Abuse, rape and sexual harassment is not the victims/survivors fault.
While it’s good to take responsibility for ones life situation, choices and actions, it should not be put on the victim to be responsible for the abusers actions. The fact that you have been or are being abused is not your fault! The fact that someone you know has been or is being abused is not his or her fault. Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and makes it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames the victim/survivor for the abuse, she/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you and asking for help. Victim-blaming attitudes also reinforce what the abuser has been saying all along; that it is the victim’s fault this is happening. Victims of abuse tends to blame themselves…I am still struggling with that… even without the ”help” of society, ”well-meaning people” police, medical personal, lawyers and judges, relatives and friends that insinuate that you somehow are to blame and is to be held responsible. 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 those actions. In order to stop victim blaming, it is helpful to understand why people do it in the first place.
One reason people blame a victim/survivor is to distance themselves from an unpleasant occurrence and this gives a false sense that this could not happen to them. By labeling or accusing the victim/survivor, they can the see the victim/survivor as different from themselves. People reassure themselves by thinking, “Because I am not like the victim/survivor, because I do not do that, this would never happen to me.” ”If I would have been in his/her situation, I would have acted differently” We need to help people understand that this is not a helpful reaction. Words, questions and comments that directly or indirectly puts the blame on the victim/survivor:
- Did you make him/her jealous?
- That doesn’t sound like him/her, what did you do to to pull that side out of him/her?
- Why didn’t you fight back/fight back harder?
- Why didn’t you yell?
- Why didn’t you tell anyone about it?
- You should have told me.
- Did you hurt his/her feelings?
- Why didn’t you ask for help?
- Why did you let him/her hurt you?
- You should have gone to couples therapy.
- Why did you stay?
- Why did you leave without trying harder?
- Maybe he/she was really stressed, had a lot of responsibilities?
- Can’t you just forgive him/her?
- Can’t you just work through your indifferences?
- Have you thought about that you maybe made him/her do it?
- Why did you date someone like that?
- Didn’t you see it coming?
- You should have seen it coming.
- Why did you get yourself into that situation in the first place?
- It was wrong marrying him/her, having children with him/her, you should have known before?
- But you said you were happy, you looked happy, how can that be if what you are saying is true?
- Looks like you have a bad judge of character.
- Maybe you deserved what happened to you?
- Well if it happened, you should have some proof.
- Why didn’t you go to the hospital?
- Why didn’t you go to the police?
- You shouldn’t have reported him/her to the police, he/she doesn’t deserve that. Do you really want to ruin his/her life, destroy his/her career, embarrass his/her family, hang out your children’s father/mother?
- Maybe he/she wouldn’t have acted like that if you would have said or done that?
- Maybe you made him crazy?
- It takes two to tangle.
- Maybe you are exaggerating?
- Maybe over-reacting?
- Overly picky?
- Too sensitive?
- Too weak?
- Too quiet?
- Too soft?
- Too hard to please?
- Were you drunk?
- Maybe it was your fault?
- I saw the way you smiled at him.
- But it’s normal, you are so beautiful, haven’t you seen how people are looking at you?
- What were you wearing?
- Did you lead him/her on?
- Maybe you are imagining or not remembering things rightly?
- She/he shouldn’t have married him/her anyway.
- They booth have problems.
- She/he provoked him/her.
- I am sure he/she didn’t mean to do that, it’s not really like him.
- Maybe you don’t understand his sense of humor?
- The dog that barks doesn’t bite (even when it has).
- The men/women here in this country/in our family have a hot temperament, it’s normal to ”talk with their/our hands” but it means nothing, it’s not like they would beat you up.
- But he/she is so nice, no I think it must have been a misunderstanding, he/she wouldn’t hurt you on purpose.
- You walked through a dangerous neighborhood, what did you expect?
- Did you wear that? Non wonder you got raped/sexually abused.
- You talk about your sexuallity openly, no wonder people touch you without consent.
- You’r openly gay, no wonder you can’t get certain jobs.
- You outed yourself as a transvestite on a website, no wonder you’re discriminated against.
- You know you shouldn’t smile at strangers, they can get all sorts of ideas.
Myself, I have been told or asked most of the things written above. It hurts and only creates more confusion, shame and guilt. It is time to talk about abuse and to honestly look at it’s roots, outlets and faces. By understanding how, why by whom, where and when abuse is inflicted and received, we can then heal from it and prevent it from happening. Playing small to protect someone else’s smallness prevents booth from being their full big potential.
Victim Blaming in Language
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. This is a demonstration developed by Julia Penelope showing how language can be victim blaming:
John beat Mary; This sentence is written in active voice. It is clear who is committing the violence. Mary was beaten by John; The sentence has been changed to passive voice, so Mary comes first. Mary was beaten; Notice that John is removed from the sentence completely. Mary is a battered woman; Being a battered woman is now part of Mary’s identity, and John is not a part of the statement. As you can see, the focus has shifted entirely to Mary instead of John, encouraging the audience to focus on the victim’s actions instead of the perpetrator’s actions.
This is why we MUST end vicim-blaming
According to the WHO, information updated in January 2016:
- Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against women.
- Recent global prevalence figures indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Child sexual abuse affects both boys and girls. International studies reveal that approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being victims of sexual violence as children.
- Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from domestic violence and rape than from car accidents, cancer, war and malaria.
- In 2012, 43,600 women were murdered worldwide (the ones counted) by their partner, ex-partner or family member.
- In the same year, 11,133 people were killed due to terrorism. * Information from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Institute for Economics and Peace).
Despite relentless education efforts, the picture for women remains both bleak and grave. Where there are laws designed to tackle domestic violence, only a fraction of incidents are ever reported to the police. Untold numbers of women remain trapped in violent relationships, whilst others face huge challenges in order to get free and keep safe once they have escaped.
A major factor in preventing women from seeking help – and much-needed constructive dialogue – is the implicit and explicit victim-blaming ingrained in public perceptions of domestic violence.
Domestic violence, battering and verbal/mental/emotional abuse is a global epidemic impacting more women than war and cancer combined, and many men and children are also suffering from abusive relationships.
Ignorance, misinformation and misconceptions are actively fuelling this injustice.
If we’re to eradicate relationship abuse and domestic violence, we must first end victim-blaming!
We like to imagine that the world has grown more enlightened about domestic violence. It is no longer legal – in many countries, at least – for a man to beat or rape his wife. But despite the efforts of the #MeToo movement and the fact that more countries work towards gender equality and installing laws against abuse, domestic violence remains a global epidemic, present in every culture and community worldwide. There are also some scary trends that are going in the opposite direction.
- In 2018, more women were murdered in Italy than in any other year, since statistics were started. * EU.R.E.S Ricerche Economiche e Sociali
- The world has more slaves now than ever in world history (trafficking / trafficking / sex slavery, with the vast majority of women).
- Violent and abusive porn videos, especially with very young girls, have most searches on the porn sites.
- Sex dolls who are programmers to fight against and say no are increasingly in demand.
- Russia recently reduced the penalty for wife abuse. If the woman gets a few legs broken, the penalty is fined or 15 days imprisonment, like the penalty for speeding.
- Countries and states reinstalling anti-abortion laws.
- 38% of all female murders in the world occur by the woman’s partner / ex partner. * WHO (World Health Organization)
- In Europe, only 11% of women report abuse and sexual violence. * Information from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Institute of Economics
- Not even 1% of all rapes lead to a penalty. It is the crime that is easiest to get away with by everyone. In the United States, for example, only 5 out of 1,000 sexual acts of violence result in punishment. * Rainn statistics
- 39.3% of Italians believe in 2018, that women can avoid being exposed to sexual violence if they cover up, if they don’t get drunk and don’t flirt.
Facts show that women who wear burkas also get raped and sexual crimes are not more common during the summer months when people show more skin.
- in 2018, 7.2% of Italians believe that when a woman says no to sex, that she instead means yes and that she actually wants to. * Istat Instituto nazionale di statistica
“Blaming the victim is an act of refuge and self-deception. It allows the blamer to sit in judgment, imagining some mystical justice that means bad things happen only to bad people, thus ensuring their own safety.” -Una
“Survivors deserve our support, not our scrutiny.”
What we can 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 behaviour
- Acknowledge that survivors are their own best experts and provide them with resources and support
- Avoid victim blaming in the media
- Reframe the question “Why does the victim stay?” to “Why does the perpetrator abuse?”
- Inform yourself abut abuse, how the abuser work, what he/she does to control, manipulate, blame, confuse, make his victim feel like he/she is going crazy and is out of control, why people stay in relationships with abusers, understand that abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of social status, intelligence, self confidence, being well-educated and regardless of age and culture.
- Understand that frequently asked questions and comments, like those above, often diminishes or removes the perpetrator’s/abuser’s accountability and puts it on the victim/survivor instead.
”The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” -Albert Einstein
Here you can inform yourself about abuse: