This week events in my life have and people I encountered got me thinking about the blaming of victims. Coincidentally, I discovered this quote from Attorney Wendy Murphy. She wrote this in a comment answering others who commented on her blog:
It doesn’t matter if Sandra Boss was a ‘gold-digger’ anymore than it matters that the mother of Michael Jackson’s latest victim ‘consented’ to her child being allowed to sleep at Jackson’s home. It’s equally wrong to rape a child – even if the victim makes it easier on the criminal to commit the crime because she’s ill, or dumb, or uneducated, etc. There’s no such thing as a criminal being ‘partly guilty’. There’s only guilty – or not guilty.
Victims can make bad decisions that we might think of as increasing their risk of being victimized – but the CRIMINAL law sees these things as vulnerabilities – not liabilities – because we don’t want criminals taking advantage of certain ‘types’ of people (even selfish ones). Civil tort cases are treated differently – where responsibility can be distributed among the parties. A crime victim is not a ‘party’ to the criminal case. So, the fact that a person might not protect him or herself well is never an excuse for ANOTHER PERSON’S crime – or a reason to give a harm-doer a discount. If it were – the law would effectively be indulging the idea that certain ‘types’ of people deserve to be victimized (or – put another way – certain ‘types’ deserve better protection from violence). Victims and perpetrators do not stand on equal moral footing.
Perpetrators are charged with crime while victims are presumed by the charge to have suffered harm. Because victims have not even been accused of criminal harm, they are not parties to the criminal case, and are not being judged on issues of guilt and responsibility. This reflects the principle that whether you’re a nun or a homeless prostitute – you are seen as equal in the eyes of the criminal law when you are injured by crime. For all these reasons, it is irrelevant whether Sandra Boss was marrying the name rather than the man – etc – and it is irrelevant whether Stephen Fagan’s wife had ‘issues’. No person ‘deserves’ to be victimized by violence – and unless we fiercely refuse to weigh the moral behavior of the victim in determining the guilt of the accused, we cannot possibly respect this core principle.
I agree with what Attny. Murphy says here. But I want to add that it is important for those who have had encounters with psychopaths to take stock of the experience and to question “Why me?” Asking then answering that question promotes healing, allows for personal growth and gives a person the opportunity to forgive him/herself for any mistakes that contributed to the psychopathic life disaster. Taking responsibility is empowering because it acknowledges the real control we have over the choices we make.
Today one of my friends wrote this to me, ”I fully accept that MY CHOICES which I made were the choices that hurt me, hurt others, etc. Actually, some of those choices I knew at the time were probably not “ideal” or “right” but I did them anyway, and of course they blew up in my face.”
I’ll say publicly to this friend, “I understand and believe you can make better choices/decisions in the future.” Because I believe it for you, I can also believe it for myself.
The degree to which we are able to extend our understanding to another’s mistakes determines how we accept our own. We don’t need to deny or excuse our own or another victim’s mistakes. We should instead hold each other accountable to do the real soul searching and to make better choices in the future.