Why Victim Blaming Happens
Victim blaming occurs when someone holds a victim responsible for a crime or other harmful act, wholly or partially. Victim blaming can come from a variety of places, including the media, friends and family members, and even professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers. It is often based on preconceived notions of the nature of victims and perpetrators. This type of blaming can devalue the victim, making it hard for them to feel safe or trust others. It can also lead to a feeling of powerlessness.
While a large part of victim blaming is based on the stereotypes of certain groups such as minorities, the wealthy, and women, it is not restricted to those types of people. Anyone can be a victim of victim blaming, including those who have been assaulted or killed. This is a serious problem, as it makes survivors afraid to speak up for fear they will be blamed, and it discourages individuals from reporting violence or helping victims of crime.
One reason why victim blaming happens is because it may be a natural response to trauma or tragedy. People may want to believe that the world is fair, and that bad things happen only to unworthy or lazy people. This can cause them to ignore the fact that a person might do something harmful out of a bad decision, and it can also make it difficult to empathize with others.
A second reason why victim blaming happens is that it may seem easier for people to justify their actions by relying on the concept of free will. For example, if a person is abused by their partner, they might say that the victim should have known better. In this way, they try to convince themselves that the abuser was only doing what they thought was right, and that it is not really a problem.
The final reason that victim blaming happens is that people don’t want to believe that the people they know and love could ever harm them. This can lead them to doubt or firmly reject any information that contradicts this, even if the information comes from another person they know and trust. It can also make it more difficult to accept that a person they know and trust is capable of doing harm, such as in cases of relationship abuse or sexual assault.
Understanding the psychology behind victim blaming can help individuals feel more comfortable responding to it, or recognizing when they unconsciously participate in it. This is especially important for those who work with survivors of sexual violence, as they may find themselves in situations where they must support victims and defend them against this type of bias. In these cases, it can be helpful to avoid asking questions that might sound like they are blaming the victim, or to qualify statements by saying “I’m sure you understand,” which can sometimes come off as condescending. Instead, simply listening and not judging is the best way to show compassion and support for a survivor of crime.