Victim blaming occurs when people blame victims of crime or other negative events on their own actions or decisions. This often happens when they suggest that victims “provoked” the attack, got robbed because they walked through a bad neighborhood, or that they allowed themselves to be raped by wearing revealing clothing or being too intoxicated. Regardless of the context, it is important to understand how victim blaming undermines survivors and creates barriers that prevent them from accessing safety, support and services.
Some people engage in victim blaming as a way to cope with uncomfortable feelings or to avoid dealing with difficult issues that they may be facing themselves. This is sometimes referred to as ‘projecting’. For example, if someone is accused of sexual assault by an acquaintance, it is common for them to believe that they must have done something to deserve the abuse because it wouldn’t have happened to someone they love. This is also known as the just-world phenomenon.
The extent to which a person engages in victim blaming is also linked to their beliefs about what makes a good or bad person. For instance, people with high binding values tend to be more likely to believe that a criminal gets what they deserve, which in turn leads them to hold victims responsible for their misfortune. They also tend to be less open to new information that contradicts their beliefs, and are more likely to disbelieve evidence of misconduct.
Victim blaming is a human reaction to tragedy and can occur in all communities and groups. However, it can be more prevalent in certain groups of people, such as gender, age, culture and religion. For instance, some researchers found that participants in South Africa were more likely to victim blame a subject than those in Australia, and people of different ages were more likely to do so than those of the same religion.
Some cultures are more prone to victim blaming than others, and some individuals have stronger attachments to their beliefs than others. For instance, people who are religious are more likely to believe that the victim deserved their fate and were not punished enough by God. In addition, the amount to which a person engages in victim-blaming can be affected by their level of empathy and their ability to understand and empathize with the victims of crime.
One of the Center’s main goals is to eliminate barriers that prevent victims from seeking safety, support and services. Victim blaming is one of these barriers, and it can make it more challenging for victims to report crimes. It can also discourage them from pursuing social services such as mental health or financial assistance, and prevent them from seeking justice. For these reasons, it is essential to understand the impact of victim blaming in order to be an advocate for victims. We all have a role to play in preventing this harmful behaviour. By speaking up against it, we can change the conversation.