This is partly in support of my friend Lottie, who’s been getting quite a bit of flak recently for addressing very genuine and much-needed points in a debate from a position of experienced authority. I won’t go into the details here, and nor will I link to the website where all of this occurred (it’ll send them a pingback, if I do, and I really don’t need them bringing their shit over here!), but if you want to read more about it, all the relevant information can be found on Lottie’s blog.
Let it suffice to say, Lottie addressed one of the difficult questions/subjects — and some found certain comments offensive because they inferred that they meant/could mean that a particular victim was somehow, partially or otherwise, to blame for what happened to them.
Although I was reluctant to get into the debate — because, admittedly, it was not an area that I have any real experience in — it brought to mind something that I had to write about in Children of the Resolution. Heavily autobiographical, I had to deal with my experience of the bullying of disabled children in integrated education during the 1970s and 1980s. Carl, my protagonist and, in effect, the me-guy, stated very emphatically that he’d never been bullied and that, in his experience, the bullying he had seen had had very little to do with actual disability. He was very quick to say that he’d never bought the victim explanation, that some people just naturally attract bullies. It is too simplistic for him. But he did stipulate in no uncertain terms that the reaction of the person being bullied decided whether the bullying continued. Carl was lucky. He acknowledges this and the complexity of the issue and its various scenarios. He’d always been able, even though he’s in a wheelchair, to stand up for himself (pun intended.) He’d never been bullied, but they had tried.
It was a difficult piece to write, not least because I knew that a very good (able-bodied) friend who was reading it at the time had had a pretty unrelenting bullying experience. I was afraid of what reactions I might get but she at least understood the point and agreed with it.
Nobody could ever seriously blame a victim. And I for one would never want it to be thought that I was. But if we are to ever understand the complex dynamics at work in these kinds of relationships, we have to be prepared to ask and be asked the difficult questions. Questions of this kind are not (at least from intelligent, caring human beings) about apportioning blame, they are about finding a way to empower the victim. If we understand, we can fix (possibly.) Gagging people, holding personal offence up as a reason for not addressing serious points that taken objectively aren’t offensive, solves nothing.
So let’s keep asking the difficult questions, even if some people might not want to hear them. Maybe we’ll find the answers, maybe we won’t. I don’t know. But at least we’ll have tried.