A couple of lines dropped by Tallink personnel director to a TV channel have triggered a scandal in Swedish society, as well as yet another debate on attitudes related to rape. This is what the director said: «Every woman have to think about that first, how much they drink. They know where it could go. And also we can say that not every drunk person is raped.» The ship company has condemned the attitude that can be attributed to these sentences, and the director has apologised.
It should be explicitly obvious that rape or any other criminal violence towards people, whether men or women, is in no way excused by the person having been drunk. Naturally, it is the rapist etc that is to blame – not the victim. The reason this still needs to be explicitly uttered is the widespread attitude making victims share the blame, as if. Not the victim’s degree of intoxication, her dress or any other characteristics can ever justify a criminal assault.
Even so, clarity about guilt will not nullify or replace advice on safe behaviour. One thing is how a society and its legal system treat crimes. Meanwhile, it is obviously prudent to keep oneself from risk situations. We do not know what exactly the ship company director said before and after the snippet aired by news media. If the context rather was advice on safety, it’s not altogether right to stick the «accusing the victim, justifying the criminal» label.
The third important observation would be that Tallink is not merely a transport company, simply carrying passengers. This clearly is a company substantially invested in entertainment and tavern-keeping. It would be elementary that when involved in a segment like this, the company would view customer security as an integral part of its business, doing all best practice dictates to prevent any violence and to adequately react to what already has happened. Sure: this takes money, as one would need to hire the needed numbers of trained security staff. A company should definitely avoid laying the blame entirely on customers, totally distancing itself from whatever cases of violence. A ship company is making money on the alcohol sold; for business purposes, they have created an environment for partying and need to be able to deal with the unpleasant side effects so as to keep clients safe – also from each other.
It a pity that, by the scandal, a flagship of Estonian economy has gotten itself mired. Whatever the director really meant to say, that’s another matter. Regrettably, though, the words (even when considering the various contextual variations) do not speak of social and cultural sensitivity, neither of professionalism in public relations.