Logos: Why do people victim blame?

Summary: This lesson asks students to read a research-supported article about why people tend to victim blame–in cases of sexual assault but also in other situations of victimization.  The students use the article to practice identifying claims, reasons and evidence as part of understanding the structure of logical arguments.  This lesson works well as part of a unit on rhetorical analysis, but can also be used to help students think about how to construct their own argumentative paragraphs using the claim, reasons and evidence structure.

Caution: the opening paragraphs of the article used in this lesson contain victim blaming statements.  This may be upsetting to survivors not only because of the comments themselves, but because some students might take this as an occasion to voice their own victim-blaming ideas.  It is important to take apart the quotes at the beginning of the article very careful with students so that they explain the rhetoric behind them.  Especially if you are teaching this lesson after the “Victim Blaming and Logical Fallacies” lesson plan, students will have a better foundation for taking apart these opening statements.  If you suspect this article’s beginning will cause problems in your particular class environment, the listed article could be easily switched out for this one

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Students practice identifying the parts of logically structured arguments.  
  2. Students practice identifying implicit lines of reasoning and how those lines of reasoning might be flawed.  
  3. Students discuss what victim blaming is and what causes some people to be more prone to it than others.  

Teaching Materials

Outline for Class Activity 

  1. Introduction (5 min)
    • Start the class by explaining the trajectory of the lesson and the skills of analyzing logical arguments that they will be focusing on.  It is important here to set a clear boundary with students: to remind them that they do not know what experiences their classmates are bringing into the room, therefore it is important to consider their ideas before they voice them.  When in doubt it is good to ask a question about a particular idea rather than attacking the idea. 
  2. Analyzing Metzger’s Statement (15 min)
    • With students, take apart Metzger’s statement piece by piece.  If students have already completed the logical fallacies of victim blaming lesson plan, then you might let them guide the discussion a little more.  If not, you may have to lead the conversation more directly.  
    • Sample analysis of the statement:
      1. Metzger falsely summarizes the reasoning of people who believe victims by implying that the belief stems from the victim being a woman. 
      2. He then employs a false comparison to imply that believing victims is based on faith (in woman) rather than logic, the way that some might believe the teaching in the Bible because it is the Bible (you might also deconstruct how this implication may or may not line up with how Christians understand their faith). 
      3. In fact, in the incident he is referring to, there were multiple people who came forward to accuse the particular performer, their credibility thus coming from their number not their gender. 
      4. Metzger then oversimplifies and satirizes the discussion of re-traumitization of recounting a sexual assault by saying that posting a “vague account” would amount to “re-raping the rape”, when the discussion around re-traumatization focuses on not doing more harm than to the victim.  He also ignores why many victims do not go to the police.  
  3. What is Logos?  How do logical arguments work? (10 min)
    • Logos: a persuasive strategy that uses supporting evidence to make a logical arguement
    • Logos arguments generally have three parts: claims, reasons and evidence
      1. Claim: an arguable statement about what is true, what is good, what should be done, or what should be believed.  “Get Out should have won Best Picture in 2018″ is a claim.  “I like the movie Get Out” is not a claim because no one can really argue that you don’t actually like the film (they can argue that you should like the film, but that’s different than arguing you do).
      2. Reasons: the supporting statements for why your claim is true.  Supporting statements answer the question: why do you think that?  For our claim above you might offer the reason: “Get Out sends an incredibly important cultural message about racism.” 
      3. Evidence: the concrete examples, research or expert testimony you give to support your reasons.  For our Oscars example you might offer details from the film or quote the analysis of film experts. 
    • You can reinforce this idea with the following example: 
      1. Claim: “Kurt Metzger’s statements quoted in Robert’s article are an example of victim blaming.” 
      2. Reason: “The statement implies that people who believe the victims of sexual assault only believe them because they are women.  This ignores the fact that victims might not be women as well as the research on the low rate of false reports of sexual assault.” 
      3. Evidence: Quote, “I know because a woman said it and that’s all I need! Never you mind who they are.  They are women!” 
      4. Evidence: A multi-site study of eight U.S. communities
        including 2,059 cases of sexual assault found
        a 7.1 percent rate of false reports (Lonsway,
        Archambault, & Lisak, 2009).
  4. Group Activity (5 min) 
    • Divide students into teams and have them work through the Claim Reasons Evidence handout.  This will help them explore and discuss the article while practicing what they have learned about logical arguments. For the sake of time, you might assign each team to focus on one of the claims in particular. 
  5. Discuss (15 min) 
    • Work through the handout with students to reinforce their understanding of how logical arguments are structured.  You should also use this as an opportunity for them to discuss the article more broadly: what struct them the most, what they felt resistance towards, and what they have questions about. 
    • You might close the discussion by reminding them that they might notice victim blaming around them in the media, in the conversations they hear, or even in their own thinking, since the article acknowledges that (though often not related to sexual violence) most people do it in small ways from time to time.   
    • You might also remind them that these skills of dissecting claim, reason and evidence will be useful not only in analyzing other people’s arguments but also in crafting their own.