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The Daily Tar Heel Thursday, August 21, 19863B
deity makes wroing assiuumptnomis with assamilt vkttnms
In keeping with the pieces on
Smurfettes and McDonald's
hamburgers spanning the moon,
1 wanted to write a ha-ha column.
But I can't really be witty right now.
An assault incident that 1 heard
about two weeks ago struck me as
so frightening - and so frighteningly
typical - that I'm still troubled by
My mother, volunteers with an
organization in New Jersey to help
battered women and children, and
she sometimes tells me of incidents
she has handled. The circumstances
vary: sometimes it is a jealous
boyfriend slapping around his girl
friend, sometimes it is a child being
abused by a parent unprepared for
that responsibility. Other times it's
a stranger accosting another
stranger. But just as upsetting as the
attacks themselves, for me, is the
response these victims tend to get
when they seek help.
It's apparent that there is a "blame
the victim" attitude that taints the
judgment of even those with careers
to help others. "Victim blame," when
phrased that way, causes most
people to scoff at the notion as
ridiculous. It's a bit more subtle than
that, but it's adding up to a lot of
rape and battery victims being told
they "asked for it."
1 don't know the attitude's boun
daries, and I don't know its origins.
I wish 1 did, because 1 might be more
in a position to deal with it. I dont
know why, or how, someone who
doesn't know the details will auto
matically say, "Well, why did you
make him do (whatever) to you?" But
for whatever reason, it happens.
The incident 1 have in mind is one
in which a 19-year-old woman fled
her drunk boyfriend because he was
kicking, punching and biting her.
She knocked on a neighbor's door
for help, hyperventilating, with a
bleeding cut on her face and her
blouse ripped open from an aborted
rape attempt. And the first thing that
her neighbor asked, after hearing her
breathless tale, was (in these words),
"Well, what did you do to him?"
In truth, she had done nothing,
nothing even to ruffle his feathers.
The man was a borderline alcoholic
who was known in the area for an
ugly temper, for a Jekyll-and-Hyde
personality corresponding to his
sober-and-drunk states. She wasn't
aware of it because she just saw him
on weekends in the summer. As the
story goes, she was only at the house
' to break up with him because of a
similar assault the night before, and
he got mad because she was leaving.
Yet this neighbor, knowing the
girl's character, and that she wasn't
a troublemaker, and knowing the
Citizen requests slow
some state senators
By voting $100 million in
mostly military aid for the
Contra guerillas in Nicaragua,
Congress has handed President
Reagan a victory that's remarkable
even for a president who seldom
Reagan worked harder for Contra
aid than he had for few other foreign
policy issues since becoming presi
dent, even overruling senior advisers
who favored negotiations with the
leftist Nicaraguan government.
As recently as January 1985, Sen.
Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of
the Senate Foreign Relations Com
mittee, was pronouncing Contra aid
as a lost cause.
"Aid to the Contras is not viable
because it is no longer covert and
because Congress will probably not
continue to fund it," Lugar said in
a speech to the National Press Club.
As for giving aid openly, Lugar said,
"that would be very close to declar-'
Eighteen months later, the Senate
joined the House last week in
approving $70 million in military aid
and $30 million in non-military aid
for the Contras.
Equally important, Congress
removed the restraints preventing
the Central Intelligence Agency from
helping the Contras.
"It is remarkable," Mark Helmke,
an aid to Lugar, said of the turn
around. He said Reagan succeeded
because he persuaded a reluctant
Congress that if the Contras weren't
backed now, Nicaragua would
become a Soviet base and American
troops eventually would have to be
sent. Moreover, he said Reagan's
argument that Nicaragua posed a
threat to its democratic neighbors in
Central America was persuasive.
Reagan chose to ignore inter
national law and charges by oppo-
R. Gregory Nekes
nents that funding the Contras was
tantamount to an act of war. The
administration ignored the World
Court, which had ruled that aiding
the Contras was an unlawful aggres
sion against another country, and it
vetoed a U.N. Security Council
resolution aimed at enforcing a
World Court decision.
There were many other hurdles:
Embarrassments. There was
the 1984 disclosure of the CIA
involvement in' the mining of Nica
ragua's harbors and in preparing a
guerilla pamphlet that seemed to
Domestic opposition. Besides
the polls showing Americans against
Contra aid, Reagan had to contend
with the opposition of most mainline
International opposition. Only
one country, Honduras, openly
advocated aid to the Contras. Can
ada, France, Italy and Common
Market countries have continued to
give aid to the Sandinista
Military ineptness and corrup
tion by the Contras. After nearly five
years of fighting, the Contras were
unable to hold a single important
piece of territory in Nicaragua.
Moreover, charges are widespread
that they committed human rights
abuses, engaged in drug dealing and
misused previous U.S. funds.
A senior State Department official
involved in Central America policy
making said Reagan's own involve
ment carried the day.
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man even better, not only assumed
that she had provoked the attack,
but obviously believed that there
were actually certain actions which
would justify a vicious attack. A
cause-and-effect relationship. He is
beating you because you did thus and
such, so you're really to blame.
I've witnessed that same attitude
in other situations, especially when
a woman has been raped. The first
question that pops up is, "Was she
walking alone?" She was probably
somewhere she shouldn't have been,
and good Lord, she was wearing
thaO. Well, how could she expect
Call me old-fashioned, but
women, men and children should be
able to do whatever they desire
without expecting anything to
happen to them. They should, and
do, have the right to be left alone.
If somebody violates that right, they
are to blame.
Sure, you can be cautious. You
could call it a good idea not to walk
alone, or not to frequent a place
where assaults commonly occur. But
if they do, they are only unfortunate.
They are not the fault of the victim.
When a crime is committed, it is the
criminal who did it, With an assault
case, the victim is not to be blamed
because someone found her attrac
tive, or because someone was in a
bad mood, or drunk.
To condone one who physically
abuses another because of such
trivial circumstances as time or place,
or a misinterpreted look, or a sharp
word, is to say it's okay for that
abuser to act on wild, fleeting
impulse, the seedy side of human
nature. Everyone gets mad and may
think for a second, "God, I just want
to kill him," but the feeling passes.
Every Jaw in the world is designed
to regulate people's impulses, and to J
keep them from doing just whatever
they feel like. Chaos would ensue if
not. , g
But for these crimes, the victinj
is subtly, perhaps not consciously,
certainly not openly, but most
definitely, held as responsible for th
crime as the criminal. It will continue
to obstruct justice and deny help tp;
those in need for as long as if,'
prevails, either in the courtroom oiv
at a neighbor's door.
Linda Monfanari is a senior jour-.,'
nalism major from Neshanic, N.J.
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