Why Is Victim Blaming Still Prevalent?

April 9, 2010

Violent acts are always choices that individuals make. Yet, people who are harmed by violent acts most often are on the receiving end of negative responses from loved ones as well as various social outlets. Why are some victims and survivors of violent crimes blamed for what happens to them through no fault of their own?

Crime victims are scrutinized as to who they were with, what they were wearing or what they might have done to cause the violence committed against them. One would think that by this day and age that “victim blaming” would be non-existent whereas total concentration is focused on speaking out against those who choose to use violence.

Victim blaming is a devaluing act that occurs when a victim of a crime or an accident is held responsible – in whole or in part – for the crimes that have been committed against them. Blame can appear in the form of negative social responses from legal, medical, mental health as well as by media and even immediate family members and friends. Some victims of crime receive more sympathy from society than others. Responses toward crime victims are based on the misunderstanding of others. This misunderstanding may lead them to believe that the victim deserved what happened or that they are individuals with low self-esteem who seek out violence. As a result……it can be very difficult for victims to cope when they are blamed for what happened to them.

So we ask, “Why do people blame victims?” There are a number of reasons why people choose to blame victims for the crimes that have happened to them. Reasons stem from misconceptions about victims, perpetrators and the nature of these violent acts. Victims are often wrongfully portrayed as passive individuals who seek out and submit to the violence they endure. Offenders are seen as individuals who are compelled to act violently by forces they cannot control.

There are individual’s that believe that this world is a safe place where people get what they “deserve”. And, often many have the perception that “good things happen to good people” and “bad things happen to bad people”. When people with these beliefs view victims, they believe that their victimization was caused through some fault of their own. Blaming the victim maintains beliefs of personal responsibility and control over the outcome.

In cases of intimate partner violence where females are abused by male assailants, women are often blamed for the actions of their abusive male partner. Male offenders often use external attributions to justify their abusive behavior. They may blame their partner or claim that they deserved the abuse because of their offensive personality. Male offenders may also attribute their behavior to occupational stress or substance abuse, without taking ownership of their actions. These characteristics minimize an assailant’s abusive actions. It is also common for women to be blamed for being withholding, asking for it or deserving it. Questions such as “why didn’t she just leave?” are common and reinforce the notion that a woman likes to be abused and therefore stays in the relationship. These are devaluing actions that remove the responsibility from the offender. Blaming the victim releases the assailant who commits the violence from the responsibility for what he has done.

The most obvious outward and visible expression of victim blaming appear in sexual assault cases. Female victims of sexual assault are often blamed for being provocative, seductive, suggestive, teasing, or “asking for it”. In the past when there was a case of sexual harassment or rape before the court, the victim’s dress, lifestyle, and sexual background was likely a more important factor than the incident that had occurred. The role of the victim became the role of the accused. The introduction of rape shield laws has given the victims protection during rape trials. Rape shield laws do not allow the defense to ask victims questions regarding their sexual history which decreases the likelihood of discrediting the victim.

Assault statistics reveal alarming numbers and prove that we have an epidemic on our hands. Crime is random, senseless and can happen to anyone regardless of the precautions that are taken to prevent victimization. Victims have had less opportunities or resources available to them to better protect themselves and because of social conditions (NOT VICTIMS) promote crime regardless of their actions. Hence, when crimes occur the victim is blamed for failing to take sufficient precautions.

What should we do? Thanks to studies, we can now focus on victims vulnerability reduction. Today many victim-oriented prevention programs are offered. It is imperative to educate and reinforce to females that they are not at zero option. When I refer to “zero option” it is meant to empower females as I am a firm believer that with proper education both mentally and physically a female can protect and defend herself if the need should arise. Indicating to individuals to “take care and stay safe” is a positive outward expression of compassion and to be alert and aware. We are our own best “bodyguards” and we must be trained how to instinctively and properly fight back in all respects. Everyone must take ownership for their own personal safety, not to the point of being paranoid but rather being smart (knowing the warning signs and red flags). By no means is this implying that females should dress, act, speak or walk differently – simply stressing to follow your gut instincts.

Advocates…….we do not have time to debate “words”, attacking one another or pointing the finger – it’s time to shake things up, roll our sleeves up and get the ball rolling in order to give many generations to come the upper edge. First and foremost, victims and survivors – you are not alone. There are many valuable programs, resources and counseling available to you. Advocates must continue to move forward rather than to be stuck in neutral or going in reverse. Let’s pull together working toward a common mission and embrace our passion and goals. Time is of the essence.

Yes, TIME’S UP! in all areas of victimization. What can you do or are you doing to extend your hand to all victims of crime and/or assisting to prevent victimization?

Take care and STAY SAFE!
Anny Jacoby
The Realistic Female Self-Defense Company
Project Safe Girls

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