Another damaging element of rape culture is Victim Blaming.Placing the blame on the victim shifts the focus from the perpetrator and makes it seem as though the victim is responsible for being abused or raped. Saying things like “she was asking for it,” because of how a woman was dressed or "Why did it take him/her so long to come forward and talk about the abuse?" are victim blaming statements.
These statements assume 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 their actions. The victim does not have a choice. Their choice is taken away. Pedophelia and rape is not about a victim's actions that incite the abuser to commit the crime, but rather about the abuser’s feelings of entitlement to do whatever he or she wants.
We need to develop a culture that offers support and understanding towards survivors of sexual trauma and holds perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
Why is victim blaming dangerous?
Victim-blaming attitudes marginalise the victim/survivor and make it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames them for the abuse, they will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you.
In order to stop victim blaming, it is helpful to understand why people do it in the first place. One reason people victim blame is to distance themselves from the unpleasant occurrence and this gives a false sense that what took place, could not happen to them. By labelling or accusing the victim, others can see the victim as different from themselves. People reassure themselves by thinking, "Because I am not like them, because I do not do that, this would never happen to me." We need to help people understand that this is not a helpful reaction.
Victim blaming attitudes also reinforce what the abuser has been saying all along; that it is the victim’s fault this is happening. It is NOT the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation; it is the abuser’s choice. By engaging in victim blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate relationship abuse or sexual assault while avoiding accountability for the perpetrator’s actions.
3. What does victim blaming look like?
One of the biggest sources of victim blaming is the way we talk about it; Language surrounding abuse and sexual assault immediately puts our attention on the victim instead of the perpetrator. Common Victim Blaming Statements:
"Why didn't you say something then? Why did you wait so long?"
"Why didn't you stop it when it was happening?"
"You're making this up."
"It happened a long time ago. Get over it."
"It's your own fault it happened."
"You're ruining his life by saying these things. He doesn't deserve this."
"Your actions are creating disunity in our family / community."
"Your parents should have taught you the warning signs."
Example of victim blaming Attitude: “She must have provoked him into being abusive.” 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 besides 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 the victim/survivor, but rather about the abuser’s feelings of entitlement to do whatever they want to their partner. When friends and family remain neutral about the abuse and say that both people need to change, they are taking away responsibility from the perpetrator, thereby colluding with/supporting the abusive partner and making it less likely that the survivor will seek support.
What can I do about it?
Remember if you are aware of abusive behaviour and do not speak out against it, your silence communicates implicitly that you see nothing unacceptable taking place. When friends and family remain neutral about the abuse, they are colluding with and supporting the abuser and making it less likely for the survivor to seek support and heal.
Challenge victim blaming statements when you hear them.
Do not agree with abusers’ excuses for why they chose to 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.
When survivors come forward, don't invalidate their claims. Be supportive.
Acknowledge that survivors are their own best experts and provide them with resources and support.
Avoid victim blaming on social media and stand up to it when you see it.
Reframe the question “Why does the victim stay?” to “Why does the perpetrator abuse?”