Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Power of Imperfection

It is tempting to look for perfection. In many aspects of life, people have come to the understanding that perfection is unattainable. There is still, however, an idea of what makes a “perfect” crime victim. People imagine a grandmother on her way to church on Sunday morning who is struck by a stray bullet. They think of a woman jogging in the middle of the day who is dragged into the bushes and raped by a stranger in a ski mask. Not all victims fit those criteria, but in their stories is power.

If you have read media coverage of a crime that lists what a rape victim drank the night of her victimization or what the victim was wearing, you have witnessed victim blaming. If you have seen a story on a homicide that rattled off the victim’s previous arrests or convictions which may have happened decades ago, you have witnessed the blaming. All of this blaming points out what society deems as “imperfections” in the victim’s story, tarnishing to the victim’s reputation and credibility.

For years, victim advocates have fought the perception that certain actions somehow make a victim’s story less legitimate or worthy of empathy. Advocates have fought the notion that behaving anything less than what society deems “perfectly” makes someone less of the innocent, blameless victim. This standard does a disservice to the majority of victims by marginalizing their experience and shifting blame from the attacker to the victim.

When a victim isn’t “perfect” according to society, there is the greatest room to make an impact on society. No one will question the outrage created by the murder of a grandmother on her way to church. To have the same outrage when an individual with a checkered past is murdered at 2am in an alley is the test that victim advocates and allies must pass, a test that the media and the rest of society so often fail.

When an advocate stands next to a sexual assault victim while everyone around her is asking why she drank so much, why she went back to a room alone with the perpetrator, or why she was wearing a short skirt, that advocate is taking a strong stand against rape. That advocate is also taking a stand against society’s warped notion of what a perfect, blameless, innocent victim is by reinforcing that blame for the crime lies with the person who chose to rape another human being, not with the victim. The advocate can not only defend that victim, but also make an impact for future victims by moving the needle on society’s view of victimization.

There is power in “imperfection.” It is when advocates and allies stand up for the most marginalized victims of crime or those branded as “imperfect” victims that they take the biggest stand and can have the most impact. It is not always easy to stand by those who society has marginalized and blamed for their victimization, but it is one of the most important purposes of Crime Victim Advocacy Center since its founding in 1972 and up to the present day. We reject victim blaming and unattainable notions of perfection in favor of supporting all victims of crime simply because they deserve to be supported. Support CVAC, support crime victims, and find the power in imperfection. 

Comments by Jessica Meyers, Director of Advocacy

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