Blaming Victims of the Powerful

There is no honor in killing innocent victims

There is no honor in killing innocent victims

Trigger Warning: May be triggering for rape victims

Ten-year-old “G” was attacked in a rape so violent that it made a hole between her vagina and rectum.

She bled so heavily that she nearly lost her life.

In the hospital, G’s mother and aunt fretted over community pressure to kill her to retain family honor.

Little G felt homesick at the hospital, but no one had the heart to tell her that her family was conspiring to kill her. 

Later, a doctor found G’s mother holding her daughter’s hand. Both were weeping as the mother said,

My daughter, may dust and soil protect you now. We will make you a bed of dust and soil. We will send you to the cemetery where you will be safe.

Meanwhile, the religious leader who had raped little G went free.

That happened in Kunduz, Afghanistan and was reported in the New York Times.

But nothing that sad, depressing and crazy could happen here, right?

Unfortunately, too many things come close.

Girls apologizing to their rapists

Katie Landry was raised in a conservative Mennonite home, and hadn’t even held hands with a boy, when she was raped. Two years later she told the Dean of Students at Bob Jones University, a Christian fundamentalist school.

The dean, Jim Berg, said she must have committed a sin to deserve the attack, and told her to ask her rapist’s forgiveness.

Five other young women reported the same horrifying experience when seeking Berg’s help.

Cheerleader kicked off squad for not cheering her rapist

Cheerleader kicked off squad for not cheering her rapist

Kicked off squad for not cheering her rapist

In 2008 a 16-year-old high school cheerleader was kicked off the squad for refusing to root for the basketball player who raped her. School officials had asked her to avoid the school cafeteria and homecoming activities, too.

In another well-known sport-related case, Penn State staff and fans coddled head football coach, Joe Paterno, who had shielded assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, from the legal consequences of molesting young boys. Many Penn State fans were outraged when news sources shed light on the assaults and cover-up.

Biracial man condemned for complaining about racism

Turning to racism, a young biracial man named Larz was accosted by a student wearing a Klan hood at an Alta High School assembly in Utah. He reported on his blog:

When his friends saw that I had noticed they began pointing and laughing. I immediately demanded that he remove the hood. He then approached me and began dancing in my face and taunting me. I snatch the hood and threw it behind me and his crowd of friends became very displeased with this.

His blog comments too often look like this:

  • I think this is ridiculous. Larz needs to GROW UP. Yeah, I think it’s a GREAT idea to make a blog about a kid a lot of people at your school like, and to BASH him, and try to make everyone feel like you’re a victim… that’s really mature.
  • The guy who was wearing the white costume, in my view, may have been taunting the OP, however, unlikely due to racism, and more so because he was showing off to his friends.
  • First off, you are pretty pathetic ‘larz’. You lied to your teacher to get out of class to go tell daddy that some kids at your school were wearing unethical hoods. Now we also find out you are a troublemaker at school. I have friends that are black, but they don’t act like “n’s”.

Seen through eyes of the powerful

So, people of color who don’t put up with racism are “n’s,” cheerleaders who don’t root for their rapists are kicked off the team, no one should talk of the sins of famous coaches, victims should apologize to their rapists, and honor lies in killing a young daughter who was brutally attacked. While her religious rapist goes free.

Too many of us blame victims who are harmed by more powerful community members.

In each case, the insanities only make sense when we see through the eyes of the powerful, and not through the eyes of empathy.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 1, 2014, in feminism, psychology, race/ethnicity, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. So sad to acknowledge the depth and extent of these atrocious acts against our children and others. And so sad that the adults, responsible for helping are missing in action. THANKS for your bold comments and making the issue very public, reminding us that knowledge is power, when we choose to take the next steps.

    • Thank you.

      It’s both frightening and odd to see how often people take the side of the powerful against the powerless when atrocities against them are committed.

  2. “See through the eyes of the powerful …”

    Hmm – I wonder if that’s why it seems that there’s an inordinate amount of focus on false rape accusations from certain corners. Of course that’s what the powerful will see – they will only see the times that they unjustly suffered at the hands of others. No appreciation for others that suffer much more frequently at their hands (as a group, of course).

  3. Great post. yes, this victim blaming is insidious and rampant… I really feel like so often there is a bigger underlying dynamic at play behind the actual blame. People who would have to face other truths if they actually sided/believed the victim that might compel them to have to take a closer look at their lives and change. I think this occurs a lot in cultures where the victim is blamed and the families rally against him/her- for to do so otherwise would be a bigger dismantling so best to just make one person responsible-the victim.

    • Interesting points. Plus, thinking that you need to change can be understood as saying, “There is something wrong with me.” And most people don’t want to do that.

      Otherwise, I think people tend to side with the powerful for a couple of reasons.

      1) the powerful have more control over ideas and so you are more likely to hear their ways of seeing
      2) people fear the powerful

      If it’s the second, they aren’t showing any character. If the first, they need to be released from their illusions.

  4. Funademantalists with religions are nutjobs, using religion to justify or cover criminal activity. It’s sad how powerful people. How about actors, pro athletes,singers, etc who get away with crime, especially male celebrities simply because they are rich and powerful. And how about corporations and political leaders getting away with rape or conning people of their life’s savings and fraud and either get away or a slap on the wrist. There have been problems government and the law system for a long time, but the question is how to change things. They have the power, policy makers and if things could be changed they would have been long time ago.

    Need a better system and leaders, there always seems to be some kind of corruption with such power system, though America is so much better luckily for us where freedom and libery are honored, wherease other countires people don’t have much say at all. I mean look at North Korea for crying out loud. Kim is such an asshole, getting all riled up about stupid stuff and continuing to test missiles and threatening the US. But worse, the dictator he is, is starving his people and they live in crappy conditions in order to him force his order and power on his people.

  5. This is so sad, victims apologizing. This is unacceptable. Having read this opened my eyes. I used to live in a very small town where everyone knew everyone’s business (really annoying). I remember one time when there was a rumor of a girl getting raped from one of her family members (her uncle). Everyone would blame her and not him. They’d say, maybe she did something to provoke him, she wanted it, she has no respect, etc. Her family did nothing but send her to live out of the town. Meanwhile, the rapists still lives in the town like nothing happened. The reason I said this opened my eyes is because when I thought of her getting raped, the first thing that got into my mind was that it was her fault, that she must of have done something in order for her uncle to rape her. What drove me to think that is the way I was raised. I remember my grandma not letting any of her granddaughters wear shorts, skirts, or open back shirts because that was something only evil do. She even burned some of our clothes. My dad would not let me be outside after 7:00 pm while my brother could be out until very late at night. When I asked why? He’d say “ because you’re a girl and girls have a lot to lose”. All this made me think that girls had to limit themselves in order for them to do not get hurt, what some people call “act like a lady”. Which I now consider really unfair.

    • Thanks for sharing your story.

      Imagine the poor girl being attacked — and in the way that is just horrific and traumatizing — and then having everyone blame you for it — more trauma.

      So glad that you are able to see things from a different perspective now.

  6. Every time I read news on “honour killing”, it gives me the chills. I am originally from Turkey and even though Turkey appears to be one of the modern western nations, the continued prevalence of honor killings and the patriarchal society that supports the practice makes question marks on where the modernity is?
    This is one of the topics that I read a lot about because it is always on the news in the Turkish media. Almost every week, I read about brothers or fathers killing their sisters and daughters for the sake of the family’s name and “honour”. Also, families forcing their daughters to commit suicide in order to cleanse their honour without risking male family member to go to the jail.
    Even though the government has passed stricter laws, it does not stop the society to put pressure on the families to kill their daughters.
    Recently, I have read some interviews that were made with the men who had to kill their daughters because of the pressure from the families and the society and when they were answering the questions they were just crying and regretting what they have done. They were saying if they did not do what they were told to, they could not live in their villages because nobody would do business with them and their families would be isolated from everybody else.
    I think the government should really push to educate people in these villages and they should do much stricter laws against the killings, because ‘there is no honor in honour killings’.

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