Victim blaming is an inaccurate and harmful way of thinking and speaking about people who have experienced a crime, trauma, or hardship. It places responsibility for the victim’s experience on them, causing them to feel shame, guilt, and self-blame. Often times, this leads to the victim not seeking help or support. The Center is here to tell victims and survivors that they are not at fault for what happened to them and that they should never be made to feel shame or guilt about their own experiences.
One of the main reasons why victim blaming is so common is because many people have a belief that the world is a fair place, and if something bad happens to someone else, they think that it must be the victims’ fault somehow. This is a psychological phenomenon called fundamental attribution error, which causes individuals to believe that other people’s behaviours are based on internal, personal characteristics rather than external factors.
A clear example of victim blaming is telling someone who was assaulted, “You must have provoked him”. Another common form of victim blaming is telling someone that they deserved to be robbed or hurt because they travel in a certain neighborhood or area, thus justifying the criminal activity. Additionally, a common form of victim blaming is suggesting that a person who experienced an accident or natural disaster could have avoided their harm by doing x, y, or z.
This type of victim blaming is not only unjust but also can cause emotional and moral damage to the victim. The most obvious harm is a moral harm that is caused by being singled out as being fully responsible for the occurrence of a crime or traumatic event. Victim blaming can also lead to emotional and physical harm. For example, if a victim of sexual violence is blamed for their experience, they may begin to doubt their own memory of the incident. This can have an impact on their mental health and lead to a variety of negative symptoms including anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
It is important for all of us to learn about the concept of victim blaming and how it can affect individuals’ perceptions and behaviors towards others, especially those who have been affected by crime and trauma. This knowledge can help to increase empathy towards victims and to encourage people to challenge and counter fault-based statements. It is also crucial for victims of traumatic events to seek the appropriate help and support that they need, including therapy from a qualified professional. Finding a therapist with expertise in traumatic stress can be helpful in decreasing victim-blaming and increasing healing and recovery. Lastly, it is important for all victims to know that they are not alone and can seek help from peers and family members.