• Dami Afam Ade-Odiachi

I’m a Closet Victim Blamer: Please Help!

Summer 2012. Hyde Park. Test Shoot with Ayodeji Ayojoseph

In these undoubtedly modern times, you’re likely to have had a conversation around victim blaming. Most of the time it’s associated with victims of sexual assault and its worse cousin rape. It’s what we do when we hold victims accountable for the things that happen to them. It is whataboutism of the first degree. We ask them why they wore what they wore, why they were there, why they didn’t fight... An endless series of questions that fail to address the true problem: the villain, the charlatan, the criminal. Victim blaming is always and everywhere wrong because it fails to recognize the innate ability to be cruel that every human has, and how little people have to do with anyone else’s actions.

After years of subscribing to what some psychologists call the just world hypothesis, which literally means what the phrase says, that the world is good, and the people in it are good, and that good things happen to good responsible people, my views have changed. I now believe that the world is a stricken place filled with wickedness and injustice and that everyone in it is terrible until they prove otherwise, and even when they prove otherwise, there’s still a chance however small that the devil within them will get up one unsuspecting day and howl: murder, rape, assault, thievery, all possible at the roll of a die (die in this context is the singular of dice - a small cube with six sides that have a different number of dots, frequently used in the playing of board games and favoured by gamblers. Bad things happen, without reason, or purpose, or logic, and they happen to all people, good, bad, and everyone that’s everything in between. It’s like they say in Nigeria, everyday for the thief, and one day, for the owner. A bad thing is always lurking round the corner.

But here’s the thing. I love you. It’s a theoretical kind of love. It means that if I met you there’s the chance, a tiny chance, that I could come to love you, because you are a human being. I understand what it means to be hurt, and I don’t really want that to happen to anyone. It’s even worse when the love is real, not hypothetical or theoretical, because then it will really hurt. I don’t want to hear that some misfortune however unlikely befell you. I want you to be good. I want you to be safe. I want you to live your best life. I don’t want to hear any tragic stories that rend the heart and break the spirit. I don’t want to have to do the work that I’ll have to do when the world has its wicked way with you, but, I’m powerless. I cannot hold the world responsible for being what it is, evil! It’s even worse when you’re a Nigerian living in Nigeria and the institutions that are meant to uphold the just world are broken beyond any reasonable expectation of a quick solution. I cannot hold them responsible for failing in their duty because failure is what they are, and evil is what they do, and tragedy is what they represent. The only person, I can hold responsible for the things that happen to you, which you have no responsibility for, is you. The world is a lost cause, you on the other hand are not. I love you.

Because I love you, and I hold you dear to me, and your pain is my pain, I want you to take yourself seriously, I want you to do everything possible to keep yourself out of harms way. There are things in this world that increase your chances of misfortune. Drinking, drugs, unprotected sex, being alone with useless people (you may not know that they’re useless at the time, but should they hurt you, I will immediately judge you for not knowing that they were useless. It’s unfair I know, but sorry. The world is too big a challenge to take on), walking on dark streets, hanging around hooligans, criminality of any kind, smoking, crossing the street without looking left or right, being lazy, being gullible, being human.

The only time that I won’t judge you or blame you for the things that happen to you, is when you who I love, have done every possible thing to keep yourself out of harms way. When you have as the Bible says, been as slivery, sneaky and slithery in your wisdom as a snake, but as gentle as a dove - an impossible standard. Then and only then will I say, how truly unfortunate, how bloody unlucky, life is truly terrible and more than a little bit demonic. This consideration will be denied you if you have done anything that is even remotely vice like. Once again I’m sorry. I’m a product of society. Even if I aspire to be empathetic, my distaste for emotional labour, and fixing problems, will make me question whether or not you have sense, even if I do not voice these concerns to you the victim of the wickedness of the world.

However, and this is a big however, we cannot stop there, as we very often do. Once we have transferred our pain, anger, and discomfort back to its source (the person that suffered the unjust desserts of the world) we must turn our attention to the true source of our pain: the assaulter, the criminal, the villain. This step is highly important. It’s more important than the first step of our processing of grief, victim blaming. If you do not stop the criminal, then the crimes will continue.

I cannot claim that I’ve never been guilty of blaming the victim, even though I know better. I’m working on myself so that my thoughts and actions align with my beliefs. The victim is never to blame. The victim should never be blamed. So now, more often than not, when these matters arise, and my thoughts stray, I keep quiet and remind myself that the victim is never to blame.

Happy Days,


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