Friday, April 17, 2015

One More Story About Victim Blaming...When Will It End?

This post is not about food. Although maybe food would comfort me in such times. Something happened recently, to someone I know, and it has been quite shocking to me. I thought the people around me were different. I thought they were not the bad guys. Or at least, not the ones to perpetuate victim blaming... I needed to share the story.

I will use false names, and since I have no imagination right now, I will be using a name generator!

A friend of mine, Sandra, came to me recently for advice. She told me her brother, Matthew, recently started dating this girl, Karen. Sandra liked Karen at first. She was saying she was open-minded. She could tell her anything. She would not judge. So far so good.

Karen has a baby from some other guy, let's call him Bobby. And Bobby's job in life is to fix computers. Karen and Bobby are still in good terms, for the baby's sake it seems. So, when Sandra had a problem with her computer, she brought it over to Bobby's house for him to fix it.

Now, Karen and Matthew were at Bobby's house and saw that Bobby downloaded dirty pictures of Sandra from her computer. She had them there for her boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, since she now is single. Doesn't matter.

So Karen and Matthew deleted the pictures from Bobby's computer and told Sandra about it. Sandra feels awful. She is embarrassed. She feels violated. She is scared of what Bobby could do with those pictures. What does he plan to do with them? Put them on the Internet? Keep them for his own pleasure? Even this makes Sandra feel uncomfortable, she does not want him to have her pictures, she does not want him to do anything with them either.

She told Karen she wants to talk to Bobby, to tell him how she felt. Karen told her not to, that she would handle it. Bobby comes at Sandra's house (she lives with Karen, Matthew, her Father and another brother...oh and the baby, Bobby's daughter) to babysit the baby. Sandra says she does not feel comfortable to be around Bobby any more, and that she wishes he was not babysitting the baby in the house.

Karen told Sandra to tell it go already, to move on, to stop talking about it. But Sandra still doesn't feel comfortable. She started asking herself if she should go to the police. I adviced her to. For me, this kind of thing is not to be taken slightly. She talked with other people. Her father. But he only agree that what Bobby did was wrong. He didn't seem to want to tell Bobby not to come back. He doesn't seem to understand how Sandra does not feel comfortable with him around. She talked to her mom. Her mom told her: "What were you doing with those kind of pictures anyway?"

People seem not to understand how she really feels. And it seems like an opinion shared by many people.

(I don't really think Ricky Gervais is saying it's the celebrities' fault here. Although I am sure some people could understand it that way.)

I asked Sandra if she wanted me to try to talk with her dad about it. I did. He told me he would see what Sandra wants to do.

Finally, she went to the police with one of her aunts. Because she needed the moral support to go there. To go to the police is a scary thing. The police listened to her story, and they took her side (At least one good thing! Some victims are also blamed or not taken seriously when they go to the police...I am glad this story is not one of those!). They wanted to meet with Bobby. They went to Sandra's house, because this was where Bobby was, again. With the baby.

The police got Bobby into their car. They interrogated him, and recorded the conversation. They then went to ask Matthew and Karen about their version of the story.

"Sandra exaggerates a lot," Matthew said. "Bobby didn't do anything with the pictures, he just saved them."

"It's her fault anyway", said Karen. "She is the one who told us there were dirty pictures of her in her computer. So it's her fault."

The police went back to talk to Sandra and made her listen to a part of what Bobby said. He basically said that he downloaded the pictures, yes, but he did not do anything with them. He wasn't going to either. He wasn't going to post them online!

So basically, in his head, he was innocent. He confessed to doing something illegal (downloading the pictures) without thinking it was really bad. For him the real crime was uploading them. Certainly, it would have been much worst if he did in fact upload the pictures to the Internet.

But just saving the pictures without her permission is illegal. And immoral. I know morals are not universal and all, but to me, using somebody's body, or the images of it, without the person's content, for your own pleasure, it is at least objectification. And that's just wrong. It should be like a basic human right.

Anyway, the police asked Sandra if she wanted to press charges. And I guess she felt scared, like so many people do. The burden of bringing someone in court, of getting a lawyer, of fighting... She decided not to press charges and thought that maybe now Bobby would understand what he did was wrong and wouldn't do it again. Because, imagine, if his job is to fix computers, and many people have dirty pictures of themselves, of their partners or exes on many computers or sexy pictures could come into his hands?

So the police let him go, and Sandra's father told him not to come back in the house.

I thought the story would end there, but there are other consequences. Karen and Matthew are very angry against Sandra. They say she is just a liar or she seriously misunderstood what they said.

I asked Sandra, because it seemed weird to me, why is it she thinks Karen told her about that story in the first place? She thinks Karen told her to vent about Bobby. Because when they were together, Bobby and her used to fight about him having a collection of dirty pictures (now, I am supposing that those were acquired legally). So she was just complaining how much a bad guy Bobby actually is. But then I asked again, if she wants him to pass off as a bad guy, what is she trying to protect him now, and says Sandra is lying? According to Sandra, it's because she needs a babysitter for her daughter; and Bobby is always available. So she is choosing convenience over what is right.

These are just assumptions, but I cannot think of why else Karen would do that... Or maybe it's the idea of having a sexual offender as an ex that is not fun for her. Maybe. I remember when my mother's ex-boyfriend (she was still dating him at the time) was arrested for sexually abusing 5 under-aged girls, my mom took it hard too. She didn't want to believe it. Instead, she bailed him out to give him the chance to hire a better lawyer, something that got her the disapproval of many of her co-workers. So maybe it's just hard to admit. Maybe Karen just wants to convince herself that what Bobby did is nothing serious, and that Sandra really is exaggerating. But if that is the case, that is also problematic. This is just wrong.

I talked with Matthew on Facebook, and he told me again that Sandra is exaggerating.

"He was fixing her computer and saw her pictures. To get revenge because Karen left him for me, he saved them. But he never intimidated her," he said.

"But you understand that just saving the pictures is illegal?" I asked him.

Here is the original conversation in French, for those of you who can understand.

Then he changed his story.

"He didn't saved the pictures. He just looked at them. I asked him and when he lies, his lip trembles."

"But how is "just" looking at the pictures a revenge?" I asked again.

He stopped answering.

(Why is this screen shot grey? Hum...Never mind.)

It's also weird that in Sandra's version (or the version they supposedly told Sandra first), Karen and Matthew were the ones erasing the pictures from the computer. Now, they did not delete anything but they were there when Bobby looked at the pictures? Or how would they know? 

A few days later, Sandra came back to talk to me and told me that her father has allowed Bobby back in the house. What?

Bobby swore he won't do it again, and to her dad, that was enough. I guess her father just feels that he does not want to fight over all of this. Sandra tells him how uncomfortable she feels with him around. But she is being told (by Matthew and Sandra, the father keeps quiet) to stop being so dramatic about it.

Now Sandra is thinking about moving out from her father's house. She feels everybody is against her there.

End of the story.

So what do you think? Have you ever experienced something similar? I have to say I am quite shocked about all of this. I knew victim blaming existed. I knew they blame the victims of rape for being raped because of what they wear, because of where they were, with who they were, etc. I knew some families turn a blind eye because the aggressor is a family member. What I don't understand is how can her own family turn on her like this? I am shocked. It really proves just how much rape culture is present in our society. Horrible. Just horrible.

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