Aug. 14th, 2010

  • 4:34 PM
la_vie_noire: (Default)
Great post on Feministe:

No one is innocent.

**Trigger warning for descriptions of violence and sexual abuse**

[...] This framing of individuals as either victim or perpetrator troubles me deeply. Truthfully, while there are exceptions to every rule, I generally believe that in the case of major crimes, the following rule applies: not all victims are perpetrators, but all perpetrators are victims.

I know, I know. No one wants to think of the person who did something awful to them as being a victim. And honestly, I’m not asking you to. There’s a reason the criminal justice system isn’t supposed to be about what the victim wants* – you can’t be objective. Heck, you shouldn’t be objective. But law and society should be. Which means that before we punish someone, we need to take into account that victimization is a cycle—it’s those who have been hurt that go on to hurt someone else.

[...]

Throughout all this time, no one stepped in to help this child. No one stopped him from quitting school. No one kept him away from the man who beat him mercilessly and tried to kill his mother. No one protected him from sexual abuse. No one loved him and taught him how to find solace in anything other than drugs and alcohol. Removed from the fact that he later killed, it would be difficult to imagine that anyone would not agree that this man had been a victim.

Yet, once a victim crosses that line to perpetrator – once this man killed his step-father – no one wants to remember the victim he once was. And that, I believe, is one of the fundamental flaws in our criminal justice system. No one wants to acknowledge that a perpetrator has been a victim, because if that’s true, then that means we are also punishing victims.

Robert Lawrence Smith writes in the Quaker Book of Wisdom about how people never look at the homeless. Folks avert their eyes and look away–ashamed, guilty perhaps. According to Smith, we don’t want to look at them because we don’t want to recognize our humanity in them. It’s difficult to think that we would let someone live in such conditions. So instead of recognizing them as human, we simply ignore them. This is similar to the response of the general public when we convict someone and label them a perpetrator: rather than acknowledge their humanity, we simply shuffle them away where no one can see.

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