How to Stop Victim Blaming

victim blaming

Victim blaming is a common and destructive attitude that places the blame for an abuser’s actions on the victim. Whether it is questioning what they were wearing, why they didn’t tell anyone sooner, or asking how they could have prevented an assault from occurring, blaming victims for their trauma can discourage survivors from speaking up and making it more difficult for them to seek the help they need. It also diverts attention away from holding those who do harm accountable.

For example, when news of a high-profile rape or other form of violence makes headlines, it’s common for others to blame the victim by saying things like, “She should have known better” or “She did this to herself.” Other times, people will ask a survivor what they did wrong and why their assault was a result of their own choices, like being drunk or having sex with someone they knew. This type of victim blaming is rooted in a lack of empathy for others and can be the cause of a victim’s feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and powerlessness.

Those who engage in victim blaming may not even realize they’re doing it, especially if they have been affected by a trauma themselves. It can be a subconscious or visceral reaction to tragedy that is based in a mindset of assuming the world is a positive place and that negative events only happen because of poor decisions or bad luck. It’s a form of privilege that can make people feel less empathetic toward those who are suffering, especially in cases of sexual violence and other forms of abuse.

It is important to remember that when a loved one opens up to you about their experiences, they have made a huge leap of trust. It is important to listen carefully and to let them tell their own narrative of their experience, while reassuring them that the traumatic event was not their fault.

If you’re worried a friend or family member might be suicidal, it’s essential to reach out for support and to find safe resources that can provide treatment options. Some of these options can include therapy, medication, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. It’s also important to recognize that it can be challenging to talk about suicide, which is why it is important to ask a loved one how they are doing before mentioning this possibility.

Whether you’re an individual who has been affected by victim blaming or a person who works to prevent it, you can take action to challenge these attitudes. Learn more about the underlying beliefs that lead to victim blaming and how you can hold those responsible for doing harm accountable. This can be done through educating others, addressing the issues in your own community, or taking public stands against the many instances of victim blaming that occur on social media. Hopefully, by working together, we can create a world that’s more empathetic and less victim-blaming. For more tips and resources, check out our page on Rape Culture.