Two days ago, Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera made a comment that the hoodie which Trayvon Martin was wearing was part of the reason he was shot.
Now, the media is fixating on new information regarding Martin’s previous suspension from school and how, before he was shot by George Zimmerman, he apparently fought back against Zimmerman and physically injured him.
Since Rivera’s hoodie comment, Trayvon Martin’s case has had the echoes of the misguided victim-blaming that we see time and again in cases of rape. She was dressed provocatively. She had a history of casual sex. She did drugs. She was a prostitute. As if any of this changes the fact that a person attacked and raped her.
What Trayvon Martin was wearing at the time of his murder is irrelevant. Whether or not he smoked weed one time or one thousand times is equally irrelevant. In the same way that what a woman is wearing or what her sexual history was has no bearing on the fact that she was raped, Martin’s past behavior does not change anything about the facts of the case.
And whether or not Martin attacked and punched Zimmerman does not change the fact that he was tracked down by Zimmerman initially and eventually shot by him; if a victim of rape fights back and punches her attacker, does that justify the rape as self defense? Because Martin punched Zimmerman, does that justify the shooting in the same way? It seems that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law would in fact protect Martin in this situation regardless.
By focusing on the behavior of the victim, the media is contributing to the phenomenon we witness in rape cases where the victim becomes as vilified as the attacker. This slippery slope of victim-blaming is wrong in cases of rape, and it is wrong in this case of murder.