Unless you have been living under a rock, I’m sure you have heard about the tragic events at Disney World in Orlando. Déjà vu kicks in here, since not even three weeks ago our social media outlets were covering a similar incident in Cincinnati. Both are terrible, terrible events that took place in locations that are otherwise considered safe, family friendly places. No one expects to watch their child be dragged around by a gorilla at the zoo. No one can even fathom having to return home from “The Happiest Place on Earth” without one of their children.
So fast as lightening, the questions start flying:
Where were they? Why were they out there?
What do you expect to happen around wild animals?
Didn’t they know that was dangerous?
Then the accusations:
They should have taken more precautions!
This would never happen to me because I watch my kids!
They were asking for this not watching their kids properly!
That animal was obviously just protecting the child!
This is just common sense!
There was another tragic event that hit the news between these two that I’m sure you have heard about as well: the sentencing of the Stanford rapist. In the midst of the news firestorm about Brock Turner’s minuscule sentencing of 6 months I noticed something all too familiar.
Fast as lightening the questions flew:
Why was she even out that night?
What did she expect to happen drinking that much?
Didn’t she know acting that way would be dangerous?
And the accusations:
She shouldn’t have dressed that way!
I would never put myself in this situation!
She must have been asking for it acting like that!
He says she consented before she passed out!
She obviously lacks common sense!
Strikingly similar. Terrifyingly similar. Do you know why? Because we have a victim blaming problem. When tragedy strikes, we have to know what went wrong. We have to be able to point a finger in order to distance ourselves from the pain of it. We want to confirm that will never be us.
The victims are the easy target because we can blame them for not preventing what happened. We tell them “how did you not see it coming?” while we sit with our 20/20 hindsight.
What we forget when we blame the victim, is that we are all human. Accidents just happen. Tragedies just happens. They just do. We will never know why or how to prevent every single horrific event. For that reason, what we need to do is work against our nature to blame and distance ourselves and instead bring our community together around the victims.
They will blame themselves enough without our help.
The mother whose son was saved because a gorilla lost its life will always blame herself for the majestic creatures death. The father who just couldn’t wrestle his son free from the jaws of the alligator will see the scene played over and over in his head and dreams.
They don’t need us to rehash the scenarios and postulate the what ifs.
They need us to partake in the human experience of grief. To let them know that we mourn for them and with them. That we don’t blame them, because at any given moment even when we are doing what we think is the best possible thing for our children, like a trip to the zoo or an amazing vacation, accidents happen.
We need to stop with the negativity. We are blaming the victims to soothe our own fears, anger and sadness about a situation. Instead, let’s learn to process tragedies with supporting for our fellow parents.That way, when the fog clears, these parents aren’t left wondering “ Where Were They? ” about us.