“Lock your car, take your keys. Don’t help start a kid on a life of crime.”
That was the beginning of an oft-played public service radio announcement I remember from my youth. Note the emphasis on the saving the youth, not on saving the listener from having their car stolen. And I am certain this announcement was not absolving car thieves of any crimes if they found keys that were left in an unlocked car and made off with it. It was clearly pointing out that victims can bear some responsibility as well as the perpetrators. And I love it that the central point of this spot was to avoid tempting the would-be car thief. The implied–but secondary–point was about keeping your car from being stolen. Of course, people have every right to ignore this good advice, and if their car is stolen, the thief still needs to be caught and punished.
But isn’t there something called extenuating circumstances? The legal definition, taken from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary is: “Surrounding or mitigating factors that reduce a party’s level of responsibility or guilt, whether in a civil or criminal trial. Successfully showing extenuating circumstances might result in a lower damage award, a more lenient punishment, or a lesser charge.” Note the words, “…reduce a party’s level of responsibility or guilt…”
Now let’s apply the non-controversial legal principle of extenuating circumstances to a topic much in the news today: victims of different types of crimes. It should go without saying that this is not a “blame the victim” podcast; it is a shared responsibility podcast. And we’ll take one more step further into controversy and look at the victims of sexual assault. (Are we really ready for this?) Some victims of assault are young women. If you haven’t seen the billboards showing an alluring young lady in a short, black dress and high heels, the caption–in huge type–says, “Your little black dress does not excuse his wrong behavior.” Of course it doesn’t. But that is intentionally taking a world that is always shades of gray and making it into a world of black and white–pun intended. And the “little black dress” is not all that is going on. This young lady is intentionally made up and dressed to be sexy–attractive and alluring. As is her right. And very likely with the intention of going to places where there are one or more men and alcohol. Also her right.
In fact, she has the same right to dress as she pleases and go places she likes as she would have to leave her keys in her car unlocked. And expect it will still be there when she returns, even with the extra temptation. But in this example, she is highly unlikely to leave her keys in her unlocked car. Why? Because locking her car and taking her keys just makes sense. Who wants to have their car stolen? But looking sexy and being admired by visually-oriented men makes her feel good. She will be happy about herself while getting attention. And those are good things. But she is taking known risks; a risk to herself, and the risk that she might be tempting someone else to do something they might not otherwise have done. She has the legal right to expect not to be violated in any way. And common sense would clearly urge caution along the lines of “Lock your car, take your keys.” The popular and widely-accepted philosophy, “It takes a village.” applies here. And she is part of that village. I want her to feel happy about herself, and to dress as she likes, and go where she wants. I also what her to drive the car she wants, and drive it where she wants. And use simple common sense in both cases.
In an example of care and love for both boys and girls, I once heard a female counselor at a for camp for 11-year old boys and girls say, “No strappy tops; let’s not tempt our boys.” in front of all the kids. She had the same emphasis as the public service announcement. In this case, protecting the boys from going wrong, in the other, protecting the potential car thief.
Moving away from assaults, here are some other really useful examples:
- If someone builds a home in a known floodplain and the home gets washed away in a flood, do they bear partial responsibility? Would their home likely have been flooded away had it been built elsewhere?
- If a credit card company seeks to get new customers by offering credit to high-risk borrowers, and then goes broke because of too many customers who didn’t pay, is the company partially at fault, or are the customers who did not pay completely at fault?
- If you and I go into a tough neighborhood to eat at an especially good diner and we get mugged, are we partially at fault?
In other words, are there extenuating circumstances in these examples?
“Lock your car, take your keys. Don’t help start a kid on a life of crime.” This principle has broad application in our lives.
Remember, the two main tenets, the core philosophies that drive our thinking and actions here at Results With Reason, are:
- Personal responsibility; take it, teach it and
- Yes, we are all our Brother’s Keepers.
As we apply these core principles to today’s podcast, the personal responsibility lies with the potential car thief and the boys in the camp. Clearly. And the Brother’s Keeper’s part rests with the young woman in the first example and the girls in the camp in the second. Where would you put the personal responsibility and brother’s keeper principles in the other three examples?
Please do contact me about anything. Respond in my Results With Reason blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’m easy to find on iTunes, Google Play and the usual Bat Channels, including Twitter and Facebook.
It is time for our usual parting thought. For us at Results With Reason, it is not only change your thinking, change your life. It is change your thinking, change your actions, change the world. And if you can do it in love and enjoy the people around you at the same time, all the better. Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.