Victim Shaming
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International 

December 9, 2018, Israel

Victim shaming appears to be a new term, one of many that have emerged in recent years with the rise of left wing Liberal ideology. It is as if no one can do wrong, everyone must be understood, no one should be blamed for anything or have their faults pointed out. 

Let's get to the core of the issue.

Is our goal to make the person, the victim, feel better about themselves, or is our goal to learn from a negative experience. 

My answer is both of the above. 

An example of the learning approach. My car had once again needed expensive repairs, and I was not happy. I did not blame myself, I did not blame the car, I did not blame the auto-mechanic. What I did try to do was learn from this unfortunate case. I paid a price and I wanted a life lesson, as my dear dad would say in Yiddish, Rebbe Gelt, learning money

It translates to money you give to the rabbi, but what it really means is that it is a small price to pay for a significant learning experience. We learn from our failures and we succeed the next time. The failure is rebbe gelt, it is price we pay for learning a valuable lesson. These Yiddish expressions have meanings far beyond their exact translations.  

I want to learn. So I asked my mechanic: Am I doing something wrong? Am I pressing too hard on the brakes?

Now what if I had not asked the question but the good mechanic simply offered his expert advice and said, Listen Moshe, you are pressing down too hard on the brakes, this is causing damage etc.

Would I cry out "Victim Shaming" , do not blame the victim!!

No, I would thank him for trying to save my car, my life, and my money. 

However there are legitimate cases of victim shaming, and those involve cases where the victim simply had no choices. 

Victim shaming is often described as "we assume the victim had a choice in this." The fact is sometimes they did, and sometimes they did not, and that is what needs to be determined. In fact this a well known Talmudic Rabbinic concept discussed at length over two thousands years ago. In discussing damages to a loaned or rented object, or an animal; was it beyond the control of the renter? or was there something that could have been done. This is the question. 

The Talmud does not "Victim Shame", but it does analyze at great length the issue of - Did the victim have a choice. Some examples include: a gang of thieves broke into the farm and stole the animals. Conclusion: The victim had no choice in this.  or, the gate was left opened and the animal escaped. Conclusion: The victim had a choice in this and is now liable to pay damages. 

The issue is not to shame anyone, but to learn from the case and to establish if the victim indeed could have done anything differently. Was a person struck by lightening (an act of God), or did he run and slip when he could have been more careful (his own responsibility, we feel his pain but we must teach him to act differently in the future. Thus the signs at the swimming pool, Don't run!) 

This is how the Israeli army, police and security system works. After each incident a team of experts analyzes the case, could something have been done differently? What can we do to prevent this in the future?

To simply drop the case and refuse to discuss it because it might "shame"  the victim is silly, immature, and non-productive. If that were the case we would never learn. 

I had a friend who competed for a year in martial arts tournaments. He lost every single fight. However after each fight his instructor sat with you and went over the areas where things did not go well. Wait!! We can't do that! That is Victim Shaming!

The result was that after a year this individual began winning more and more fights. He became a champion. He later became a lawyer and credits his martial arts teacher with his success in life. 

Now let's take the most extreme case I can think of; the Holocaust. More than 6 million Jews and many other Untermenschen, lower humans, were murdered by the Nazis. When the few survivors came forward after the war to tell their stories, no one believed them.  In the modern Israeli society based on physical strength, toughness and sun tans, these European survivors were indeed shamed. And of course this is wrong. 

And of course it is wrong to shame any victim. No matter what the circumstances were we never should shame any one. 

But we must learn from it. 

The entire state of Israel is a learning experience of the Holocaust; never again will we be unprepared. Never again will we be caught by surprise. Now we are a power to be reckoned with.  

And yet, we learn from the Holocaust. I have a room full of books about the Holocaust and they all ask the same question in one way or another: How could this happen? Could it have been otherwise?

We are not shaming the victims. We console them, we comfort them and then we tell them that we shall listen to their stories and learn from them. This is the great value of the experience, that we learn from them. If we refuse to learn from their experiences we have dishonored them.

Now let's take the case that prompted this blog. Social Media posted a video with the caption, "Two Israeli soldiers beaten and robbed in Brooklyn", or something like that. I watched the video. Two Israeli tourists, female, former soldiers like nearly all Israelis, were attacked walking down the stairs on the subway. 

From the video it is clear that they had no situational awareness whatsoever. They did not fight back at any point. They did not resist being robbed. Yes, the attackers, a young male and female, teenagers, had a knife and a taser which they did not use, only threatened with. And yes, that can be scary. 

The victims showed none of the alleged Krav Maga prowess that all Israeli soldiers are thought to possess. (If you read the commercialized American Krav Maga websites. In Israel we all know that the military does not teach effective Krav Maga. You must learn this privately). They showed no courage or combat spirit. So I commented that this is indeed embarrassing that the title of the article calls them "Israeli soldiers" rather than tourists, and that I believe we all need to train in Krav Maga.

Some anonymous person, hiding behind a fake name and a fake photo "called me out" on this. She accused me of "Victim Shaming". I responded that I have been travelling the world for years empowering people, men and women, young and old, to defend themselves. I use real life cases to teach my lessons. I am not shaming anyone, I am learning from their cases. I am validating their experience by using it to educate, enlighten, and ultimately to protect others. Thus their negative experience has value.

If we just cuddled them and said, now now, it is not your fault. Well, there would be no learning experience whatsoever. 

I have had personal experience with this. Our goal: on one hand comfort the victim, empower him/her, praise whatever effort they made to defend themselves. Understand that it is truly difficult to fight back in a real life surprise violent situation, we do not blame them for being surprised and caught off guard. But...yes, there is a but; learn from this.

We learn that we

Must be trained to observe our environment at all times.

We all must know basic Krav Maga.

We must understand the missing link between theory and practice, between the moment of attack and the moment of potential defense. 

We cannot avoid dealing with the situation for fear of "shaming" someone. We must deal with the situation so that the next intended victim has a better chance. And that is what this is all about, protecting people.

Now go train!

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