Do Victims Have Obligations?
Sun Lee

18 January 2018

In this 20-minute podcast, Ashwini Vasanthakumar makes the rather provocative claim that victims have obligations too. While victims may not be responsible for being chosen as the unlucky targets of perpetrators or unfortunate circumstances, Vasanthakumar claims, once they escape their immediate ordeal, victims are in "epistemically privileged positions" in virtue of their experiences. Thus, they play an important role in restoring justice by holding perpetrators to account or informing bystanders and potential victims.

For example, a victim of torture may be the only person to know about the existence of such illegal activity, and thus has the obligation to inform officials about it in order to prevent further victims. Similarly, this claim suggests that victims of sex abuse, notwithstanding the emotional trauma and other unfavorable consequences associated with recounting the experience, have an obligation to report incidents.

Is this asking too much of victims who have already gone through horrible experiences? 

Listen to the podcast here:


Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 -- 11:44 AM

The victim/obligations

The victim/obligations dichotomy (if dichotomy is the closest description we can muster) is difficult to assess. With so many victims coming forward now in the sexual harassment arena, we have trouble applying the obligation aspect of this matter. Perpetrators, almost universally, deny any guilt, while victims are more likely to be dismissed---especially when they accuse powerful people. When sexual harassment was pushed into the cold light of day in the 1970s and 80s, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines speaking to the issue, defining it in more-or-less certain terms. It caused barely an eddy in the flow of deceit and abuse. Now, more than 40 years later, no one even mentions the USEEOC, and powerful people thumb their noses at those whom they abuse and humiliate. Obligations are fine if the obligees are able to attain relief. That, regrettably, does not appear to be happening in any consistent way. Or am I missing something?