Indian student assaults: Blaming the victims
I've been wanting to post something about the ongoing attacks on Indian students but since the attacks are occurring on the other side of the continent I'm not really in a position to make informed comment. In short, I simply don't know whether or not the attacks are racially motivated.
The recent Senate investigation determined that the crimes are probably not racially motivated, being instead crimes of opportunity, with the victims blamed for providing the opportunity:
3.5 The majority of the evidence given to the committee indicated that the incidents were more likely to be opportunistic robberies, with the attackers targeting owners of laptop computers who did not have an appropriate level of personal safety awareness, as opposed to attacks based on race.
3.6 Dr Felicity Fallon, President, ISANA, gave evidence regarding the lack of awareness regarding personal safety:
Safety is about more than being attacked on the train or at the railway station. I do have to say that I had a student who was attacked on a railway station a couple of years ago. I think he was from Hong Kong; he certainly was not Indian but he did what the Indian students did. He stayed late at a friend’s place, he came home, he was carrying his laptop obviously and he was jumped at the local railway station on his way to his home stay. But I do not think it was because he was an international student. I think he was there at a bad time; he did not understand local conditions...As one of our ISANA members who work at Victoria University said to me, ‘Would you travel on a train to Sunshine at one o’clock in the morning?’ I said, ‘No, I wouldn’t.’ But these students are doing it and they are doing it alone because they have been working in the convenience store or something until that hour of night and then there is the whole time difference. Asian young people do not go to bed before midnight and they do not think it is time to go home until somewhere around there whereas most Australians are home, and their kids would be home and in bed or at least up in their room studying by then. That is not there. There are cultural issues about that sort of thing.
3.7 Chee Lai, President, Curtin University Student Guild and the International Students Committee, gave evidence that attacks on students were not racially motivated but based on opportunism:
Curtin University has experienced violence against international students in and around its Bentley campus. The Guild does not believe that these attacks are racially motivated, but are based on opportunism that has largely arisen due to a lack of awareness about security issues from relatively new arrivals to Australia.
3.8 International Students Online also noted the lack of personal safety awareness:
Personal safety of International students is of great concern, I believe from first hand experience that any international students are not educated sufficiently on arrival to Australia by their education provider. This leads to students carrying laptops, ipods, valuables on public transport and travelling alone late at night...It is certainly apparent that international students do not know how to perform basic tasks and undertake safety measures in our society.
It has been reported but is not confirmed that Nitin Garg was stabbed but not robbed, having made a poor decision in taking a shortcut that was perhaps inappropriate. But there is no point in speculating on what actually happened - it could be that Mr Garg, having lived in Australia for quite some time, had decided that the passive approach was counterproductive and was determined to resist being mugged.
Anyway, here's the real problem: city-dwelling Australians have adapted their lives to accommodate a segment of the community that preys on others for fun and profit. The area where I live is quiet and doesn't have an especially high crime rate. But I would never walk alone through quiet local streets at night because there is danger there even if I don't see it.
Over the years a number of males with bad intentions have been in my yard at night, no doubt looking for an open window or unlocked door. On one occasion my son and I, armed with baseball bats, surprised a young thug whose face was pressed against a lounge room window as he attempted to peer inside. Before taking off running and vaulting the fence he explained that he'd been to the pub and was looking for a place to pee. Right. We didn't try to stop the hoon getting away because had we hurt him we could have been in a world of strife.
One must always be alert. There's no way I'd ride the train at night, alone or in company. I'm always careful where I park at the shopping centre and make sure to carry my car keys positioned in my right hand so that if assaulted I can stab and retreat. When driving I do not use the horn so as to not tempt an offended driver into doing something stupid in retaliation - better to sit for a while at a green light rather than lose the windscreen, or maybe my teeth, to a tyre iron.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't live in fear, I'm simply realisitc: one lapse in judgement can be fatal. A few months ago I stayed home from work sick in bed. My Rhodesian Ridgeback was barking a bit, keeping me awake, so I brought him into the bedroom with me. At some point mid-morning he barked and growled but was soon quiet again. When I got up around noon I discovered that I had forgotten to lock the back door so naturally the door was standing open and my laptop, Playstation and digital camera were gone. The way I see it, someone from the neighbourhood noted that the dog - the best intruder deterent short of a shotgun -wasn't in the yard and thought it the ideal opportunity to investigate the possibilities for personal gain. Fortunately the intruder was probably frightened off when my dog barked so they didn't have time to get up to real mischief inside the house, like taking a crap on the carpet and generally wrecking things. Police investigators were not at all surprised that a one-off opportunity was an an opportunity taken.
It shouldn't be that way, but it is, and I don't know that there's anything we can do to remedy the situation other than locking up the crims and throwing away the key. The bottom line for foreign students is this: Australia's cities, like most cities around the world, can be very dangerous places, so keep your wits about you at all times - better safe than sorry. There is, after all, very little that local authorities can do to protect you.
Update: Melbourne Lefty thinks Indians naive in expecting Australia to be a safe place to live, study and work - there is after all, no proof that Indians are over-represented as crime victims. So either face up to the reality that Australia's a dangerous place and shut up about it or stop coming here. And anyway, Indians have no business complaining about crime in Australia when India has its own crime problem.