The Root Causes of Victim Blaming
Victim blaming happens when someone suggests that something negative (like crime, victimization or death) was the fault of a person who suffered it. It often happens when a survivor reveals their experience and people begin to ask them questions about how they might have brought it on themselves. This can lead to feelings of shame and guilt, and can discourage a victim from seeking help or support in the future, due to fear of being blamed again.
A good way to think of victim blaming is to imagine yourself in the shoes of a victim who is being blamed for their misfortune. How would you feel if someone told you that a crime or other trauma was your fault? Would you like it if they said you got mugged because you were wearing provocative clothing, or that you had somehow invited the crime to happen by going out late at night or getting too intoxicated? Whether you are the victim of victim blaming or the person doing the victim blaming, it’s important to understand the root causes of this bias in order to prevent it from happening.
The reason victim blaming exists is because some people believe that the world should be fair, so if bad things happen to certain groups of people, it must be their fault. This is a psychological phenomenon known as the fundamental attribution error.
Some people use victim blaming as a coping mechanism when they are feeling sad or angry. They believe that putting the blame on others makes them feel better about themselves, and can also protect them from being held accountable for their actions.
Others use victim blaming as a form of social control. They may think that it is appropriate to blame victims of crimes because they are “bad” or “deserve it.” This belief system can be rooted in racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.
Finally, some people use victim blaming to justify their own predatory behavior. They may think that sexual assault or domestic abuse is justified if the victim was not acting appropriately, or they might blame the victims of acid attacks on their promiscuity. Regardless of the reasons behind their behavior, predators who engage in victim blaming can cause real harm to their victims and contribute to a culture of violence.
The next time you hear someone blaming a victim of a crime or attack, think about how you might feel and then challenge them on it. Remind yourself that victim blaming is never acceptable, and that the victims of crime are not responsible for their attackers’ decisions or actions. Instead, focus on being a supportive friend and advocate for survivors.