Category Archives: Current Events

Why Society Blames the Victim

Disclaimer: This is my opinion. I, in no way, advocate victim-blaming. But I think it’s important that we try to understand why rape is the only violent crime for which victim-blaming is prevalent.

Anyway.

So first off, I want to consider the small victory that was the conviction of these boys. They were not let off (though their punishment could have been more severe…)  This serves as an example to young men and young women. Women – you can press charges and you can have those charges taken seriously.  So many cases of rape go unreported because of confusion about the situation, or fear that pressing charges would be fruitless. Well here is a high profile example of reporting a rape making something happen. And for men – yep, you sure can get thrown in jail for rape. Even if you’re the star of the football team, even if you’re “going places.” Guess what, you’re not anymore.

The result of this trial is a good thing. It means that our justice system is making strides and that change could really be coming. I highly doubt that fifty, even twenty years ago, the trial would have had this result.

The bad thing, as we all know, is the news media’s coverage of this trial. Victim blaming, releasing the name of the girl (which has resulted in her receiving threats), worrying more about the well-being of the young men than the victim… all of these are things that news media did wrong.

But why do people blame the victim? I think it’s because of fear. It’s because we want to believe that rape isn’t as common as it really is. We victim-blame as a form of self-preservation. This person was raped because she was too drunk – well, I don’t get as drunk as she does. This person was raped because she dressed too provocatively – I don’t dress that way, so I won’t get raped. This person was raped because someone dropped something in her drink – I watch my drink at all times, so that won’t happen to me.

We come up with situations that place blame on the victim, because it gives us the illusion of control. “If I behave differently than the girl who was raped, then I won’t get raped.” We want to have control over the situation. We want to believe that if we act the right way and dress the right way, we will be invulnerable. To accept that it is not the victim’s fault, is to acknowledge that we have no control over other peoples’ actions, that we have no true agency in determining whether or not we will be a victim of rape.

The only way to protect ourselves is by avoiding ‘risky’ behaviors. And even that doesn’t always work. The reality of the situation is that women constantly live their lives in fear of being rape. Women choose to not to live on the ground floor, so someone doesn’t break in and attack us. We don’t walk home alone at night, so that we don’t get attacked. We don’t make eye-contact with strangers, because we don’t want them to pay too much attention to us. The fact of the matter is that over 50% of rapes occur in daylight hours. Avoiding walking home alone at night does not make you invulnerable to rape.

I’m not excusing victim-blaming. It’s incredibly destructive. Rape victims are less likely to report rape if they think they will be held responsible, and when they do, being blamed can cause serious psychological problems, in addition to the ones that result from the rape itself . It’s disgusting to think that the person being violated could be held responsible for such an act.

Blaming the victim can make us feel safer. But it does not actually make us any safer.

The only solution to rape is to change the culture.

 

 

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Topical Sunday: The Olympics

I’ve watched every Olympic Games since the 2004 Summer Games in Athens – every opening ceremony and as many of the events as I could manage. I watched Phelps win every single medal in Beijing and I watched as Bode Miller disappointed everyone in Turino.

The kind of sports that I like best aren’t the kind they show on TV. I like sports where an individual competes. I like sports that involve as much mental warfare as physical, where you may have many rivals, but none greater than yourself. Tennis, to me, is like this. Tennis is a mind game. Yes, you must have great form and technique to do well, but so many tennis matches are lost in the head of the player. I’m intrigued by gymnastics, where athletes compete amidst immense pressure from themselves, their parents, their teammates and everyone watching. One slight misjudgment, and you fall flat on your back  – or worse – and must greet failure instead of success. Even archery is a mental game, where you must fight your own stress and inner doubt to conquer the bow and shoot straight. When you race, you are fighting not only against the people to your left and right, but your own inner limitations as well.

Though I admire the athletes, team sports do not impress me half as much as individual events or those with only a few teammates. But this is not a popular viewpoint among my countrymen and with the exception of tennis, it is almost exclusively during the Olympics that these sports are given air time. I take great pleasure in watching these events, and try to imagine what the athletes go through, mentally, to come out victorious. I guess I’ve always loved trying to figure out the way people think…

I love the idea of the Olympics. I love that we, as a world, come together every two years and send our best athletes to compete against one another in good spirit. I love that politics are put aside, to an extent, and we fight not with guns and bombs, but with human might and the unending desire to push – higher, faster, stronger.

This year though, the Olympics are more dear to me than ever. They are more than a chance to watch my favorite type of sport, more than a spectacle of patriotism. This year, the Olympics are in London.

Having just returned from a most life-altering five months in England, I miss the place desperately. I miss ancient buildings, the likelihood of seeing a random sheep on a daily basis, the food, the smells, the hard cider, and well, the accents.

I was in the UK for the lead up to the Games. I listened to residents grumble about the ruckus to be caused. I saw the signs for the changed traffic patterns and read articles about whether or not the country was ready and whether or not this was all a very good idea and how many British citizens are going to run very, very  far away during the actual Games.  I imagine that London was a bit miserable between the Jubilee and the Opening of the Games, especially counting in the fact that this June was their wettest on record (I left just in time!). I’ll admit that I am actually quite glad to not currently be in London – it’s a mad enough city when the population is it’s normal eight million, rather than the additional eleven million expected in and around for the Games.

Still, every time NBC shows a sweeping view of London or Great Britain, I get a strange feeling. It’s a combination of immense joy, because I’ve BEEN THERE!! and deep sadness because who knows when I’ll be there again.

The Opening Ceremonies on Friday made me tear up on several occasions, but none more so than the Cauldron lighting ceremony. Two hundred small copper pots lit simultaneously, raised in the air to form one giant Olympic Cauldron. Individually, we shine. We glow, we burn brightly. But it is when we all join together that we create the greatest light of all.

If there is anything that I learned during my time abroad, it is that people from different parts of the world are not so different as we are wont to believe. And when we join together, either in conversation or in some great effort, we can bring light to the world.

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