Wednesday, 25 February 2015

When bad things happen

OK - occasionally here in PNG bad things happen.

Two of my good friends have been car jacked at gunpoint, someone was robbed at gunpoint outside my church and I am sad to say I know of too many woman who have been gang raped.

Now I know I am usually very positive about PNG so people may be a little surprised by a post about bad things but it’s because I have something on my mind.  It’s to do with who we blame for the bad things.

I’ll give you an example. A woman was carjacked, at gunpoint early in the morning.  When people talked about it I heard them say “well she should not have been out that early”.

A friend was mugged while walking though the centre of Town in PNG and the reaction was ‘how silly of you to walk alone through town”.

Now I’m not saying we should disregard our personal safety but I’m trying to make a point about how when bad things happen to other people we desperately try to work out how it was their fault.  I think the reason we do this is to help us maintain the pretence to ourselves that it could never happen to us.  

The problem is that here in PNG we really don’t have all the answers to how to be safe. Driving home on a Friday afternoon in broad daylight the biggest risk to my safety is hitting one of the pedestrians that are playing the national sport of ‘run across the highway’. If I did that it’s likely I’d be dragged from my vehicle and killed. It’s how they deal with road safety here.

Yet my neighbourhood at 3am in the morning is peaceful and silent. If, while driving home from a party at 2am I was to be hijacked in my street it would be very unusual and a serious bit of bad timing and bad luck. I am sure however that other expats would be very keen to point out “what was she thinking of - out without an escort at that time”.

Now I am all for respecting the local culture and I wear clothes that cover my thighs and don’t show too much Lisa when I’m wandering around and I have often advised other young women that their shorts are too short or tops too revealing but that’s about respecting local culture. But I overheard two people discussing a local woman who had been raped and they talked about her clothing as if that was to blame. Now that isn’t right.

This is where we need to be careful, if we always react to the bad things by blaming the actions for the victim then we let the actual perpetrators get away with what they do, and we ignore the social factors that led to their actions. We don’t prevent carjacking by having an armed escort, we just prevent them happening to us. The raskols who live in poverty will just go and carjack a different vehicle. A rapist will rape a women regardless of what she is wearing and you never actually really know where and when is the wrong place at the wrong time.

So a plea to those living in PNG: when bad things happen doesn't blame the victim. Give them support and understand their trauma because the last thing they need is to be told they are stupid on top of all the other things they have been through.    

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