I’ve had my share of heated conversations over the years about victim blaming and victim shaming. It is a windmill I tilt at constantly, hoping it will topple and I can move along to something else.
The default position we as a society tend to turn to is don’t do ____ .
Don’t get raped. Don’t get beaten. Don’t get scammed.
We share what we think is helpful positive advice to our fellow human being – we do not realize in the process we are blaming the victim.
It took a little more education and a little more study of the human condition to get the ‘why’. The explanation to me that otherwise reasonable and intelligent adults who I share space with can say these things without realizing that it shifts responsibility to the victim.
I’ve been met with venom at times when I address this issue. People who might otherwise love me call me foolish and tell me I set people up for being targeted.
While no such thing is true I understand better the process the human brain uses to get to that place.
I recall a conversation I had with a former friend over the Ray/Janay Rice issue. We watched the second video of the elevator incident together and they were appalled at what they saw. They expressed concern over Janay’s safety. When they listened to me explain that Janay went on to marry Ray their concern shifted to: “well she must like it”.
In seconds Janay Rice went from victim to enabler in their eyes and it stopped their concern, their compassion, their empathy.
I could almost see the switch in their head flip. It is the same switch that many of us use to navigate this world. This world is dangerous. This world is uncertain. This is a world where bad things happen to good people.
It is that understanding which troubles us and compels us to shift the blame from the perpetrator to the victim. If we don’t do that, we run the risk of admitting that what we see with others COULD happen to us. We take the chance we may admit that is IS happening to us.
That admission is not a thing that many are prepared to handle or navigate.
It is that admission which we need to happen so that we can alter not just the conversation but the world.
By admitting yes it COULD be us, or even better that it IS us, we open ourselves up to pain, but pain often is a catalyst for change. I am foolish enough to think that I can change the world……how about you?