As a researcher and advocate, nothing is worse to me than victim blaming someone who was abused or raped by saying they asked for it. Victim blaming is really just an attempt to make ourselves feel better by claiming the assault only happened because of something the victim (not the perpetrator) did. We do that, basically, by lying about the victim. A prime example of this is a recent “conference” conducted by the Amish in Central Pennsylvania. I’ve been speaking with Mary about her translation of the conference from Pennsylvania Dutch into English…and, whew, the victim blaming. Here are a few of the comments they have made: 1. All perpetrators were abused as children. 2. Women should be silent, so there is no way to hear a survivor’s story. 3. Abusers abuse others sexually because their wives leave them unsatisfied. 4. Homosexuality leads to people becoming abusers. All of these things are wrong. Facts clearly prove all four of those statements are false, and those facts are for future blog posts. Today, though, I want to point out how self-serving these statements are, which brings them really close to outright lies. (People may be unintentionally wrong, but lying has intention.) If all perpetrators were abused as children, then men can give their stories as survivors. However, this conference clearly stated that only women were abused – and must be silent. Why can’t the men tell their stories? This statement tries to make perpetrators seem like victims…but, then tries to make them not victims too. If homosexuality leads to people being abusive and all perpetrators were abused as children, does that mean that abuse makes people gay, which is why they become abusers? Not only is that factually wrong, the Amish believe homosexuality is a sin; them allowing abuse to continue is, in essence, making someone homosexual and, therefore, sinful. If the problem is that adult men are feeling unsatisfied by adult women (their wives), then why are they molesting their children? Do they think children are going to satisfy them more than another woman? Let’s be clear that they are CHOOSING who they go to when they feel unsatisfied by a wife…and they are choosing to exert control over a child. All of this, though, is abstract, so I’d like to use a concrete example. Gideon L Miller, Jr. has admitted to abusing his 6-year-old child. His case is currently working its way through the Clinton County of Pennsylvania criminal justice system. If the conference organizers are telling the truth, Gideon L Miller, Jr. abused his 6-year-old daughter because he was abused by his father, Gideon L Miller, Sr., someone who has been an Amish bishop in Central PA. Gideon L Miller, Sr., by the words of these conference leaders, is a homosexual who was abused by his own father, which caused him to abuse his son, which caused his son to be dissatisfied with his wife and abuse his daughter.
In an effort to avoid placing blame on Gideon L Miller, Jr – where it belongs – the Amish have now created a scenario where Gideon L Miller, Jr became a homosexual who is unsatisfied by his wife and abused his daughter, BECAUSE his father was homosexual and abused him. His father, who is an Amish bishop. So, can someone tell me the answer to this question: Did God make a mistake in choosing Gideon L Miller, Sr. to be a bishop or can gay men be Amish bishops? Also, has anyone discussed the PA statute of limitations on reports of child sexual abuse with Gideon L Miller, Sr., because, well… When we blame the victim, we say, in essence, “your pain is solely your responsibility because it is your fault that someone else chose to hurt you.” We also say “I don’t have to do a thing about this.” Finally, we accomplish all that by jumping through ridiculous mental hoops to make up lies. And, the thing is, the lies are obviously wrong. As a result, we turn our hearts away from helping someone else, which causes them even more pain, and we do nothing to change the evil things in the world. Victim blaming causes the victim to suffer even more, it sows the seeds for future abuse, and it cuts us off from true community with one another. It truly is one of the world’s greatest evils.
*Dr. Tara Mitchell joined the faculty at LHU after earning a Ph.D. in Legal Psychology from Florida International University in 2005. Her teaching, research, and service to the community center around interpersonal violence and discrimination against marginalized groups, particularly based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. She has presented research on domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and human trafficking at a variety of conferences and for several local community groups.