My friends know I have a penchant for re-framing false “either-or”s as “both-and”s. A couple of cases were in the news (TV) and news-feed (Facebook) this morning. A tweet or Facebook comment (and my lack of ability to achieve brevity) makes a blog post a much better place to express my thoughts about them.
(Described as per my memory of news segment) Car gets pulled over. Cop(s) asks driver to get out of vehicle. Driver doesn’t. Cop smashes driver window & tazers driver. Yep. Child in back seat phone-videoed the whole thing. Media coverage (understandably!) focused on the actions of the cop, which were insanely O.T.T., violent and just wrong. No question. That cop in particular needs to be dealt with appropriately (massive lay-off, fine, firing, etc.).
But why are we not also able to see that the driver was also unwise (or stupid? they didn’t include what he might have said to the cop to tick him off) for not getting out of the car when a police officer asks you to (even if it’s obviously a less serious offense than the smashing/tazering of the officer). And why is it thought that pointing this out is ‘victim blaming’? Warning people to obey the (legal) instructions of police officers does not in any way support police brutality of any kind. Responsibility on both sides. Cop = 100% responsible for being more than a bit violent. Driver = 100% responsible for being more than a tiny bit unwise. Big difference between being violent and unwise; but the main thing here is that the driver’s actions were not neutral in this scenario.
Today there was a news story about 3 recent cases of rape by people with predatory motives preying upon people using the Tinder app to find a date (or very often a one-night-stand). Unlike the above case of violent cop + unwise driver, the media focused on both the damnable actions of the rapist(s), and the need for caution when using an app like Tinder. The NZ Herald posted this article on it’s Facebook page, which received comments such as “way to victim blame”.
Again, this is a case of dual responsibility. Rapists are 100% responsible for their not only violent but evil and inhumane actions. By contrast, the Tinder user is 100% responsible for their unwise actions. The Tinder user who contacts and meets with a complete stranger in ‘x’ kind of location is not being violent, evil or inhumane, and neither are they ‘to blame’; however, what they are being is very naive and unwise (as many women on the Facebook thread pointed out in reference to the 3 rape cases). It is not about ‘blaming’ the victims of rape (i.e. “Oh, it’s your own fault, what were you doing…?”), it’s about caring enough about human beings to warn them against not being naive and unwise. Warning is not blaming, it can be loving.
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Here’s another both-and. Warning people to be wise in such situations, is both a proactive fence at the top of the cliff (warn them before it happens) and a reactive ambulance at the bottom of the cliff (a response to what has happened).
Better, and more long-term, work to counter rape culture is crucially needed. And I suspect that if we really were interested in this, we would have to be prepared to work at lots of levels. It won’t do to only demonise individual rapists. Human nature is part of it, but nuture/culture is too. And the latter (which I take to be within a framework of Common Grace) are God-given ways to change or at least preserve the former.
We need to ask the patient question about why their sexual desires and personal self-control has become so disordered. Centrally, we need to ask about cultural values around sex. This is not ‘culture blaming’ in the sense that the individual is no longer responsible because ‘culture made me do it’. Again, both-and. We each as individuals contribute to a culture that seems to deeply believe that sex is a fundamental human right. ((I’ve even heard a proposal for the state to fund prostitution for disabled persons who feel unable to find a sexual partner.)) And this sexualized culture, in turn, shapes the personal values, assumptions, congnitive-and-behavioural patterns of individuals. No single lone example (abusive family context, sexualized advertisements, sexualized entertainment such as movies and music videos, sexualized fashion, pornography, etc., etc.) can be conveniently pointed at, named and shamed, and legislated against to ‘solve’ the rape culture problem. But unless we are prepared to admit the link between rape culture and ‘sexual freedom’ culture, very little will change.