Too many times a victim of crime or abuse is blamed for the abuse they have endured. The blame often comes from everywhere – family members, close friends, law enforcement, social media…the list goes on and on. In cases of domestic violence, victims are often asked, “Why don’t you just leave?” or “What did you do to make him/her that mad?”
The most common questions victims of sexual assault/abuse hear are: “What were you wearing?” “Were you drinking?” “Did you flirt with him/her and give them the wrong impression?” “Why didn’t you scream/kick/fight/run away?” “Why didn’t you report this sooner?”
Victim blaming often happens due to the victim blaming phenomenon. The victim blaming phenomenon occurs when an individual identifies something that the victim could have possibly done to make the abuse/assault happen. Identifying something that someone did to “make” an event/situation happen often gives the person a false sense of security. It can look like this in domestic violence cases: “Well, if that were ME in that situation, I would NEVER let someone hit/abuse me. I would call the police, I would leave that relationship. Since he/she (victim) isn’t leaving or reporting the abuse, they either like it or it’s not true”. Or, in sexual assault cases, it might sound like this: “Well, I would never be at the bar drinking that late at night wearing clothes like that”, or “If I was being sexually abused, I would tell someone right away to make it stop”. Placing blame on the victim essentially allows the person to think or feel that if they made different choices that they are safe from being abused or assaulted.
Unfortunately, the victim blaming phenomenon does not actually provide total and absolute safety from becoming a victim of crime/abuse. The statistics for both domestic violence and sexual assault are staggering and are occurring in epidemic proportions here in the United States. Domestic violence knows no bounds and impacts 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime. Anyone, at any time, can find themselves in an abusive relationship with their partner, spouse, or family member because the abuser is the only one that can decide not to be abusive. Every 92 seconds an American (man, woman, or child) experiences sexual assault (RAINN, 2019). Most victims know their perpetrator and many victims say that they trusted the person that assaulted/abused them. Domestic violence and sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or religion.
A victim never chooses to be hurt, assaulted, or abused. However, the perpetrator of the violence, assault, or abuse chooses to hurt others by their actions. The conversation surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault needs to change; the questions often asked are the wrong questions. We need to be asking why the abuser/offender is choosing to hurt others. We need to be asking why the abuser/offender isn’t being held accountable or what can be done to hold them more accountable. We, as individuals, communities, and society need to focus on the actions of the perpetrator instead of the victim. It is never a victim’s fault. If you have ever experienced crime/abuse, please know that at Prevail we believe you, we support you, and it is not your fault.