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This may be a tough post for me to pitch. But hear me out because my point may sound trivial at first and yet, I think it is an integral part of social change.
I’ve been getting annoyed by some things I’ve seen in the news lately (what else is new?!). Like this and this. In both of these examples people are being shamed and ridiculed for their natural reactions to stressful, if not traumatic, events (hint, in the first one the hijacker sped off with her son in the car). To me, as a DV advocate, this judgments is disheartening. I literally feel sick as I watch the scorn pile up on media outlets and internet comment boards in response to people’s very normal reactions to stressful events.
Now I know some people may think ‘Everything turned out fine for these people, so what’s the big deal?”. But I do see it as a big deal. I see this society and perhaps this world as a place where people in crisis are viewed as either cowards or heroes or as either the right type of victim or a questionable victim/not a victim at all. To me, a judgmental reaction, no matter how seemingly small, to normal reactions to stress/trauma is not only negative for those individual victims but it is also detrimental to our overall society and the way in which we support victims (or not).
Take, for example, a person who watches the reaction of someone else in crisis (and a high jacking and sudden earthquake most certainly are crises) and says, “wow, I so would’ve reacted differently. How stupid must that person be?” This “observation” perpetuates the notion that there’s a right and wrong response to stress and trauma. This dichotomy is a dangerous one. It is the same notion that discredits survivors who don’t fall into the societal view of a “model victim”, and this makes it more likely that a guilty person will walk away from an interpersonal crime free of consequence. As a result, justice and healing is likely to be hindered on both an individual level and a societal level. The reality is that each person will respond to traumatic and stressful events in their own unique and valid ways.
Are the examples I mentioned above small in the grand scheme of things? Perhaps. And yet the mentality is the same that leads to very bad outcomes for victims of much more horrific acts. If we’re going to spark cultural change, we have to address the ways victim-blaming plays out in both large and small ways. Because those seemingly small instances of victim-blaming may actually be significant and in a different context, those thoughts and beliefs can cause detrimental outcomes on a much larger scale.