Friday, September 24, 2004

Taking the blame

I get annoyed at Dear Abby (not D1, the one in the newspaper) fairly often. (Why do I continue to read it? There's not much in our local newspaper. It's that and how Dorothy decorated the table when the Modern Homemakers met last Tuesday.) She generally serves as the prophet of Conventional Wisdom, mingled with a touch of Political Correctness.

This week a girl wrote in confessing that she had been sexually assaulted by her high-school boyfriend of 18 months but had never told anyone; now that she was in college, she found herself unwilling to date for fear of what might happen. DA advised her to go get counselling, and reassured her, "It's not your fault. The victim is NEVER to blame."

I don't want to take one iota of blame off the boyfriend. Indeed, I'd hold him primarily responsible even if she was a willing participant; it is a gentleman's duty to protect the honor even of ladies who do not wish to be so protected. And there are certainly victims (e.g. young children) who should be told they couldn't possibly be blamed.

But isn't there a pretty high likelihood that somewhere in the course of the 18-month relationship this girl did something that contributed to the situation and for which she quite properly feels guilty? Maybe she sneaked out behind her parents' backs to see him; or said "Yes" once and found he wouldn't take "No" thereafter; or tried to draw a line in a place where a line won't hold. It's not doing her any favors to gloss over that possibility and just insist, "It's all the guy's fault." In order for her to resolve this situation and have healthy relationships in the future, she's going to have to deal with her own guilt (if she does in fact have any) as well as her anger at him. She'll need to figure out what she could do differently in the future as well as identify the characteristics of men who might mistreat her.

Obviously DA couldn't have helped her through all that in a newspaper column. But she shouldn't have closed off one of the essential parts of the healing process with a blanket statement.

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