17 September 2010

The Blame Response

The news lately has carried the story of a woman who had acid thrown in her face. After time and resources are used to investigate her attack and find her attacker, she finally admits she threw the acid in her own face. And suddenly the world turns against her. It’s at this point that my heart really went out to her.

Violence happens every day. Sure, we all feel for the victims, but the reality is that if we felt for every single victim of violence, we’d be so emotionally drained we’d be unable to function. But this episode is a different kind of thing. Violence was done, but the victim is also the perpetrator. This girl is obviously very sick, very sad, and in serious need of psychiatric help. Law enforcement is talking about pressing charges. I can only hope they rethink that option.

I’ve had some experience with mental illness—it doesn’t run, it gallops through our family. From my great grandmother who threw hot water on my grandmother to the severe depression that is denied by several people close to me to the bipolar illness one member of the family has. Me? Major depression and post traumatic stress disorder. There, admitted. It’s an illness, just like my Ehlers-Danlos, hypertension, degenerative disk disease, and asthma. I take medication, exercise, try to eat right, etc. Not so very different , really. I also have friends who have various mental illnesses. And something I’ve learned, people with mental illnesses are just people. Nobody blames a diabetic or an asthmatic for their symptoms, but when a person can’t get out of bed in the morning, has hallucinations or flashbacks, or becomes manic and acts irrationally, people line up to blame them for their illness.

My theory is that people are afraid of getting what the person has, so therefore believing the person brought the illness on themselves means they can be morally upstanding and not fall victim to the illness themselves. This is also true of physical illnesses, but the stigma of mental illness is greater, therefore the desire to blame the victim is greater. Factor in odd behavior, and fear, and the result can be a serious desire to find a reason to blame the victim. Just to protect a person’s piece of mind.

My own, not at all humble opinion is that this poor girl who threw acid in her own face shouldn’t be charged with a criminal act. Instead she should be given serious psychiatric treatment for as long as it takes. I just hope and pray that’s what will happen.

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