Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Shotgun of Blame

Well, I've been away a bit. Occasionally, I have to stop watching the world that we've made so I won't give in to the urge to chain smoke a carton while drinking the contents of a bar. But onwards, children, so that Uncle Jeremy can once again whisk aside the curtain and force you to pay attention to the Lovecraftian horror behind it.

What flavor of bile shall we ingest and rant upon today? Victim blaming.

Apparently there's a young lady who, after dealing with systematic abuse from a guy, dumps his ass, and then is stalked and harassed. So she takes it up with the Student Court at the college they both attend. They promptly begin questioning why she didn't dump him the very first time he showed signs of abusive behavior.

They essentially attacked her character, her credibility, and insinuated that her abuse was her own fault, because she didn't immediately take measures to protect herself, despite the fact that she really would have needed to be precognitive to do so.

Since she's a sane human being faced with idiocy, she did what any person in this boat might do, and went and told someone else. Since she couldn't get any help on campus, she went off campus. Specifically, to various media outlets.

They want to expel her now.

Yes. That's a completely appropriate action. A young woman has been raped. We should mock her for stepping forward, and destroy her life when she is understandably upset by our mocking.

Worst bit? This is a fairly common response to rape, abuse, harassment, and molestation victims. Seriously. See for yourself. I mean come on, how many times have we heard (or in a few cases, thought ourselves) "geez, why doesn't she/he just leave him/her already?"

Well...what's it to you, first off? I mean really, you are not the victim here. Even if you've been a victim of abuse in the past, you still don't know what they're going through, because it ain't you. Abusers follow patterns, yes, but like a black little snowflake, it may fit the pattern to be called a snowflake, but an abuser is still special in his or her own sick little way. 

So you may know what it feels like to be abused, you may know what worked for you, you may know the kind of pain that comes with it. But you don't know, intimately, what that specific person is going through.

Second, let's take a step back. Cop walks into a bar full of drunken buffoons, because he needs to arrest a particularly loud buffoon. This buffoon suddenly pulls a knife and stabs the cop. Cop bleeds out.

Naturally of course, that cop should have backed out the minute he saw belligerence, right? We can't really blame Buffoon Boy, he gave out all the right signals, and then he just acted in response to the cop's behavior, after all. Besides, that cop has a history of walking into bad situations and agitating belligerent and violent people who may be armed. And he knows it could happen at anytime, hell, he consented to take on the buffoons, he knew that could happen. Eyes wide open, right?

So really, isn't it the cop's fault for getting stabbed? Shouldn't we just ignore that buffoon, I mean, it's not like the cop did everything possible to stop him before he became a true threat. Totes not his fault that cop got stabbed.

See the problem? Victim blaming is like the Pringles ad: you can't just have one. The troll logic behind blaming victims applies to all victims. Got mugged? Shoulda taken a taxi, shouldn't ya? Had a home invasion? Well, why didn't you have an alarm system prominently displayed? Why didn't you take better care not to let potential thieves see what goodies you had?

Why didn't you take every precaution to prevent someone from abusing you?

That's really all victim blaming is: "let's figure out how it's your fault you got hurt."

So why? Why would anyone do this awful thing?

Let's clarify something about victim blaming: this does happen disproportionately to women. And in those cases, misogyny is a factor. But this is not a behavior that exclusively targets girls and women. This is one of those times where our species got "equal opportunity" horribly right.

Men who get abused in any way, especially sexual, have little recourse. It's statistically far more rare, admittedly, to see female on male spousal abuse. But on the other hand, how many men do you see getting screamed at by women openly and publicly, often accompanied by slaps or punches to the arm, chest, or back? If you saw a man do that to a woman, you'd be calling security and running to intervene.

But that's "not abuse" when it happens to a guy. After all...he must have done something to piss her off...right?

Well how about sexual abuse, harassment, even rape? Just like the female victims, men under-report instances of it happening to them. But, while women have a fair number of resources immediately available to them, men get zip. Because seriously, guys think about sex every what, seven seconds? How do you rape a sex machine?

Your hot boss keeps grabbing your ass and making eyes at you? And you have a wife at home? You stud!

Wait, why are you complaining? Whaddaya mean, report her? Come on, man, it's just a sexy misunderstanding, and besides, you're a stud! Quit whining and enjoy this sign of your virility!

No. Seriously. That's pretty much how it goes for guys, up to and including rape. You're being shown attention, no matter how unwanted. The fact that you don't want to have sex must mean there's something wrong with you.

And if it's gay rape there's definitely something wrong with you. Of course no one wants to get raped by a fag...unless you're secretly a fag....are you a fag? Did you like it?  What did you do to make them look at you like that?

Get the idea? And hey, let's take this out of the gender norms court and toss it into the realms of "oh, gods, why?"

Children. This happens to children.

Think about bullying. After school specials would have us believe that bullying is solved equitably for all, and the bully just has some problem that makes them angry, but as soon as that's fixed, they have a heart of gold/get horribly humiliated and never bother the hero again (depending on your era.)

In good schools, with good people working them, bullying goes under-reported because the kids fear retribution. In schools with severe bullying problems, it can go unreported because the culture is such that the first question is always, "Well, what did you do?"

Stop! Yes, asking about the surrounding circumstances is an excellent question. But that's a blame-y way of asking it, so that's bad. Got it? Baaaaaaaaaad.

"What happened?" See? Same question, no blame. Moving on.

If the kids in question are outside the gender identity/sexual orientation/social caste/physical norms?

Have you tried being more like the kids hurting you?

Or even just less like yourself?

 Maybe if you acted less gay/tomboyish/girly/quiet/weird/loud/smart?

Maybe if you ate less/more? Exercised more?

Oh yeah. That still happens. We didn't just wake up as a society when you all graduated and magically everything went away now that you don't have to deal with it. Hell, there's groups out there that want to ensure bullying is legitimized as a means of expression, as long as it's their faith being expressed.

So...if its not specific to a certain gender, class, orientation, religion, creed, or race...what the hell causes victim blaming and how the hell do we shut it off?

Well...there's a mess of circumstances that people turn to victim blaming in, as evidenced by the above laundry list of things victims get blamed for. So at the end of the day...I have to go with the good ol' one-two punch of fear and apathy.

How so? Well, if an abuse victim is truly a victim regardless of circumstance or situation, then we have to look at the abuser and figure out what to do about it. Figure out if society creates this problem, or if this is a one-off deviant, or if this is a sick individual who needs treatment, or is this an individual that needs lifelong care and supervision because there's no way they can ever be safe around people.

We have to risk that our beliefs cause this behavior, risk finding out that we're teaching hate. Or risk finding out that we're just not teaching tolerance. We have to put our beliefs aside in some cases, and actually listen without knowing if we're going to realize this might be something we could have systems and education in place to deal with. We might discover that this person is genuinely ill and there's nothing anyone could have done to prevent horrible things from happening to innocent people.

And regardless of what causes the abuse, how should the abuser best be dealt with for justice and public safety? Counseling for underage cases? Juvie? Prison time for adult abusers? Parole, or no? Community service and mandatory psych treatment? Let them off with monetary reparations and a restraining order? The horrifically broken sex offender system?

We have to help the victims. We have to offer them services, counseling, aid to get back on their feet, safe environments to recover from the severe psychological and physical effects. We have to offer food and shelter, comfort, resources to aid their families. We have to protect them from retribution, hunt down their abuser in some cases.

We have to teach kids how to deal with bullies, or better yet, retool systems already in place to eliminate the mis-education that causes bullying. We have to recognize that there is a need to not allow children to be hurt that obviates the right to insist that schools allow perfect religious expression, or that adults not interfere with cliques and peer groups that create unhealthy pressures and influences on kids.

In some cases, we have to investigate and realize the victim is falsely accusing someone, abusing the system (whatever system) as a weapon. Is that blaming the victim? No. That's believing and supporting them by doing all victims the dignity of properly investigating their claims without throwing them under the bus right off the bat.

That's encouraging true victims to step forward in the knowledge they will get a fair hearing and the truth will out in the end. Because if a false accuser can get away with it, the system is broken on every level, and will shit on everyone equally without regard.

But if we can blame the victim, no matter what the circumstances, system, or method of abuse? That whole process can be encapsulated and finished in one sentence:

Well, the [insert slur] had it coming anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I don't agree with everything in all your posts (which is part of why I love you; where'd the fun be if I had nothing to argue with?) but this post is brilliant. I love your cop analogy. Don't forget that he shouldn't have been wearing that uniform; dressed like that he was just asking for it.

    I don't consider myself a feminist (heck, I'm a stay-at-home mom who loves pink, lace and pearls, sews and gets absolutely giddy when she actually manages to cook an edible dinner)but the way our society treats women is absolutely infuriating. We treat young women like toys, and casually quote statistics about sexual abuse... Out of myself and my 3 best girlfriends growing up, only one of us made it to 20 without being raped. That is 3/4. And we were middle-upper middle class kids. But it was all our fault. Yep. One girl was seeing the wrong guy, one got drunk and one showed cleavage. There you go; all 3 were clearly asking to be abused. It obviously wasn't the guys fault. Incidentally, not one of the girls came forward for fear of family retaliation against them. The very people who should be protecting our girls are shaming them into silence!

    But like you said, at least the girls could have gotten help. One of my older friends has a son about my age. She was complaining to me about how his life has started falling apart. "When was he raped?" "How'd you know?" Turns out he was assaulted at a college party while attending the University of Oklahoma. He tried to get help on campus, but was refused because he was gay. Refused! Obviously he was asking for it because he was gay. He ended up dropping out, took up drugs and prostitution, because he no longer felt he deserved any better. The administration at UCO succeeded in destroying his life.

    And the sad thing about school bullying is that it's not just the kids. My 10-year-old brother-in-law had to change school due to TEACHER bullying! When it was brought before the principle, he dismissed the accusations, then blamed the boy and his mother! He insisted that it was the boy's fault for being 'different' and told them the teacher couldn't be expected to treat kids with Autism the same. What's funny is the boy does not have Autism; he was even tested just to prove it to the school. But so what if he had? Well, if he had been born with Autism he definitely would have just been asking to be persecuted.

    Sorry... I wrote a book! But this post really hit home :)