Victim blaming

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Victim blaming is holding the victim of a crime responsible for that crime. Starting in the 1970s, the term was commonly used in the United States. It was mainly used in connection with trials for rape, as well those with a racist background.[1]

In 1947 Theodor W. Adorno defined what would be later called "blaming the victim," as "one of the most sinister features of the Fascist character".[2][3] Shortly after, Adorno and three other professors at the University of California, Berkeley created their influential and highly debated F-scale (F for fascist), published in The Authoritarian Personality (1950), which included among the fascist traits of the scale the "contempt for everything discriminated against or weak."[4] A common example of victim blaming is the "asking for it" idiom, e.g. "she was asking for it" said of a victim of violence or sexual assault.[5]

Opposing views[change | change source]

Roy Baumeister, a social and personality psychologist, argued that blaming the victim is not always wrong. According to him, it can lead to new ideas that show that the victim was at least partly responsible for the act. Baumeister argues that the common explanations of violence and cruelty are not helpful because they say that the victim was innocent. According to him, in the classic telling of "the myth of pure evil," the innocent, well-meaning victims are going about their business when they are suddenly assaulted by terrible villains. The situation, however, is not this simple; In most cases, the victim has done something to either anger the offender, or to help the offender's actions. In spite of this, the actions that follow may be more important than the "victim's" first offense.[6]

Examples[change | change source]

In 2005, Australian Muslim preacher Feiz Mohammad gave a speech in Australia in which he blamed women for being rape victims.[7][8] He said: "A victim of rape every minute somewhere in the world. Why? No one to blame but herself. She displayed her beauty to the entire world... Strapless, backless, sleeveless, showing their legs, nothing but satanic skirts, slit skirts, translucent blouses, miniskirts, tight jeans: all this to tease man and appeal to his carnal nature.[9][10]

In a case that became famous in 2011, an eleven-year-old rape victim of repeated gang rapes in Cleveland, Texas, was accused by the defense attorney of sexually attracting men on purpose so that they would try to rape her.[11] "Like the spider and the fly. Wasn't she saying, 'Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?' ", he asked a witness.[11] The New York Times ran an article uncritically reporting on the way many in the community blamed the victim, for which the newspaper later apologized.[11][12]

In a case that attracted worldwide coverage, when a woman was raped and killed in India in December 2012, some Indian government officials and political leaders blamed the victim for her outfit and being out late at night.[13]

References[change | change source]

  1. Kevin D. McCaul; Lois G. Veltum, Vivian Boyechko, Jacqueline J. Crawford (Januar 1990). "Understanding Attributions of Victim Blame for Rape: Sex, Violence, and Foreseeability". Journal of Applied Social Psychology 20 (1): 1-26. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1990.tb00375.x.
  2. Adorno, TW (1947) Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler in Kenyon Review Vol.ix (1), p. 158
  3. James Martin Harding (1997) Adorno and "A writing of the ruins": essays on modern aesthetics and Anglo-American literature and culture, p.143 quotation: "The mechanisms of this ideological affinity between Baraka and Wagner can be seen in a short critique of Wagner that Adorno wrote directly after the Second World War—at a time when Adorno was perhaps his most direct in singling out the proto-fascist tendencies in Wagner's corpus and character. Adorno criticizes Wagner's having bated his conductor Herman Levi so that he would seem to bear the responsibility for Wagner's subsequent insulting dismissal of him. This, for Adorno, is a classic example of blaming the victim. The anti-Semitic sub-text to the dismissal, viz., that as a Jew Levi supposedly desired and brought the dismissal upon himself, "bears witness to the existence of one of the most sinister features of the Fascist character even in Wagner's time: the paranoid tendency of projecting upon others one's own violent aggressiveness and then indicting, on the basis of this projection, those whom one endows with pernicious qualities" (Adorno "Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler" 158)."
  4. Adorno and the political By Espen Hammer p.63
  5. Nicky Ali Jackson (22 February 2007). Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence. Taylor & Francis. pp. 715–. ISBN 978-0-203-94221-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=OcDBZ0uNNVIC&pg=PA715. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  6. Baumeister, Roy (1999). Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. Holt. ISBN 0-8050-7165-2.[page needed]
  7. "Aussie cleric Feiz Mohammad calls for beheading of Dutch MP Geert Wilders". The Australian. 3 September 2010. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/aussie-cleric-feiz-mohammad-calls-for-beheading-of-dutch-mp-geert-wilders/story-fn3dxity-1225914033334. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  8. "Oz Muslim leaders criticise Islamic cleric's 'call for beheading' Dutch politician". Sify.com. 6 September 2010. http://www.sify.com/news/oz-muslim-leaders-criticise-islamic-cleric-s-call-for-beheading-dutch-politician-news-others-kjgp4gfddgg.html. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  9. "Muslim cleric: women incite men's lust with 'satanic dress'", by Miranda Devine, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 2005.
  10. Miranda Devine. "How a vile sermon of ignorance has done Australia a big favour". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/10/28/1161749357803.html. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Adams, Sam (29 November 2012). "Cleveland, Texas rape case: Defense attorney calls pre-teen victim a spider, but that's his job". Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/11/29/cleveland_texas_rape_case_defense_attorney_calls_pre_teen_victim_a_spider.html. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  12. "NY Times Defends Victim Blaming Coverage of Child Rape Case". Mediabistro.com. 10 March 2011. http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlla/ny-times-defends-victim-blaming-coverage-of-child-rape-case_b24236. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  13. "Amid rape fiasco, India’s leaders keep up insensitive remarks". Washington Post. 4 January 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/01/04/amid-rape-fiasco-indias-leaders-keep-up-insensitive-remarks/. Retrieved 28 April 2013.