Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Victim Blaming a mother

Last night I came across the story of a mother who had a horrible incident in Primark in Leicester. The mother was shopping with her twin infants, when one started to cry needing a feed. The mother found a quiet spot and began to breastfeed her 9 month old daughter, at which point she was approached by the store security guard. He challenged her, and she stood her ground stating her right to breastfeed anywhere. This is where this story becomes unbelievable. The security guard then snatched the feeding child from the mother's arms and walked out of the store with her, saying that if she wanted her child back, the mother would have to leave the store! (You can read the account in the mother's own words in the attached image).

So, my reaction was one of total anger. How dare this man put his hands on a feeding child. How dare he leave a mother vulnerable and exposed and frightened! What on earth made him think that this was an acceptable thing to do. To me it read like straight male violence. This man assaulted this woman, kidnapped her child and acted like he was in the right. The poor mother must have been distraught, I know I would have been.

Initially, all the responses I saw were in a similar vein to mine. Then I saw the original post on facebook, and that's where it started. "How could any mother let someone lay hands on her child, let alone snatch her from her arms?" and the implications that the mother was lying for some imaginary payday from compensation. This is victim blaming pure and simple, and it made me very sad.

There are further circumstances that the mother used in the replies to her facebook post which 'justify' why she 'didn't stop him'. She had another child with her for one. But none of that matters. The mother is not to blame here.

Lets think about the scenario - you are a breastfeeding mother, your infant starts bawling for a feed when you are out in public. You find a quiet spot, because you know there is a chance of confrontation when feeding in public. You start to feed your infant and are confronted with a man in a uniform demanding that you stop. You are scared, angry and already defensive. But you are also intimidated. That's the reality of the society in which we live, men in uniforms are intimidating. And women can NEVER reliably predict how a man will react if challenged. This is a highly stressful situation. But no-one in their right mind would predict that the security guard would snatch the child. And when he does, the mother freezes, again a perfectly normal and reasonable response.

The one in the wrong here is the security guard. He was wrong to try to stop the mother feeding, he was wrong to try and intimidate her into leaving the store and he was certainly wrong to remove her feeding child from her breast and walk away with her. It is that simple. There is no-one else to blame.

It makes me sad that some people automatically believe a woman is lying for some kind of profit rather than believe a man could be violent (and there is no arguing that removing a child from it's mother breast is anything but a violent act). Especially when there is overwhelming evidence which shows men's propensity for violence. Personally, I choose to believe women, because the probability is that they are telling the truth.

I hope that this mother gets some satisfactory response from Primark and that the police deal severely with the security guard. But I won't hold my breath.

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8 thoughts on “Victim Blaming a mother

  • Grace Kirk says:

    Give some men a uniform and they believe they have a licence to do whatever they wish. Primark must take some responsibility for employing the wrong types as security guards ie, brainless, mindless, immature morons who owe their own mothers as well as all women an apology for their stupidity and arrogance. Female customers also have a responsibility to boycott shops like Primark who are happy enough to earn their living from women spending money in their shops. Although that security guard probably thought that Primark pay his wages, ultimately he needs to know that the breastfeeding customer along with lots of other women are actually paying his wages and the rest of Primark’s staff. No customers, no Primark.

  • Suzi says:

    I’m with you. My first thought was, how dare that man do what he did. I can’t believe that anyone could blame the mother but then again, women and girls always seem to get the blame for what others choose to do to them. this is assault plain and simple. I hope this security guard was sacked.

  • @againstmisogyny says:

    This is completely outrageous. I agree with you, how dare a security guard take a feeding infant outside leaving the child & then the Mother in a vulnerable position.
    I had an incident in a store where a security guard took my D by the arm & moved her along. I complained about that and they checked footage & were going to have more training. I also got some vouchers.

    This needs to happen here.
    We have to complain about these things.

    Thanks

    Nathalie

  • Jen says:

    This story has now been proved to be false as a review of the CCTV shows the mother in question in Primark but with no such incident taking place.

    She has also gone to the papers with claim of an Asian security guard being the one who harassed her. But Primark in Leicester had no one fitting the description working there that day.

    You also state that the original post of Facebook had people blaming the mother. However this is not true – initially all posts were very supportive, with many people wishing violence upon the Primark employee. Anyone who hinted that the story was implausible was shouted down, called names and accused of being a troll. But now it looks like they were right all along.

    • Admin says:

      We published this article because we saw numerous victim blaming comments on Facebook and twitter. We cannot know which Facebook pages you viewed but the ones we saw included victim blaming. The police are now investigating the incident and we are waiting to see if they lay charges,

      • Jen says:

        The Facebook page I’m referring to is Free to Feed, which is where the woman posted originally, and where most of the discussion has gone on. I suggest you take a look at it.

        There have also been several updates to the story today, which you will see from a quick google. As I said, CCTV has not revealed anything except the woman browsing and purchasing goods, and I don’t think she is quite the innocent victim you make her out to be here. Not to mention the nice little side of racism in claiming the man who accosted her was Asian.

        • Admin says:

          Oddly, Free to Feed is not the only page on Facebook which is discussing this case. Perhaps you should peruse the rest of Facebook.

          Secondly, the police are currently investigating this incident. Primark has stated that the CCTV does not show the incident, but the CCTV has not been made public (and should not to protect the privacy of other people in the store),as such, we will have to wait until the police have finished investigating the incident.

  • Katy Carr says:

    When I saw the original posts, I was disposed to believe the mother but could not understand why she talked about carrying on with her shopping and paying for it. It is difficult to understand why she would conceivably do that – surely the natural reaction would be either to demand to see the manager or walk straight out, rather than give the store money. She never eexplained that.

    Subsequently Primark has announced that it has checked its CCTV which shows her quietly doing her shopping with no-one approaching her at any time, and have checked her description of the security guards and found that it doesn’t match any of them. Primark has no reason to protect the security guards as they don’t employ them, and it would be incredibly difficult to doctor CCTV evidence. Moreover, it appears that no witnesses to this incident have come forward despite the fact that the mother claimed the store was crowded. Subsequently she has taken down her Facebook page.

    Clearly this story has to be approached with a lot of caution.