Thursday, January 28, 2010

blame the victim

today in one of my classes we were discussing moral absolutism and moral relativism. this can lead to interesting discussion, or it can yield nothing. i'm enjoying this particular class because the students are very opinionated, and i find that my beliefs are pretty far away from many of theirs. today was such a case.

in looking at possible absolutes, the book has two different statements to discuss. here they are:
adults should never sexually molest children.
rape is always wrong.

in the first statement i find it helpful to have the class clarify why it means to molest. then, we can talk about what it means to be an adult or a child or if those even matter. i mean, should adults sexually molest other adults?

anyway, the second statement also can yield interesting discussion as we parse out rape, consent, force, statutory laws, and more. but today, today took the cake. you see, after i brought up california law and how you can't legally consent if you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol, i had student basically say, "if you're drunk at a bar, you're asking for it. especially if you're dressed slutty." now, those weren't exact words, but definitely the intent. oh, yeah, i forgot to mention that it was a female student that said that. and she went on and on.

this led me to push them on other crime. is it your fault if you get attacked or robbed? well, pretty much. they told me that if i was walking in a neighborhood and was wearing all red and got stabbed, i should have known better. even if i didn't know the neighborhood, i still should have known and it's my fault. i had a student tell me how he was getting gas late at night, some random guy hit him in the head with a bottle, and yet it was his fault. why, you ask? well, because he should've got gas earlier in the day, and he knew better.

w.t.f.? seriously, wtf? there were a few students that agreed with me, but overwhelmingly the class was unified in blaming the victim.


Adam said...

What a tough issue to deal with.

I always see it as a short term versus long term outlook. Granted, I'll admit that it's overgeneralizing, but it's a working theory I have that people who engage in victim blaming are looking through a very narrow short-term window. It's almost like settling out of court or dropping the charges just to get it over with. "My fault, moving on." Sort of a way of brushing off an incredibly negative experience.

It's a much wider view, longer term thing to consider the idea of improving society to the point where so many people don't feel they have the right, or privilege to take advantage of someone. And it's a lot of work. Just bringing a rapist to justice in our current society is a lot of work for the victim and our society does a good job of making victims feel bad for "letting themselves get attacked".

Anyway, that's my two cents: people who victim blame aren't looking at the bigger picture.

blake said...

Did the guy who got hit in the head with the bottle apologize for putting his attacker in such an inconsiderate position as to have to attack him?