When bad things happen, it can be easy to place the blame on the victim or other people who could have done more to prevent it. This is called victim blaming and it can be an incredibly common reaction to violence or abuse.
Victim blaming is often a product of our culture’s positive assumptive worldview, which holds that the world is a fair and just place where bad things don’t happen on their own. It can also be a product of our individual psychological attributions and biases.
Those who are more aware of their own implicit biases and how they affect their perceptions may be less likely to engage in victim blaming. This is especially true when people can imagine themselves in the victim’s shoes or if they are able to empathize with their experiences.
Some research suggests that people’s beliefs in a just world can make them vulnerable to victim blaming. This is because people’s belief in a just world lets them confront the world as though it is stable and orderly, which makes it difficult for them to give up this belief.
In addition, the fact that good people can be abused and raped threatens their beliefs in a just world and increases their need to restore their sense of justice through victim blaming. This is especially likely to occur in rape cases where the victim is a respectable female, such as a virgin or married woman.
If you suspect that someone in your life is expressing victim blaming, talk to them about it and let them know how it makes you feel. This can help them feel more secure that their suffering isn’t their fault, and it can also encourage them to get the support they need to overcome their trauma.
The consequences of victim blaming include increasing the likelihood that victims will not come forward and report their assault or rape. This can make it more difficult for them to get justice, and it can reinforce predator-like attitudes in the society at large.
Survivors of sexual and domestic violence who experience victim blaming may also have more difficulty healing from their trauma. This can lead to increased feelings of shame, guilt, and other negative emotions, which can delay the process of healing.
It can also make it more likely that a perpetrator will avoid being prosecuted for their crime. This can be seen in courtrooms, where defense attorneys are more likely to say that the victim was at fault for the crime.
These verdicts can be devastating for survivors of rape and sexual assault. They can re-traumatize the victims and allow predators to walk free, or be handed extremely light sentences.
Judges who hold victim-blaming attitudes are a huge contributor to these trends. In addition to causing a re-traumatization for victims, these judges’ verdicts can actually legitimize victim blaming by making it seem socially acceptable.
One way to combat victim blaming is to provide support for the victims of sexual and domestic violence. This can mean providing emotional support, counseling or therapy to them, and/or joining a group that helps survivors heal from their abuse. Survivors of violence also need to learn how to speak up for themselves in the aftermath of an assault.