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Victim Blaming Shifts the Responsibility Away From Perpetrator

Emma Conrad, Editor-in-Chief

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   We are a society who would rather accuse a victim than hold a perpetrator responsible. We have created systems and institutions that protect those in power, even those who are criminals, and  ignore people who suffer. It is time to stop looking for scapegoats in every situation and look at criminal and inappropriate behavior in a straightforward and honest way. It is time to stop blaming the victim.

   Victim blaming is the act of holding the victim entirely, or partially, responsible for crimes committed against him or her. According to AP Psychology Teacher Lisa Perry, “It is fairly complex in terms of where and why it occurs. Personal experiences, morality, and cultural background play a crucial role in determining when and how a person participates in victim blaming.” Victim blaming manifests itself in both overt and subtle ways. The Atlantic magazine explained that “…any time someone defaults to questioning what a victim could have done differently to prevent a crime, he or she is participating, to some degree, in the culture of victim-blaming.”  This can range from rape and sexual assault to something more mundane like a person who gets pickpocketed and is then chided for his decision to carry his wallet in his back pocket (theatlantic.com). Even these small acts, which are sometimes made unconsciously, enable a culture of victim blaming. They place the responsibility on the person the crime was committed to, instead of the real perpetrator.

   Psychology’s just-world hypothesis describes one of the reasons why victim blaming occurs. According to Santa Clara University, this theory states that people have a strong desire to believe that the world is a just place where people get what they deserve (scu.edu). Whether it is believing that a rape victim was asking for it by the way he

or she was dressed or by thinking that a homeless person is lazy and deserves that life, this way of thinking enables a culture of victim blaming, which leads to a great deal of people getting hurt. Perry explained people rely on this theory because “…when we hold victims partially or entirely responsible for what has happened to them, it helps us to avoid admitting that the same event could happen to us.” It is merely a way to make ourselves feel better, instead of making someone take responsibility. It is always easier to blame someone weaker, rather than to blame a person in a position of power.

  Another reason why victim blaming occurs is the concept of hindsight bias. After an event occurs, people tend to believe that they knew what was going to happen. When someone becomes a victim, the public tends to look back at their story and believe that they could have prevented it if they were the victim. In the Stanford rape trial, Brock Turner was accused of raping an unconscious woman. Looking back on the case, many people argued that the girl brought it on herself. They would say they wouldn’t have dressed the way she dressed or they wouldn’t have drank so much. It’s easier to think that one would have acted differently, after the crime was committed.

   Blaming the victim can lead to a victim culture. The martyr complex, also known as the victim complex, is a mentality in which an individual settles into his or her role as a victim. For some, this includes self pity, wanting people to be sympathetic towards him or her. Although usually used to describe an individual, this concept can also be applied to groups. On a broader scale, once an individual or group settles into this mentality of being the victim, they stop advocating for themselves.

  The Odyssey describes this culture of victimhood as “when faced with a problem, instead of taking responsibility for the position that a person finds him or herself in, one would rather complain in the hopes that somebody else either provides an easy solution or absolves the person of their problem altogether” (theodysseyonline.com). Victim blaming often leads to this mentality, that as victims, they are responsible for what happened to them and, instead of advocating for themselves, settle into this role. A society of this victim mentality blames other people for their misfortunes instead of owning up and trying to find solutions themselves.

People need to stop shifting the responsibility from the perpetrator and placing it onto the victim. When you’re a victim, especially of a violent crime, it’s hard enough to find the strength to speak up for yourself, and it doesn’t help that many institutions within society make it extremely challenging to do so. This issue is extremely prominent, as we have recently witnessed hundreds of athletes speak up about Larry Nassar; we have seen celebrities silently protest through the Time’s Up initiative; and we have seen many more women, some of whom had been quiet for decades, advocate for themselves.

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Victim Blaming Shifts the Responsibility Away From Perpetrator