An Open Letter to U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill

Dear Senator Claire McCaskill,

While I applaud the accountability for one’s words and actions that was at the center of the Senate hearing on false advertising for weight loss products, I wonder if it didn’t do more harm than good. Specifically, I am concerned about your statement on his victimization:

“I know you feel that you’re a victim, but sometimes conduct invites being a victim. I think that if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized quite as frequently.”

Those were your words to Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” during the June 17, 2014 hearing held on Capitol Hill.

Sometimes conduct invites being a victim? Since when? If you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized? Since when? When is any type of victimization justifiable? No one has the right to make anyone a victim.

Senator McCaskill, you have been a politician since I was five years old. Your name has been a household name very nearly my entire life. I’ve followed your career, looking up to you as a woman to be respected. Your path has cleared the way for other women to advance to positions of power.

I was pleased with your reaction and commentary following Todd Akin’s infamous remarks about “legitimate rape” and cast my 2012 vote in your favor partly as a result of that controversy. A corporate relocation meant it would probably be the last time I would vote as a Missouri resident. I wanted my vote to put those I was leaving behind in a good place, with representation that would matter, for someone who I felt had women’s and people’s interest at the forefront of their decisions – no easy feat for a politician. And while I don’t regret my vote, I’m pained that the lesson of careless words may not have been a lesson learned.

With power comes responsibility. That’s a fact, and one you quoted during the hearing with Dr. Oz. I believe you were irresponsible with your power yesterday, Senator McCaskill, and with that comes great consequences. While you chastised Dr. Oz for being irresponsible with his words, you were with yours.Your words could become the bully’s justification.

Dr. Oz maintained that his words were adulterated and used without his permission, that he was a victim of power and money hungry companies willing to put people’s health and lives at risk for the almighty dollar. You words, too, could be used out of context, and the consequences wouldn’t be someone not losing the weight promised in an advertisement.

Consider:

People are being punched in the face at red lights. Those targeted are chosen because they have their vehicle windows rolled down. The words of a U.S. senator become justification for police indifference: “I know you feel that you’re a victim, but sometimes conduct invites being a victim. I think that if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized.” 

There’s a woman sitting on a park bench eating a banana and a man sees this and forces his penis in her mouth. His rationale is she looked like she wanted something long and hard in her mouth. She reports it to the police, who then respond, “I know you feel that you’re a victim, but sometimes conduct invites being a victim. I think that if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized.”

A man exits his home, locks his door, and gets in his car. After he’s started the engine, he remembers he’s left his lunch on the kitchen counter. He then gets out of his car, leaving it running, and re-enters his house through the garage door by using the external keypad. Someone sees this, gets in the man’s car, and drives away. When questioned by the insurance claims adjuster as to how the car was so easily stolen, the man admits to leaving it running while he ran inside for just a moment. The claims adjuster then ends the conversation by saying, “I know you feel that you’re a victim, but sometimes conduct invites being a victim. I think that if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized.”

A female college student reports a rape following a party. Campus authorities take her statement and refer her to counseling. She tells the counselor that she was wearing a sundress and heels, and had consumed a few alcoholic beverages preceding the rape. The counselor then dismisses her experience by saying, “I know you feel that you’re a victim, but sometimes conduct invites being a victim. I think that if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized.”

Bullying, physical and sexual assault, rape, fraud, burglary, and more are all a very sad fact of life. Too often victims are blamed for the actions of their attackers. What you did yesterday was blame the victim. Your statement bolstered the argument of perpetrators. Victim-blaming is a rampant epidemic in this country, and many others. The door for victim-blamers needs to be shut, not propped wide open.

No victim ever in the history of victims deserved or earned the action against them that turned them into a victim. Not a single one. Not the victim of bullying, or the victim of assault, or the victim of rape, or the victim of fraud, or the victim of burglary, or any other victim of any other injustice. There are no varying degrees of victimization. Victims are victims and are not to blame for the wrongs done unto them.

You can’t take your words back. It’s too late for that. They’re everywhere now. You were filmed during the hearing, and that camera caught you in a moment of carelessness. I understand that in the heat of the moment it’s possible to talk without thinking, but you don’t get that luxury. You are on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, six years a term.

I’m worried for the future of victims, and have been for a while, but I’m more worried now than I was previously. Your words did not help the cause; they did not help anyone – anyone other than those seeking to excuse their bad behavior against others as other’s fault.

I hope you will take a moment and consider the ramifications of your words on Capitol Hill, that you will take greater care in the future to consider the consequences of your statements.

Sincerely,
Melanie Greenwood

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Featured Image – U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill by richiec (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Your love, help, and support is still needed for Rara and Grayson: also known as The Queen CreativePosting Tuesdays, and RarasaurHow to help. Learn more at #RawrLove.

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*Thank you to my Mom, an extraordinary writer whose level I hope to someday reach, for taking the time to provide feedback and edits on this letter. I listened to most of them.
**The ads (which may appear) below are not mine, but they keep this free for me. Do with them as you choose.

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17 thoughts on “An Open Letter to U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill

    • I will let you know. I’m not holding my breath, though; she’s a very busy woman and I’m no longer one of her constituents.

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    • Thank you Robyn. I too hope it reaches her, but also a wider audience. This is an important discussion. If it’s acceptable to blame one victim, it’s acceptable to blame them all – and that’s not acceptable.

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  1. I generally don’t follow anything in popular culture so I am unaware of most of the things Dr. Oz does on his show. I’ve never seen it, never would. My mother is a completely different story and has been following these hearings loosely because she likes Dr. Oz. She happened to have what I believe was Entertainment Tonight or some such on her television when I was walking through the room and caught this quote. I had the exact same reaction and I can’t believe there hasn’t been more of an uproar about it. I saw it specifically from a female perspective of, “Well if I wear a short skirt and tube top then I guess I’m inviting myself to be raped.” That may be extreme, but I knew I wasn’t the only one who could have possibly taken it that way. I think I was even more offended by her saying because of her gender. I guess I thought she should know better. I’ve never been a victim of it, but close family and several friends have. There’s never an excuse, and for a female to say something like that offended me deeply. I hope that you get a worthy reply but as the words are already out there and have been broadcast repeatedly, I believe it’s already too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like you, I don’t follow pop culture and I don’t watch Dr Oz, or TV in general. I do watch the news and with the order of programming in my area the news is followed by Inside Edition. I usually turn the TV off before IE starts, but sometimes I catch the opening sequence of IE, like on Tuesday. I paused when I saw Senator McCaskill on the screen and my jaw just dropped. I couldn’t believe what I heard, so I googled the hearing and found that quote, and then found it again, and again – buried in the middle of article after article. Wednesday morning that quote still seemed to be buried and not getting any discussion, so I decided to try to start one.
      I had the same thought you did – that this was directly offensive to rape victims, but really, it’s directly offensive to all victims which is why I tried to include examples outside of the scope of sexual assaults. It’s sad, disappointing, enraging…and I just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt victims once the wrong side gets a hold of it.
      Thank you for reading Jessica. Thank you for your comment.

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    • People who self-righteously claim they have never watched Dr. Oz are not aware, that more than anyone on TV, he has reached more people with news about the natural health movement. I don’t use Dr. Oz’s show for information. I read research. But the media is so controlled by corporate and government interests, that the news of natural health does not reach the average person. The fact that Dr. Oz was attacked by Claire McCaskill, who will never receive another vote from me. She takes money from Monsanto and other corporations who are poisoning our country and then uses a bully pulpit to pound on Dr. Oz, who may be guilty of promoting things that don’t work, but he has done a lot of good. When do you hear her go after Monsanto? BOYCOTT McCaskill. No money to her and no support. People who are spreading the truth about Natural Health are being attacked all over, because like the Wizard of OZ, truth is being revealed. For shame, McCaskill!

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      • I’m not being self-righteous in my claim that I don’t watch Dr Oz. I work in a TV-free office all day, I don’t own a DVR, and my web browsing history will show that I don’t turn to online episodes for any show. I am aware of him, his show, and his efforts to educate the public about alternatives to chemical drugs and healthy lifestyles in general. There is a population, that without his show, wouldn’t be aware of their options.

        He is a victim and I disagree with Senator McCaskill that his actions caused his victimhood. That was the advertisers choice, not his. I don’t like the tone Senator McCaskill used with him, and if anyone was being self-righteous, it was her.

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    • When Dr. Oz began, I was not a fan, and I still don’t watch regularly, but when i have tuned in, I have been very impressed with his bringing info regarding natural health to the general public. This has to be frustrating to profiteers who are seeing people becoming hip to the false info usually spread by corporations and their paid recipients. Blame the Victim has always been popular, and I don’t encourage a lack of responsibility. But as a retired psychologist, I believe that he is probably targeted for informing people. I am 81, don’t use pharmaceuticals and believe in the power of natural foods and methods. We all need to assume responsibility for our health, and that can only be done successfully if we have the proper info. Hooray for Dr. OZ

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