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Blaming the Victim?

A longtime reader offers a good observation:

Another issue I have is the complete refusal of women to take responsibility for their own actions. I work in New York City, and on the subways there is a poster campaign to get people to tone down their drinking. It shows a man bleeding from a wound on his forehead. The caption says “Two drinks ago you would have walked away.” I think this is a great campaign, but, using feminist terminology, it is “blaming the victim.”

I practiced ER medicine for 15 years. I have seen any number of assault victims, rape or otherwise. It exists, it is heinous, and there are rapists and predators that should be locked away forever, or worse. But there also exists people who seem to get victimized to a surprising degree. This is most tragically seen with domestic violence cases. A woman comes in beat up, everybody is concerned. But when the answer to the question, “Has this ever happened before?” is, “Yes, thirteen times,” the attitude changes in the nurses as well as doctors. How not to be a victim is something I’d like to see emphasized.

Here is the ad to which my correspondent is referring (left) and a similar one (right) directed to women:

Two Drinks.jpg

First off, let’s get one thing straight: it’s never the victim’s fault. But the word “motivation” should never be used in the singular. Someone who recommends, as my correspondent did, that Dartmouth women look out for themselves, is not blaming women if they are assaulted. He is simply pointing out that if sexual assault is to be reduced or eliminated, everyone in Hanover has a role to play: women should take precautions not to leave themselves vulnerable; men should dissuade their friends from engaging in “conquests” or even boasting about such a desire; predatory men should forsake their sick ambitions and realize that love freely offered is the finest pleasure; undergraduates should protect those dear to them from people who might do them harm; the administration should first engage in informal suasion and then prosecute via formal College discipline any student who behaves disrespectfully towards another person; and the Hanover Police and Grafton County Attorney should let malefactors about whom even mild complaints have been lodged know that they are being watched with concern and with an intent to prosecute.


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