Is the Victim Always Blameless?

Just because something has become an oft-repeated slogan doesn’t mean that it is correct. Adolescents (of all ages) in the Sixties shouted, “Better Red than Dead,” in righteous ignorance that for millions of people living under it, Communism was a death sentence. Hillary Clinton chose not to reprise the chant of her generation, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” during her ill-fated presidential campaign. One assumes that even if she once wanted people to believe that motto, she had since changed her mind.

Just because the accusation, “You’re blaming the victim,” is wielded as a truncheon meant to quash discussion doesn’t mean that the concept should not be challenged. Let’s move away from the emotional issue of sexual abuse or harassment and question this idea in a different arena.

There is a reason that the legal system differentiates between manslaughter, 1st degree and 2nd degree murder. There is a reason that hospital personnel differentiate between 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The punishment or treatment needed for each category is nuanced.

Perhaps it is time for us to establish degrees of victimhood. Imagine a number of victims of theft. One woman was alighting from a bus when a figure on a skateboarder, who was waiting for such an opportunity, whooshed by and snatched the purse suspended from her arm. Another woman was pumping gas when a stealthy figure sidled up to her car and grabbed the camera that was sitting on the car seat. A third woman drives to a crime-ridden neighborhood and goes for a stroll, leaving her car window open with a transparent bag of cash sitting on the seat in full view. When she returns, the bag is missing.

All three women were victims of theft. No one who takes someone else’s property has the right to do so. However, in the real world there are a limited number of police with limited resources. I think most of us would prefer that the police focus on the first two crimes. We might sympathize with the third woman, but acknowledge that her foolish actions contributed to her loss. While no one had the right to take her money, she is not totally innocent. If fact, she violated the Biblical rule in Leviticus 19:14, “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind man.”  God isn’t talking there to oafs who find it funny to trip a blind person. From this verse ancient Jewish wisdom derives a prohibition against taking advantage of private information and dangling temptation in front of those who will fall prey to it.

Not all sexism, rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment is equal. I spent a fair bit of time since the Harvey Weinstein scandal came to light, reading comments on blog posts from women talking about sexual harassment they endured. Many, many women said that harassment (and worse) is something that every woman faces. So, I spent a few days polling many women of different ages, professions and economic levels, from different geographic locations, asking them if they agreed with that idea.

The responses I got were enlightening.

Firstly, there was no agreement as to the definition of sexual harassment. The general feeling was that the accusation, like the words anti-Semitism or racism, had become a bludgeon to be used rather than a precise definition of a certain behavior. No one I spoke to thought it reasonable, and certainly not wise, that women who make accusations must be automatically believed. That would imply that women never lie, are never mercenary or spiteful or immature, and never misuse power. That type of belief puts you in company with those who believe that sprinkling fairy dust over the Tooth Fairy will enable you to spin hair into gold. Women in the real world know that is a fantasy. Certainly, it’s problematic when accusations boil down to, “He said; she said,” but granting women absolute power is not the answer.

The intelligent women with whom I spoke had too much respect for women to assume that numerous aspiring actresses would go up to a powerful man’s hotel room without being aware that they were placing themselves in a tricky situation. There was general derision for women who kept quiet even after they were famous (with accompanying public platforms) as well as general disbelief that anyone who wanted to make it in TV or movies was unaware that were choosing to step into a toxic, immoral atmosphere. They felt that many actresses made a calculated decision to advance their careers by compromising their bodies, whether by participating in their own victimization by powerful men or taking roles that promote a decayed morality. Getting publicity by joining in an accusation-fest years later, when there is no risk of adverse reaction, is not seen as courageous. The women Hollywood likes to champion in movies, like Erin Brockovich, speak up when it is dangerous and/or costly to do so, not when doing so wins you applause.

At the same time, none of my respondents belittled the idea that women too frequently do face harassment. About half the women spoke about incidents that everyone would agree met a bottom-line definition. These included being flashed by someone on the street and being groped on public transportation. A shocking number of women spoke about facing workplace sexual harassment from superiors and peers in industries far removed from Hollywood, describing incidents that any reasonable person would label as problematic. If anything, they were bitter that the Weinstein brouhaha minimized their own experiences. They don’t view Hollywood actresses as representing them.

What I heard most was resentment at women who made a great deal of money in an industry that praises itself for tearing down traditional cultural standards and where the idea of the casting couch has been well known for over a century, presenting themselves as innocent victims. They asked whether mothers who presented their under-age daughters to powerful men in Hollywood were as guilty as the men who mistreated those daughters. The women with whom I spoke had little pity for women earning fame and fortune who vocally march around in pussy hats yet elected to shield and cover-up sexual abuse while benefitting from the abuser’s talents and financial and political largesse.They had no patience for those who got rich by acquiescing in Harvey Weinstein’s immorality while participating in movies that coarsened the culture so that men and women increasingly view the world through smut-colored glasses. They bristled at pseudo-feminists whose penchant for law suits made it less likely that any sane man would choose to mentor a young woman. They felt sorry for men on college campuses who are fed lies about male/female relationships, told that they must treat women as equal and then end up on a sex-offender registry when a woman regrets her drunken actions the morning after. They saw that as worlds apart from a man, for example, putting knock-out drugs in a woman’s drink and then raping her.

The women with whom I spoke live in the real world, not in Tinseltown. They suffer when Hollywood elites blast the Mike Pences of the world for behaving like gentlemen and treasuring their marital bonds. Unlike the Hollywood glitterati whose bodyguards escort them to their chauffeured limousines, these women take public transportation and care if the culture encourages women to wrap themselves with vulgarity thereby eroding any hope that females will be treated like ladies. When the accusation of rape, harassment or sexism is deployed for political or financial gain it makes it harder for them to be taken seriously when faced with actual problems.

In the real world, you don’t get to walk around barely dressed while demanding that it is men’s problem if they get aroused. You don’t get to report a colleague to HR for mentioning that he likes your haircut and then call sexism when the men in the office prefer working with other men on projects. You don’t get to treat immature, immoral and boorish behavior as headline news. The actresses grabbing attention now may indeed be victims of something but perhaps many of them are 4th degree victims, complicit in their victimhood. Maybe, they actually do share some of the blame.

60 thoughts on “Is the Victim Always Blameless?”

  1. There is no doubt that we in the United States of America are living in a degenerating society which seems to be getting worse more and more everyday. All of a sudden someone like you, Susan, steps out to speak with such an amazing precision and clarity that it will cause one to renew their faith in humanity… with a special emphasis on the female gender. What you have expressed in your musing, your understanding of the nuances of true godly wisdom and judgment, is proof that there are real women of God on this earth that are divinely anointed to be a shining light in a dark world. I use the word divine because in the world we live in today many are living without these divine gifts of godly wisdom and judgment, and men and women are just relying on their massively flawed education to get by. Thank you for renewing my faith in humanity. Most of all, thank you for yielding to your godly calling, a divine call.
    With appreciation and thankfulness, Michael

    1. I hesitated to approve this, Michael, because it is a little over the top in flattery. But I do appreciate it.

  2. Very well written Susan. I agree.
    I think the pendulum that was far too high on one side in days past has swung way too far the other direction today. Janice

    1. That seems to be what we do in area after area. Balance is one of the hardest virtues to attain, Janice.


    Dear Miss Susan, A true victim Is blameless. The term “victim” should be reserved for those innocent and exploited souls who bear no guilt in their injury. The child who is sexually exploited, the girl who is grabed off the street and raaped and killed. A co-ed (in the old sense of a female student) who is drugged and molested. The victims of a Holocaust. The abusers if the innocent should, after a fair and impartial trial be punished as is appropriate under the law of the jurisdiction.
    The young woman who has her underwear showing should not have to put up with the forced attention of an overly hormonal male, if she does not welcome that attention, but she should also realize she is going to attract attention when she walks by. Her conduct is not an EXCUSE for the boorish behavior she receives, but it is a mitigation to the offense.
    How is a healthy male to know what the woman expects unless he takes the risks involved in approaching what seems to be an approachable female?
    As a son of the South, I was taught to open doors for women, carry heavy packages for them, pick up things the woman has dropped, not to spit in mixed company, say” Yes Ma’am to any female older than 13, use Mister and Mrs. unless invited to use first names, and to complement a woman on her hat or dress. I unapologetically still do all of these things, as old fashioned as I am. I still carry two handkerchiefs, One for my own use and one for the damsel who may find the need for one. I do these things as a sign of my respect for womankind, not as an expression of male superiority.
    A woman’s body and her virtue are her treasures and she should be responsible for protecting them.
    Where her conduct is complicit in her own victimization, she should bear some of the blame when things fall apart. Not all the blame, a cad is still a cad, but instead of a hanging, maybe just a good flogging is all that is called for. If, as we are told daily, women want equality, they must bear an equal responsibility for their own actions. It is not fair that women should be more equal than men.
    Miss Susan, again I am a rambling old man again who has seen too much evil in my Law Practice. I beg you indulgence.
    Bill Brower

  4. Sexual harassment exists in the workplace because 90% (don’t take that number literally) of working women sleep their way to the top. For over a century untalented actresses and models have been (sleeping) their way to stardom. Sexual harassment in Hollywood is rampant because women easily and astronomically offer to perform sexual acts for Hollywood movers and shakers in exchange for movie and TV roles. Every actress that prostitutes her talents should be arrested. But at the same time this Weinstein mess has made one thing pretty clear. Now we all know why so many actresses in Hollywood are extreme feminists and the rest of the nation dislikes them. Women and men outside of Hollywood knows it’s nowhere near as big as problem as most of these Hollyweird people say it is. This is because they are living in a bubble. So when you take a bunch of actresses that’s been exposed to this a while they become far leaning feminists then go onto say how horrible it is whilst most of us go “uhh what?!”

    1. I completely disagree with your first sentence. From reading the rest of what you wrote, I think you are speaking only of Hollywood, not of the workplace in general. And Hollywood has long been a place that leads the country in reduction of moral behavior. However, I think harassment and abuse in the workplace in general is a very real problem. I don’t think it’s universal. But – if a woman works with 15 men, one of whom treats her improperly (and that does need a definition) or acts in a degraded manner, her workplace is unpleasant. Like so many other things, one bad apple spoils the whole batch. If it is a person in power, she can be kept down and denied advancement for retaining her virtue -and that does need attention.

  5. Love the anecdotes of interviews. How many women did you actually speak with? Did you speak to women of various political persuasions? Ethnic backgrounds? Creeds?

    1. Jeffrey, I am not suggesting that I conducted a scientific research project at all. I was talking to the people I met who were of different ages, economic levels and came from different cities. They were all of the same general ethnicity and religion because of where I was the week that this all surfaced.

  6. Interesting you only post comments from people who agree with you. Insecure much? Blaming the victim is the worst mental abuse you could commit. Stop.
    -Brenda #MeToo

    1. I’m actually not sure what you mean, Brenda. I always post disagreeing comments if they fit our rules (no profanity, etc.) Perhaps you jumped to a wrong conclusion because I do not post any comments on the Shabbat – from Friday evening to Saturday night. Your comment was waiting with eight others when I got online again on Sunday morning.

    1. Dianne, as a policy, we don’t give links, but I am going to look for the article you cite and I’m sure others will as well.

  7. Thank you for the clarity you bring in your musings. I had not even known how to begin to think about this convoluted mess of controversy, endeavoring to sort by degrees has already helped. Kathy

    1. I find that writing helps me clarify my ideas, Kathy, though they are always a work in progress.

  8. Line drive Susan and beautifully stated. I am one of those who see how men, boys, fathers and sons can be the victims of abuse by a system that caters to the misguided belief that what a women says is the absolute truth or as you stated “power”. And …. Weinstein deserves to be punished he is a wolf.

    I am giving you a virtual “Hallelujah!” of agreement for almost every sentence. Thank you.

  9. I hate to blame parents but with the demise of “the family” comes the decline of family values. I lead a troop of 50 girls in a faith based scouting group and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM knows who they are in Jesus. If we (as a society) told young girls that they are valuable, that they are the future, that we love them and instill principles of gratitude, stewardship, giving and serving into their lives, the world would be a better place. Instead, we let them watch TV shows that tell them they are not good enough, they don’t matter and they must be ectomorphic in order to gain affection. I may not make a huge difference in the world, but I am turning out quality girls who will not bow to such victimization because we pour good and Godly things into their lives and we encourage them to ask questions. I am sickened to think that there are mothers in the world who would betray all I embrace about motherhood for the sake of a dollar.

  10. Amen to the wisdom you share on a sticky subject, Susan. My secular father used to say, there are 3 sides to every story: Yours, Mine and the Truth.

  11. I agree with you, Susan. Very well written article. I simply asked the question one day at work, “Why do women dress the way they do” when this whole Weinstein story came out. I thought it was a good question but of course it was interpreted as BLAME THE VICTIM (which I wasn’t doing).

    1. I think there is a need for conversation – but that’s different from limiting conversation only to certain approved lines.

  12. Thx YOU and YOUR Husband for showing ‘TRUE GRIT’ in a world of ‘The Matrix’. BLESS U2…..

    1. Carl, every once in a while I think I need a cultural dictionary so I get references like “The Matrix.”

  13. Susan, I agree totally with your musing. Here are a couple more observations that have bothered me over the years. I was stunned several years ago when I went to my little great niece’s dance recital. She was four or five at the time and the routines and costumes for her age group were darling. But as the older girls appeared and performed I was struck not only by the lack of modesty in their costumes but shocked by the almost blatant sexuality of the dance routines. These were girls of 11 or 12 and on up. Needless to say I was very proud of my nephew who declared that his daughter would not be continuing with dance lessons in the future. The other observation occurred more than 20 years ago in the workplace. A young women in our office, very much in the feminist mindset, became very upset with her manager, an older gentlemen in his 60’s, who addressed her and some of the other young women in the office as “dear”, held the door open for her, and other women in the office, etc. in other words, he behaved like a traditional, old-school gentleman. She was absolutely incensed because her manager was so insensitive. Before all was said and done, her manager agreed to her transferring to another branch in the office, one supervised by a woman. Shortly thereafter, he took early retirement. What bothers me about these two situations? In the latter, it bothered me that the young women was ready to read a lack of respect into her older manager’s way of addressing her instead of considering that he truly was of a much older generation. In the former situation, it just strikes me as incredibly sad that our society turns our children into sexual objects at such young ages and then we wonder why schoolgirls become sexually active at earlier and earlier ages, why STDs are rampant among teens, and why sexual predators seem free to run amok. There was a time when both men and women dressed modestly and guarded their eyes to avoid temptation because they respected themselves and each other. I don’t know if we can ever get back to that, but we need to try if there is to be any hope of changing our society for the better.

    1. I agree with everything you said, Joyce, and don’t think that acknowledging that takes away from the idea that there has always been real abuse of women, even when society was more outwardly moral, but dealing with that real abuse becomes more difficult when things are murky.

    2. replying to the “dance recital attire” , that jogged my memory. When we Moms received the costumes our 5 year olds were wearing for a rendition of ” Lucky Lady Bug” , they looked like 3rd world hookers. One Father announced exactly what we were all thinking and walked out with his daughter. The rest of us complained quietly among our selves , the dance teacher told us SHE picked the outfits and we had no say in it, we stupidly stayed.

      1. Karen, I think we’ve all been in situations where we regret “going along,” or staying silent. We learn from that to speak up the next time.

  14. Yes! Who is the real victim? Is it the person who gets hit by a car while jaywalking or the person who gets hit by a car while on the sidewalk minding their own business?

    Take care, Gordy.

  15. I was discussing this very thing with my husband yesterday. I had a doctor act in a very unprofessional manner when I was younger. It was not ok, but it also wasn’t rape. To say it was is insulting to real rape victims. We need to learn the difference if we want it to stop

    1. Dawn, I agree and I’m not suggesting just “putting up” with the type of experience you had but being honest in defining terms is a first step.

  16. Your opening sentence reminds me of one of the many quotes from G. K. Chesterton which I admire: “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

  17. Very perceptive. What we used to call “common sense”, but we all now live in a society without much sense at all.

    1. We also increasingly don’t have anything “in common” anymore, which is a serious problem, Carl.

  18. I am reminded of “A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Proverbs 22:3 KJV It is even repeated in Proverbs 27:12 !)
    My parents said, “Locked doors help honest people stay honest.” Modest attire and prudent behavior won’t guarantee a young lady’s safety, but it helps.

    1. Lyna, I think this is true on a societal level. How can women who celebrate trash talk get offended when men talk trash to them?

  19. David Altschuler

    It was lovely how you introduced your view via the introduction of women being robbed. This lessened the ideological pressure of the issue so that your readers would not get “the bends” as they came up to the clarity you had to offer.
    As some reader comments pointed out on some of the articles covering the Weinstein scandal, no woman claimed that a gun was put to their head. The deals offered to them were highly inappropriate, but they were often clearly understood in advance by both parties – perhaps years in advance of the deals themselves.

      1. David Altschuler

        I meant that while preparing for a career as a beautiful actress, a significant % of them may know that to advance in that profession they will probably have to practice a version of the “oldest profession.”

    1. Actually, Carol, whenever I read something I’ve written I can think of a dozen ways it could be better stated, but I appreciate your kind words.

  20. Rape is a Criminal act & should be met with seething Rage; Further consensual engagements, esp. for compensation, is Sluttery & Whoredom, and further complaints are irrelevant, because, then, the beds have been made and the complainants should just shut up.

    1. I agree that rape is a criminal act. I am concerned, however, that every criminal act needs a definition that can be understood fairly by everyone in advance. It is a real dilemma how to deal with, “He said; she said,” scenarios in a just manner.

      1. We play loose with the rules of the game, so after a while, we say ,”Who’s on first?”, while slam-dunking poker chips in the latrine. Scuba dive then for television.

      2. Hi Susan I agree with you that a clear definition of rape would help but I thought it was clear that when a woman said no all bets were off. But I also I agree with the reality that we women should be held accountable for our actions as well. This is a sensitive subject because it appears I’m blaming the victim. I’m concerned that young women continue to put themselves in harms way. I’m just as concerned that my college age son is at risk every time he goes out on a date with a young lady who doesn’t understand boundaries. I’ve taught my son lessons I’ve learned from watching you and your husband and he also has watched and found you both so helpful in our lives. He knows to keep his hands to himself but too many times he’s stated that a lot of young women don’t follow the same rules.

        1. Janet, your college-age son is very much at risk. College-age women are also at risk because of the lies told them about sexuality. All in all it is a sad picture.

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