Victim Blaming Explained

Victim Blaming is a common, yet harmful mindset that places the blame for a crime or trauma on a victim rather than the perpetrator. Despite its prevalence in society, people don’t always realize they are victim blaming. When a survivor is told they brought the harm on themselves, it may discourage them from seeking help and reporting their abuse to authorities. This silencing of victims allows perpetrators to commit more crimes.

Victim blaming can take many forms, including the use of derogatory words like “she was asking for it” or “boys will be boys.” But it can also occur in more subtle ways. For example, a friend who witnessed an act of domestic violence may question why the victim stayed with her partner. Similarly, family members of an offender are often quick to defend their loved one, even if they know the abuse was wrong. They may question the victim, saying things like “he must have had some kind of warning signs” or claim they would have recognized the abuse if they had been in her shoes.

This kind of victim blaming may be unconscious or based on the irrational beliefs that people have about how the world works. One theory is that this belief is rooted in the “just world phenomenon,” which posits that individuals want to believe the world is fair and that those who succeed deserve their victories, while those who fail are responsible for their own failures. This desire for a just world can be especially strong when a person is experiencing a hardship or suffering.

Other reasons for victim blaming include a misguided sense of empathy and the desire to distance oneself from a negative situation. For example, if a person is being stalked or harassed online, they may hear others say things like “you should block their number or don’t respond to their messages.” Such statements can be hard to hear for a survivor, and they can create a feeling of shame that they are not good enough or that they deserve the victimization they experience.

Lastly, some people engage in victim blaming to protect themselves and their own feelings of guilt. This is particularly true of people who have been abused or victimized themselves. They may feel that if they engage in victim blaming, they will not be held accountable for their actions. They may also find that it is easier to rationalize their own bad behavior if they can convince themselves that the victim was to blame. The truth is that there are no excuses for abusing or harassing someone, and no reason why a victim should be forced to pay the price for another person’s mistakes. We can all be part of the solution by recognizing victim-blaming when it occurs and refusing to participate in it. Voicing support for survivors on social media and in your community can be an important step toward changing the culture of victim-blaming. Ultimately, the best way to combat victim-blaming is to make it unacceptable to place blame on victims.