Contra Mozilla

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Follow-up Post: Sex Abuse and Blaming the Victim

In Friday's post, I wrote a  bit about a passage from Gene Wolfe's Pirate Freedom, noting that while I don't entirely agree with everything he says, he makes at least a couple of good points. Yesterday, I followed up with a personal story to illustrate the first point, which is that sometimes standing up for yourself (even "violently") does work.  The second is that saying this is not blaming the victim, which is what I want to write about today.

The "blaming the victim" card is akin to the "racist" and "sexist" and "bigot" cards, in that they are often played to silence the other side. "Blaming the victim" is often trotted out in discussion of rape (and other lesser forms of sexual assault)--it gets it most frequent play here. To be fair, there are cases in which it seems like the victim actually is being blamed (noon of these charges would ever derail a discussion if they were always plainly untrue). However, far more often it's when a genuine solution--or start to a solution, a necessary if not a sufficient component of the solution--is proposed which demands a change in behavior of the victims and/or the "bystanders" ratehr than the perpetrators.

Now, obviously, the perpetrator is the one hose behavior ultimately needs to be changed (at least curbed or checked). But "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," as the expression goes. And in many cases, the prevention (and, really the cure) involves some social change on the part of the potential victims.

Note well the word potential. These are people who are not necessarily already victims, but who might conceivably become victims. The woman who walks alone at night in dark alleys is not necessarily ever victimized, either by kidnappers or rapists or muggers, but she certainly is a potential victim of these things. To some extent, the woman alone and not in a dark alley might also be a potential victim of these things: but which of the two women is more likely to be a victim of these abuses?

I will grant that in the perfect world, neither would be. I will also grant that we all desire such a perfect world, and that such a perfect world exists: in heaven, but not this earth. We live in this world and not in the perfect world. We have to work with what we have, not what we want to have, and so we must take such precautions as not walking down dark alleys alone at night.

Looking now towards the child-abuse crises, I tend to agree with Mr Wolfe that part of the solution is to teach boys from a young age to stand up for what is right. If this means that they must fight occasionally, even lose, so be it. When they choose at a young age to be victims, quiet victims, passive victims, then they are still victims. They are victims both of the perpetrators and of the "bystanders," who in this case are the people tasked with raising boys to become men: their parents. This means that while the particular abuser is primarily and formally to blame, the parents do share some blame in turning their children into victims, they have played some material role in making their children become victims.

It was never their intention that things would play out this way, and of course the vast majority of children are not abused in this way--either by priests or by school staff or by relatives or by "friends and acquaintances" of the family. Yet, by raising boys to believe that violence is the worst thing in the world, that they ought never commit violence even in the defense of themselves, they have raised a generation of victims, of boys who would permit violence of the worst kind against themselves without raising a hand or (often) even a voice in their own defense until much, much to late. They boys themselves are nothing but victims, and really can't be blamed: they were doing what they have been trained to do, and finding that what they have been trained to do is hopelessly inadequate when faced with sexual molestation. And, because they put up no resistance, even helpless resistance, their abusers would continue to strike again and again, thus creating more victims.

Educating children, teaching them virtues, teaching the boys the "military" virtues are all difficult tasks. But the alternative is to create not merely a generation of cowards or cads, but of victims. And that is a tragedy which cuts as deeply as the actual abuses suffered by these victims.

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