Given that human beings have a tendency to categorize, it should come as no surprise that this peculiar human trait is also used when discussing particular beliefs systems. People fuss over the definition–and label–of terms like progressive, liberal, conservative, big D Democrat, big R Repulican, Blue Dog and fascist. I could spend all of NaBloPoMo trying to suss this out; however, I think that in order to do it properly, I’d get far too involved with blogging to get any other work done. Instead of trying to define and label all of these terms, I’m going to focus on particular event that can cut across a number of these categories; furthermore, this event can be used heuristically to help identify what labels are appropriate.
In short–and this is a continuation of yesterday’s quick thought–I am proposing this simple test: If you blame a victim of sexual assault and bandy about terms like “personal responsibility” and “boys will be boys” you are disqualified from being considered liberal, progressive and a feminist.
I recognize that it is difficult to define certain philosophies. I also realize that “moral absolutes” and universal statements are dangerous places to go philosophically. In addition to these realizations, I’m pretty sure that this this kind of a statement will make some of my readers–new, old or established–upset because I’m being too harsh.
When one blames a victim for a crime, one is saying that (at best) their poor judgement is the moral equivalent of the pain that has been inflicted on them. Minimizing, Justifying and rationalizing a crime with the statement of, “well she should have known better” is a distortion displayed by the people perpetrating the crime. When the larger community blames a victim, it continues to traumatize the victim.
In short, if you blame a victim, you are traumatizing the victim. You are showing a callous disregard for their experience. In my experience of talking with victims and victim advocates, victims of crimes–especially victims of a sexual assault–already have an inordinate amount of guilt and shame. Victims feel as if other people are holding them responsible for their victimization. These feelings, for some victims, continue inward to the point where a victim blames oneself for their pain. As a result of this emotional trauma, they begin to feel that they have this pain coming, that they have somehow deserved this because they are bad, stupid or “slutty.”
Blaming a victim is one step away from abusing the victim.
I honestly do not care if this is considered too harsh. I have seen multiple generations of families suffering from victim blaming. I have read far too many victim statements and talk to far too many State’s Attorneys who have told me far too much about how the victim “is spiraling out of control and no one is able to help her.”
When a person is victimized, the offender is the one that is responsible for their trauma. They are the ones who chose to cross boundaries. They are the ones who decided to violate societal norms for their own needs. If you want to blame society for sexualizing young women and having conflicting sexual mores, feel free to do so. But if you are going to blame a victim, recognize that you have far too much in common with an offender than I am comfortable with.
If you’re uncomfortable with the dissonance you might feel, then change your mind about victim blaming. Don’t rationalize it. Do not justify it. Change it.