A letter to the editor came across my desk over the weekend and it gave me some things to think about. The president of an organization called Better Bystanders, Daniel Parsons, gave his argument against concealed carry as an effective way to prevent rape on a college campus. Based in Ohio University, the organization looks to find other ways to prevent sexual assaults. Here is a scenario they give on their website that outlines what their program aims to accomplish:
You’ve been hanging out at the bar all night with your friends, when you realize someone you don’t know is leading one of your friends out the door, and you know your friend is to drunk to go anywhere but home. What do you do? Bystander intervention is essentially a way to look out for other people. Often times we encounter situations where we think someone else might be in trouble or needs help, but we aren’t sure what to do. Bystander Intervention training helps people asses these types of situations and determine what they think is the best response.
Our program uses a Four Step Method to evaluate a situation:
1) Red Flags – What indicators make you think something is wrong?
2) Impediments- What might make it more difficult to do something?
3) Assets- What advantages do you have that make it easier to respond?
4) Intervention- What is the best way to respond to your situation?
Getting involved and being alert to what is happening around you are very importnat things in many situations like the one above. While I approve of their message and what they’re trying to accomplish, I disagree with their complete negation of concealed carry on campus.
I’ll first draw your attention to this story, where a young woman was raped on campus with no one to help her during the violent assault. She notes in her recount that she could see an emergency call box from where she was, and it couldn’t do anything to help her. Then, she is faced with the same rapist in the future, but this time had a firearm to successfully defend herself against him.
Per the above story, no alcohol was involved. When alcohol is introduced into a situation, it makes things more difficult for a person carrying a firearm. The first point here is that anyone who is carrying, should not be drinking. The second point is this: if we have a group of, say 5 people, who are out drinking, not a single one of them should also be carrying a firearm.
The scenario that they give coupled with their Four Step Method is a valid point in situations that involve alcohol, but what about other situations? Take the story of the young woman walking to class. In a case such as this, a concealed carry firearm can be a very valuable tool in the event of an attack. What if no one is around to help? What if it’s just you and the attacker? This is life, and there isn’t always someone there to help or save you. That’s where the firearm comes into play.
Back to the article, Parsons goes on to speak about rape culture, and how he feels that concealed carry “tacitly reiterates this message” of telling victims; “Don’t get raped”.
As mentioned in Thursday’s article, sexual assault is a systemic problem that springs from deeply engrained beliefs, attitudes and discourses which, collectively, amount to a rape culture. Instead of telling perpetrators, “Don’t rape,” this culture tells victims/survivors, “Don’t get raped.” Concealed-carry, as a proposed solution, tacitly reiterates this message. It puts the onus on the victim/survivor to prevent assault, and this is absolutely backwards. It implies that the victim/survivor is the one who is at fault. In reality, it is always the perpetrators’ fault. In reality there were always other people who could’ve done something to help the victim/survivor before, during, or at least after the assault.
The bold section above is what I have the biggest problem with. Of course there will always be someone to help you after something bad happens. As a concealed carrier, my goal is to be proactive against a threat, and to stop that threat from advancing and continuing on with whatever it is they are trying to do. One of the worst things that I can think of to say to a rape survivor is; “Sorry no one could be there during the assault, but we’re here now.” Instead, I like to educate people about personal safety, and get them thinking about carrying a firearm for self protection. With this tool, they have the ability to level the playing field and stop an attack from happening in the first place. Allowing them to carry a firearm, if they choose to do so, seems logical to me. It sure seems logical to her.
Continuing on with the remainder of the article:
Better Bystanders seeks to prevent personal power-based violence, including sexual assault, by empowering bystanders to intervene in cultures that support violence. We take the perspective that for every perpetrator, there are several bystanders who could intervene. We believe that people want to help each other but often they don’t know how. We educate them about the importance of confronting ways of talking and acting that function to camouflage perpetrators and compromise the safety of our community’s spaces for victims/survivors. We empower them to do something, even if that just means creating a distraction or getting somebody else to intervene.
Again, this is an organization that is trying to make a difference, and they have some excellent points. I will again, however, remind them and everyone else that Better Bystanders will not always be around to help in bad situations. We are the only ones who are with us 100% of the time, which makes the overall picture about personal safety.
Of course rape shouldn’t happen in the first place, but bad people that do bad things are out there. We can teach men to respect women until we are blue in the face, but some of them will still try to commit rape.
It’s a harsh fact of life that no matter what we do, evil will still exist. It’s not going anywhere. And with this fact, it’s why Concealed Nation exists. We promote the importance of responsible concealed carry, and we advocate for those who wish to arm themselves to do just that.