How to Avoid Victim Blaming

What does this mean?

Transferring the responsibility for the act of violence on the victim. This may include commenting the behaviour of the victim, evaluation, discussing their actions, hobbies, clothing, speculating why the victim does not leave the perpetrator, keeps coming back, etc. 

Examples of victim blaming:

“Women who live with perpetrators like it. If they wouldn’t, they would surely leave.”

“There is no point in helping this woman, she will come back to her beating husband anyway.”

“She asked for it, she provoked.”

“Both of them are to blame.”

“She did not have to marry him, be with him.”

“If she wanted to, she could leave the perpetrator any time.”

What are the negative consequences of discussing the victims’ behaviour?

  • It reduces the sense of trust, security and the determination to ask for help or to report violence.
  • It distracts attention from the real villain – the perpetrator. As if a sufferer of violence was told to make violence stop and solve the problem of violence.
  • It reinforces the widespread erroneous belief that a violence sufferer is guilty and responsible for the perpetrator’s behaviour.
  • It deepens self-blame already instilled by the perpetrator who keeps insisting that everything is the victim’s fault.
  • It “removes” the perpetrator from the situation, because their motives and actions are not put into question and they can avoid the responsibility.

What should be avoided?

  • Do not discuss the violence sufferer’s behaviour, do not question their actions and adequacy of behaviour: “They brought this onto themselves, provoked”, “asked for it”, “had been drinking”, etc.
  • Do not evaluate the victim’s relationship with the perpetrator:

“They have only themselves to blame for getting together with the perpetrator.”

“They wanted this relationship.”

“It was obvious right away that this is doomed.”

  • Do not justify the perpetrator’s actions:

“Well, thy are asking for it themselves.”

“If I lived with this person I would also like to strike a blow.”

  • Avoid statements like “women are also to blame”, “women also resort to violence”, “men also suffer violence”. Statements like these lessen the scale of domestic violence suffered by women.  Base your opinion on statistics and be aware that gender is a key factor while talking about domestic violence (about 80 per cent of all domestic violence victims are women and over 90 per cent of all perpetrators are men; in domestic environment men frequently suffer from other men).
  • Do not explain that both partners are to blame for the situation. It is only the perpetrator who is always responsible for violence. Violence is an intentional act based on the conviction that the perpetrator has every right to do so.
  • In the case of sexual abuse do not discuss the victim’s clothes (for example, “the victim wore a short dress”), sex life details, do not judge the behaviour (for example, “witnesses saw how fondly she danced with the accused”).
  • Do not speculate why the violence sufferer does not leave the perpetrator or keeps coming back. These speculations divert attention away from the perpetrator and shift the burden of responsibility on the victim. By assessing the victim’s behaviour, we justify the perpetrator’s actions. Encouraging the victim to leave the perpetrator presupposes that the victim can make violence stop, and the perpetrator is freed from their responsibility. Women (and men) trying to end a violent relationship face great obstacles.
  • Avoid urging the victim to solve the problem of violence themselves:

“Change your attitude/personality”.

“Boost your self-esteem.”

“Take control of your life.”

“Assume the responsibility for your life.”

“Don’t be a victim.”

“You can stop the violence”

What can be done to change the attitude?

  • Point it out if your interlocutor blames the victim.
  • Do not agree with the statements that justify the perpetrator’s behaviour.
  • Do not justify the use of violence by the influence of alcohol or other psychotropic substances.
  • Support violence sufferers.
  • Victims of violence are the best experts of their situation, trust their judgment.
  • Replace the sentence: “Why don’t they leave the perpetrator?” by the sentence: “Why do they resort to violence?”