I had a rage-inducing experience with victim blaming today. I am currently taking the Army's Equal Opportunity Leaders Course (EOLC). Today was day 3, and it's been a decent class so far, with the glaring exception of Practical Exercise #15-1.
In this exercise, we were given a scenario of a woman who goes to her lover's house to cheat on her husband, and then is murdered on her way home (see image for the scenario details).
After reading the scenario, we were instructed to rank the characters in the story in order of their responsibility for the death of the wife. The person who committed the murder was not included as one of the characters that you can rank.
There are 31 soldiers* in this class, and 25 said that they blamed the wife for her murder more than anyone else. The remaining 6 either blamed the husband the most, or abstained from voting. There was a lot of heated discussion on why the wife was the most responsible, with the majority saying that she cheated so she deserved what she got. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
I'd like to say that I'm surprised at how many students felt this way, but I'm not. I'm also not surprised that all 25 were male, and most of them white. I was surprised by the few men that did not blame the victim (yay low standards!). There were also a handful who picked the wife by default because her murderer was not one of the choices, but they didn't have a "she cheated so she deserved to die" attitude.
I wouldn't have minded this exercise so much if it had been followed up with a lesson on why we shouldn't blame the victim... but it wasn't. All we were told was that we can't let our prejudices and emotions get in the way when we are intaking a complaint. Nothing about how harmful victim blaming can be- just that we can't say it out loud. On the bright side, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention course did focus a lot on reducing victim-blaming and re-victimization, so the Army isn't missing the mark everywhere.
As much as this exercise pissed me off, I'm glad we did it. Now I know who the untrustworthy, victim-blaming motherfuckers are. I also have more respect for a few of my fellow soldiers. Interestingly enough, most of the males who didn't victim-blame are minorities. I'm proud to say that I refused to participate in this exercise, because I didn't think anyone else other than the murderer should be assigned blame. I'm also happy to say that I wasn't the only one (there were three abstainers total).
Hopefully this is the last rage-inducing episode in this course, but since we still have four days left, I'm not incredibly optimistic.
*Of the 31, there are 29 Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), 1 Lieutenant, and 1 Warrant Officer (me). There are 2 other females in the class, both NCOs.