Victim Blaming

Victim blaming puts the responsibility of a crime or traumatic event on the victim. For example, “she was asking for it,” or “boys will be boys.” Victim blaming can prevent survivors from reporting abuse and getting the help they need. It also reinforces the message that it is a victim’s fault they are being attacked or abused and can make them feel like their abusers won’t be punished.

People who engage in victim blaming may do so for several reasons. They may believe that if the victim wasn’t careful enough to avoid the crime, they could have prevented it themselves, and this belief can give them a sense of personal control over what has happened. They may also feel a desire to protect their own sense of self-worth and a need to see themselves in a positive light. People who have experienced a similar crime or traumatic event themselves are often less likely to engage in victim blaming.

Some people also believe that we live in a just world and that people get what they deserve, whether good or bad. For this reason, they may think that victims must have done something to bring about their negative outcomes, and they will doubt or firmly reject any information that contradicts this belief. This is known as the just-world phenomenon. Finally, some people may do victim blaming to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions. For example, they may project their own feelings of shame onto someone else in order to avoid having to deal with them themselves.

Regardless of the motivation, the result is damaging for everyone involved. It can make a survivor feel guilty and ashamed for not being able to stop what has happened to them, which can increase their feelings of vulnerability and lead to depression. It can also deter them from seeking help and support, which can prolong their suffering. It can even keep them from seeking treatment for PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.

Victim blame can occur over a range of incidents, from sexual assault to workplace bullying. Regardless of the specifics, however, it is important to remember that the perpetrator’s actions are solely their responsibility and that it is never the victim’s fault.

It is not always easy to avoid victim blaming, especially since it can come in many different forms and can happen unconsciously. For instance, if you read about a crime in the media and automatically start thinking what you would have done differently in that situation, then you are engaging in victim blaming. The same goes for assuming that the crime could have been avoided if only the victim had been more careful, or blaming someone for being pickpocketed because they decided to leave their purse in a public place.

The best way to combat victim blaming is to be aware of it and to work on developing empathy for those who are suffering. This can be a difficult thing to do, but it is possible through compassion training and an openness to seeing other perspectives.