Last week a Beit Shemesh woman named Natalie Mashiach drove into Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, an area occupied by extremist haredim. Dressed in a sweater and pants, Mashiach got out of her car to hang signs as part of her job for the national lottery. A group of men poured bleach on her and attacked her car with stones, breaking the windshield. They slashed the tires too. She was not injured, despite a rock being thrown at her head. But Mashiach was certain she was going to die.
She describes the attack in the video below (Hebrew).
It sounds like these residents intend to send a message to outsiders: Don’t go into our neighborhood. Of course the reverse isn’t true. When there is a need for a medical specialist or a visit to the municipality, it doesn’t matter how many “immodest” women are on display.
Rafi’s post, Mashiach Isn’t Welcome in Ramat Beit Shemesh B, describes his encounter with the woman shortly after the attack.
Blogger Beth Frank-Backman of Jacob’s Bones focused on the fifty bystanders who did nothing to disrupt the attack. She points out that street violence occurs all around the world, with women the most common victims. This article, The 3A’s of Street Harassment Disruption, discusses a common misconception about street violence: eliminating threats and eliminating risk are not the same:
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.
If we apply this distinction to Tuesday’s event, Mashiach could have lowered her risk by putting on a long skirt before stepping into Ramat Beit Shemesh B. But the threat would remain the same. Once street violence becomes acceptable in a community no one is safe, including the residents. People don’t need a “good” reason to attack someone, especially the most vulnerable. Then everyone who has to walk on that street is terrorized.
The only way to stop street violence is to send a strong message that it won’t be tolerated, by residents and non-residents alike.
And of course, this same point applies to the pedophilia case in Jerusalem. Parents can try and reduce the risk of their child becoming victimized, but the focus must be on removing the threat.
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