Blame Game

By Kersley Fitzgerald

We were still reeling from the loss of our friends' six-year old daughter. Her parents had thought she had the flu. By morning, they realized it was something worse. Half-way to the hospital, she succumbed to a twisted colon.

As we explained, an acquaintance shook her head, sharing in our sorrow. We thought. Until she expressed her real opinion:

"Didn't they know something was wrong? They should have taken her to the hospital sooner."

At the time, I was horrified. How dare she make such a judgment call when our friends are grieving and she wasn't even there?! Since then, I've come to recognize such reactions for what they are: an attempt to keep the cold, dark world on the other side of the door.

I see this a lot when I talk about trafficking victims. People want something to hold onto that indicates they're safe. Some completion to, "That couldn't happen to us because..." Not that the victim deserved it, but she must have done something that we don't do to put herself in such a vulnerable position. She wasn't educated about trafficking. Her parents didn't monitor her friends closely enough. She smoked pot.

Victim blaming is also common with cases of sexual assault. Some instances, as when the perpetrator insists "she made me do it," are just denial of responsibility. But others are subconscious attempts to reassure a non-involved party that this was a special case of carelessness or irresponsibility. "She left her drink*," "She shouldn't have worn that," and "What was she doing there, anyway?" are all defensive mechanisms used to make the speaker feel safe.

Pointing out where a victim might have avoided a situation is tricky. In part because it might be true. It's possible that if he hadn't been driving on bald tires he wouldn't have slid on the ice and crashed into a tree. But that doesn't mean pointing that out is helpful when the poor guy's laid up in the hospital. All it does is bring a measure of comfort to the outsider who is diligent about replacing tires.

Then again, it might not be true. Maybe the roads were covered by black ice that no tire could stand against.

I was in high school when a classmate's boyfriend drove off the road and died. "He was on drugs," my dad said. At the time it irritated me because I'd met the guy, and he seemed really nice. Turned out he wasn't stoned or drunk — the police concluded he swerved to miss a deer. But to my dad, believing he'd done something obviously, deliberately wrong to contribute to the accident was his way of reassuring himself that his newly-licensed daughter wouldn't suffer the same fate.

Because you have more control over drugs than deer. And that's something we have to learn to accept. This is a fallen world; deer happen. Karma's a nice thought, but it isn't truth. It's true that if you don't do drugs, you're a lot less likely to crash because you're stoned, but that doesn't mean you won't crash for a different reason.

And twisted colons are rare in 6-year old girls — a lot rarer than the flu; who's to say the doctors would have even recognized it in time?

The first verse of Matt Kearney's "Closer to Love" says "She said she didn't believe, 'It could happen to me.' I guess we're all one phone call from our knees." That's where we live — in between phone calls. Precautions are good and wise, but they're no guarantee. There are too many hostile variables. Don't leave your drink at a club? I don't drink from my water bottle at the gym if I've left it somewhere. How many dumb decisions have I made in my life and gotten away with a scratch? I have no right to judge anyone for their hardships just to make me to feel more secure.
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
This kind of victim-blaming is the ultimate in self-centeredness. It's fine to learn from another's example, but to automatically dig for their errors in order to convince yourself you're safe is foolish and mean. 2 Timothy 2:25-26 says to correct people so they can escape Satan, not so you can feel a false sense of security.

I think the key is the last phrase in the song lyrics. Stay on your knees and the phone call won't floor you. If we recognize how dangerous the world is and how helpless we are against random acts of malice, we'll stay close to God. In part to ask for His protection, but in part because only He can really equip us for when we're slammed.

In addition, such victim-blaming takes the weight of the crime off the perpetrator. It's a short slope between "he should have known better" and "he deserved it." It's very possible he should have known not to leave his car warming up in the driveway while he ran in the house to grab his coffee, but it doesn't necessarily follow that he deserved to have his car stolen. If you don't want your car stolen as his was, don't leave it running in the driveway. But recognize that it's possible a determined thief could still break into your house, take your keys, and drive your car out of the garage.

Because God didn't put us in a safe world. He didn't put us in a "just world" ruled by you-get-what-you-give karma. He put us in a dangerous world filled with malice from both the natural (Matthew 10:16) and the supernatural (Ephesians 6:12). He intentionally put us in the middle of trouble, but He promises to defeat that trouble in the end (John 16:33). So that in the end we can say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6).

There's a reason God gives us armor (Ephesians 6:13-17). And it's not so we can poke each other with our swords.

* A few months ago, I saw an article on this cool nail polish that could detect if a drink had been spiked. Predictably, a friend's response was, "Well, you shouldn't go to a bar anyway!" As if going to a bar made you automatically deserving of being drugged and assaulted.

Image Credit: Daniel Oines; "And love may grow"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Hardships  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships

comments powered by Disqus
Published 1-19-2015