Victim Blaming

Victim Blaming is any language or action that implies a victim of a crime, trauma, or hardship is partially or fully responsible for the abuse they suffered. It is harmful and can discourage survivors from seeking help, sharing their experiences or reporting their abuse to authorities. Victim blaming also silences victims and deflects attention from holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

Despite the fact that we know that the world is not always fair, many of us struggle to acknowledge that some people are more likely to be victims than others. This is because we have an ingrained belief that the world should be fair, and that bad things only happen to “bad” people. But, the truth is that anyone can fall victim to tragedy; even you or your closest friends and family members.

When you hear of a crime that affects someone close to you, it is generally easier for you to be sympathetic and support them. However, when you read about a crime that happens to a stranger, it can be more difficult to separate your empathy for the victim from your innate belief in a just and fair world. This is why it is so important to be vigilant about challenging victim blaming whenever you see it.

While there are many reasons for why we tend to engage in victim blaming, the most commonly discussed is that it is a coping mechanism that allows us to feel better about a negative situation. When we are confronted with a crime that is out of our control, it is natural for us to question why we would be a victim in the first place. For example, when a woman is raped, it is common for others to ask what she was wearing or doing that caused the attack. Similarly, when someone is pickpocketed, it is natural to wonder why the victim left their wallet in their pocket and how they could have prevented the crime from occurring.

Victim blaming is not limited to cases of rape or sexual assault, but also applies to cases such as robbery and car accidents. The amount of victim blaming can vary by gender, age, and culture. For example, women who break traditional gender stereotypes are more likely to be blamed than those who do not (Jensen & Gutek, 1982).

A person’s level of victim blaming can also be influenced by how relevant the crime is to them. For example, when a friend tells you of their experience with domestic violence, it can be easy to assume that they were partly responsible for the abuse because it was in their home. When a relative is in an accident, it can be hard to imagine how the other driver could have avoided the crash.

Ultimately, engaging in victim blaming is harmful for everyone. Victim blaming causes victims to feel shame and guilt and can prevent them from seeking help or reporting their abuse to authorities. This silences victims and impedes on the fight against domestic violence, sexism, racism and other forms of oppression. If we are to change this cycle, it is imperative that we challenge our victim blaming attitudes and behaviors, and work together toward safer communities.