† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
Victim Blaming, Backlash, and Distractions
by nancy a heitzeg
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, first observed in 1987. The month will remind us of many horrific statistics ( high-lighted throughout), call us to Stop the Violence!, offer a few words of advice, and create some short-lived solidarity.
Frankly, I am tired of “months” that come and go decade after decade, with little sustained attention to real change. I am tired of “solutions” that focus on the criminalization of individual perpetrators and merely cosmetic law enforcement efforts that ultimately make matters worse. I am tired of the denial of the toxic structural and cultural forces that shape and sustain violence, including that perpetrated by the state. I am tired of the sensationalistic media focus on select cases, almost always with some eventual blaming and shaming of the victims themselves, as if they were responsible for their own assault and abuse.
What is required is this: an acknowledgement that we swim in a violent structural and cultural milieu which harms us all — women, men children. What is required is this: Transforming A Rape Culture .
As Lisa Factora-Borchers notes:
Rape culture is like smoke. Insidious, it hangs in the air, getting into everything, staining and deteriorating whatever it touches. It’s highly adaptive, cunning; clever in its ability to morph into whatever context it is placed. Rape culture prices and prioritizes human dignity, as if it’s something to earn and not inherent. Rape culture sets behavioral prescriptions and if one does not adhere to them, they deserve violence or, at the very least, are somehow responsible for it…
Rape culture .. is a deeply engrained and believable operating system in our collective conscience, whispering its influence into every aspect of life, at every stage of personal formation and development. Rape culture is not a separate culture from the one you and I are living in. They are one and the same.
And rape culture is more than just sexual violence against women; it is part and parcel of a system of oppression that metes out violence, both interpersonal and structural, across multiple lines of race class and gender difference. It is, at root, about power and raw domination.