On June 2, 2007 Kelsey Smith was abducted from the Target parking lot across the street from Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan. She was raped and killed.
The crime was not her fault. She did not ask to be abducted, raped or killed. She was simply a teenage girl walking to her car one evening after buying her boyfriend a present at Target.
That day was a wake-up call for residents in the surrounding area. According to city-data.com, in 2011 Overland Park, Kan. had a violent crime rate nearly half of the national average. After Smith’s death, I noticed an increase in women taking self-defense classes, carrying mace and some even decided to get concealed carry licenses and carry a gun for protection. This initial reaction was not one of blame towards the victim, but rather a realization that these crimes do occur. According to the RAINN’s website – the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization – an average of 207,754 people are sexually assaulted each year. Within that average of sexual assaults, 54 percent of rapes go unreported and 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail.
Many people ask the question, “Why don’t we do something about the criminals and let the women live their lives without any fear?” Well according to the FBIs Uniform Crime Report, violent crimes have dropped over ten percent since 1992. Forcible rape has dropped 12.4 percent. If we aren’t doing anything to get these criminals off of the streets, then why have crime rates dropped?
Obviously we are targeting the criminals, but even though crime rates have dropped we still need to realize that the world is not an entirely safe place, nor will it ever be. From white-collar crime to mass murder, there is always a chance of someone becoming a victim. That is a fact. We can’t get every criminal off of the streets, no matter what we do. The idea that by telling someone to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings somehow places responsibility on the victims of violent crimes instead of the criminals is far fetched.
There are certain precautions that people make that can decrease the risk of death or accidents. However we can’t go through life constantly being afraid of what could happen to us. We need to weigh our options and foresee possible consequences. This isn’t considered victim blaming, it is considered being aware of reality.
It’s important to take precautions in life. The fact is there is always a chance of being harmed – but we can take steps to reduce it. The choice by some women to carry a gun comes from weighing the options and their comfort level. According to RAINN, only three percent of rapists use a gun. This gives women who choose to carry them a distinct advantage against rapists. Choosing to protect yourself by whichever means you feel the most comfortable does not mean you’re blaming those victimized by attackers, it means that you are taking precautions so you don’t become one.
The criminals are out there, don’t be naïve. Take precautions, walk in groups, do what you can to avoid being harmed. Don’t let potential risks prevent you from living your life to the fullest.
Samantha Poetter is a senior in political science.