Posted by: Chasy | 13/10/2010

Of attitudes, abuse and arseholes

I am a victim of domestic abuse. It’s extremely hard for me to admit, because the thought of it fills me with shame. What could I have done to prevent it? Why didn’t I just leave? Why did I keep going back? Would people believe me? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Am I being a drama queen? These questions plague me everyday, and prevent me from admitting that I am a victim and that what he did was wrong.

Of course, I’m also doing what everyone does – blaming the victim, and asking what they could have done to prevent it.

Our mutual friends at the time were the same. They knew what was happening, but turned a blind eye. When I tried to speak about it, they asked what I could have done to stop it, told me that ‘we antagonise each other’, and tried to point out the things that I had done wrong, as if that absolved him of any wrong doing.

They didn’t want to accept that their friend could be capable of such things. They just wanted to ignore it, and for me to stop disturbing their world view that this sort of thing could be happening to someone they know. Domestic abusers weren’t the sort of people they would be friends with. They could spot them in the street, surely. Domestic abusers are thugs, who dress badly and live in low socio-economic areas. They weren’t university educated, well-spoken, charming or funny. They weren’t a part of their world. Domestic abuse happened to other people, who, as far as they could tell, probably deserved it.

At least, that’s what they seemed desperate to convince themselves of. Just like the community at large. We don’t want to believe it happens, because that means we have to accept that our friends can be bad people. Worse still, we have to accept that it could happen to us.

We think we can stop bad people from doing bad things. We try to predict their behaviour and get the victims out of the way, but it’s just not possible. The only people who can stop bad people doing bad things are the bad people themselves.

Domestic violence? Only the abuser has the power to stop themselves.
Rape? Only the rapist can prevent it from happening.
Terrorism? The terrorist.
Someone pushing in front of you when you’re lining up for coffee in the morning? Only they can stop themselves from being an arsehole.

We try so hard to protect ourselves and each other from Bad Things, but we aren’t superheroes. As much as we’d like to be, we aren’t in control, and, quite frankly, that scares the bejeesus out of our collective consciousness. This is why we do such horrible things like blaming the victim. We’re not trying to hurt them, we’re trying to protect them.

Well, guess what? By trying to ‘protect them’, we’re doing more harm than good.

Trying to put it to the victim that if only they weren’t there in the first place, it wouldn’t happen, is, like it or not, akin to saying to the 3000 or so dead in the Twin Towers that if only they had got into work late, everything would be O.K.

You wouldn’t do that, would you? You are quite certain that the person to blame for those deaths is the person who was flying the plane.

So, why would you expect the victim of rape to be in charge of the situation, when the plane, in this case, is a very large, intimidating, male person with very large fists and possibly a couple of mates?

A friend drew the comparison with rape and terrorism first, saying that you couldn’t criticise the terrorist without looking at failures in foreign policy that led to the situation, which is, essentially, looking at how we contributed to the situation in the first place, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask such questions, when it it often leads to being accused of being a terrorist sympathiser. And I agree.

However, she was putting the notion forward that it is essentially the same as asking the victim how they got into a situation where they are raped, and how they could have prevented it. Not so.

Another friend made a very good point. The terrorist is the perpetrator in this similie, but the victim is not a ‘failure of foreign policy’. They are the person standing next to suicide bomber. Wrong place, wrong time. The suicide bomber was going to do it anyway. The victim couldn’t do anything about it. It would have been them or someone else, no matter what they tried to do.

The failure is not communicating to the perpetrator that their behaviour is just not on.

This is why we need to be careful about our language, and why victim blaming will inevitably lead to more violence. We accept it, so it goes on. We don’t accept it when our leaders make distastrous choices like joining a war for oil – we protest. Sadly, I’m yet to see half a million people fill Swanston St in Melbourne to protest the lack of education about rape and domestic abuse, the failure of our governments to change attitudes of the community, and the disgusting lack of services for survivors.

Until we change our views as a community, we are going to keep creating victims. If you want rape to stop, change your attitude. Your mates are not allowed to take what they want, when they want it. Speak up when they do. Dob them in. Protest. Don’t just accept that ‘these things happen’, because you certainly wouldn’t accept it if your mate blew someone up.

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Responses

  1. Bravo. I hope many people read this and start examining their attitudes to “who” is a perp. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, who does it or how often, it just shouldn’t be happening and victims should be made to feel like they started it or contributed to it. Bollocks!

    • Thanks, Bron. *breathes out*

  2. Chasy
    I suggest that you read some of what Erin Pizzy has to say on the matter:
    http://www.sossandra.org/erin-pizzey

    and in particular this: http://www.bennett.com/ptv/index.shtml


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