Why the Debate Over Victim Blaming is a
Misunderstanding of the Difference Between Threat and Risk.

Threats cause Risks in the same way that Diseases cause Symptoms.

The ultimate goal of society is to irradiate threats and diseases. In the meantime, risks are managed, and patient symptoms are treated. Sexual assaults are symptoms of the social disease of Gender Violence.

A threat is a unwanted event that can happen. Threat management means reducing the presence and number of these threats. Risk management deals with taking safety precautions and preventive measures to reduce the occurrence and consequences of these unwanted events.

For example, people who drink and drive are threats. Awareness
campaigns designed to make drinking and driving socially “unacceptable” and revoking the driving licenses of offenders are threat management
actions. Being extra vigilant while driving on Friday and Saturday nights
is risk management. Wearing a seat belt is risk management.

In this example, being in an accident with a drunk driver is a symptom or a risk of the social disease (threat) of drinking and driving. Eliminating the practice of drinking and driving (threat) would also eliminate the risk of being hit by a drunk driver.

In terms of sexual assault, risk management involves women taking specific actions and measures to reduce their own risk of being assaulted. But these actions do nothing to reduce the over all threat caused by Gender Violence. Threat management involves changing the culture of how women are perceived and treated in order to irradiate Gender Violence in society.

It is essential to understand the difference, and the relationship between threats and risks in order to make sense of the discussions that revolve around sexual assault victim blaming. The subject of victim blaming arises when people question what the victim did or did not do before the assault. But the entire debate that centers around blame and responsibility is the result of a misunderstanding of the concept of threat and risk management.

The blame for sexual assaults rests completely on the attacker and the culture that gives rise to this type of behavior. The presence of men who sexually assault women in society represent the threat of Gender Violence. On the other hand, the behavior of a woman prior to an assault relates only to risk management. Therefore, the question of victim blaming is really only pertains to risk management.

The goal of risk management is to reduce risk. Therefore, it is possible to be completely blameless for an assault and still be faulted for poor risk management. It is possible to practice excellent risk management and still be assaulted. Risk management only minimizes risk. It does not make the threat go away. Threat and risk management are not mutually exclusive. It is possible for both of these methodologies to coexist and work together towards a common end.

In order for women to be both free of the danger of sexual assault and free of the burden of risk management, the threat of sexual assault most be eliminated. This result will only come from irradiating Gender Violence from society. But this worthwhile goal, along with the goal of eliminating all human violence is not on the immediate horizon. In the meantime,
practicing risk management while also demanding societal change is the best method to reduce the chances and consequences of a sexual assault.

In summary, Slutwalk, Take Back the Night, and other protest marches are intended to eliminate the threat of sexual assault by changing society. Self-defense classes, preventive measures, and police safety talks are intended to reduce the risk of sexual assault. Both of these methods are complimentary. Understanding the concept behind these different
methods is essential for people to be able to focus on the common ground as opposed to arguing over the differences.