‘Ungodly’ act of blaming the victim

Pamphlets being handed out in some parts of Virginia tell women and girls, “even though nothing is showing, you’re being … Continued

Pamphlets being handed out in some parts of Virginia tell women and girls, “even though nothing is showing, you’re being ungodly”. If that isn’t sufficiently obnoxious, the pamphlet goes on to tell them, “Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin. By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?”

With these last words, both those who wrote the pamphlet, and anyone who hands it out, leap right past obnoxious to outright despicable. There simply are no other words to describe people who blame rape on the victims themselves.

This story out of Bristol, Va., horrified me enough to ask, how typical this response really is. And what I found out is that with just a click or two on the Web, one can find tons of people making religious arguments to justify their blaming women for being raped. So whether this pamphlet represents the work of one person or an entire community, the thinking it reflects is real and and really ugly.

Of course there is nothing new about attempts to blame the victim for crime, and especially so in the case of rape. As psychologists remind us, it’s a coping mechanism. The logic being that if it is the victims’ fault and we do not behave like they did, then we will be safe. I appreciate the logic which animates that thinking.

Unfortunately, it’s simply false. And on top of that is both hurtful and dangerous.
Blaming the victim is hurtful because it degrades the experience of those who have been victimized e.g. if you had dressed differently, been stronger, behaved in a more circumspect manner, you would not have been victimized for being a woman, a Jew or gay. You see, it doesn’t matter the crime – a rape victim, concentration camp victim, or if your name was Matt Shepard, it’s all the same once we start blaming victims.

It’s also dangerous because blaming victims distracts us from pursuing and punishing the victimizers. So while the psychology offers an explanation. It by no means provides an excuse. And when it’s done in the name of God, such behavior is particularly ugly.

I want to be very clear: I am a father of three daughters who wear skirts to school every day because of the modesty rules observed by the Jewish school which they attend. I am also the husband of a woman who covers her hair in observance of her understanding of the same set of rules in Judaism. Perhaps that adds to why I find these pamphleteers so grotesque.

Choices about modesty are just that, choices made in light of one’s best understanding of how to mirror on the outside the beliefs that animate them from the inside. Skirts and head coverings are not armor against rape; they are expressions of values that animate our lives. Nothing more, and nothing less.

If anyone is “ungodly” it is the people who blame victims of sexual assault. They are animated by fear, heartlessness and downright stupidity which are not part of any God in whom anyone should believe.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • FarnazMansouri

    About six months ago, an eighty-year-old woman was raped in Brooklyn. What to do. Surely, we have a problem with the male of the species. They make wars, killing millions, rape, molest children, torture, rob, etc.What to do.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Ungodly or not, it’s all the rage with those who are raped, both physically and metaphorically.BlaiseP should be along now, the blogger who blames victims of antisemitism and nonracists, who stand up against bigotry. A blamer of victims among millions of same.I trust, Rabbi, you surveyed your previous thread.

  • coloradodog

    Similarly “Christian” is Catholic League President Bill Donohue blaming clergy child abuse victims as “gold diggers”Poor old Jesus.

  • APaganplace

    Farnaz:””What to do. Surely, we have a problem with the male of the species. They make wars, killing millions, rape, molest children, torture, rob, etc.””Part of the problem is that people who follow these versions of book victims aren’t as motivated by ‘sex’ as churches like to claim. It’s got to do with frustration and displacement of personal responsibility onto rules and people-as-objects. The ‘blaming-the-victim’ isn’t just an excuse after the fact: it’s actually part of the *motive* for such attacks: if they live in a world where they *can* blame the victim, then they just look for or invent whatever ‘reason.’Perhaps too much lack of situational morality: as ‘absolutes’, it seems their thinking goes that it’s just as bad to show too much (or too little) leg for a man’s taste as to rape her. And then it’s unclear who the ‘blame’ will fall on to begin with. They think it’s just the same ‘mortal sin’ (if that) to rape or kill someone as to *be* among their targets, gay people, women they can call ‘asking for it,’ whatever… And what’s more, they feel they can excuse, justify, and ‘be forgiven’ later, unlike the victims. Who cannot be un-raped or un-beaten or un-killed.

  • lepidopteryx

    If rape were about sexual desire, then you might be able to say that provocatively dressed women were parties to their own rapes.

  • coloradodog

    “……we have a problem with the male of the species.”Especially if we are a hateful, bitter misandrist.

  • Athena4

    Okay, since they now want women to wear burkas, can we PLEASE start calling them the “Christian Taliban”?

  • FarnazMansouri

    It seems to me that the best way to control rape is to enforce the wearing of blindfolds on men. This way, they will not know whether or not a woman is in their presence, and if she is, they will be rendered ineffective.I am reminded of events in Israel many years ago. There was a rapist loose, and Golda Meier, not then president, and some other officials were trying to finesse a game plan to catch the rapist and protect the women.It was proposed that since the rapist prowled at night, women should be advised not to go outside after dark. The men thought this a sound idea. However, Meier, the sole woman among them interrupted.”Wait a moment,” she said. “I thought you said the rapist was a man. If so, shouldn’t the men be advised to stay at home after dark?”A brilliant solution in more ways than one. Simply put. Men cannot control their emotions. They rape, molest children, bark when they’re angry, wage war, torture, kill, rage on the road, etc.There is no reason why the rest of us should have to continue to suffer at their hands. Period. As for rape, blindfolding them seems the best option. Noninvasive and effective.

  • coloradodog

    Blindfolding men might be a solution but one would also have to give them earplugs, too, so men couldn’t detect some women’s continual harping.

  • YEAL9

    “NYPD cops charged with rape after caught on surveillance video”Technology rules!!!

  • Sitka1

    Okay, since they now want women to wear burkas, can we PLEASE start calling them the “Christian Taliban”? Hey, I’m all for it. This act of blaming the victim- there’s no words to describe it. None. Shameful and wrong doesn’t even begin to cover it. Virginia has a long, long way to go.

  • gimpi

    “Shameful and wrong doesn’t even begin to cover it.”You said it, Sitka1. This is horrific. They are doing the Taliban proud. It’s important, however, to remember, that this doesn’t represent the vast majority of Christians out there, Fred Phelps notwithstanding. I’m sure the vast majority of Christians of all stripes would be disgusted with this. In fact, I’m a bit surprised that this story hasn’t been more commented on. How about it, folks?

  • ThomasBaum

    The article was about blaming the “victim” instead of the party responsible and then according to some of the posts, it quickly degenerated into blaming all male members of humanity.Seems as if quite a few are into the “blame game” rather than personal responsibility, does it not?Seems as if this “blame the victim” is not enough for some who wish to “blame”, so may as well “blame all” whether they be: male, female, white, black, yellow, red, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, American, European, African, Asian, …,It seems tho that this “blame all” plenty of times leaves out the “group” that one personally belongs to, think that is a coincidence? There are members of all “groups” that do wrong, does that mean that “all members” do wrong?Personal responsibility is a choice that only the person can make and just because some members of all groups will not accept personal responsibility does not mean that the “bigots” that “condemn” all members of any group are right.Seems as if the “holier than thou” attitude is alive and well, does it not?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Arminius0208

    “It seems to me that the best way to control rape is to enforce the wearing of blindfolds on men. This way, they will not know whether or not a woman is in their presence, and if she is, they will be rendered ineffective.”Ever see the movie, “The Scent of a Woman”? I can smell women – delightful – and I can hear them, also delightful. Your solution is rather silly.

  • Arminius0208

    “Simply put. Men cannot control their emotions. They rape, molest children, bark when they’re angry, wage war, torture, kill, rage on the road, etc.”Quite a generalization there. What next? Extermination of all men, and the continuation of the species by cloning of female only kids? An interesting ‘Final Solution’, to be sure.Oh, yeah – in the 19th century, the American Cavalry, the Indian fighters, always taught their recruits “If you get captured, don’t let them give you to their women”. The men would simply kill you out of hand – the women, not so, it would take a while….

  • Arminius0208

    Ah, yes, Whistling, our favorite neo-nazi, is back. Open season is hereby declared.

  • coloradodog

    yawn – the constant bickering of Abraham’s children is getting ever so tiresome.

  • FarnazMansouri

    At least he didn’t finish his idiot column with a plea to bomb Iran.Posted by: whistlingThe bastard Whistling must have taken time off to molest children closer to home.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Having women wear burkas, etc., so that men will be spared “temptation” is far, far sillier than blindfolding men. After all, it is the men, by their reasoning, who are tempted and not the women. Further, men are guilty of every single hideous act I mentioned, not to mention genocide.Any common denominators? Hmmm…

  • coloradodog

    You sure know how to attract them, Rabbi.Sometimes I think your columns remain on the board for a long time just for the entertainment from the loonies posting here.