02 February, 2014


I've been writing about the idea that you can't forgive someone until they're sorry.  Obviously, this isn't a rule, it's just something that can be really hard to do and, I think, damaging to require.  I was reading some comments on a post about a parent who tried to murder her disabled child; obviously there were endless calls for compassion, and the commenters who wanted to focus on the crime were being told that they should focus on compassion for the criminal instead.  To me it's a similar thing.

The focus on dealing with any kind of abuse or violence cannot be that we should be nicer to the people who commit it.  It just can't be.

That doesn't mean that murderers, rapists, etc. aren't human, or that their behavior may not have partially come from something bad happening to them, or that maybe if someone had been a little nicer to them or made things easier they wouldn't have committed the crime.  Those things might be true in some cases but it's not an appropriate thing to focus on and in some contexts, it's downright terrifying.

It's terrifying because it implies that non-perpetrators should be walking on eggshells in dealing with perpetrators.

Maybe if people provided more help or compassion to this parent, the parent would not have committed a murder.  (There's also the fact, rarely said but undeniable, that if the victim hadn't needed so much help we wouldn't be having this conversation.)

Maybe if people dressed differently, drank less, or expressed themselves more clearly, someone would not have sexually assaulted them.

Maybe if people were more nice/open/compassionate to someone, that person would not have behaved abusively.

No.  Wrong.  This frames things so what happened is the fault of either the victim, or people who were not involved, instead of the person who actually perpetrated what happened.  People do a lot of bad things to each other and the way to address that is not to focus on how other people should be nicer or more understanding to people who do bad things.

For one thing, if the perpetrator is not sorry and plans to keep doing similar things, then being compassionate just makes it easy for them to keep on doing those things.  For another, if there's a big focus on how victims or other people should have behaved differently, then the perpetrator can use those things to get away with their behavior or even to control their victims.

I'm not against being kind or compassionate to people, even people who have committed violence or abuse, but there's a difference between personally feeling compassionate, and trying to tell other people that they're wrong if they're not compassionate for people who have done bad things.  They are not required to be.