There is a tremendous amount of attention being paid recently to a local rape case involving a 14 year-old assailant and a 64 year-old victim. I'm certain that as the case unfolds in the criminal justice system, we will be hearing and reading more about this horrible crime. There seems to be a great deal of outrage in the community, as there should be with every incident of assault, rape and kidnapping. What concerns me, however, is a comment I have heard frequently since this crime occurred.
A "sound-off" caller, whose words appeared in the January 15th edition of the local paper, perfectly captured the comment to which I am referring: "In light of women getting beat up, robbed or raped in their own home, I have a comment to make. I would never go answer my door just because someone was knocking - without looking through the window to see who was outside. If I don't recognize the person, I won't respond. Finally, my doors stay locked at all times."
I'm sure (or rather, I hope) that the caller was not directly blaming the victim for the crime she suffered. Regardless of the caller's intentions, the suggestion is that if the victim had not opened her door to the young assailant, then she would have escaped harm. None of us can know if that's true, but it honestly doesn't matter. Choosing to answer a knock at the door of your own home does not equate to an open invitation for anyone to enter with a gun, assault and rape you. If that were the case, none of us would ever leave a bedroom window open for a cool midnight breeze, or leave our door propped open while we carry groceries in. My home is my property, and who enters it should be entirely up to me, whether my door is wide open or not. Instead of asking, "Why did she open the door?" we should be asking, "Why did a 14 year-old kid commit such a terrible crime?"
I am not intending to berate the sound-off caller, or the numerous other individuals who share his or her feelings on the matter. There is a very simple reason that our knee-jerk reaction to such a crime is to question the actions of the victim, and that reason is good old-fashioned fear. When I hear about a crime like this, it sends shivers down my spine and fills me with feelings of fear and dread about my safety and about the state of this world. The quickest and easiest way for me to overcome my fear is to separate myself from the victim. I do that by telling myself, as the sound-off caller did, 'If I keep my doors locked and never open the door to a stranger, then this will never happen to me.' We feel that if we can control our environment, then we can maintain our safety and security. The problem is that while we can control what we do, we cannot control the actions of others. Crime happens not because victims allow it to, but because criminals choose to commit it.
There's nothing wrong with feeling fear when we hear about awful crimes such as these, but we need to remember the victim. If you were in the victim's shoes, how would you feel is someone asked you, "Why did you open the door?"