There are tons of issues that any victim has to work through in the wake of any attack or event and one that is completely unnecessary but happens more often than not is victim shaming. In a society that chooses to blame the victim more often than the attacker or assailant, it is no wonder that victim blaming is so rampant. In order to avoid this behavior that has become overly common, there are a few different things that everyone should understand.
What is Victim Blaming? Victim Blaming Definition
The first issue that should be understood is just what this phenomena entails. Victim blaming is just what it sounds like, this is the instance in which the victim is blamed for the incident rather than the perpetrator. This social norm of blaming the victim is hurtful for a few different reasons. Often, the victim that is blamed will recant statements, become introverted, or even turn to self-harming to deal with the pain of what was done to them. There are plenty of reasons that victims are blamed and none of them are acceptable.
Which Victims are Blamed?
The most common victim that is blamed is a rape victim. In many cases, individuals comment on the way the victim dressed, the way they acted, or their past as a justification of what happened to them in the present. As horrible as it is, this is a common tactic in courtrooms. The defense attorney will often bring up all the sexual partners that the victim had in the past, the way they dressed, the people they spent time, with and more to help defame the character of the victim and essentially help the defense make them look like a bad person.
In many cases of rape victim blaming, other victims become wary of coming forward for fear that they too will be dragged through the mud. In many cases, defense attorneys make it nearly impossible for prosecutors to get victims to go against their assailants for fear that their character will also be assassinated. There is no real way to stop this practice as it is common in many courts across the world as a way of getting the rapist off on most if not all charges.
Another class of victim that is often blamed are those victims of domestic violence. In many cases however the victim is the one doing the blaming. Battered women for instance may say that they deserve the punishment, that they did something wrong, or they will work to make excuses for the abuser to get around testifying against them. This type of behavior is more common than you may think and is horribly detrimental to getting rid of domestic violence.
In most cases this type of victim will stay with the abuser by listening to the victim blaming talk to the point that they feel they deserve nothing better. In some cases the abuser will also blame the victim to try and justify their behavior. This is a very common practice and often leads to the victim recanting and eventually suffering harsher violence at the hand of their abuser. Victim blaming domestic violence cases are horribly common.
Victim Blaming Examples
In a perfect world there would be no examples of victim blaming to think of but this is not a perfect world and sadly more victims are blamed than you might imagine. One notable story having to do with victim blaming comes from the lips of an American Republican senate member. Todd Akin claimed that cases of “legitimate rape,” or rape that was actually rape rather than the woman changing her mind after the fact as he put it, hardly ever cause pregnancy. He also claimed that the female body has the ability to “shut that thing down” if they are being raped. Mind you he had no factual evidence to support any of his claims.
Another instance occurred when football star Ched Evans was convicted of rape and the woman, who was too drunk to consent when the event happened, was publicly shamed, harassed online, and called a money grabber and eventually had to change her identity to get away from her abusers. Another public instance occurred in August 2012 when Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was freed of all charges after he started to have sex with a sleeping woman that had previously consented.
Other instances end up far worse than name changes and public shaming. In the case of Megan Meier, the young lady was defamed, mistreated, and eventually so bullied that she committed suicide. Megan was harassed by what she thought was a boy her own age but that turned out to be the mother of a fellow student. The young girl was harassed and the mother spread lies about her to the point that she took her own life to end the persecution.
The Changing Face of Victim Blaming
Though victim blaming has generally been reserved for those victims that underwent some type of verbal, physical, or mental attack, those that are in favor of ending victim blaming have also stood up in defense of suicide victims that are often persecuted after the fact. These men and women that are standing up for suicide victims argue that those that immediately attack the person who ended their own life are no better than those that blame a rape victim for the rape.
In many cases of suicide, those that are suicidal and that go through with the act are seen as selfish for doing so. Though there is no doubt that their actions do leave a hole that cannot be filled, these individuals are often so desperate and feel that death is the only option that they have to end their suffering. Victim shaming and victim blaming is abhorrent no matter how you look at it or who is being blamed for what. That being said, those that are in favor of including suicide victims in the category of those that are being shamed claim that we should instead look at what factors led them to the choice that they made.
What Can Be Done?
Though it is all up to the individual people that are shaming the victim, there are things that can be done to help end this horrible practice. For starters, there are plenty of groups, support groups, therapy groups, and activist groups that are fighting for the rights of the victims. You can join any number of these groups that help support and uplift the victim rather than pushing them down and making them more depressed and scared than they already are.
There are also petitions that have been created to help make victim shaming a crime and that help to set up support groups for those that are being shamed. This means that with some time and proper support, it may be possible to protect and uplift victims and get rid of shaming and blaming all together.
For those that are victims there are special things that you can do. First off, never let anyone tell you that what happened was your fault. If you feel like it is your fault, talk to someone that can help you work through issues. If you feel as though it may be your fault, never take drastic measure without first trying to work through it. Still another thing that victims can do is stand up. Though it may seem easier to shrink back and let the rapist or the abuser get away with what they have done. Though it is scary to stand up and say what you have to say, it may not help you directly but it may help others like you.
Lastly, if you are not a victim and you see or hear a victim being victimized yet again after the fact, stand up an say something. The only way that we will get rid of this abhorrent social practice is to see that it is real, that it is detrimental, and that it needs to be stopped. There is power in numbers and if enough people stand up and decide to stop this shaming, it is possible that we can stand up against victim blaming and instead help victims that need help rather than making them a victim twice by shaming and blaming them for things that they could never have imagined or prevented.