How to Stop Victim Blaming
Virtually everyone who has ever survived a sexual assault or other crime knows how painful victim blaming can be. Survivors are often asked what they were wearing or doing that “provoked” the perpetrator, why they weren’t more careful, or why they didn’t fight back. These questions are harmful and stigmatize survivors, making them feel guilty about their experience and contributing to toxic self-blame. They also make it harder for victims to speak out about their experiences.
Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement, victim blaming continues to be a problem in our society. Many people don’t even realize that they are participating in victim blaming because it can be subtle and unconscious. For example, if someone hears about a crime and wonders how the victim could have prevented it by being more careful or taking other precautions, they are engaging in some form of victim blaming.
This can apply to more serious crimes, like rape or sexual assault, or it may be about less serious incidents, like getting pickpocketed. For instance, if a person gets their wallet stolen, they may be blamed for leaving it dangling from their pocket or for traveling through a dangerous neighborhood. Victim blaming can also vary by culture and individuals’ experiences. For example, studies have shown that women who break gender roles are more likely to be blamed than those who don’t.
While it’s not easy to change our tendency to blame victims, we can work to challenge and counter victim blaming when we see it in our lives and in the news. The first step is to be aware of it so we can recognize when it’s happening and help stop it in its tracks.
If someone is being victimized, it’s important to offer support by focusing on what they did right rather than what they did wrong. It’s also helpful to remember that victims can still suffer from traumatic events even when they didn’t do anything wrong and they should be treated with dignity and respect.
Survivors of trauma and abuse need support from loved ones, community members, and the media. They need to be able to trust that their voices will be heard. If they’re being listened to and supported, it’s more likely that they will seek help when they need it.
We need to encourage victims of sexual violence and other crimes to come forward by ensuring that they are believed, respected, and that their needs are met. We can do this by educating ourselves on victim blaming, speaking out against it when we hear it, and supporting those who have been victimized by challenging victim blaming perspectives. We can also help prevent it by removing victim-blaming messages from our social and political landscapes. This will make our world a safer place for all, especially vulnerable and minority groups who are at higher risk of victimization. Lastly, we can ensure that victim blaming doesn’t affect how our legal system treats victims by supporting reforms that will hold perpetrators accountable.