BLAME is easier than empathy, that’s a part of it.
It’s less emotionally taxing to simply point the finger than it is to stop and consider how another person might be feeling and how their feelings might have influenced their actions.
In what has been a hard week for clinging on to any hope in romance, love and kindness, I’ve written about the so-called ‘pick-up artist’ Adnan Ahmed, or Addy A-game, who was convicted at Glasgow Sheriff Court to two years in prison and 10 years on the sex offenders register; about a scammer who met his victim on the dating app Tinder and took £3000 from her; and have interviewed several others who were conned online by people manipulating the truth to prey on others’ emotions.
Each bad actor here taking advantage of the very human hope for love; taking advantage – or trying to take advantage – of our desire for romance.
And each very much relying on the similarly very understandable desire to avoid embarrassment.
The woman who fell victim to the, as we called him, Tinder swindler, chose to maintain her anonymity in print. But she thought long and hard about coming forward because she felt embarrassment at having fallen for the charms of someone she met online and after just two dates.
The woman, Laura, booked a holiday with the scammer after only two meetings and paid him half of the cost – more than £3000 – by bank transfer. People would judge her, she worried, for taking such a leap of faith with someone she barely knew.
Laura was right. We had to disable the comments on the article because, very quickly, people began to post dreadful criticism of her and her actions.
The chap, the man who had taken her money, given her the run around and then only returned it after a call from this reporter, was let off lightly.
And it’s hypocrisy, isn’t it? Doesn’t the entire romantic canon set up the type of pick-up artistry displayed by Ahmed as desirable? There’s a direct correlation between the messages we’re sent by Hollywood and the worst tricks of the pick-up artist.
Film after film shows a woman’s resistance to a suitor being worn down by his persistence in turning her no to a yes. We’re sold that as love rather than what it is, a socially sanctioned erasure of women’s boundaries and autonomy.
The woman is merely an object to be procured by any means. That’s why he calls himself Addy A-game – women are pawns to be played with.
How many times in popular culture has a woman been swept off her feet to a surprise weekend away by a man she hardly knows and this, we’re led to believe, is amore.
But in the real-life version when the chap fleeces you for £3247, you’re the mug and you deserve what’s coming to you.
READ MORE: Glasgow ‘pick-up artist’ Addy-A-Game jailed after preying on young women
You meet a stranger online and there’s an immediate connection, you talk about the intimacies of your inner life into the early hours of the morning. You believe he might be The One.
In You’ve Got Mail this is charming. In real life, you’re a fool for falling for someone you’ve never met.
Victim blaming is understandable. Morally wrong, but understandable. Not only is it the easy default, but it’s comforting. We like to think that if we work hard and abide by social mores then our endeavours will be rewarded with good things.
When bad things happen it must be that they are happening to bad people, not people like us. It’s a security blanket.
We also believe in self-determination and the power of personal choice. In surveying a dreadful situation there’s respite in thinking “That would never happen to me because I would never…”
Much better to think people deserve their fate than to accept that everyone is vulnerable, and no one knows what they might do in any given situation, no matter their self-confidence in predicting their own reactions.
Victim blaming, though, makes it more likely that bad things will happen to good people as the fear of ridicule, disbelief and a public shaming makes it all the more difficult for victims to come forward.
Without the testimony of victims, these bad actors are free to carry on with their crimes, their swindles and deceptions.
Sentencing Ahmed, Sheriff Lindsay Wood praised his victims for coming forward and for their clear and useful testimony in court, which is such a valuable statement to make.
It is not an easy thing to do, coming forward. “People will think ‘How could people be so naive to let that happen?”https://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/” the victim of one scam told me. “There will be a lot of prejudice about it.”
READ MORE: Alison Rowat on Last night’s TV – Disclosure: The Seduction Game
I couldn’t contradict her but I could tell her she was right, and her conscience clear.
Laura said she felt so much better after sharing her story, which prompted fellow victims to get in touch with her. I had several phone calls from women who said that reading her story had greatly helped them not to feel so alone, not to feel they were, in fact, in the wrong as their perpetrators had told them. Comfort in numbers.
Right up until publication I was braced for Laura to say she had changed her mind about running the story and that would have been absolutely understandable as what a thing it is, to tell an unreceptive world about who has wronged you and how.
Justice should not be the exclusive preserve of the bold. There will be other victims considering speaking out, cowed by the awful attitudes of online commenters.
These scams are so troubling because they fly in the face of hope. Because they show how easy it is to exploit natural human longing. It’s probably safer to close your heart and your laptop, in the fear this could happen to anyone.
Victim blaming is the product of fear but it’s also self-defeating. Creating a hostile environment for victims only serves to create an easier environment for perpetrators.
Empathy is not the easy option but it must be the default, never blame.