Monday, March 26, 2018

Guilt and "Agency": Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump, and Deserving

I was struck by and somewhat upset by Stormy Daniels's in the 60 MINUTES interview saying she felt she "deserved" having sex with Donald Trump even though she didn't want to. I hope she's come to realize that that feeling of "having it coming" (as an FB contributor pointed out) is itself a kind of victimization.

I hope also that Daniels's comment renews a discussion.

Three background stories I can add to such a discussion:

(1) Years ago, the National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter in Butler County OH met with a rape counsellor, and we went through an exercise on how one should counsel a woman who'd been raped, including a woman who felt she somehow had invited the rape or "deserved" it. Some of the participants quite correctly denied that our hypothetical "she" had done anything wrong and deserved rape but repeated variations on "There was nothing you could have done"; "There's nothing you can do to prevent a rape like that" — and it got pointed out that it's a bad idea to substitute for guilt a sense of helplessness. (The rape counsellor counseled us to say "It *wasn't* your fault" and then say less and listen more.)

(2) Even longer ago, a rehab person told my father that he couldn't help having had a stroke, but "Invalidism is a separate disease"; she insisted strongly that he *could* choose not to become an invalid.

(3) A member of a local Jewish congregation is a survivor of the Nazi death camps. One occasion when she was being introduced as a survivor and that was dwelt on, she said that she had lived a long life and had done many things and was not *merely* a death-camp survivor.

There are horrific exceptions — some prisoners, e.g., children in abusive families — but much the time people can't avoid being hurt, but we can avoid becoming victims. It is a delicate issue, but in various senses of "we" we need to help people who've been harmed to heal and to not "get over it" but use the experience in ways that they can feel and be empowered.

We (in those various senses) need to help people lose a sense of guilt while retaining and strengthening a sense of agency. We need to help people — where it's possible — to recognize they've had a literal or figurative stoke but not become an invalid; to understand they've been hurt but to be a survivor, among other things, and not, at their core, a victim.

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