Monday, October 21, 2019

My dog was victim-blamed … and I don’t like it

On Friday, Dante, our five-month-old puppy, was attacked while in the (what we thought was the) safety our our fenced-in yard.

New neighbors recently moved in next door with their not-so-nice German Shepherd. They’ve warned us that he doesn’t get along well with other dogs, and, for that reason, they either tether him in their backyard, or monitor him while outside. At the time of the attack he was flying solo, and it ended badly for Dante. No one actually saw what happened, but either Dante was puppy-exploring through the slats in our fence, or the other dog lunged through the slats, or a combination of both. Either way, the neighbor’s dog was definitely the aggressor, and Dante definitely limped away with the lone injury.

Before staples                          After staples

I was attending an event, when I received the following text from my wife (who was working from home): “Call me urgent”. I  stepped out to call, and learned that Dante was attacked. I called the local police department so that they could come and take a report, and rushed home. She called the vet and waited at home for the police, and for me.

The animal warden was of little help. “Because each dog was on its own property, I can’t issue a citation. I can only cite if he was running loose.” At that point, the neighbor’s father-in-law (who also lives there) open his unenlightened mouth. “Your dog shouldn’t have stuck his nose through the fence. It’s his fault he got bit.”

Excuse me!

Maybe Nicole Brown shouldn’t have opened the door for OJ.
Or maybe the Jews should have left Europe sooner.
Or actresses shouldn’t have allowed themselves to be alone in a room with Harvey Weinstein.

And, no, I’m not comparing a dog bite to a vicious murder, or the Holocaust, or sexual assault. But, the underlying principles are the same.

The victim is never to blame. Ever. Period. The only person (or, in this case dog) at fault is the perpetrator of the assault. 

The same holds true in your workplace. According to the EEOC, one of the key reasons “employees who experience harassment fail to report the behavior or to file a complaint” is because “they anticipate and fear … receipt of blame for causing the offending actions.”

Let me make this very clear. No one asks to be sexually harassed or assaulted. Just because an employee jokes around with the guys, or wears short skirts, or had a few drinks at happy hour, or talks about her personal life, or had a prior relationship with a co-worker, it does not mean that she is consenting to harassment or an assault.

Blaming the victim is a sure-fire way to lose a harassment lawsuit. So please don’t do it. It’s not only legally unsupportable, but it’s also morally reprehensible.

As for Dante, the neighbor has agreed to keep his nasty dog tethered or leashed at all times outside until they can put up their own fence. And they agreed to cover Dante’s vet bills. He’ll get his staples taken out in two weeks, and will likely have a bad-ass battle scar. I just hope it’s his only scar from this attack.