Tag Archives: crime

Book Review: The Girl On the Train

The Girl On The Train, by Paula Hawkins

Constantly compared to Gone Girl because it involves a woman and murder, The Girl On The Train is a very good thriller in its own right. Our main unreliable narrator, Rachel, is an unemployed alcoholic who takes the daily train to town to fool her roommate into thinking she’s still working. On one daily stop she sees into the houses of her old neighborhood where her ex Tom now lives with his new wife and former mistress Anna (and their child), but Rachel forms an attachment to a couple down the street that she builds up in her mind as the perfect couple. The plot is set in motion when Rachel observes Megan (of the perfect couple) cheat on Scott. Shortly thereafter, Megan disappears, and Rachel, still drinking heavily and essentially stalking Tom, wakes up with bloodstains and no memory.  The other women also get a turn narrating, with similarly unreliable accounts and some time-shifting.

While the surface story is about what happened to Megan, the true mastery of the book is in the psychological insights it offers. The characters are, for the most part, between flawed and terrible. Rachel’s growing despair that she tries to tame with alcohol, Anna’s jealous paranoia, and ultimately Megan’s loneliness; all of these are shown in subtle but powerful ways. Rachel, for example, explains what it’s like be too drunk to remember an embarrassing incident (“You want to be able to remember it for yourself, to see it and experience it in your own memory, so that – how did you put it? – so that it belongs to you?”) and wants to “scream with the frustration of it, the not knowing, the uselessness of my own brain.” (Ed.: Guilty.)

The women also agree on one point: the pleasure of control they get from being attractive to a man:

“That’s the thing I like most about it, having power over someone. That’s the intoxicating thing.”
“I was enjoying myself too much. Being the other woman is a huge turn-on, there’s no point denying it: you’re the one he can’t help but betray his wife for, even though he loves her. That’s just how irresistible you are.”
“I never meant for it to go anywhere, I didn’t want it to go anywhere. I just enjoyed feeling wanted; I liked the feeling of control.”

It’s an understandable temptation, and it’s particularly interesting to see it framed from three very different women.

Other highlights, sans context:

“Parents don’t care about anything but their children. They are the centre of the universe; they are all that really counts. Nobody else is important, no one else’s suffering or joy matters, none of it is real.”

“How much better life must have been for jealous drunks before emails and texts and mobile phones, before all this electronica and the traces it leaves.”


Blog Note/Brain Dump

As you may have noticed, the blog has been very quiet until tonight, when I discovered a coding error and released a bunch of backed up reviews. The reason for the silence is my continued high workload, which is why I stick to reviews (easy) instead of commentary on current events (hard). Before I go back into hiding, scattered thoughts about recent events:

  • I once independently discovered Sam Harris’s question about morality of national governments, which is what they would do if they had the “perfect” weapon that could destroy their enemies. The United States, in my mind, had always done well in that measure, since it could have carpet bombed from Libya to India and never even came close to using its maximum firepower. With the torture report, however, the US can no longer get the benefit of that. The activities in the report are vile, and the fact that slight majorities approve of them are sickening reminders that us vs them is everywhere and always a bad influence.
  • The two grand juries who failed to indict the killers of Michael Brown and especially Eric Garner would not have done the same if the shooters were not cops. I think that’s clear. I also think it’s obvious that a prosecutor who works WITH the police every day shouldn’t also be in charge of investigating that same police. The fact that we let this happen (or that we let the chief of police be in charge of the unit that also investigates police corruption) is a sign that we’ve let a warrior caste arise in our midst that’s now violent and unaccountable, protected by both law and public opinion even at their worst.
  • It’s unfortunate that the fallout from the grand jury decisions has become so racialized, as exemplified here by Smith College president Kathleen McCartney who had to apologize for saying “all lives matter” instead of “black lives matter.” This is not to deny that black Americans suffer more of the consequences of the police state gone wild – they clearly do. The unfortunate aspect is that making race so salient is probably not the best way to effect change; paradoxically, by not emphasizing race one could reach the best outcomes for those discriminated against on racial grounds. By focusing on the universal aspects of police overreach, one could build more public support for reforms, the effects of which would be felt more strongly in those communities currently suffering the worst effects. By making it race-specific, you turn on the us vs them parts of the brain and just don’t reach certain people whose support is necessary for real change. It seems that the black community faces the unfortunate choice of solving the problem or being heard, but not both.
  • One in five American college students does not get raped. You know that if you’ve been near any college, which is not a constant scene of war-crime-level assault. Sexual assault is still too common (“too common” defined as “above zero”) but by emphasizing a wrong figure proponents are doing a disservice to the cause of minimizing the problem, once again by excluding reasonable people whose support is important.
  • Obviously the previous bullet was inspired by the Rolling Stone story that’s since been all but retracted. I think it’s obvious that most part of the story as reported were not true, and the Washington Post has done some excellent reporting on the issue. That said, it’s not like it proves that nothing ever happened to “Jackie.” I don’t have much sympathy for those who file false reports but I can’t help thinking that the best way to describe this young woman is “troubled.” Rolling Stone, of course, has no such excuse, and the Greek organizations suspended on the basis of this story have a legitimate beef with the magazine.
  • Of course we should have normalized relations with Cuba decades ago. Contact means exchange, of goods, services, and ideas. The Chinese are better off for participating in the world, the Vietnamese are, and the Cubans will be, too. As for us, try some Havana Club before you knock freedom.

Devil’s Advocate: Zealous Parenting

There has been a rash of news stories about parents arrested for neglectful parenting, and among many others, blog-favorite Megan McArdle can’t believe the state of affairs:

A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

I’m not interested in defending mothers who are under stress or are low-wage workers without a lot of great child-care options. I mean, fine, but these defenses should be unnecessary because what the heck are we doing arresting parents for things that were perfectly normal 30 years ago?

While I agree with McArdle (shocker, I know), much of the commentary about these cases fails to explain away an obvious retort while relying too much on “when I was your age” stories.*

*McArdle points out that she and her friends used public transportation as children and had an attrition rate of 0. One of my more morbid jokes as a standup pointed out to those who harked back to their golden age as a better time didn’t have their friends who were killed in riots or Vietnam or by polio here to dispute them. This is literal survivor bias.

Playing devil’s advocate for a bit, I’ll demand an explanation to this retort. The retort is this: children today are safer and better off in many ways than children from past decades – Bryan Caplan has the numbers here. At the same time, helicopter parenting and parental overprotection have also risen, as detailed here by the always-amazing Hanna Rosin. The obvious (and dangerous) conclusion is that parental involvement improved outcomes for children, reducing accidents and disease. Why, then, are McArdle et al against such parenting practices, and against societal enforcement of such parental norms?

Well, probably because this correlation is merely spurious. Parental overinvolvement just happened to coincide with the rise of vaccines, antibiotics, safer cars, etc. However, if that’s your claim, it needs to be proven, and the simple correlation must be dispensed with. I haven’t seen nearly enough people objecting to the stories I mentioned above explain away this simple correlation. Until they do, the lay audience probably won’t, and shouldn’t, trust them.

Book Review: Supreme Justice

Supreme Justice, by Max Allan Collins

By complete coincidence I ended up reading back-to-back novels about outcasts named Joe trying to solve crimes in the face of interdepartmental conflict. In comparison to last week’s Free Fire, Supreme Justice is a more traditional political crime thriller.

The novel is set around 2025-2030 following a series of conservative political victories, including the the overruling of Roe v. Wade and gutting of the Fourth Amendment*, although the world in terms of technology is the same as ours.

*What crazy sci-fi madness, that.

The protagonist, Joe Reeder, is a former secret service agent called in to assist when a Supreme Court justice is killed during a robbery gone wrong. Reeder is a controversial figure, having taken a bullet for a president he hated and publicizing the latter part, but he’s a skilled investigator who joins the bureaucratic clusterfuck that any Washington task force is. Despite the resistance, Reeder makes the first few breakthroughs in the case, which turns out to be more complex than initially believed. (Obviously.)

The pacing is excellent, and the prose is tight. Collins lets you see inside the minds of multiple characters (but usually Reeder), and does exposition quickly and efficiently to maintain the pace. There are a few mistakes most people won’t notice (but I did); for example, Reeder’s daughter is 18, then 19 later that day, then turning 19 a week later. Similarly, Supreme Court decisions aren’t “repealed” – they are, at best, overruled. I although found the ending a little rushed, it wasn’t too jarring.

Recommended for a flight or beach read, or if you’re ever in DC.

Scattered Thoughts About Isla Vista

I have no particular thoughts about the UC Santa Barbara mass murder yet. I doubt I ever will – these events tend to inspire much more generalization than they warrant, so I’ll try to stay away from that. Instead, just some scattered thoughts:

  • Arthur Chu has an insightful piece at the Daily Beast, explaining how pop culture and the entitlement mindset of the Millennials can combine to create unrealistic expectations in young men. I’ve had this debate before, and I largely agree: the previously harmless nerd view of “girls should like us but they don’t” can become dangerous when it’s combined with “I deserve everything I want.”
  • The tiresome “More gun control!”/”It’s too soon!” back-and-forth has begun already. Obviously the former tends not to get into specifics as to which particular gun regulations would be helpful in preventing crime (most wouldn’t), and the latter just wants to get the topic off the table. I tend to think that the “too soon” probably applies, only because good and rational rules rarely emerge in moments of intense emotionality.
  • Similarly, the strong feminist “misogyny kills” campaign in response  to the killings has probably been counterproductive. By tying an act like this to misogyny at the same time you claim that misogyny is ubiquitous, you unnecessarily polarize the issue. It’s basically training people to deny misogyny exists if there isn’t murder or violence involved; otherwise, acknowledging misogyny exists is soon twisted into condoning murder. Conflating street harassment with mass murder will do your cause no good.
  • Unrelatedly, one good feminist point made in response to this has been to explain this situation from a woman’s point of view: a woman doesn’t know in advance if a man is generally nice (as most are) or potentially dangerous (as very few are). However, assuming he’s nice is a mistake, because the downside of the latter is far higher than the upside of the former. (Mathematically, P1xM1 + P2xM2 < 0, mostly driven by how negative M2 is.) It’s a rational response to the world, even though it angers most men who feel unfairly suspected.
  • On the flipside, this is stupid: White Male Privilege Kills. Any crime statistic will tell you this is false, but I doubt this person cares about facts.
  • Finally, I’m glad to see that this horrible incident confirms that everyone I’ve ever known on social media was right on every policy issue all along.


Thoughts On Justice And Retribution

In a weird confluence, several unrelated things in the news recently made me think about an morally difficult but interesting scenario. Specifically, it is the conflict that can arise when rewarding a rule-breaker (criminal or otherwise) leads to better outcomes than punishing him. Two development, one from criminal law and one from the financial world, both made me think about this conflict, which is probably more common than we’d like to admit.

A few weeks ago, the Montana Supreme Court found that a 30-day jail sentence was improper for a teacher convicted of rape, and remanded the case for more appropriate sentencing. Similarly, a Dallas judge made comments about a rape victim and his sentencing of the perpetrator is now under scrutiny. This got me wondering (and this should tell you how my mind works): what if milder punishments reduce recidivism and thus prevent future crime? What if no jail time but instead rehab, education, or something similar are even better at preventing future crime? Or, to make it extra difficult, what if it turns out that rewarding the perpetrator prevents the most crime – perhaps a monthlong stay at a beachfront rehab clinic in Maui, followed by free tuition at the state university of your choice.* How would you feel about, essentially, rewarding a batterer or a rapist?

*Don’t try to avoid the question by arguing that such gentle treatment would not give superior results. It’s my hypothetical, so it happens. You’re in the least convenient world now.

Switching gears for a second, Zach Goldfarb (full disclosure: Zach and I were college roommates) writes about Timothy Geithner’s new book, in which Geithner shows us an instance of just such a scenario:

This is the “central paradox of financial crises” that Geithner identifies as a core theme of his book, published this month. “What feels just and fair,” writes Geithner, who succeeded Paulson as Treasury secretary, “is often the opposite of what’s required for a just and fair outcome.” In other words, saving Wall Street, the argument goes, was necessary to save Main Street. Retribution might feel good, but in the end it hurts innocents.

My hypothetical is thus not so hypothetical: rewarding guilty banks with bailouts could (I don’t buy Geithner’s case that it’s a given) help the populace at large by maintaining confidence in the financial system. (Banking, unlike other industries, depends on such confidence for its stability, as Megan McArdle ably explains.) It’s unclear whether the choices made at the outset of the financial crisis were correct or not, but it’s impossible to argue that there wasn’t huge anti-bailout sentiment at the time.* The important question is whether the moral impulses underpinning that sentiment are worth honoring even at the risk of cutting off one’s metaphorical nose to spite one’s financial face. I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer here: it’s been established that people are willing to pay to punish wrongdoers. How much are we willing to pay?

*Including from myself.

Obviously, there are other issues to consider. A bailout today makes foolhardy behavior more likely tomorrow, necessitating another bailout. Is it worth it taking a hit today to prevent such future issues? Or is it fairer to stick future generations with the fallout? That’s another judgment call, but it’s an easier one to make with respect to financial crises than it is with rapists or assailants. My guess is we’d be a lot of rational with our current and future incomes than we are with violent criminals.

Just The Tip: The Supreme Court Circumcizes The Fourth Amendment

The US Supreme Court decided Navarette v. California today and rendered what I consider the worst decision since NFIB v. Sebelius. The tiniest silver lining of this decision is an excellent dissent by Justice Scalia (in which, oddly, all female Justices joined), but the case gives police a huge loophole around the Fourth Amendment. Jonathan Adler and Popehat have more.

In the case, police received an anonymous tip that a pick-up truck had run the tipster off the road, and a police car found a truck matching that description in the approximate area where the tipster indicated it would be. Police followed the car for five minutes but it violated no traffic laws. Police went ahead and stopped the car, ultimately finding marijuana. The tipster was never identified and was not involved in the case.

The majority decision is baffling, finding that because the tip is enough for a stop because the anonymous tipster (1) called shortly after the alleged incident, (2) correctly identified where the truck might be, and (3) called 911, the tip is credible. Of course, a lying tipster who wanted your car stopped because he hates you could also call “shortly after” a fabricated incident, identify where your car might be because ANY OBSERVER COULD, and call 911 from a pay phone or a burner.

What you can expect immediately are a lot more anonymous tips that meet these criteria, alleging a single traffic violation and permitting police to pull over the alleged violator. Many of those tips will come from the police* or their allies, calling in tips to allow police searches that would otherwise be constitutionally impermissible. I’d do it myself if it weren’t wrong, even though I’d like to have everyone who agrees with the decision harassed for no reason.

*Fun fact: the tipster in this case provided the truck’s full license place number, a fact that bothers me because I can’t picture someone memorizing it while being run off the road by a truck that speeds away. The 911 call could not be traced to a location – the police don’t even know in which county the call originated. In a mystery novel, it would eventually emerge that the police placed this anonymous call because they knew of the marijuana through illegal means.

Scalia’s dissent is a classic Scalia Fourth Amendment dissent, careful to use case law to bolster its findings but readily attacking the majority’s decision with hypotheticals and likely consequences of this case. Scalia makes no mention of this, but the Fourth Amendment is being gutted constantly (hi, NSA), and this is just the next step. I’ll let Scalia close:

The Court’s opinion serves up a freedom-destroying cocktail consisting of two parts patent falsity: (1) that anonymous 911 reports of traffic violations are reliable so long as they correctly identify a car and its location, and (2) that a single instance of careless or reckless driving necessarily supports a reasonable suspicion of drunken­ness. All the malevolent 911 caller need do is assert a traffic violation, and the targeted car will be stopped, forcibly if necessary, by the police. If the driver turns out not to be drunk (which will almost always be the case), the caller need fear no consequences, even if 911 knows his identity. After all, he never alleged drunkenness, but merely called in a traffic violation—and on that point his word is as good as his victim’s.

Drunken driving is a serious matter, but so is the loss of our freedom to come and go as we please without police interference. To prevent and detect murder we do not allow searches without probable cause or targeted Terry stops without reasonable suspicion. We should not do so for drunken driving either. After today’s opinion all of us on the road, and not just drug dealers, are at risk of having our freedom of movement curtailed on suspicion of drunkenness, based upon a phone tip, true or false, of a single instance of careless driving.

Time Editorials On Rape Culture

Time Magazine featured dueling editorials regarding rape culture last week, by Caroline Kitchens and Jessica Valenti. Kitchens reports on a major anti-rape network will no longer emphasize the idea of rape culture and shows some facts that support their decision; Valenti retorts to show that rape culture is a real phenomenon. They’re both worth reading in full if you care about the topic, but I want to highlight two things that got my attention in particular.

The Substance

First, the substance. Valenti polls Twitter for people’s definitions of rape culture:

Rape culture is when women who come forward are questioned about what they were wearing.
Rape culture is when survivors who come forward are asked, “Were you drinking?”
Rape culture is when people say, “she was asking for it.”
Rape culture is when we teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.*

My personal experience is perhaps best described by Cracked’s David Wong: “Hey, how many males reading this had to, in the last year, Google the phrase “rape culture” because you were accused of being part of it, yet had no idea what it was?” That’s roughly where I fall on the spectrum. I’ve never thought of rape as something to be minimized or dismissed, and I don’t know anyone who does. I’ve encountered it in my social circle far too often, but I’ve never seen anyone ask if the victim had been drinking or dressed in a particular way.  I have spoken to people, however, whose experiences have been very different – they have heard these questions asked, and victims reluctant to come forward because they’d have to explain themselves. (I’m on the record as stating that a victim bears no responsibility for being attacked, even if they could have reduced the risk to themselves by acting differently, but I can see why someone would feel reluctant to come forward if they had to answer such questions.)

*”Rape culture is when we teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.” I find this statement silly, and if you don’t, try substituting another crime. Teaching people to lock their car doors or avoid dark alleys isn’t creating a grand theft auto culture and a robbery culture, it’s just common sense. Perhaps there is more education of men needed – probably is, especially when alcohol is involved – but this is a nonsensical argument for the existence of rape culture.

The gulf between the two camps represented above is wide, and it’s not surprising that considering how different people could have different experiences. What’s surprising is how little they’re willing to concede to the other side: you’d think anti-rape activists like Valenti would be glad to know that rape culture isn’t as widespread as they feared, for example**. What’s at play is another tyranny of the dichotomous mind, where the only alternative to one extreme is the other extreme, and shades of grey are ignored. It’s a shame, considering how important this issue is. More on this below.

**While I’m hardly an expert on the issue, I believe Valenti et al are making a big strategic mistake. Instead of matching their words to reality and saying “there’s a problem, we’re making progress, and it needs to be eradicated,” the insistence on a national culture war will alienate many reasonable people whose experiences don’t match theirs. Once someone proclaims the existence of a pervasive national culture, those who don’t see the world that way will tune them out. Considering how important the issue is, this is just sad.

The Words

Second, since I’ve been discussing how attaching different meanings to words leads to unproductive discussions, I thought I should point out a particularly glaring instance between these two editorials.  First, Kitchens:

In January, the White House asserted that we need to combat campus rape by “[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.”

Tolerance for rape? Rape is a horrific crime, and rapists are despised. We have strict laws that Americans want to see enforced. Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm.

Replied Valenti:

Is 1 in 5 American women surviving rape or attempted rape considered a cultural norm? Is 1 in 6 men being abused before the age of 18 a cultural norm?

Here we have two people talking past each other using the same words. “Cultural norm” is a fuzzy concept, and each writer seems to be thinking of it in a different way. For Kitchens, a cultural norm seems to be something generally approved by society at large, like drinking alcohol. In her experience (and in mine), most people don’t condone sexual assault or dismiss victims as having asked for it. Thus, it couldn’t possibly be a cultural norm. For Valenti, it seems to be something that happens frequently in a society, like driving under the influence. (The numbers are, as always, disputed, but read the articles if you want more on that.) Something that happens so frequently must, at some level, be approved by society at large – surely there are ways to bring these numbers down.

Thus we come to the unproductive conversation I warn about: they’re both right in some way, and thus convinced that it’s not worth listening to the other person. It’s especially sad when the topic is so important and common ground isn’t far away.

Words Can Send You To Prison

I realized one thing while writing about the discrepancy between dictionary definitions of words and the definitions of those words in ordinary course: some day, that discrepancy will send someone to jail. In fact, it may have already happened. Here’s how.

1. As I’ve tried to demonstrate, there is a difference between a word’s dictionary definition and the way most people perceive the meaning of a word.

2. A statute that prohibits certain conduct (like ‘violence’ or ‘racism’) is supposed to give people notice as to what is prohibited by using words the way citizens would ordinarily use such words.

3. Courts routinely interpret words in laws using their ‘ordinary’ meaning.

4. Courts also routinely reference dictionaries to determine meanings of words in statutes and regulations. In fact, the Supreme Court has done this at least 664 times.

5. Thus, a citizen could easily comply with a statute under the ‘ordinary’ meaning but violate it in under the ‘dictionary’ meaning.

6. Such a person would be punished even though they intended to comply with the law, and in most people’s eyes probably did comply with the law.

This isn’t just a hypothetical. There is federal law imposing criminal penalties on the “use of a firearm” “during and in relation to” an illegal drug trade. I linked above to Smith v. US, a case in which a person traded his gun for drugs. In the ‘ordinary’ reading, he clearly did NOT use his firearm during a drug trade: using a gun, in my mind (and yours), means shooting, or at least pointing the gun with the threat to shoot. The court looked at the dictionary and said that the person did use the gun: he used it to buy drugs. What could be clearer than that?

Smith went to prison for a long time based on the discrepancy I’ve identified. Now that the Supreme Court repeated this behavior in Castleman (stating that “‘domestic violence’ encompasses a range of force broader than that which constitutes ‘violence’ simpliciter”), it’s probably going to happen again. These are just two cases that I’ve heard of – I can’t imagine how many people have been imprisoned or fined because we use words one way and the dictionary defines them differently.

Words matter, and I can’t imagine anything that would demonstrate this more clearly.

Alcohol And Sexual Aggression

Apparently alcohol doesn’t make you sexually aggressive, at least in public:

When researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Washington observed young people’s behavior in bars, they found that the man’s aggressiveness didn’t match his level of intoxication. There was no relationship.

Instead, men targeted women who were intoxicated.

The researchers hired and trained 140 young adults to go into bars in the Toronto area and note every incident of aggression they saw. They found that 25 percent of all incidents involved sexual aggression. And 90 percent of the victims of sexual aggression were women being harassed by men.

No surprises so far, although the methodology is obviously suspect: judging what is sexually aggressive is pretty subjective, so take these results with some grains of salt. What we shouldn’t do is make sweeping conclusions from this study.

Cue someone making sweeping conclusions from this study:

A new study backs up what feminists have been saying for approximately ever about the relationship between drinking and rape. Namely, that alcohol–despite its impressive powers–neither magically turns well-meaning kids into sexual aggressors nor makes everything so topsy turvy that nobody has any clue what consent is and if they have it or gave it. Instead, sexual predators deliberately target intoxicated victims. …

The reason this is so important is that the way we understand these dynamics has real-world consequences for how we approach preventing sexual violence. The myth that drunk victims gave off “mixed signals” underpins some of the worst victim blaming and outright rape denialism we see regularly. And, as we’ve discussed extensively on this blog, since predators knowingly look for the most vulnerable-seeming potential victims, “rape prevention” efforts that focuses on telling individual women how to decrease their personal risk are inadequate. As Alexandra’s said before, “Until we create real systemic change, anyone’s individual efforts to not be [the drunkest person in the room] don’t actually reduce rates of violence.”

Well, a lot to unpack here, starting with the”alcohol is a tool not a root cause.” I don’t know anyone who argues that alcohol makes people violent, but it’s universally agreed that it lowers inhibitions. The effect of alcohol on the victim is clear, but the effect on a person who didn’t intend to go out and commit a crime exists, too. It doesn’t make him more violent, but it nudges him closer (using Bill James’ excellent rooms metaphor) to doing something he previously would not have considered.

This is why the presupposition that there is one kind of predator and one kind of process that leads to rape is wrong and ultimately destructive to the cause of reducing violence. There are obviously sexual predators out there, and they do target the most vulnerable potential victims. Contrary to the assertion above, however, individual efforts to avoid being vulnerable do reduce rates of violence. This has been shown in other areas: more secure cars have led to an overall drop in car thefts, even though thieves do go after the most vulnerable cars. Similarly, reducing ones own vulnerability reduces the potential victim pool by at least one. Yes, this places that burden on the potential victim, but it’s silly to say the method doesn’t work because it won’t instantly solve the problem for everyone. You can advise ladies to watch where they go and what they drink while condemning those who would otherwise take advantage of them and taking steps to stop such predators.

The biggest disservice done to the cause of rape prevention in the above “analysis” is the lumping in together of two stock characters in the debate around sexual assault: the predator who goes out with the intention of committing a crime, and the drunken college kid who hooks up with an equally drunk college kid. The latter is irresponsible in many ways, and is a crime in states that consider a person who is drunk to be unable to give consent and sex with such persons rape. (Many have correctly pointed out that this often results in “mutual rape” among two drunk but otherwise willing people.) Lumping both of those together is counter-productive for two reasons:

  • It invites strong opposition from those who want to protect the second group from being treated like the first group. If you don’t want college students who make mistakes (again, different from actual predators) to be treated like violent criminals, you’re going to oppose strong punishment for them, and if they’re grouped together with a group you consider to be violent sexual predators, then the predators will benefit from this. Splitting these up will reduce opposition.
  • It implies the same solution for two separate problems. Sexual predators can be fought only with prevention and punishment. In other cases, education is more powerful (as I argued before). Using the same solution for different problems means the problem isn’t reduced as much as it could be

In any case, I assume the study above will be written off by those who don’t like what it says, and considered gospel by those who like it. Either way, people on both sides are going to be unwilling to unpack the actual issues involved, at the risk of seeming to concede. Meanwhile, crime that could be prevent will continue to happen.

Be proud, everyone.