No More Blaming the Victim, Please!
- Category: Self-Help
Often in my psychotherapy practice a woman feels shame, self-doubt and is quick to both please and defer to authority figures. In moving through our therapy experience together we discover that in her past she may have been sexually abused or molested. If she were not so blatantly misused she often was disparaged, controlled and criticized, even punished and restrained because of the passions she aroused in adults.
The New York Times published this article today: Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud.
...once you judge a female human being only through a man’s sexualized imagination, you can turn even a modest 8-year-old girl into a seductress and a prostitute.
At heart, we are talking about a blame-the-victim mentality. It shifts the responsibility of managing a man’s sexual urges from himself to every woman [or child] he may or may not encounter. It is a cousin to the mentality behind the claim, “She was asking for it.”
So the responsibility is now on the women [and children]. To protect men from their sexual thoughts, women [and children] must remove their femininity from their public presence, ridding themselves of even the smallest evidence of their own sexuality.
This article directly parallels a conversation I had with an 80 year old client about her childhood in the United States where her early developing voluptuous body had teachers complain of her "immorality" when she was nine. A middle-aged woman said her husband called their 10 year old daughter a whore because she wanted to get her ears pierced.
I'm glad to see this issue on the front page of a prestigious newspaper. I hope it gets a lot of thoughtful consideration and discussion.
The bottom line is that adults must be responsible for their feelings and actions. A child needs adult care-takers in her life or she will die. Children cannot survive on their own. For a child, a little girl, to develop into a healthy adult woman - healthy in mind, body and spirit - she needs to be respected and honored for the natural being she is.
If her skin, her hair, her eyes, if her enthusiastic plunges into dance, somersaults, cartwheels, if her emotionally charged
kissing, hugging and gazing sexually arouse an adult, it's the adult's responsibility to recognize his or her own responses and restrain from any behavior based on those responses.
Sexual behavior with a child is never the fault of the child, no matter how provocative the child may seem to the adult. Children experiment with everything - bodies, feelings, responses from others as well as crayons, paint, blocks and clay. They are new beings learning about the world and themselves. Adults need to protect them and allow them to develop as the natural beings they are in order to grow, flourish and mature.
That means adults need to mature and step up to the responsibilities of maturity.
I wonder if our instant gratification culture fosters sexual explotation of children and women. If we are taught to believe and expect that our feelings need to be gratified in an instant, we don't give ourselves the time to sit with our feelings and think about what they mean. Without that we can't take considered action or restrain ourselves from inappropriate or harmful action.
We also learn to point an accusing finger at anything or anyone who arouses unwanted feelings in us. It's the person, the words, the pictures, the objects for sale that must be controlled or censored or forbidden. This makes the assumption that we adults must act on our feelings because we have no control and can't take responsibility for our actions. Therefore, whatever arouses us is at fault. And too often, what arouses adults are children and women. Natural, innocent, healthy children and innocent and naive women are blamed for the behavior their bodies, minds, hearts, souls, words, movement, facial expressions, skin and breathing evoke in adults.
Much to think about in the article and in this situation. Too many women I know and probably men too, carry guilt, shame and a feeling of being wrong and bad because their naturalness as children stimulated irresponsible and immature adults into harmful action or severe control to squelch the natural child.
What do you think? Can you tolerate your feelings and think about about them? Are you a victim of the instant gratification culture that encourages you to blame an object or person rather than live within your own considered boundaries? Where have you been imposed upon? And where have you been the one who imposes?
Story: Woman in court accusing a man of rape. Prosecuting attorney says, "She was asking for it. She wore a short red dress with a plunging neckline and walked alone in the dark."
Defense attorney says, "Your Honor, if a bright red Mazzaratti is parked on a dark urban street, with the keys in the car, the windows open and the motor running, does that mean it's not against the law to get in and drive off? Would the person who took that car not be prosecuted for grand theft?"