Around 1976, William Ryan, a psychologist, coined the phrase “blaming the victim.” He argued that in societies where there are structured hierarchies, the better off would justify social inequalities and thereby remove themselves from being blameworthy simply by blaming the victims, usually the poor, who are blamed for their own social conditions—for being poor. I am almost sure he never had Trinidad and Tobago in mind in 1976.
This idea of blaming the victim has been taken a new level in this our native land as most of us struggle to come to terms with the myriad social, political and criminal issues facing us from day to day, especially as it deals with issues in policing.
A couple days ago the Acting Commissioner of Police all but came out saying journalist Mark Bassant had brought his own troubles, “that he looked for that”. That was the only interpretation one could arrive at, despite his spin.
This blaming the victim phenomenon seems to be an integral part of the TTPS’s crime plan, though not articulated as such. For example, when media reports state the victim was “well known to the police” is an apparent translation for “case closed”; like “armed and dangerous” is a code phrase to shoot on sight. Another particular recurring decimal in the reports is that the victim “had several cases pending”, implying, like Mark Bassant, he had that coming. And citizens applaud another police murder.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country usually unfamiliar with the victim or victims, and fed up with crime, continue to call for the police to “kill them bandits”.Or simply, “Kill all ah dem.”
The cries of victims’ family members are drowned out by the screams for blood coming from the rest of society. As such, the claim from a parent or loved one that “he was a good boy” is now a convenient joke, met with much contempt. And this continues as we are a society frustrated by an uneasiness which violates our personal space, be it in our vehicles, in the bars, the street corners, or in the privacy of our homes.
A couple days ago two young brothers were assassinated in the presence of their mother; one nine the other 15. I heard several of the talk radio programmes. I also read the comments made on the media blogs and again, I saw and heard the young victims being blamed. No one saw anything flawed in blaming a nine-year-old for his own murder.
Following that, a young man of around 17 was killed outside a bar in Claxton Bay area. The vast majority of the comments were about his age and what was he doing at a bar at 3.30 in the morning? Is being at a bar at 3.30 a.m. adequate reason to be killed, especially if one is underage? Meanwhile, all the murderers escape.
I recall not so long ago that when women were raped they were being blamed for their choice and style of clothing. And while we have moved away from some of that a bit, we still have issues in domestic violence where several women have been murdered for the year. Most have been blamed for staying in relationships that, for all intent and purposes, could have been defined as toxic.
As someone who has been keeping a vigil on the social ills plaguing our society, it has been really difficult to acknowledged the amount of blame the victims have been awarded in their times of distress. As the police continue to blame victims, the perpetrators of the many crimes have been having a field day, with the police’s pathetic murder detection rate. Their current detection rate is 14/187; their stats.
It’s has been several weeks now since the assassination of Dana Seetahal, a high profile as any case can get in this small twin island, oil-rich, banana republic. The authorities’ inability to investigate and lay the necessary charges point to one of two things: incompetence or sheer negligence; or a combination. I expect also to be blamed for pointing to their sorry detection rate. But I’m willing to accept the blame.
Rudy Chato Paul, Sr