There seems to be a huge increase in victim blaming these days. Victims of domestic violence or sexual assault are all too frequently being revictimized by society.
Victim-blaming attitudes create barriers, placing survivors in potentially greater danger. Victim blaming marginalizes the victim or survivor, making it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you, or the court system, police, county attorney or society blames her for the abuse, she will not feel safe coming forward for help.
It also reinforces what the abuser often tells the victim, that it is her fault.
It is not the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation; it is the abuser’s choice.
When we engage in victim-blaming attitudes, we allow and encourage the abuser to perpetuate relationship abuse or sexual assault while avoiding accountability for his actions.
Examples of victim blaming: “She must have provoked him into being abusive. They both need to change.”
Reality: This statement assumes the victim is equally to blame when actually abuse is a conscious choice made by the abuser. Abusers have a choice in how they react to their partners’ actions, such as walking away, respectful discussions, etc.
Abuse is not about individual actions that incite the abuser to hurt his partner, but rather about the abuser’s feelings of entitlement to do whatever he want to his partner.
When friends, family or people in positions of authority remain neutral about the abuse and say both parties need to change, they are colluding with and supporting the abusive partner and making it less likely that the survivor will seek support.
We all need to:
1. Disagree with abusers’ excuses for why they batter.
2. Let survivors know it’s not their fault.
3. Hold abusers accountable for their actions. Do not let them make excuses like blaming the victim, alcohol or drugs for their behavior.
4. Acknowledge that the survivor is her own best expert and provide her with resources and support.
5. Avoid victim blaming in the media.
6. Challenge victim-blaming statements.