Victim Blaming and Sexual Assault
The gendered nature of sexual assault has led to many studies that explore the phenomenon of victim blaming. According to Grubb and Harrower, “Rape is a gendered crime, and women may blame less than men due to ingroup solidarity and the concept of the ‘just world’.” Further, victim blaming may distance women from the possibility of victimization. In any event, victim blaming is often an unintended consequence of violence and should be avoided.
As a result, victim blaming discourages victims from speaking out, reduces the likelihood of perpetrators being prosecuted, and encourages predatory attitudes. Victim blaming leads to unnecessary suffering for the victim, and adds toxic self-blame. Victim blaming prevents victims from receiving the support they need to heal and move forward from the trauma. In addition, victim blaming may increase unhelpful emotions.
A classic experiment explains the phenomenon of victim blaming: women were asked to watch an actress receive painful electric shocks after getting a memorization test incorrect. They were then asked to vote on whether they wanted the electric shocks to stop or compensate the victim for the incorrect answers. The women were asked to choose whether they wanted the electric shocks to stop, while others chose to compensate the victim for her incorrect answers. The results were striking.
The power dynamics in these situations may also influence the prevalence of victim blaming. In patriarchal societies, men may be more likely to blame victims if they are perceived as inferior. The power of men and women within institutions can also impact victim blaming. When male victims have less power, male victims may be more likely to feel threatened and blame their attackers. However, this type of victim blaming has little scientific support, and only a few studies have addressed this phenomenon in this way.
Victim blaming occurs when individuals question the victim’s behavior, including their actions and attempting to prevent the crime. By suggesting that a victim had to “ask for it” in order to be attacked, victim blaming focuses attention away from the victim, and enables perpetrators to avoid responsibility. Therefore, victims should speak out against such comments, and show their support. And be aware that this kind of behavior is detrimental to the victim’s self-esteem.
In recent years, research on the impact of victim blaming has examined the effects of different scenarios on victim blaming. Generally, studies of victim blaming use scenarios that have both a female victim and male assailant. However, Bell et al. (1994) failed to find gender differences. In contrast, Hammond et al. (2011) used scenarios that were several paragraphs long and included information about the assailant and the victim. The study’s findings highlight a gap in the literature.
Studies of the effects of date rape drugs have highlighted the issue of victim blaming. However, only one study has focused on the impact of GHB on victim blame. While the effects of GHB were similar to those of alcohol, victims who voluntarily consumed the drug were perceived as more blameworthy than those who were slipped GHB. Furthermore, marijuana use was studied. The results of this study suggest that the effects of marijuana on victim blaming are similar to those of alcohol use.