How to Avoid Victim Blaming
by Christina Hays
No one should ever blame a victim for what they have experienced. No person starts a relationship or goes on a date thinking that the person with them will ever intentionally hurt them. If they thought this, they would never go out with them again. CSNA has been educating the public regarding victim blaming and ways to avoid it for years, but victims are still being held accountable for what is being done to them. Our community needs to support and believe survivors.
Sometimes victim blaming can be subtle and at other times it is more direct. Here are a few examples of subtle victim blaming:
1. Why did you wait so long to make a police report?
2. Can’t you just let him come get some clothes and leave?
3. You know what he is like. Can’t you just hear how sorry he is?
4. Do you really think he would do something to the children?
5. We don’t want to take sides.
All of these examples make survivors feel like they had a choice in the violence. Refusing to hear a victim’s side of the story, making them intimidated or afraid, belittling them or talking down to them, manipulating them into talking to their abuser, using the children against them, or trying to make them feel bad for being in this situation are all ways that people revictimize survivors of violence. Victim blaming is just another obstacle that survivors have to face when they are trying to navigate the system and rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, this revictimization of survivors can cause harm and even lead to the victim returning to the abuser out of fear, lack of understanding, and shame.
The following are examples of more direct victim blaming:
1. Why did you keep going back to him when you knew it was never going to get better?
2. You asked for him to show up at your house when you sent that note with the children.
3. If you call the police again, we will arrest you both.
4. I am going to call DHR and make sure they take your children away since you keep choosing to stay with your abuser.
5. Did you not think that ignoring her all day would lead to this fight?
These phrases have been accounted to me numerous times by several survivors. People that they have called and asked for help have judged them and threatened them. They stop calling for help and do not trust anyone after they have encounters like the above. This makes it next to impossible for them to ever get the help that they truly need in order to get safe and stay safe.
So how do we stop blaming people for violence perpetrated by others towards them? This should be a simple answer, just stop. However, some people still do not even realize that they are blaming victims. They think that they are just being blunt or making them look at things in a different way. When speaking with survivors it is important to let them lead the conversation. Check your biases. Stop and ask yourself if what you are about to say will be helpful. Sometimes just listening is better than trying to give advice. We all have opinions and can get frustrated when we see something that we would not do ourselves, but we do not have to share that with a survivor. If it is something that really bothers you than maybe talk with a coworker or trusted friend about why it bothers you.
When we talk about believing and supporting survivors it means that we do not judge their decisions. No one should tell a survivor what they have to do. Encourage survivors to make their own choices to get independent and safe without fear of judgement if they do decide to go back. Remember that as a community we are all affected by violence and reach out if you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with a situation.
For more information about services for survivors of intimate partner violence please contact our office locally at 256.574.5826 or at our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. CSNA provides free, confidential support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. You do not have to face it alone.