Victim Blaming And The Inconvenience Of Truth

*Trigger Warning*

After a two-week hiatus, I am back to writing, and as I had hoped, my passion and desire for change has been made fresh once again.

On August 24th, I made a commitment to write about the Christy Mack case. Just to refresh your memory, Christy mack was brutally beaten beyond recognition by her psychotic ex-boyfriend, UFC fighter Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver; in May of this year. Upon breaking into her house and finding Mack with a male companion, War Machine (as is now his legal name) choked the unsuspecting man, accused Mack of cheating, and proceeded to degrade and abuse her viciously. War Machine is currently scheduled to appear in court on October 17th, and is facing 32 felony charges related to attempted murder and sexual assault. If convicted he could spend life behind bars, and I hope he does … but I digress. The problem here is not with the justified charges, the arrest of a dirtbag, or even the individuals involved. The problem lies in the online vitriol against the victim in all of this, Christy Mack. More than that, the problem is with a culture that places so little value on women that they are immediately found at fault when raped, beaten, or otherwise abused at the hands of a man.

As we have all seen, with every rape or domestic abuse story comes a long list of comments and justifications that favour the perpetrator, and place responsibility on the victim. “She shouldn’t have been out so late.” “She should have worn less revealing clothing.” “They were married. There’s no rape in a marriage.” “She led him on, he can’t be held accountable for that.” The list of justifications is very long, each one altogether offensive and ignorant; and each one spoken by people who have the dangerous idea that women are not marginalized to the extent that some claim they are. This attitude is not only indicative of a reluctance to face reality, but also a scathing indictment of a culture in which challenges to the status quo are dismissed due to their inconvenience. Those who routinely use the ‘date rape’ drug, beat their partners, sleep with underage girls, otherwise use women as objects to do with as they please, or simply don’t want to stir the proverbial pot, don’t want their way of life challenged by people bold enough to speak the truth. An accusation against one celebrity caught in a compromising position with a minor, for example, is terribly inconvenient for others doing the same thing. As a result, those who wish to justify deplorable behaviour lash out and do the only thing they can think of … blame the victim. There is no justification for abuse, I think most people know that, so the only chance they have is if they can convince others that the victim bears some responsibility in what happened … and all too-often they succeed.

On July 27th, I wrote a piece about the Ray Rice case. The NFL Running Back was caught dragging the body of his unconscious wife out of an elevator and into a hallway, back in February of this year. He was alleged to have beat her unconscious, and there has since been video produced to back that claim. Now, Rice was originally suspended for a measly two games, and to the NFL’s credit that has now changed. The justified outrage over such a small sentence for such a serious crime had an impact on a decision to impose stiffer penalties, and the discussion about whether Rice will ever play in the league again is now very real. Not surprisingly, of course, many people are outraged over this as well. You see, Rice is a good Running Back. His absence from the roster will have a negative impact on the team’s ability to win games, and that’s inconvenient for fans. While speaking with a devoted fan recently, I was told that “what the man does in his personal life has nothing to do with his role on the field.” I very strongly disagree, and I made that clear. With celebrity comes the responsibilities of a role model (like it or not). If you choose to be a public figure, you have to accept the fact that your personal life will be visible, and what you do in that personal life will impact social norms and attitudes. When an athlete, one who many kids look up to, beats his wife and gets away with it, that sends a very bad message. Those who are outraged over the consequences Rice is currently facing should think long and hard about how they feel about what he did. His defenders are certainly making it clear that the game of football is more important to them than the rights of defenceless people. Rather than face reality, they just want to carry on with the way things are. “People are getting hurt, sometimes killed, but who cares? Change is not welcome. We should continue to pay millions of dollars to thugs, deadbeat dads, and violent criminals, so we can continue to enjoy the Sunday game. Besides, his wife probably did something to provoke him anyway.” This is really what the argument in defence of famous criminals boils down to, and holding this attitude makes a person just as bad as the one(s) they’re defending. The person defending a wife-beater may not be physically doing the same thing, but his/her attempt to justify what was done perpetuates the very attitude that allows it to happen in the first place. Celebrities may abuse with little to no accountability because we allow them to; and when we seek to blame the victim, we reveal the dark side of humanity just a little bit more.

There is no conversation about rape or domestic abuse in which it can be reasonably argued that the victim had it coming. If you disagree with this, you are part of the problem. As long as we continue to blame the victims of such horrid crimes, we will never progress beyond the base ignorance that seems to define our current society.

There are many of us who get it. We know that equality is important, we can identify what has to change, and we understand that any unfortunate losses will be far outweighed by the benefits of that change. We stand together on the right side of history, the side where everybody will one day have equal rights, equal protections, and equal footing in the cultural discussion. Won’t you join us?

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