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Barry Palmer

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Victim taboo: does it exist?

First, a definition. Victim taboo refers to the fact that in the USA, victims suffer a moderate stigma. This stigma is not anywhere close to the stigma of sexual perversion or convicted criminal, but it does exist and it affects our behavior. People are expected to be wise enough to avoid becoming a victim, or at least insure themselves from suffering the full effects of being a victim.

After reading the above paragraph, if you are feeling uncomfortable, you are feeling one of its effects.

I tried searching for "victim taboo" and found nothing that specifically addresses it. There are many references to blaming the victim, especially the victims of rape. I think that blaming the victim is just one aspect of the victim taboo. I think the victim taboo contributes to many other consequences, at every scale of our society, including the huge size of our defense budget, and the huge number of guns in civilian hands.

Do you agree that this taboo exists?
If so, how does it affect us? Can you provide examples?
What should we do about it?

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  • Steve C

    • +1
    Jul 10 2013: I'm very surprised to hear there are a lot of sources that say victims of rape are to blame. I'm not so surprised to hear there's not much else on it.

    A victim may be influenced to feel shamed (taboo'd) simply because the other people doesn't want their cozy worldview impinged-upon; or they never really learned to empathize & help very well.

    Yes I believe this taboo exists. As I've said before, I think the American moral compass is spinning in a downward spiral!
  • Jun 27 2013: I was hoping to get a lot more discussion about this. I thought I was proposing something controversial. Maybe plainer language is required.

    I am proposing that THE POPULATION OF THE USA IS CRAZY.

    A taboo is not just a stigma. It is an IRRATIONAL prohibition imposed by society upon itself.

    This particular taboo is especially unjust and defies common sense.

    I came to this notion by considering some of our behaviors that are very difficult to explain, two in particular, our enormous defense budget and the over 300,000,000 guns in this country. Many people outside the USA consider these facts and conclude that Americans must be crazy. It occurred to me that there might be a cultural basis for this need to arm ourselves to the teeth. I think we fear becoming victims, and that fear goes deep and far, far beyond the rational. I think that, either consciously or unconsciously, the thought of possibly becoming a victim fills us with SHAME. That irrational shame shapes our behavior in ways that no one has been willing to talk about.

    When we go to war overseas there is an IRRATIONAL acceptance of the horrible violence inflicted to ALL of the victims. We accept that violence because of a very powerful UNCONSCIOUS NEED to assure that WE will never become the victims. Yes, fear of war and fear of becoming a victim seems rational. In my opinion, the fear and attitude of people of the USA goes way beyond the rational.

    Throughout the gun control debate, there is a huge gaping silence about the reason why many of us have guns in our homes. Many people buy guns to defend themselves against predators. All the evidence indicates that this is an IRRATIONAL response. Having a gun in your home increases the probability that you will be shot by a gun. So why do we not have discussions on TV and radio about WHY Americans are acting so irrationally? We do not discuss it because, unconsciously, we all know the reason, and we are ashamed to talk about it.
    • Comment deleted

      • Jun 28 2013: LaMar, thank you for your opinion.

        In a nation as violent as the USA, it is very difficult to draw the line between rational fear and irrational fear. That figure of 300,000,000 guns just does not seem rational to me.

        I certainly agree that the media plays a part in this, but I have not tried to analyze it from that perspective.

        You have answered the question, and thank you again.
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      Jul 4 2013: A quick check of history would alleviate some of your concerns. For example, In 1942 in conferences between Germany and Japan on the division the North American continent after they had won the war, The Germans expressed concerns based on their intelligence that the American public were heavily armed and would prove very difficult.
      Now, about guns. I got my first one when I was ten. Used one during a war. You have to get shot at to appreciate being able to shoot back. I have one now. I live in a small subdivision near a large city, Home invasions are one of the more common crimes in our vicinity and senior citizens are the favorites.
      Police response times are in the 15 to 20 minute range, so a smooth bore loaded with sabot rounds soothes my irrational fears.
    • Steve C

      • +2
      Jul 14 2013: "...proposing something controversial." I don't think it is so much 'controversial,' as it is subliminal and on a whole nother plane - you're trying to merely verbally argue with 90,000 hours of audio-visual meta-simulated mega-stimulation (television, movies, games).

      It's not just the taboo of victimhood, it begins with the taboo of even healthy sexuality itself!

      I keep remembering (I think, "The Gift of Fear") a guy said he's "seen ladies leave much more room between them & their kids, than their purses - as if the kids were really able to protect themselves!" (paraphrased?)

      "I am proposing..." Excellent summation!

      Here's a really neat book hitting near the heart of your questions! http://www.buildfreedom.com/content/books/aint_nobodys/contents.html

      The "guns in our homes," is, admittedly, not a great way to solve the deeper problem of not knowing how to engage others day-by-day fairly, honestly, & from our heart. We go to work, get $, spend $, watch T.V.; none of this is done with any necessary working-out of fairness, honesty, or direct emotional give-and-take; violence becomes our only resort, or parsing it out to others to be violent on our behalf.

      Upon thinking of all the questions and quandries, one of the most powerful thoughts I can 'conjure up' is "forgiveness".
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    Jun 25 2013: Yes. I agree that this taboo exists.
    It destroys human dignity and self esteem.
    We should see people as survivors rather than victims. A rape survivor, a crime survivor, a blame survivor. Not a victim.
    • Jul 14 2013: Not only should we see victims as survivors, but we should also see our connections to the culture and other people we've shaped.
      It's too easy to say, "go to that specialist," rather than sitting down with the victim & saying, I knew your attacker since childhood - I treated him unfairly, and he was either afraid, or unable to retaliate; so he took it out on you."
      (Admittedly, that isn't a good description - evidence that not even I know how to properly deal with others' problems.)
      • Comment deleted

        • Jul 15 2013: no justifying the perps violence... [bear with me while I misread into that..."let's not be hasty - no need for any jail-time!" (I've seen those TV shows. When "perps" & "violence" are mentioned, there's jail-time there too; right?)] Anyway, maybe it's a little beyond that*; like I said otherwhere today - it's about forgiveness, (even forgiving the self, which sometimes retains some characteristics of our perceived "enemies"). It's scary, sometimes, to think how much we have to learn.
          Yes, we share much responsibility. Some of the mending that has to take place means that all involved have to grow toward one another, not just toward that light we personally think is pretty. Scary.

          *Not that I'm trying to escape culpability or provide a loophole for others. I've found enough stuff on the unconscious mind to believe there are important unknowns about our "reasonings," right? We need to be open to other possibilities.
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    Jul 4 2013: Barry,
    I see some victims shrink from the stigma, maybe it is shame... a girl is raped: humiliation, pity by the righteous, even scorn.
    I have seen something even more strange. Those who relish victimization. Recently an individual proclaimed he was a victimized Native American in a situation. It turned out he had 3 Native American ancestors in 256 ancestors. How many times have you heard people say, they come from bad parents, bad neighborhoods, bad schools, and that's why we should forgive their bad behaviors. I have a real problem that victim stigma
    • Steve C

      • +1
      Jul 14 2013: "Those who relish victimization," may be living in a society that is not allowing them a healthy personal ability to exercise their emotional powers; or it may be they've learned to react & think that "victimhood" is actually a more powerful job description than "get up & start pounding back."
      This "individual," the "victimized Native American": were the ancestors within 1 or 2 generations? Does it matter, knowing if or when a Government decides that he's Indian-enough to be slated for deletion?
      If "they come from bad parents, ... bad schools," etc. ...maybe that's why we encourage parents and schools to not abuse children - because it really does increase their risks of "turning bad".
      Hey - all that writing, & I managed to avoid the 'relish' pun!

      P.S. Your other post, "You have to get" - golden; just golden!
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    Jun 24 2013: Do you think this idea has any connection to Brene Brown's effort to convince people that vulnerability is not all bad?
    • Jun 24 2013: Yes, I think there is a connection. As I understand Brene Brown, she is concerned with emotional vulnerability. I think the victim taboo does involve emotional security/vulnerability. For example, people who fall in love with someone who is unworthy are belittled as fools.

      Bur the victim taboo is more concerned with physical security/vulnerability. I think our justice system is affected. In the USA we are taught that it is better to let ten guilty men go free rather than convict one innocent man. That is considered a very ethical and noble idea, and our justice system is designed to make it very difficult to convict. There is another way to look at this situation. It makes it very difficult for victims to obtain justice. That indicates that we put a very low value on the rights of victims, and many victims complain of exactly that.

      I think this victim taboo is largely unconscious; for certain is rarely discussed. I think this unspoken attitude should become a part of the discussions of all forms of violence and the possible solutions to violence.
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        Jun 24 2013: Your question is an important one. In any setting involving bullying, for example, there will typically be those who suggest that potential victims should just develop a thicker skin. It is a posture that marginalizes people who could add great value.