Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Victimizing Victims With Blame

Like most people, I find myself getting angry when I hear about people who are physically assaulted at their workplaces, schools, and other places that are familiar to them. I was disgusted when I read the report about the former heard of the International Monetary Fund who is accused of attempting to rape a maid who went to his room to clean it, and then boarded a plane back to his native France the same day; thankfully the authorities stopped him from leaving. I know he is innocent until proven guilty, but when I heard that the maid is a Guinean immigrant and a devout Muslim who wears a traditional headscarf, I became even more concerned. Why? Because in addition to her being in a service-related position where there is little safety for the workers, she must also wrestle feelings of violation and guilt. I don’t want to generalize, but I know that in my parents’ culture, it is still widely believed that women are to blame for any sexual violence they endure.

I found out a few years ago that a former family friend of my Mother’s was raped in a hospital parking lot several decades ago; she worked at that hospital as a nurse. She won a considerable settlement from her employers, but never went to therapy. When I knew her, she was very judgmental and constantly angry. Even with the money, I now know that it did not buy her peace of mind, even though she and her family had the best of everything. Her desire to pretend that the past did not happen for the sake of her traditional beliefs and to fit into her cultural community became everything to her.

While I am respectful of all cultures and religions, I will never understand when a woman or man is forcibly attacked by others and blamed for it. It is a further victimization of the victim, and that is unacceptable. Patience, compassion, and love should always be used by anyone with a family member or friend who goes through this ordeal.

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