The first time I heard the phrase "blaming the victim," it was in reference to date rapes. People, usually older people, would tell me these girls had it coming to them. They shouldn't have dressed slutty. They shouldn't have been out late at night. There were lots of reasons, some more sensible than others, that explained why the victim was the one who caused the rape. While it does seem clear that getting intoxicated while naked with a stranger is a dangerous idea, "blaming" the victim was absurd. The young feminists I knew were vocal in their disagreement with the assessment. Men do NOT have the right to take advantage my feminist friends countered. The sides got heated and voices were raised.
I think the main problem was with the word "blame." The people who tut tutted about the way teens dress, and the situation with drugs rampant at clubs, were more concerned about young people than they appeared. They wanted young girls to be safe. They wanted young girls to take more responsibility. It was the apparent lack of empathy for the victims that got victims' rights groups riled. And on the feminist side, it IS true people "should" not take advantage, yet short sighted to pretend no one ever will. These two groups were probably closer to agreeing than they knew.
The history of blaming the victim however, had just begun. With the advent of AIDs a new group of people could be blamed. This time it was Christians against the homosexuals when fundamentalists blamed the spread of this terrible disease on sinful acts. Never mind that many non-gay people get this disease. Rather than spread information on safe sex, fear was mongered. People got more wrapped up in whether it was a punishment from God or not. None of the hysteria helped any of the real victims. There were cases of people contracting it from their dental professional. There were people who got it from being raped. There were people who contracted it from an unfaithful partner. It never seems particularly helpful to blame the victim, and it is never compassionate.
As the death toll stacked up, a slender young hemophiliac patient named Ryan White urged people toward love and understanding. He contracted the disease before blood banks screened for AIDs and found himself the unfortunate victim of ignorance and hate.
It seems society can only ingest the idea of having compassion for so long before it turns to blaming a new victim. The latest permeation is a cult like, feel good group centered around New Age Teachings, with believe it or not a very similar Christian group acting separately and similarly at the same time. Both groups believe that the mind is a powerful thing. The New Agers, believe, that the mind creates one's reality. Therefore if one's reality is terrible, witness the tragedy in Haiti, those people are to blame for not having a "positive" outlook. The Christian belief is almost exactly the same, they just add Jesus into the picture. They purport that since Jesus heals all sin, if someone is ill or poor or hurting, they don't have enough faith. "Blab it and Grab it!" My friend liked to say.
Recently I found myself as the blamed victim. I was at a gathering and someone had the simple idea to share gratitude and intentions. When it was my turn I noted that I had the intention to find work. Someone asked me what I meant, since they know I work at the Post Office. I clarified that I desirous of a full time job with benefits. One that would enable me to figure things out, use my brain, make use of some of my unique talents. Her response startled me with its venom. "You don't have a job because you don't value your BA." She stated.
"Yes, I do." I replied. "I put it on every resume."
"Yet you haven't been hired," she observed. And then proceeded to diagnose, "so you no longer value it."
Ouch! I had no idea why this person who had met me only a few hours ago had solidified such strange assumptions about me. Why couldn't she accept the truth? That I do value my education. With unemployment at 12% in my state, and higher in my remote location, it was possible other factors were influencing my inability to get hired.
"You should get a post office job with the Federal Post Office," she then said.
As if she hadn't read the paper about the cut backs. It seems almost daily my patrons ask me gleefully when Saturday mail will end. There is definitely a lurid delight in the battle between the haves and the have nots. It's like they want to rub it in, my loss of 20 percent of my income. They can hardly wait for it to happen. Never mind when I explain that the rural offices are slated to stay open on Saturdays. My comfortable retired customers shake their heads at my naivetÃ©. Then they commence to argue with me, "That's not true. They say that, but everything will be cut back."
It's a fine line between too much information and too little. Sometimes I thought if I advertised I was job hunting a connection might come up that otherwise I would not be privy to. If people think I'm not looking they won't ask me to work for them. Sometimes I am so so sorry I opened my mouth, because people use it as free rein to give me a lecture on what's wrong with me. "You're too all over the map," one retired lady who has not interviewed in 20 years told me. "You're too narrow in your scope," said a person ten years older than me, who has a comfortable living.I am willing commute and searched in a 100 mile radius from my home. I relocated to Texas, Florida and Virginia in search of work. Finally returned to the part time at the post office, when part time became better than nothing. Ouch. So the victim has been blamed again. Be careful of releasing intent to relative strangers. They may just go for your jugular.