Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Victim blaming your kids

A major issue that has been talked about in circles I follow, especially in regards to rape, is victim blaming. Victim blaming is all about excusing the perpetrator by pointing out behaviors of the victim that "led" to their being victimized. It's wrong. I know this.

One of our boys can be a bit of a bully; the other can be a little whiny at times. I know this, and yet I still find myself in situations like the following.

One of the boys is sitting on the other, who is crying. We tell boy1 to get off his brother, which he does (sometimes it takes counting, or one of us actually lifting him off, but sometimes he just needs to be told). Not having seen what led to it, we tell boy1 not to do that.

Aware of the dynamics at work, we keep an eye on the two. Boy2 puts himself in a position where boy1 will very likely take the bait. Yep, sometimes he eggs boy1 on. Inevitably, we end up once again with boy2 on the ground and boy1 sitting on him, sometimes holding him in headlock.

Now, brotherly dynamics are not the same as most of the situations we see in the news where the victim gets blamed. And I see boy2 kind of "asking for it", until he gets sat on. And an easy solution in a lot of these instances would be if boy2 didn't make himself such an easy target.

And just as we're telling him to get off the floor, not put himself right under his brother's feet, it occurs to us that we're blaming the victim here. Boy1 will get a time out in his room, toys removed, whatever appropriate punishment fits the particular moment.

But it's a fine line to walk. Because, while boy1 really, truly, is upset about getting wrestled to the ground, he also does do things that make his brother want to do it. How do we teach him to not be a victim while also not blaming him?

I know, I'm way extrapolating here, but I really think we need to start teaching out kids at a young age that rapists rape, murders murder, etc.

And yet, there is a reason women take self-defense classes. And police recently have been a bit heavy-handed, but there's some truth to taking personal responsibility for one's own safety. No, women who are raped do not ask for it, but there are things they can do to "be smart"* and make themselves less likely to be a victim.

The only way to stop a crime is for the criminal not to commit it. But we still lock our doors. Some people have security services and alarm systems on their homes. The reality is that there are things we can do, but we still need to remember that even if you do everything right, bad things can happen.

I know this post seems to be wandering and pointless, but here's what it comes to: we need to teach our kids that boy1 is the one who gets punished for being a bully, but boy2 can also do some things to avoid the situation. They are each responsible for their own behavior.

And as they get older and learn more impulse control, then we can work on those harder lessons.

*Please note, I am NOT saying that women who get raped asked for it. I'm not saying they shouldn't wear sexy clothes if they enjoy doing it. I'm not saying they should be tea totalers. We should all be able to leave our doors unlocked and walk the streets at night without anything bad happening. But, just as we do lock our doors to make our homes and cars less of an easy target, there are ways to be a little smarter without being at fault.

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