One of the Center’s main goals is to eliminate barriers and increase survivors’ access to safety, resources and support. Victim-blaming attitudes are one of these barriers and place survivors in greater danger.
First of All, Where Does It Come From?
One reason people blame a victim is to distance themselves from an unpleasant occurrence and thereby confirm their own invulnerability to the risk. By labeling or accusing the victim, others can see her as different from themselves. People reassure themselves by thinking, "Because I am not like her, because I do not do that, this would never happen to me."
Why Is It Dangerous?
Victim-blaming attitudes only work to marginalize the victim and make it harder for her to come forward and report the abuse. If she knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, she will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you.
Victim-blaming attitudes also reinforce what her abuser has been saying all along; that it is her fault this is happening to her. It is NOT her fault or her responsibility to fix the situation; it is the abuser’s choice. By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate violence against his partner while avoiding accountability for his actions.
What Does Victim-Blaming Look Like?
Reality: This statement assumes that the victim is equally to blame for the abuse, when in reality, abuse is a conscious choice made by the abuser. Abusers have a choice in how they react to their partner’s actions. Options beside abuse include: walking away, talking in the moment, respectfully explaining why an action is frustrating, breaking up, etc.
Additionally, abuse is not about individual actions that incite the abuser to hurt his partner, but rather about the abuser’s feelings of entitlement and desire to control his partner.
When friends and family remain neutral about the abuse and say that both people need to change, they are colluding with and supporting the abusive partner and making it less likely that the survivor will seek support.
What Can I Do About It?
* Challenge victim-blaming statements when you hear them
* Do not agree with abusers’ excuses for why they abuse
* Let survivors know that it is not their fault
* Hold abusers accountable for their actions: do not let them make excuses like blaming the victim, alcohol, or drugs for their behavior
* Acknowledge that the survivor is her own best expert and provide her with resources and support
Remember if you are aware of abusive behavior and do not speak out against it, your silence communicates implicitly that you see nothing unacceptable taking place.