Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Victim Blaming

So, at the career planning today, we had a team activity. We were told a story, illustrated with a map, and then given a question to answer.

The story was as follows.

A woman and her abusive husband, live with their two children, on one side of a river. The woman has a man friend on the other side of the river. She goes to visit him and then finds she doesn't have enough money to pay for the ferry back. The friend has no money to give her. The ferry captain says if she can't pay, she can't take the ferry. There are piranha in the river. There is a bridge, but it is 'guarded' by a bandit who is known to shoot people. She takes the bridge and gets shot.
The question is, who is most responsible?

The group I was in, went into another room, and one man and I immediately said, without any collaboration, 'it's obvious! It's the bandit!'.
The others said, 'it's the woman's fault.'
'But that's the same as when a woman is blamed for 'getting herself raped','
'Oh, yes!' said one other man, 'you're right, it is like that, I get it,'
Another man said, 'oh but all sorts of people are responsible,' and the first man said,
'Well, there are contributing factors, but you can't argue that the bandit isn't responsible,'
'Oh,' said man three, 'yes, contributing factors, I like that, no, you're right.'
The two other women in the group still felt the woman was responsible, but actually couldn't argue with the conclusion.

The other group all felt the woman was responsible. They had various reasons for blaming the victim, she shouldn't have left home, she shouldn't have tried to get back, she shouldn't have left home without enough money to get back, and she knew the bandit shoots people.

It worries me. It illustrated a couple of things to me, one was that not everything can be decided by consensus, because sometimes, there is just a right answer and a wrong one. Secondly, that good leadership is essential to good decisions. This was demonstrated because of this conversation with a woman from the other group.

'I think it was the woman's fault,' she said, 'because I think about my sport of roller derby. I know that an opponent is going to go all out to win, so if she injures me, well, I knew the risk,'
'But this isn't the same situation,' said I, 'to use your analogy, if the opponent deliberately killed you, then it wouldn't be your fault, because when you go into the game, you might accept the risk of injury, but you don't agree to be killed,'
'Oh,' she said, 'you're right,yes, that's true.'

Victim blaming is wrong, and it is always wrong. Sometimes people do things that put them in risky situations, but ultimately, when one person deliberately takes an action against another person that deprives that person of their life, or dignity, or control over their own body, that is simply wrong and in many cases, illegal.


Raymond's Brain said...

I don't think I could take this course. I get a stomach ache just thinking about this. What a strange discussion. I mean, if it were a legal case, all the would matter is that the bandit shot the woman. What did the class facilitator say?

Schneewittchen said...

She said that it was not about finding the right answer, it was about our discussing it. I think we were supposed to find something out about ourselves from the process, and to be sure, I did.