Victim-blaming is too common, especially towards women who are victims of sexual assault and abuse.
This is the primary reason why victims of abuse don’t speak up: they are afraid people will judge them and blame them.
It’s a very disturbing trend to blame the victim instead of the perpetrator. Yes, this is really happening.
There are several high profile cases in the United States, such as in Steubenville, Ohio where male high school football players were found guilty of raping a sixteen-year-old student.
The girl was under the influence of alcohol in a high school party and was unable to give consent.
Many individuals have weighed in and reacted to the trial. Most of them harshly blamed the victim for being raped, despite the strong evidence against the perpetrators.
In the Philippines, it is very common to blame the victim especially when the victim was intoxicated when it happened.
Women are often told on social media that it was their fault; that they shouldn’t have been drinking alcohol with men or that they shouldn’t be wearing provocative outfits or they never should’ve put themselves in risky situations.
Even in some cases where a rape victim is perfectly safe before the sexual assault happened, totally sober lying peacefully in her bed with doors locked, people will still ask, “Why didn’t you fight back?” “What were you wearing?”
Several questions boggle my mind…
Why does the victim get all the blame? She didn’t ask for it to happen. Why does victim blaming happen anyway? What’s the psychology behind it?
The psychology behind victim-blaming
Why do people blame the victim?
It seems like most people blame the victim because of meanness or a smug sense of superiority. However, there is another explanation behind it.
Specifically, psychologists believe that our tendency to blame the victim may originate, paradoxically, in a deep need to believe that the world is a good and just place.
According to psychologist Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, people blame victims because of their”positive assumptive worldview.”
Most people believe that the world is good and that good things happen to good people. The world, they want to believe, is a just and fair place.
That is why, at an early age, we were accustomed to believing in Santa Claus and good samaritans. It is ingrained in our being that the world is basically good.
People are not naive, we are aware that bad things happen to good people. However, when it does, we are in denial.
In addition, most people believe on a deeper level that “what goes around comes around.” So, the brain fights so hard to maintain this belief.
And that is the reason why people blame the victim. They think that she must have done something that resulted in the abuse.
When awful vile things happen to someone who’s just like us, this threatens the belief of a world that is just and good.
It’s like a defense mechanism. Basically, people are terrified that if one person can be a victim of rape or assault, it could happen to them, too. So, they mask this fear with victim blaming to comfort themselves.
They believe that the good has to be rewarded and the evil to be punished. Therefore, people blame the victims for their own misfortune.
Responding to victim-blaming
1. You need to remind yourself that you are the victim and it wasn’t your fault.
Victim blaming may come from society, family or friends or even from yourself. You need to constantly remind yourself that it was not your fault.
You may dissect the and replay in your mind everything you’ve done to convince yourself you’ve messed up. Stop punishing yourself by doing this.
People who victimize other people do it because of their own issues.
2. Confront your negative emotions.
You have to confront those negative emotions because it’s the only way you’ll be able to let go and move forward.
- Face it head-on, acknowledge what you feel. Close your eyes and let yourself feel those emotions, even if they’re painful. Give them names such as Anger or Guilt. (This is similar with the coping techniques done during a panic attack.)
- After acknowledging them, tell yourself and tell these emotions that they do not have power over you. Imagine these emotions flying away like balloons and watch them disappear.
- Use relaxation methods like progressive muscle relaxation or meditation, do this exercise daily.
3. Cut off toxic people in your life.
People who have suffered from trauma are more sensitive. In addition, you may encounter people who won’t believe you, blame you or worse, belittle what has happened to you.
You should not be around these people as it won’t be good for your emotional and mental well-being. If you have co-workers, friends or relatives who do this, distance yourself from them.
4. Seek professional help.
Seeking professional help will also allow you to talk about what happened, off-load your feelings to someone who won’t judge you and knows about the coping strategies.
Look for a mental health professional and counseling services that focus on trauma. Open up if you have feelings of depression and self-harm since these can be side-effects from the abuse.