacket over them? Probably not a whole lot, and certainly less than the effort of dealing with a broken window, a slashed convertible top, and stolen items – some of which could be expensive and difficult or time-consuming to replace. Some of which may be irreplaceable entirely. Those aren’t the only costs that could be avoided here too. Having your personal space violated, even by proxy, can be challenging to face and to deal with. It’s a forceful reminder that bad things happen, and a potential moment of regret that we could have prevented this one. Knowing bad things nebulously exist and doing little things to keep them away is much, much different from being directly affected by a singular bad thing seemingly aimed individually at us and having to do all of the big things to recover from it.
This time, those small steps to keep away the bad things weren’t necessary. No recovery was necessary. The owner’s belongings were safe, and nothing happened. They were fortunate that evening. Next time, maybe not so much. Is it worth the risk, just for the sake of being right, and for the convenience of not having to take a few precautions?