The dictionary defines a victim as someone who has been “harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.” Both recently and not so recently the issue of “victim blaming” has come up as a result of trying to engage in more conversations surrounding controversies or unfortunate circumstances for individuals in the media. While conversation is valuable, reverting to questioning victims of violence instead of their aggressors is never the answer to the questions that do come up.
After the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee surfaced on Sept. 8, he was released by the Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the NFL. Outrage was seen on various media outlets as to how this could have gone on without anyone else having knowledge of it or no action being taken to actively prevent situations like this from happening.
The NFL has been plagued in recent weeks with more players being accused and punished for cases involving domestic violence for good reason. Often times though, the question has come back to people like Rice’s now-wife Janay about why she hit him first, why she stayed with him, why she did this or didn’t do that. None of these questions are the correct questions to be asking because of the confusing nature of relationships that do involve domestic violence. Janay, like many others, is a victim of domestic violence; the person at fault is her aggressor and the situation needs to be treated as such.
Janay is not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three women and one in ten men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. While according to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, battering is the single largest cause of injury to women in the United States – over mugging, automobile accidents and rape, combined. In 2009, Georgia was rated the 10th highest in the nation for the rate at which men kill women. In 2010, Georgia mourned at least 130 domestic violence related deaths. More than anything, these victims need help, not blame for the wrongdoings of those around them or any situation they may find themselves stuck in as a result.
In a different light, more than a month after the shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, his shooter Darren Wilson has not received any type of formal charge but has instead been placed on paid administrative leave. While the shooting is still under investigation by a county grand jury, which will decide whether there is probable cause to indict Wilson, and also by the FBI as to whether Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights, as well as investigation by the US Department of Justice into Ferguson Police Department’s internal investigations of the use of force, a lot of attention has come back to Brown. Questions about what Brown was doing wrong, why he was jaywalking, why he did do this or didn’t do that have come about and are once again the wrong questions to be asking when information that is available does not give evidence that he was breaking laws or deserved in the slightest to be shot for simply walking down the street.
Brown is not alone as reports of unarmed black men being killed by police have become all too common. According to the FBI’s annual Supplementary Homicide Report, there have been approximately 400 “justifiable police homicides” each year since 2008. The problem still is that the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program relies on voluntary involvement of state and local police agencies. This essentially means that no one outside of any of these organizations can know how reliable these numbers truly are. In the end, when facts like these are not available it will never be fair to blame the victim of a police violence for living their life before it can be so quickly cut short.
While the list can go on and these are definitely not the only two examples of this, the numbers of victims being blamed in the media continue to increase. But victim blaming will not ever be the answer to the problems caused by their aggressors.