Blaming the Victim

Blaming the Victim

When I was in college, there was a relatively new book we were required to read in a Criminal Justice class: “Blaming the Victim,” written by William Ryan (1971). In his book, the author coined the phrase, which became the title of his book (“blaming the victim”), which then became a well-known term used in many areas, such as rape, race relations, etc.

The basic thesis of his idea is that the victim of a crime, or any wrongful act, is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that occurred to them. As in cases of child sex abuse (or any form of sex abuse!), there is the idea of “secondary victimization.” The first time victimization occurs when the subject was victimized, and the second victimization is when they are not believed or they are blamed for the act.

I raise this topic, as a continuation to the discussion of the actions that we see happening in a number of neighborhoods. The victimization of soldiers in green, girls in blue-and-white (or for that matter, ANY colors) is a horrible poison that has infected certain extremist populations of our society. These soldiers were attacked  attacked for the crime of serving their country and madrichot (counselors) were attacked for the crime of working with the youth of Israel. (Actually, of course, they were attacked for either what they represent or for not adhering to what a group of hooligans proclaim is proper attire.)

Whatever excuse is being used, these shameful acts are the antithesis of what Judaism is all about. Judaism is based on love: ואהבת לרעך כמוך (“Love your friend as yourself”) is a key element in ALL mitzvot that are between people and their fellow man. (בין אדם לחבירו)

And while the actual attacks and victimization is bad enough, things get exponentially worse when the victims themselves are blamed for the attacks. Witness the statement of Mayor Abutbul, Mayor of Bet Shemesh. When he was confronted by a number of madrichot (counselors) of Ezra, who have been constantly harassed. His reply to them was “When you walk around like that, why are you surprised?” This indifference to the pain, suffering and attacks on these girls is a clear and unforgivable example of secondary victimization. Rather than condemn the violence, Mayor Abutbul creates a situation in which the victim is made to feel guilty for the actions of the real perpetrators.

And while the names of Bet Shemesh, Ramat Bet Shemesh and Meah Shearim keep popping up in the news, it is NOT about those communities. It is what we, as a society, can learn about what needs attention and correction in so many other communities. This is not an attack on Haredim nor on any community. This is an indictment of a hashkafa (a philosophy) that runs counter to Torah beliefs.

Israel, as a society must have zero tolerance for situations in which victims are vilified by our leaders, be they political or religious, or both. Violence cannot be tolerated – no matter what clothes the victim is wearing – be it short sleeve shirts, long sleeves, green uniforms, long black coats and black hats, or rainbow colored pants.


One comment

  1. Yocheved Golani

    Not strong enough, Zev. The issue is Arrested Psychological Development, and a bit more.

    What about the derailment of haredi hashkfafa, the devotion to kedusha, to the improvement of character that reflects Torah as a Derekh Noam? No more Mr Nice Guy, haredism now means Mr Harassing Stalker who uses Rational-Lies so that haredi perps now act as muslims do when they blame pre-pubescent children and fully clothed females of any age as provocative come-ons though they function in benign innocence??

    Put the blame where it belongs: On the adult perps who should be able to control their impulses. That’s part of the maturation process. If impulse control is absent for any reason, and especially regarding sexual arousal toward people not remotely thinking about sex, then the perps are experiencing Arrested Psychological Development, possibly other psychological issues (too many to relate or to explain on facebook). Such perps require psychological intervention in order to protect the wider world from them.

    The other part of the issue is the authority figures who are enabling multiple crimes in the name of holiness. Sound familiar? muslims do it daily, on hapless victims who die of bloodshed if not psychologically from shame. That is the core of the Rational Lies problem – rationalizing crime as holiness. Misguided, warped, sick.

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