Victim Blaming

victim blaming

Victim blaming can have devastating consequences on survivors and may be an obstacle to their receiving justice or support. It can also discourage them from speaking up or seeking help in the future as they will know they will not be believed. It can also cause feelings of post-traumatic stress, depression and health issues.

Victim Blaming can be difficult to identify, as it can be very subtle and unconscious. However, it is important to be able to recognise victim blaming behaviours and language so that we can challenge them in our professional practice.

If a young person shares a nude image with their friends online, and they receive abusive messages back, this could be a sign of victim blaming. This is where someone believes the victim is responsible for what has happened and that they could have done something to prevent it.

An abuser will often blame their victim for their behaviour. They will do this so they can avoid the responsibility of their actions. This is also a way for them to deflect blame and keep themselves emotionally safe by projecting their interpersonal problems onto the victim. It also allows them to feel superior and smug because they are not addressing their own in-group issues.

There are many reasons why people may victim blame, some of which include:

People with a vested interest in blaming victims (eg rapists, their lawyers) will obviously have a reason to do this. However, it can also be found amongst people who have no vested interest in victim blaming, such as teachers, police officers, family members etc. It is thought that these people can be motivated by a desire to believe the world is fair, so if bad things happen to good people it must be their fault. This is known as the just-world phenomenon.

Another reason is that people can be motivated to victim blame because it helps them feel less guilty about abhorrent behaviour. For example, a teacher who raped a student could be forgiven more easily than if they had beaten their child to death. Finally, some people can be driven by a desire to distance themselves from a traumatic event and the feeling that it could never happen to them, for instance, the ‘it could have been me’ syndrome.

It is important to understand why people engage in victim blaming so that we can help them change their attitudes and behaviours. One way is to ask them to complete a situational judgement test that will show what their moral values are. For example, people who have stronger binding values will tend to favour protecting a group over individuals, whereas those with strong individualizing values will focus on the well-being of each individual.

It is also worth considering the cultural background of people, as some cultures have a tendency to show more empathy towards victims than others. This is due to the fact that they have been socialized to do so.