Tuesday, 16 October 2012

When is it appropriate to blame the victim?

Short answer - When the victim is the person at fault.

Long Answer - Let us first consider a brief thought experiment involving a child and an intersection. The child approaches the intersection, her or her light is green, the "walk" signal is on. The Child looks both ways, sees traffic is stopped, and enters the intersection. Suddenly a car that was stopped accelerates and strikes the child, injuring the child severely, perhaps breaking bones and sending him to the hospital with a life altering injury. Who is at fault for this tragedy? Of course the driver is, for ignoring the rules of the road, the driver is at fault no matter how you consider it, and we can in no way blame the child, the victim, who exercised all due diligence.

However let us now change the parameters, this time the light is red, the child fails to look and does not see the oncoming driver, who, having a green light, is approaching at a high speed, although not one exceeding the posted speed limit. The child rushes out in front of the car, and the driver slams on the breaks and swerves, but alas, it is too late, the child is struck and hospitalized as before. Who now is to blame? Surely not the driver, who was following the rules of the road and did everything within their power to avoid the accident. Perhaps the parents or the child's schoolteacher, for not adequately teaching what road signals mean and the "look both ways" rule. Let us assume for the time being that the child was aware of both the road signals and that looking both ways is a prudent practise, but proceeded none the less. Who then is to blame? Simply put, the child, who is still the victim none the less, was to blame for their victim-hood.

Is it wrong to advise the child that in the future, one should not cross lights when one does not have the right of way? Or that looking both ways before crossing the road is a prudent habit to get into? Of course not, either one should dispel the poor child's ignorance, or reinforce the fact that they were negligent. Though the ride to the hospital may not be a good time to do so.

Sometimes the blame is shared, perhaps the light was yellow, perhaps the child failed to look both ways but the child had the right of way, perhaps the child did look both ways, but ignored the sign, perhaps the driver is speeding, sometimes the blame is equally shared or split unevenly between both sides. However, if we, through our own negligence or ignorance, bring these circumstances upon ourselves, then we share the blame.

Of what relevance is this, do you ask? Well plainly and simply put, some of the A+tards don't seem to understand the concept. Let's drop the scholarly prose for a moment, since the thought experiment is done, and talk business.

There have been a few posts in a couple of A+ forum threads and blogs, which suggest that any sort of advice giving to the victim after the fact is "victim-blaming". This is actually true, however where the bullshit begins is they seem to view this as a negative thing. See this is what they fail to understand, in any circumstance in which you can influence the outcome, you bear a proportionate amount of responsibility for the result as far as you can influence the result. This means that although you may not be completely, or even mostly responsible, if you can influence the outcome, then you can benefit from advice on how to prevent a another occurrence of the same thing.

There are 2 corollaries to this:

1) The advice given must be true

2) The advice given must be applicable to the situation 

A 3rd might be that it must be presented in a manor that does not appear to be sarcastic or flippant.

Now although the following discussion applies to nearly all violent crime (which is directed, in majority at men). I'll use the example of a woman trying to avoid rape by a man for the discussion, because that is the only demographic A+ seems to care about.

Now someone is going to say "rapes are not an accident, it is a malicious act and the only person to blame is the rapist" yes, the rapist should face the full penalty of law, and more, in my opinion. However, all the talk on all the message boards on the internet will not stop the rapists from raping. Contrary to the whole "rape culture" bullshit, the rapist knows what he is doing is illegal. If the the police find out, he will go to jail. If I find out he may receive a righteous beating, but I digress.

So now we have a person, actively and maliciously preparing to perform an act of forced sex on you, are there any actions you can take to avoid it? Of course. Consider the soldier in enemy territory, where there are any number of people actively trying to kill our aforementioned soldier off. Does this person simply walk around, alone, unarmed, eyes closed,through the streets and fields? Or does our soldier move tactically, armed, practising situational awareness and with the backing of their squad or platoon?

Consider now, the rather bleak, and unlikely point of view, that every woman who steps outside is entering a war zone of potential enemy rapist combatants. I do not ascribe to this, but for the moment, let's assume this nonsense is true. What can our intrepid woman do to avoid being raped? Can she move with her "squad" of friends? Yes of course, but not all women always have that benefit, sometimes they must travel alone. Well can she move tactically? Most definitely, she can avoid dark alleyways and areas of town where there are high crime rates? Most assuredly. Can she practise situational awareness? Of course. Can she ignore the horrible advice in "Shrodinger's Rapist". Yes she can. Notice how I make no mention of dressing conservatively, as there has been no correlation proven between style of dress and rape.

Now someone is going to say "But I am a woman, and I want to walk alone through dark alleyways in the shadiest part of town, at 3 am, by myself while blasting my Ipod and playing angry birds as I walk, because I can." Well, plain and simply put, In a perfect world you should be able to, but we don't live in a perfect world, and you are putting yourself at risk for violent crime, its not a great risk, and the blame still falls squarely on the attacker, but you are putting yourself into the hands of that attacker, just the like soldier walking with closed eyes through the street. There are evil people in the world, people who are willing to do evil things to you, there are not many, but they are there. No amount of goodwill, education or chatting on the internet can stop this, telling a rapist not to rape will not make them any less likely to do so, and if you think a bunch of bloviating on the internet is going to stop someone, when the threat of a 10-25 year prison sentence will not, then you are an idiot. Knowing that those people are out there is power, and blatantly putting yourself in their hands for no good reason, is throwing that power away.

So how about the woman who is forced to take a job in a shady part of town that ends her shift in the dead of night, and has no friends to walk home with? Who doesn't do this by choice but of necessity? What can she do? Several things.

She can have a "check in" with someone when she arrives home, or at a checkpoint along the way, via meeting someone at home or phoning someone. She can learn which places on route are most dangerous, and be aware of her surroundings, and avoid dangerous situations. She can ask herself if it's worth it t put herself in that position at all by taking that job. There are many other options and I'll happily discuss them with anyone who asks.

So is it appropriate to blame the victim? Yes, if they are the cause, either in part or in whole of the circumstances which made them a victim. If it can help prevent it from happening again, or if it can help others avoid being victims as well, then its not only appropriate, but the fucking right thing to do.

Stand up and fight

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