How easy it is to blame the victim. Most of us have made that mistake even when we don’t believe in doing so. How does this happen?
When bad things occur, whether it is sexual assault, domestic violence, police brutality, or plain ole bullying, we wonder: did the victim participate in this tragedy in some way? Is he or she partially responsible?
We human beings want to discover any and all explanations possible about how an act of violence happens. Yes, we blame the perpetrator primarily. No child asks to be sexually assaulted by a parent. No woman asks to be knocked out in an elevator. No black boy in the street asks a white cop to kill him even if he is noncompliant.
So, why then do we wonder if Janey Rice had something to do with her husband’s punching her out cold? Why do we wonder if Michael Brown had done anything approximating the severe punishment of being killed by a white cop? We are a frightened and vulnerable people, sometimes paranoid while living in a world where terrorists behead Americans and Brits, and where college frat boys rape young women just because they can.
We want to control whatever we can, we want to protect ourselves and our children, and some of us also want to protect the poor, and brown and black males who are targeted far too frequently by the police. We want to explain how these tragedies can occur and once we understand the dynamics, we fantasize that perhaps we can prevent this from happening.
We also find ourselves evaluating and judging victims unconsciously, without intending to do so.
The police seem to have their own code of ethics and have covered up for each other when “accidents” or mistakes occur. We still wonder about the victims, hoping that they did just one thing to provoke their perpetrators, so that we can tell ourselves that if only we don’t do that one thing, we and/or our kids will be safe. Not so.
A violent crime can happen to any of us, no matter who we are or how much money we have. What is important is for us to provide support, services and thorough investigations into violent acts without prejudice toward any one group or funding source. We need to stop our sloppy police and justice work that ignores victims’ rights and justice for all.
We also need to explore our own biases, our beliefs about who did what to whom and why. There are so many variables that enter into a criminal act, much should be examined instead of our developing hasty and uninformed conclusions.
Blaming the victim is too simple and ignorant. Let us educate ourselves and others so that we can develop a wider lens to view these problems instead of blaming the victim and letting the perpetrator off one too many times.