Imagine the following scenario. A young woman is walking down the side-walk one night when, as she moves through a darkened section of the street, all of a sudden she is set upon by a young thug who pulls her into an alley and forces himself upon her. After he finishes the rapist beats her and leaves her for dead but she is discovered in time, taken to the hospital, and survives.
After such a gruesome happening, the police, naturally, question her for as many details about her assailant as she can remember. Her friends and family help organize a neighbourhood watch in the hopes of preventing future such incidents and possibly helping the police catch the rapist.
Suppose that then someone were to come along and say that the police and the young lady’s family and friends all had a wrong attitude towards the whole situation. Rather than wanting the rapist to be tracked down, caught, and punished, this thoughtful individual suggests, the young lady should be looking at herself, peering deeply into the belly button showing in her bare midriff and asking what it is about her that invited this violent sexual assault.
Do you think that the person who were to offer this kind of suggestion would survive long and with all of his appendages still attached?
There is a phrase that has been widely used in recent decades which, taken at its literal meaning, would describe the malefaction of which our hypothetical Job’s comforter is guilty. That phrase is “blaming the victim” and when applied to a scenario like the one discussed it is quite clear what is wrong with it. You have two individuals, one of whom commits an atrocious crime against the other, and the victim is told that she and not the perpetrator bears the moral responsibility for what happened. Yet interestingly the expression is seldom used in this kind of context by those who use it the most often.
The people who use this expression the most are those who consider themselves to be the vanguard of moral and intellectual enlightenment, i.e., liberals, leftists, and other forward-thinking progressive types. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, they are the ones to have actually coined the phrase in the first place. Ordinarily, however, when they use it, the victims they have in mind are not individuals who have been the object of specific criminal acts but rather groups whom they have declared to have been the victims of society, and especially Western civilization, down through history. You know who I mean – all races except whites, all religions except Christianity, women, homosexuals, etc.
In a society dominated by the progressive way of thinking – and all Western societies, to one extent or another, usually a very large extent, are controlled by this way of thinking, even when a nominally “conservative” party is in power – these groups are “official victims” and their status as such is one of privilege. That privilege, progressives think, should include that of being above criticism and so, when anyone criticises one of these groups, or even select members of these groups, the progressive takes great offence and considers it the equivalent of holding the victim of a crime responsible for the act of its perpetrator. In the mouths of progressives, therefore, blaming the victim, is often simply a fancier way of saying “you’re a racist”, “you’re a sexist” or “you’re a homophobe”. Actually, pretty much everything progressives ever say can be reduced to these slurs which don’t really mean much more than “you disagree with me, and I can’t defend and articulate my position as well as you, so I’m going to call you a bad name”.
Thus, to a progressive, blaming the victim includes such things as making the observation that certain races in the United States have higher rates of illegitimacy, poverty, and crime than others or pointing out that the adherents of one particular religion are far more likely to strap bombs around themselves and blow up a shopping centre or hijack an air-plane and fly it into a building than any other. To speak the truth is to blame the victim to the progressive.
When normal people think of victims they think of those who have been on the receiving end of robbery, assault, murder, rape, kidnapping, or the like and not groups with social grievances of some sort or another. Normal people usually think “excusing the perpetrator” to be a worse problem than blaming the victim and, if you think about it, blaming the victim is best understood as being a form or aspect of excusing the perpetrator. The liberal’s preference for the former phrase is understandable, of course, in that they themselves are the chief practitioners of the latter. No matter how heinous and violent the crime you can always rely upon liberals to plead for leniency for the perpetrator, to argue that it is not really his fault and that society is to blame, and to condemn anyone who demands that the victim be given justice and a real sentence be handed down as atavistic vengeance seekers, out for blood.
Some might argue that when it comes to cases of rape, feminists, who are progressive and liberal, are more like normal people in their demands that perpetrators be brought to justice. A few years ago, there was an incident here in Manitoba which bears a certain resemblance to our hypothetical situation. Robert Dewar, then a Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, came under heavy criticism from feminists after he handed down a conditional sentence in a rape case. A conditional sentence is a sentence that is served outside of prison in the community under certain restrictions – a rather light sentence for a crime as serious as rape. It was not the leniency of the sentence itself which drew the feminists’ ire, if you recall, but the fact that Justice Dewar chose that moment to lecture the victim on the imprudence and impropriety of her trashy attire. While the judge had clearly picked a bad time and place to make that speech, the point is that the feminists were far more outraged over his “slut shaming” than over the fact that he let a rapist off with a slap on the wrist. Anyone who pays attention to what feminists say knows that in recent years they have launched a campaign against slut shaming, i.e., criticism of the contemporary cultural trend for young women – and more than a few older women – to dress, talk, and act like cheap prostitutes and that they object to the counsel of modesty under any circumstances as a “patriarchal” attempt to restrict the freedom of female sexual expression. As for their demands that rapists be brought to justice, the observer of feminism will also be aware that in recent feminist lingo the meaning of “rapist” has been extended to include men who women are ashamed of having slept with and so allow themselves to be convinced after the fact that the sex was not truly consensual.
If progressive liberals are the chief practitioners of excusing the perpetrator when it comes to real crimes they are also no slouches when it comes to blaming the victim on a grandiose scale. Consider the liberal response to the terrorist attack in Paris a couple of weeks ago – or, for that matter, to any of the episodes of jihad that have kept the news media occupied for the last couple of decades. They wring their hands over the violence of it all, of course, but their primary concern always seems to be that the ordinary people of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States, or wherever the attack has taken place, might develop negative thoughts and feelings towards Muslims out of all of this. Their advice to Western Christians after one of these incidents is scarcely indistinguishable from that of the person in our scenario who advised the victim to think about what she had done to provoke the rape. Instead of thinking about military retaliation against ISIS, or even securing our borders and preventing the warriors of jihad from gaining access to our countries, they tell us we ought to be thinking about what is wrong with us to have provoked this kind of animosity.
I am not suggesting, of course, that we should ignore the problems with our own societies and civilization, of which there are plenty. To say that a rapist should not be excused for his crime on the grounds of his victim’s attire is not to say that skanky appearance and behaviour should never be criticized. Those who insist, however, that our response to a violent, murderous, attack upon our civilization ought to be to concentrate on our own faults and failings, do not in so doing take the high moral ground as they imagine. Instead, they sink into the same swamp as those who excuse rapists by saying “she was asking for it – look at the way she was dressed”.
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