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Local opinion columnists

Am I blaming victims?

By From page A11 | July 31, 2014

I’m going to tiptoe into a minefield this week.

ESPN’s Stephen Smith stepped in it last week when he implied that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s fiancée may have provoked Rice into knocking her unconscious at a casino bar in February.

His remarks created a firestorm with people saying he was blaming the victim. ESPN’s Michelle Beadle took to Twitter to call out Smith, tweeting, “I’m thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend . . . I’d hate to think what I’d be asking for by doing so @stephenasmith. #dontprovoke.” Smith apologized and has been suspended for a week.

But the incident provoked me to think about the broader issue of perpetrators and victims. The Rice case is horrific and there’s no justification for it. So to talk about what I’m about to talk about will be tricky, because nuance is out of vogue these days. None of my remarks here are about the Rice case or domestic violence. I had a brother who was an abuser and none of his actions were justified.

So in other circumstances, is it possible to talk about what potential victims can do to help mitigate their risk without sounding like we’re blaming the victim?

In the first case, it’s widely believed that Apple will be introducing a new iPhone in September. If I buy one and stroll through a bad area of town holding that new iPhone box in my hand and am robbed, while it’s the criminal’s fault, I didn’t make it hard for him.

We tell our daughters not to wear clothing that reveals too much skin. Why? We don’t want her character to be misjudged by her appearance and we don’t want her attracting the wrong kind of attention. Of course, no one would blame a sexual-assault victim because of the clothing she wore. Sexual assault is the responsibility of the perpetrator.

Fall is around the corner and kids will be going off to college. Is there anyone who wants their son or daughter to go to parties and get so blotto that they don’t recall the night’s events? Of course we don’t. And any young woman assaulted in a drugged or inebriated state is still a victim and the criminal responsibility belongs to the perpetrator.

Fairfield over the past few years has seen some young people assaulted and even shot in the wee hours of the morning. No one has the right to assault anyone. Victims aren’t responsible for their own beatings or shootings. But I don’t think any parent would say it’s a good idea for their teen to be out at 3 a.m.

Finally, I’ve written about an angry CHP officer stopping my friends and me in Cordelia years ago. The cop seemed like he wanted a confrontation. Even though I thought we’d done nothing wrong and the cop was out of line, I remained polite and compliant. My goal wasn’t to be right. My goal was to do whatever it took to keep the cop’s baton from contacting my head.

I realize the cognitive dissonance this issue can evoke, but every day we do things to minimize the chances of being victimized. We lock our doors and windows and/or set an alarm before we leave home. We lock our car doors. Some people carry pepper spray. If we can help it, we deliberately avoid high-crime areas.

I’m not blaming victims. I just want my grandkids and your kids and grandkids to minimize their risk. Peace.

Kelvin Wade, a former Fairfield resident, is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Sacramento. Email him at [email protected]

Kelvin Wade

Kelvin Wade


Discussion | 10 comments

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  • 2realJuly 31, 2014 - 5:26 am

    Batton to your head? Let me guess the officer was white? Come on kelvin you gotta get to the point where you stop pulling the race card.

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  • The SugarJarJuly 31, 2014 - 7:04 am

    Or perhaps it's you that needs to sto discounting others' experience in their skins?

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  • Rick WoodJuly 31, 2014 - 8:39 am

    How is that "playing the race card?" The officer probably was white, and maybe Kelvin thought the officer was profiling him. Like that doesn't happen?

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  • ThemisJuly 31, 2014 - 6:23 am

    As a woman who spends most of her time in T-shirts and baggy cargo shorts I assure you what a woman wears will not protect her from many of these demented sickos any more than being a law abiding and polite man insulated you from a an angry, power hungry member of law enforcement abusing his power under the color of law. Anti social personalities do not operate by the same standards as the rest of society for a variety of reasons. Analysis of their behavior through the lens of our normal world is futile. But make no mistake, nothing the victim does will change the aggressor's personality. If they feel entitled at any given time and they are so inclined at that moment, they act, without regard for others. That is the very nature of the personality disorder. "It's jungle sometimes makes me wonder how I keep from going under."

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  • CD BrooksJuly 31, 2014 - 7:52 am

    Kelvin, I totally get it and could not agree more!

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  • Rick WoodJuly 31, 2014 - 8:35 am

    Ditto. Now let's reflect again on the Trevon Martin case.

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  • clancyJuly 31, 2014 - 9:38 am

    Kelvin Your ideas are always do well written and make a lot of sense.

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  • More confusion......July 31, 2014 - 1:03 pm

    What was it that someone on 'The View' said? Something about if a woman hits someone, then expect to get hit back. Now that's interesting to hear--and from a woman no less.

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  • truth'nJuly 31, 2014 - 2:01 pm

    Why should that be anymore interesting than if a man said it about a man? Your bias is showing.

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  • The SugarJarJuly 31, 2014 - 4:30 pm

    While explaining how to be careful has some positive purpose, it ignores the elephant in the room. Or if we discuss both race and gender relations, the elephants in the room. And the elephants in the room are the bigger problem (and more real) problem. Baby steps perhaps to notions of different experiences depending on what body we each occupy? To what "privilege" "clubs" we occupy? Interesting column Mr. Kelvin Wade, I look forward to more delving into the real, in whatever way you can.

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