Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blaming the Victim for Pedestrian Killings

I just came across a copy of a letter of mine the Oregonian newspaper printed earlier this year. I wrote it in response to an editorial that put a lot of the blame for a spike in pedestrian deaths on the pedestrians who died, largely absolving the drivers who killed them.

If we are to be less obese, less prone to diabetes and heart attacks, overall healthier, we have to make walking safer and more enjoyable. Endorsing the view that walking is inherently dangerous and that anyone who wants to walk rather than sit in a car does so at her or his own risk condemns us to an increasing cycle of inactivity, ill health and ever greater dependence on medicine to sustain us.

Text of my letter:
She was asking for it. The way she was dressed. The way she acted. Didn't she know the kind of people she might run into there? Who could really blame them for what happened to her?

I'm not talking about rape. I'm paraphrasing typical comments about people who are just trying to walk down the street.

Imagine your daughter (or son) were hit while walking to catch the bus to school. Maybe she was distracted. Maybe she didn't jump into the roadside mud quite fast enough. Maybe she was dressed to please her friends, rather than a safety monitor. Would you want drivers, police, road authorities or even newspaper editors to conclude that, “She was asking for it”?

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