Blaming The Victim For The Crimes Of Her Attackers

September 17, 2010 at 1:14 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

There is a traditional defense used by the majority of all rapists throughout history. The woman was asking for it. She was dressed like a whore. She was drunk. She was shaking her ass at the crowd. It’s her own fault she was gang raped.

In the past, that would be the defense of nearly every rapist put on trial for his crime. Recently, this sort of defense has been forbidden in more and more court rooms. It is unacceptable and for good reasons. You don’t blame the victim of violent crime for the crimes committed against them. You blame the person who committed the crime.

I chose rape as an example here because it is the most heinous violent crime I can think of. It’s worse than murder in my opinion. I got some pushback on Twitter saying I wasn’t making a fair comparison. I don’t agree with the reasoning, but this post is about violence, not specifically rape, so here are a few different examples.

If a black person takes a shortcut through an all-white neighborhood and is attacked by a small mob of racist teenagers, we don’t blame him for being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. We blame the racists who attacked him.

If a tourist gets lost in New York City, wanders into an alley and is attacked by a street gang, we don’t blame the tourist for being in the wrong alley. We blame the gang members who attacked him.

If a husband beats his wife, is it the wife’s fault for making her husband angry? If he beats her again, is it her fault because she didn’t leave him the last time he hit her? No, when a husband beats his wife, we blame the husband, not the wife.

Does it ever become acceptable to blame a victim for being attacked? What if they do something offensive?

I’m an atheist. I offend quite a few people simply by existing. If some religious nut attacks me, is that my fault?

Just yesterday, in what was surely the most publicized violation of Godwin’s Law in history, the Catholic Pope compared atheists to Nazis, which is arguably the most vile insult you can level at someone in the modern age. If an atheist decides to attack the Pope in response to his ignorant slander, would that be the fault of the Pope or his attacker?

Victims do not commit crimes, criminals do. We do not blame the victims of violent crimes, we blame the people who commit violent crimes. That is just common sense. It is not reasonable or sensible to blame victims for the actions of criminals.

And yet…

There are people blaming Molly Norris for the death threats against her.

Molly Norris is the cartoonist who began “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” earlier this year. That event was in response to death threats leveled against the creators of the TV show South Park. South Park was planning to air an episode which included a cartoon depiction of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, which prompted the threats. Because of the threats, Comedy Central decided to censor the episode. The FBI later captured the young man who made the death threats.

Draw Mohammed Day was a defense of free speech. We cannot and will not permit free speech to be destroyed, whether through government censorship or by the irrational hatred of religious fanatics. One lunatic decided to threaten free speech by making violent threats. In response to his ignorance, thousands of people around the world drew the image he finds so offensive.

If he had simply wrote an angry letter like a civilized person, if he had organized other people to write their own angry letters, that also may have led to the episode being changed. Most companies are responsive when the public lets them know that something they have done is offensive to them. Or perhaps the episode would have gone ahead anyway, but that doesn’t really matter. That is how civilized people handle a dispute in a civilized society, with letters, not weapons.

Yes, it was offensive. That does not matter. Yes, it was blasphemous. That does not matter. Yes, we all pretty much expect Islamic religious fanatics to behave like mindless barbarians when something offends them. That does not matter.

If you want to react to being offended as if you are in the 6th century, living in a cave and covered in goat shit, that is just too damned bad. That chapter of human history is over and good riddance. It is long past time these people grew up and behaved like rational adults. Their childish behavior should not be coddled or they will never grow out of it.

By most measures, Draw Mohammed Day was a victory for free speech. Except for one thing. Just as Salmon Rushdie was forced to go into hiding when he wrote a book that Iranian clerics found to be blasphemous, Molly Norris also has been forced to go into hiding. Because religious fanatics want to behave like spoiled, coddled children instead of rational, civilized adults.

And people are blaming Molly for that. That is despicable.

Blame Molly Norris all you want. I refuse to blame the victim for the crimes that uncivilized barbarians threaten to commit against her.

Wherever you are, Molly, good luck with your new life. You did the right thing. I only wish more people had your courage.

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