The Dangers of Victim Blaming
When people experience violence, it’s natural to wonder what they did or didn’t do to bring on the crime. They might ask themselves what they wore, where they were, or how they could have made themselves less vulnerable. These types of questions are known as victim blaming. It’s a common psychological reaction to crime that can often be rooted in personal experiences, background and culture, but the phenomenon has been formally recognized as a distinct behavior.
In more overt forms, victim blaming can be obvious — like Metzger’s tirade — but it’s also prevalent in more subtle ways. It’s something that might be subconscious, a part of an individual’s worldview, and it can have profound implications for the way that we interact with victims and survivors. Whether it’s asking what someone did or didn’t do to invite violence, implying that their financial troubles are their fault because they “didn’t work hard enough” or telling somebody who gets pickpocketed that they should have carried their wallet in the front pocket instead of their back, all of these are examples of victim blaming.
Why Does Victim Blaming Happen?
The reasons behind victim blaming are complex. One possibility is that the just-world phenomenon — which is the belief that the world should be fair and that if bad things happen to you, it must be your own fault — influences how people think and perceive events. People might also project their own discomfort onto others to avoid addressing their own feelings of shame, guilt or fear.
Regardless of the reason, blaming victims silences them. It can cause them to stop reporting crimes or seek help and care. It can even prevent them from pursuing justice against their perpetrators, making them less likely to receive professional mental health support and other services needed for recovery.
This is why victim blaming is so dangerous, and it’s important to recognize when we’re doing it. It’s not just harmful for victims — it’s damaging to society as a whole.
If everyone understands that victim blaming is a problem, we can all work together to ensure that victims and survivors get the support they need, and that crime is reported as it happens. To do that, we need to be willing to learn more about what makes us do it, and what steps we can take to change that. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of common types of victim blaming below. But remember: If you’re hearing it, it’s not about you. It’s about the person who’s being victimized, and what we can do to end it.