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Putting blame where it belongs

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DEAR EDITOR,

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After reading your Feb. 24 story Rape victim 'inviting,' so no jail, I was somewhat shocked at the perpetrator's sentence and Justice Robert Dewar's comments about the way the victim was dressed. I had thought that this kind of thinking had gone the way of the dodo bird. It appears, however, that I was wrong.

Later that morning, I listened to a radio phone-in show, and again some of the attitudes expressed had me shaking my head about how far Winnipeg has really progressed. It appears that some of our citizens have more in common with the Taliban than they have with mainstream society.

Why is the victim blamed in this case? Why was her manner of dress even a factor in the judge's sentence? Why are many Winnipeggers expressing the same attitude of "blame the victim?"

If I am robbed at gunpoint of several hundred dollars, did I ask for it by having that much money on my person? Do victims of car theft deserve to have their automobiles stolen and wrecked merely because they have the misfortune to live or work in a less than law abiding area?

Then, by extension, we must blame victims for the crimes committed against them. Victims of break and entry now must be blamed for having a big-screen TV -- they didn't really need that TV and anyway, they should be sharing with those less fortunate.

Victims of domestic violence will now have to shoulder some of the blame for the crimes committed against them. They deserved a beating because they displeased their male partner.

The victims of so-called "honour killings" now must shoulder the blame for bringing their own murder upon themselves. They deserved it because they besmirched the honour of their families. (In fact, there has been at least one so-called honour killing here in Canada.)

I had thought that Winnipeg had moved into the 21st century, but apparently I was wrong. This attitude of "blame the victim" (especially if the victim is female) is prevalent in many areas of the world, and it appears it is alive and well here in Canada.

It is a sad statement that we as a nation are internationally renowned for our tolerance and defence of human rights. Yet some individuals continue to express the attitude that women are second-class citizens who do not deserve our protection merely because of the way they dress. This is the kind of thinking that continues in backward and intolerant nations such as Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

This attitude of "blame the victim" must be discarded forthwith and the responsibility for the crime placed not on the victim but squarely on the shoulders of the one who committed the crime. I would hope that the Crown will appeal this sentence, and the courts issue an apology for the shabby, disgraceful and pathetic treatment of the victim.

JIM SEGGIE

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2011 A11

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