Victim blaming occurs when someone questions what a victim of crime or trauma could have done differently to prevent it. For example, if a person suggests that a sexual assault was the victim’s fault because they were wearing provocative clothing or were out late at night, they are engaging in victim blaming. Victim blaming is harmful because it shifts the blame away from the perpetrator and onto the victim, and it can prevent survivors from reporting their abuse or getting the support they need.
Victim-blaming can be found in many forms and situations, from questions about a victim’s behavior to comments about their appearance or personality to statements that downplay the seriousness of an incident. It can also be found in the attitudes of people in a particular community, culture or job. For instance, people from lower socioeconomic statuses may be more likely to engage in victim blaming than those from higher socioeconomic statuses.
One of the most common reasons why victim-blaming happens is because people want to believe that the world is fair and that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. This is referred to as the just-world phenomenon and it is a psychological bias that can cause people to rationalize why bad things happen by blaming victims.
Another reason for victim-blaming is because some people are uncomfortable with feelings such as shame, resentment or guilt. Rather than address those feelings, they turn to victim-blaming as a way to avoid confronting them. They can even become more active in victim blaming when they think that others are uncomfortable with their own feelings.
In addition, some people engage in victim blaming as a way to maintain social norms and hierarchies. They can feel threatened when a hierarchy is challenged and it becomes easier to defend their position by justifying the actions of someone else. This can be seen in social justice cases such as sexual violence, racism and discrimination.
Lastly, some people engage in victim-blaming as a way of disowning accountability for their actions. This is often seen with domestic violence and other forms of abuse, such as relationship abuse and child maltreatment. It is a form of self-defeating denial that can be very harmful for the victims and their children, especially when it leads to them not reporting the abuse or seeking assistance.
Victim-blaming is a complex issue that has no definitive solution. However, it is important to recognize the negative effects of victim blaming and do what we can to eliminate it from our communities. This can be achieved by raising awareness, educating ourselves and being open to challenging our beliefs.
Victim-blaming can place victims of crime or trauma in more danger because it creates barriers that can hinder their access to safety and support, which is the Center’s primary goal. We need to remove these barriers so that people can have the safe and healthy lives they deserve. For more information, visit the Center for Family and Relationship Wellness.