After finding Candace's body, the police often came by the house to report their findings. Slowly the details came out, she had frozen to death, her hands and feet had been tied, there was a bruise on her cheek - no sign of a car being used.
I'll never forget how after one of these conversations as the two officers were about to leave, the one partner who hadn't said much - paused. He was slightly over-weight -- his eyes fastened on me, slightly accusatory, and said. "She was wearing very, very tight jeans."
Tight jeans! Was he insinuating that she was partially to blame for being too alluring? Men are unable to resist tight jeans - so it was her fault? Was I slightly to blame for even allowing her to wear tight jeans? The implication was there.
I think my eyes might have turned into fiery darts because the man escaped very quickly into the dark night.
It's easiest to blame the victim - the messenger - or someone who clearly has no role in the wrong doing.
Why are we so unreasonable?
Blaming others makes us feel immune and safe. We conveniently believe that people deserve what happens to them. If we are slightly involved, blaming others helps us deny any responsibility or guilt. Blaming others feeds our need for control. Blaming others is an acceptable form of excluding other and helps us to distance ourselves from those we want removed. Blaming can be a form of social comparison that is status-seeking.
Studies show that rather then blame the true culprit, we will blame people that are vulnerable to us, close to us and who irritate us in some way.
I did my own irresponsible blaming.
It was one of the first meetings of the Child Find board when they introduced the name of a police officer who had applied for a position on the board. I was vehemently against him joining - over the top.
Driving home that night, I wondered at my unreasonable vehemence and I realized I was blaming the police. They hadn't set up a red alert the night Candace disappeared. If they had only... if only... if only. Slowly I had to admit to myself that I consciously needed to forgive all those wonderful policeman who had truly acted in good faith -- did what they knew the best - and turned out to be our heroes!
I still think it's a testimony of Cliff's love that he never blamed me for not picking up Candace from school the way I had promised to -- that fateful day.
Years later when I asked him how come he hadn't given in to the easiest blame... "I knew if I did it would totally destroy you." And he was right - coming from him it would have.
It would also have destroyed our marriage.
You can't blame gravity for falling in love. - Albert Einstein