Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is the act of making a victim of abuse, crime or misfortune responsible for their experience. It can be found in any context, but is especially common when discussing sexual assault, rape and other forms of gender-based violence. This can be a tactic perpetrators use to silence survivors and keep them from reporting the crime, but it is also a common reaction of people who do not understand the impact of these crimes or have been conditioned to see victims as less than.

It can be difficult to recognise when you are victim blaming, as some people do not realise they are doing it until someone tells them they are. However, it is important to remember that any time you blame a survivor of violence for their experience, you are putting them at risk and taking away their power.

Some common examples of victim blaming are telling a survivor they should have known better, implying that their attacker was not fully to blame because of alcohol or drugs, or claiming that the attack could have been prevented by wearing different clothes. These excuses do not address the real reasons for an assault, such as a lack of respect for women or a desire to hurt and control them.

Blaming a victim can be especially harmful when it comes to survivors of sexual assault and other types of gender-based violence, who are often already isolated and stigmatised for their experience. Many survivors report being able to access support and safety only after they had disclosed to people that they had been abused. However, these disclosures were often followed by victim blaming attitudes, which can lead to further isolation and feelings of responsibility for the attack.

The reason why people are so quick to apportion blame to victims of crime is that it allows them to maintain their belief that the world is a just place and that people deserve what they get. This is adaptive because it helps us to make sense of the chaos around us, but it can be dangerous if it leads to a lack of empathy for those who experience injustice.

The best way to tackle victim blaming is to educate yourself on gender-based violence and its impact, as well as learning more about the root causes of sexual violence. You can start by speaking out against harmful comments on social media, re-framing conversations and sharing information about the impact of sexual violence. Additionally, you can work with your local rape crisis centre, domestic violence nonprofit, women’s organisation or police community outreach officers to arrange talks and townhall meetings for your community to raise awareness about victim blaming and how it is directly linked to a lack of empathy and understanding for gender-based violence. This can help to change how the public perceives the issue of VAW and empower people to stand up against it. This will require a level of honesty and empathy that people may not be used to, but the results will be worth it.