A gang of heavily armed thieves bound and gagged a woman, then robbed her
Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?
Here are some more headlines that portray the reality of the crime:
“Robbers took millions in jewelry from Kim Kardashian”
“Thieves with guns bound and gagged Kim Kardashian during brazen heist”
“Armed thieves attacked tv star by posing as paparazzi”
These headlines put the onus (and the active verbiage) of the crime on the perpetrators, not on the victim. Really makes a difference, doesn’t it?
Notice how other headlines portrayed the incident:
According to recent studies reported in the Atlantic, the order of the perpetrator/victim in the headlines of a crime affects how much victim-blaming occurs in the incident’s aftermath (and active-vs.-passive verbiage, I dare to add). As we’ve seen with this case, Ms. Kardashian was victimized again by tweeters-with-blame, including famed designer Karl Lagerfeld.
Instead of blaming the vicious, soulless sociopaths who attacked a woman, tweeters blamed Kim for being a target for robbery. Kim “displays” her wealth too much, said Lagerfeld. She shouldn’t be on social media, said the masses –on social media, ironically.
Victim-blaming lets us shield ourselves from the truth that bad things do indeed happen to good people (like us!). Meaning: It is hard to accept that we are in danger when we go out into the world, no matter what we do.
Having empathy for victims means we must absorb and live with that truth. Doing so proves too difficult for many people.
When women get raped When rapists rape women, the headlines lead with the woman as the subject. She is the object in the sentence. She was raped A criminal raped her, but the headlines start with her as the active subject of the sentence. (See the Atlantic article for the Dan/Lisa example).
Let’s start by changing the way we say things: Brock raped (he’s not “a swimmer” anymore, he’s a rapist). Let’s change the way we see people (seemingly normal people rape). <- Yes! That’s a scary thought! Take a deep breath and deal with that fear. You’ll be a more empathetic person and society will benefit.
While it is OK to talk about how to keep oneself safe in a dangerous world, it is not OK to bring up that subject in the same article as reporting a crime. Safety talk and crime reporting are two distinct actions, and keeping them apart is the right thing to do. Victim-blaming serves to make us feel better (not safer), but confronting a culture that unburdens criminals of blame would make the world a better and safer place for us all.
Photo Credit: Yuvi Panda on Flickr