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Victim blaming complex

On the afternoon of the 23rd of October, I set out to remember with my family. My husband, myself, and our children intended to commemorate the heroes of ’56, and the cherished memories of our grandparents, who had suffered so much back in the fifties. We had been in high spirits for days. We were to exercise great self-discipline, as several thousand people expressed their opinion in Kossuth square. The majority of Hungarians joined a sacred cause this autumn. The Hungarian nation re-elected, informally as well as in the local government elections, and renounced a Government that acts against the spirit of humanity.

We set off in ebullient mood on the 23rd of October, to remember the heroes of ’56 and to celebrate, not to demonstrate. The millennium underground ran so unreliably that afternoon, that it did not even stop at the Bajcsy-Zsilinszky station. When we got off at Deák square, we were startled by the cause of this unusual irregularity: We were blinded by teargas in the street.. We stood confused among the crowd, and the tension was palpable. The aggressive police was diverting the attention of their direct victims and the sympathisers from the dignified commemoration at Astoria. As a result of the efficient intervention of some provokers hired by the left wing, the celebrating crowd were reduced to the level of vandals on the basis of news flashes aired by the media. That is to say the social liberal media did not talk about police brutality, but instead described the supposedly aggressive attitude of several tens of thousands of people. On the screen, professional mass communication transformed commemorating people into agitators of disturbance, who were in the end happy to avoid the stigma of “perpetrators”.

It was then that I felt a weird analogy between my daily work and the experience at Deák square. As a professional dealing with violence in the family, I frequently observe an attitude in society whereby the immediate environment blames the offended party for the perpetration of the crime. My clients often complain that a punch in the face in a relationship is the inevitable result of the offended party’s behaviour, as far as the public is concerned. In the meantime, I considered what would happen to my children if the police did not remove those planted vandals from the celebrating people, but instead considered their behaviour as casus belli, and turned against them. My husband and I thought it prudent to go home. We fled home through back streets, choked by tear gas, ducking to avoid the rubber bullets, and protecting our son who was by that time in a state of shock. We were disappointed, because we had set off with love to the commemoration, and instead found ourselves scurrying off, humiliated.. When we got home, we started channel hopping on the TV, and saw as many versions of events as there were channels to be found. However, none of them could erase the bloody images. They tried instead to explain what had happened, and why there was such a spectacular demonstration of police brutality upon the commemoration of the 23rd of October.

We didn’t sleep easy that night. We were worried, for we did not know how far the events may escalate. The next day we shared our experience with those friends who had not been with us, who were very much interested in what had happened. The social liberal media had achieved its desired effect. In keeping with the cases of violence in the family, the victim in the street was held responsible for their own plight in the eyes of the public. “You were irresponsible to go there, especially with the kids!” – came the snap judgement of outsiders. It was then that I realised why Hungary cannot manage its social and family crisis situations well. The judgement of society is the result of communication processes. The opinion of people nowadays is almost exclusively influenced by the attitude of the media. This is how the stereotypes manipulated so effectively in public life and the vernacular are created.

Nevertheless, it became clear on the 23rd of October that the majority of Hungarian people still have an appreciable measure of self-esteem, despite a one-sided propaganda which has rung through the decades. Therefore, as victims, they reject the accusation of collective guilt. The reason for disclosing statistics concerning injured police is clear: the Government wants to cast the victims in a criminal light. It endeavours to paint the celebrating crowd as an irresponsible rabble as a first step, then as the perpetrator of a crime in the next. The era of shifting blame, and randomly qualifying each other is over. We are, at last, set to talk about what really hurts. We want peace, but not at the price of sweeping these issues under the carpet.

Szöőr Anna
Psychologist and attorney-at-law







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