They asked for it: tempting fate or living your life?

Should you change your behaviour to avoid attention?

PetiteFolle doesn’t think so:

I saw a French documentary a few weeks ago detailing the plight of many Chinese immigrants in Paris who are the victims of nasty muggings. Often running small cash-based shops, many Paris-based Chinese carry large quantities of money around. Their own hard-earned profits. Sometimes these people are illegal immigrants without access to a bank account, they carry what little they have with them as they have nowhere else to keep it.

The documentary interviewed several of the victims then cut to one of the men in a gang responsible for these robberies. “Why would I work when I can get a quick 10,000€ from one of these guys?” What would you expect to see next? Scenes of a police education program targeting this violence? Maybe a police crack-down against the perpetrators? No. What I saw next was a classroom of Chinese immigrants being taught that they shouldn’t carry large quantities of money with them. That they shouldn’t wear expensive jewellery as it signals to potential muggers that they would be a good target.

Really??? I could not believe what I was watching. Rather than making attempts to change the behaviour of the violent attackers, it was the behaviour of the victims that was targeted for change. This appalled me. But I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, it was similar to the arguments that come up every now and then that women who wear provocative clothing are asking to be raped.

I believe very strongly that local customs should be honored by travellers, immigrants and ex-pats alike, that there are certain situations in which foreigners should change their behaviour in order to be respectful to the culture. But in the example I am using here, it is culturally acceptable to wear expensive jewellery in France… nay, France is the home of expensive jewellery. Why should there be one set of rules for rich locals walking down the Champs Elysée and another set for Chinese immigrants walking around the Chinese quarter?

Double standards like these are quite simply unfair. A person’s body is their own property and at no time does anyone else have a right to touch it without that person’s permission, no matter what they are wearing or how much money they are carrying. We should be ashamed to live in a society that encourages victim education rather than cracking down on the perpetrators of violent crimes such as muggings and rapes. Nobody “asks” for these crimes. The victim is not to blame.

PerfectlyRandom thinks you should:

I don’t disagree that a person’s body is their own, and I certainly don’t agree with anyone taking anything that isn’t rightfully theirs. But let’s be honest: there are some kids who play better with others in the playground – and as we all know, adult life isn’t too dissimilar to school yard politics. Try as we might to teach others how to behave, and how to treat others with respect, there will always be some kids who just never learn.

Walking through life denying the existence of such characters is akin to living a lie. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person who does good things, I can assure you that at some stage during your hopefully long and satisfying life, you will come across an unscrupulous boss, a backstabbing colleague, a belligerent bank manager, a power hungry spiritual leader, or a thieving “entrepreneur”.

If your boss calls your competence into question in front of colleagues, you would pull them up on their behaviour afterwards. You would tell them that it was not acceptable, and that you will not stand for it again. It might be out of your comfort zone, and something you absolutely do not want to do (after all, it isn’t your behaviour that is inappropriate, and they’re your boss and should know better), but once a bully knows that they can get away with treating someone poorly, they will continue to do so. So you do what you have to do. You adapt.

When I am a tourist and I visit a country or sites that require a certain standard of dress, I don’t complain at having to cover my shoulders or ensure my legs are not visible, even though this isn’t expected of me in my own country. I adapt.

If you move to a big city which isn’t like the country town you grew up in where everyone knows everyone, you don’t leave your doors unlocked just because that’s what you did at home. That would be silly, so you adapt.

I fail to see how understanding how your behaviour can change how you are treated in the workplace, how it might affect the people of a country you are visiting, or how it might protect your home, is any different to understanding how it can keep you safe.

You can and should change your behaviour to avoid victimisation when appropriate – crimes are certainly not the victims fault, but modifying your behaviour to suit your environment may just ensure you avoid becoming a target.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng

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One thought on “They asked for it: tempting fate or living your life?

  1. I’m a big believer in changing behaviour to reduce the risk of harm to myself. I wouldn’t wear flashy jewellery when travelling a developing country, I wouldn’t walk down a dark laneway by myself late at night, and if I see a group of loud, aggressive, drunken guys on the street I would cross over and walk on the other side of the street.

    It’s idealistic and a fantasy to think that the world is all fairy floss and sugar sweet and there is no evil in this world, but the reality is that some people are not nice, are opportunistic, and will hurt others. Yes, re-education on the part of delinquents could be an option but is impractical on a large scale. If you don’t want to be a victim, avoid inviting trouble.

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