Victim-blaming occurs when the victim of a crime is deemed responsible for the harm inflicted on them. Sometimes we see the media blame the victim, and lawyers will often find a way to cast doubt as to whether there was even a crime in order to get their client off.

Examples of victim blaming include:

  • “She was asking for it because she was dressed like a slut.”
  • “She was asking for it because she got drunk and passed out at a party.”
  • “He couldn’t have been raped. Guys can’t be raped.”
  • “She was flirting with him earlier in the night. She provoked him.”
  • “How can you be raped by your husband?”
  • “He was drunk and walking home. He should have called a cab, and he wouldn’t have been robbed.”
  • “She was held in captivity for five years. Why didn’t she try to escape sooner?”

Comments and questions like this aren’t uncommon after a tragic event. When Elizabeth Smart was found alive and when Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus escaped from their kidnapper, they had to endure many such insults. The media will even ask the victims these very questions. This also occurred when the Steubenville High School rape case came to light. In the Steubenville case, the victim’s abuse continued as she was bullied in social media for turning in two popular athletes.

Sometimes, people blame the victim in order to maintain their view of the world. Victims can threaten a person’s sense that the world is safe—we want to believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. When bad things happen to good people, it implies that no one is safe, that even good people are vulnerable. The idea that misfortune can strike anyone is terrifying, and some people don’t want to believe that it is possible.

Victim blaming doesn’t just harm the victim and their family; it also harms any other victims who are scared to come forward and tell their stories. They are silenced by fear of how they will be portrayed, fear of being blamed, and even fear that people won’t believe them. The Stop Relationship Abuse website states that victim blaming reinforces the abuser’s attitude that it is the victim’s fault this has happened. The truth is that responsibility for abuse falls on the perpetrator. Victim-blaming allows the abuser to avoid accountability for their actions.

The best way you can help dissuade people from blaming the victim is to speak up. If someone tells a joke about rape, let them know that it made you feel uncomfortable and that rape is nothing to joke about. Challenge those who blame the victim by speaking out for the victim.

If someone tells you of their abuse or attack, be there to listen. Let them know it was not their fault, and offer to help get them to the resources and support they need. Suggest getting involved with a support group or talking to a therapist. With the right help, victims can become survivors.

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photo credit: Rushing Nowhere via photopin (license)