Our culture of victim-blaming and shaming

Victim-blaming is almost a national past time.

My [expensive thing] was stolen from my [car/house/desk/anywhere]. “Was it locked?”

She was raped. “What was she wearing? Was she drinking?” (I could make a giant list of victim-blaming that applies just to women.)

My purse was stolen out of a shopping cart. “What did you expect?”

Kids at lunch were making fun of my hair. “I told you not to wear it like that.”

He was just diagnosed with lung cancer. “Does he smoke?” (Tidbit: diagnoses of lung cancer in non-smokers is on the rise and has been for a few years.)

In cases where we’re judging other adults, it seems to be a simple self-protective mechanism. If I can blame what happened to you on your actions, then I don’t have to worry about that thing happening to me, because I’m smart enough not to act how you do/did.

(I believe this is also why we ignore data on common things that are carcinogenic—because then we’d have to be responsible for not using them or for our diagnosis if/when it comes, and we would rather attribute it to bad luck, random chance, or a deity.)

In cases where we’re judging children, it’s either because they’re experiencing something painful that we did (or still do) and instead of dealing with that pain that brings up for us, we wall up and blame them. Or we’re judging their parents through the kids.

(Which is why so many of us are over-invested in what we think other people think about our kids. Sometimes shitty kid behavior is because of shitty parents, and sometimes it’s not. Often can’t tell by the snapshot you get.)

This is not to say that no one has personal responsibility for anything, contrary to what the current socio-political climate might suggest. (Or how some parents act regarding their kids.)

People are responsible for their actions. What they choose to do and say (or not do and not say).

That’s the thing—it’s not the owner’s fault that someone decided it was OK to open a car that didn’t belong to them and take things from inside. That is completely on the thief. No matter what is inside, no matter how much you can see or not see through the windows.

It’s not my fault that while drunk, a friend decided he could have sex with her. That is completely on the rapist.

“What did you expect?”

I expect that people will be decent to each other. I understand that this is not reality, possibly even most of the time. But I also know that often enough, people live up to or down to expectations.

I feel like … blaming the victim gives a pass to the perpetrator. And as soon as perpetrators get a pass, word spreads, and there are more of them.

Start to notice how often we blame the victim. Start to think about how much better off we’d be if we held the appropriate people accountable. Polish up your words and actions so as to have fewer victims. (None of us are never the perpetrator.) And see if we can spread that, instead.

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