In an attempt to understand how and why victims blaming occurs, Niemi and Young looked at four different studies involving 994 participants. They concluded that moral values play a major role in victim blaming behavior. They identified two distinct sets of moral values, binding and individualizing. Individualizing values focus on fairness and protect the group. People with strong binding values are less likely to blame others, but individuals with weak individualizing values tend to blame others for their behavior.
Another type of victim blaming involves the psychological and social stigmatization of victims. This phenomenon is often seen in the context of sexual assault or abuse. It negatively affects the social and health services that victims need. Victim blaming also shows lack of compassion. These social structures often fail to support the victims of crime. Therefore, victim blaming is harmful for everyone involved. To address victim blaming, it is critical that we begin to examine the reasons people make a mistake and learn from our mistakes.
Research on victim blaming has largely focused on the gendered nature of sexual assault. Specifically, rape is primarily a concern for women. Ingroup solidarity may lead women to blame less than men, whereas “just world” ideologies suggest that women blame more. Further, victim blaming may serve as an attempt to separate victims from potential victimization. If we consider gender as a separate construct from societal norms, victim blaming is even more important.
Victim blaming is a universal psychological reaction to crime, but not all victims choose to use it. Not all victims accuse the perpetrator of failing to prevent the crime, and some victims’ victim blaming can be subtle and unintentionally harmful. Some victims may even merely question whether they would be more careful if they were in the victim’s position. For instance, if they had seen a sexual assault or attempted sexual harassment, would they have fought back? Sadly, victim blaming is an intractable problem in our society.
Social psychologists have studied victim blaming and how it can lead to self-blame. They found that when a victim fought back verbally or physically, the assailant was more likely to blame them than if the victim simply resisted. However, victim blaming can also affect a victim’s ability to seek help. If it does, it can result in post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.
Interestingly, the degree to which a victim blames herself for the crime has been found to be affected by gender. According to Kanekar et al., male victim blaming is more likely to occur when women are more powerful than men, and vice versa. In addition, victim blaming is more likely to occur in patriarchal environments compared to egalitarian ones. Regardless of how much victim blaming takes place in a culture, the effects on the victims are often very damaging.
In cases of sexual assault and rape, victim blaming often involves the accusation that the victim invited the attack. The victim is often accused of inviting the attack in order to get attention, but this is not the case. In a victim-blaming scenario, the accused may be instigating the attack and attempting to get the perpetrator to apologize. However, it is important to remember that victims do not need to be victimized to feel guilt.