Blame and Responsibility

Recently I stumbled upon a blog that had received an interesting question regarding blame and responsibility (in this instance, the subject was rape). The original post can be found here, along with a lot of comments (500+, you’ve been warned!).

It got me thinking – at what point do the lines between responsibility for something and the blame for something become blurred? Do they in fact, become blurred?

I had this to say on the blog comments:

If we look at look at the blame vs responsibility thing, let’s examine that under a microscope.

If I step outside my front door, am I immediately to accept responsibility for anything and everything that might happen to me? It would hardly be my fault if I looked both ways before crossing the road, did everything right, and yet still ended up being hit by a car, clearly the blame belongs with the driver – but do I deserve any of the responsibility for taking that risk in crossing the road anyway?

No, I don’t. I haven’t done anything wrong, and the responsibility rests with the driver.

If we open up the idea that victims are responsible for the crimes against them then all of a sudden a lot of people can use that argument to squirm out of a lot of situations. I put my money in a bank – a rogue banker could say, as they steal my money ‘well, it’s your responsibility as you put the money there’. We really don’t want to go down that slippery slope, and we certainly don’t want to hand that sort of power to monsters who commit far more serious crimes like rape and murder.

To me, it’s a no-brainer. Saying someone is responsible for themselves getting raped is like saying a murder victim is responsible for getting killed – and the word ‘responsible’ in this context is deliberately blurred with ‘blame’ by those who would use this argument.

It would seem the only way to avoid any sort of responsibility in cases such as these would be to avoid any contact with other human beings. ‘You can’t be held responsible for actions someone else takes against you if there are no someones around!

If we get technical, then as I mentioned in my comment above, we could all be held responsible, in some way shape or form, for everything that ever happens to us. If we flick on a light switch and get shocked because an electrician did shoddy work five years ago that only now has manifested itself as a serious fault, are we responsible because we used that light switch? I’m pretty sure that argument wouldn’t hold water, so why should a rape victim (or victim of any other violent crime) be held responsible for the conscious choice someone else made to commit that act?

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