To be honest with you guys, I really struggled with the words on how to write about this. I think it’s because victim blaming fills me with a lot of rage and other feelings that make it difficult to be objective about it. It’s insidious and I’ve seen it take it’s effect and hurt people I care about a lot.
Originally introduced to me in regards to rape and sexual assault, I’m seeing a whole lot of victim blaming recently when it comes to gun violence. Basically, victim blaming occurs when the focus is taken off of the assailant/gunman/criminal/bully and instead shifts focus onto the victim wherein they are held responsible for the violence committed against them, not the other way around. It’s easy to forget that no matter what, it is the perpetrator’s choice to commit violence, never the victim’s.
Victim blaming does not hold the perpetrator accountable and makes it difficult to find justice. In the context of sexual assault, it helps protect male freedoms and only adds to the list of things women should or should not do in order to be “good” and safe from attack. But no matter how much risky behavior you engage in, even if you do everything right, you can still find yourself in danger and that is never your fault.
It’s a useless practice that’s so engrained as acceptable behavior that the casual things we say that may be intended as jokes, questions to help find justice, or even an attempt to make someone feel better after they’ve been attacked, can be victim blaming. But across the board, regardless of the crime, here are 13 things you say you didn’t realize are victim blaming.
What Did You Do To Make Him Do That?I've heard people ask girls this, especially in the case of domestic violence. When you say this, it vilifies the victim by implying that her attacker is such a gem of a human that she must have done something truly horrific or unspeakable in order to warrant such a response. Often followed up by, "He's such a great guy, he would never do that," this implies that the attacker's perceived manner and personal disposition somehow outranks the experience of the victim and that's just not right. Real life example: when Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna in his car, a lot of his fans were saying things like, "Well, Rihanna must have done something to make him that angry." Uh, what? It doesn't matter WHAT Rihanna did to make him angry. Hitting her and pushing her out of a car is never the appropriate response. Source: iStock
She Should Have Dumped Him/Her A Long Time AgoI hear this a lot when talking about girls who were in abusive relationships. Everyone who hasn't ever been a victim wonders why she would stay with someone who was hurting her. The truth is, you don't know what was going on. People aren't able to leave for a number of reasons (or are frequently trapped by their abuser), but it's ultimately not on the victim to remove themselves from the situation, it's 100 percent on the person committing the crime. Yeah, maybe leaving would have been a good idea, but not leaving was a mistake - intentionally harming someone is not a mistake. Source: iStock
He Can't Control It. Boys Will Be Boys.This phrase is hurting the men in our lives we love and it needs to be taken out of our speech, now. Most of the men I know are kind, compassionate, empathetic humans, and it's not wrong to presume they are great people. To say that they are somehow biologically predetermined to exact violence, that they at any moment can Hulk out because of surging testosterone is completely ridiculous. He can control it. But this doesn't only hurt men - it hurts women too. When you say something like, "Eh, you know how guys are," it blows off what he did to someone. It makes it seem like his actions were no big deal, and actually you're just being a drama queen because OMG he can't help it, okay? It's ridiculous.
She Shouldn't Have Been Out So LateWhat, so she only got attacked because it was dark out? People get assaulted in broad daylight every day. This is part of the long list of rules we all must follow that put us on-guard and defensive though most of our waking hours. This statement implies that assault only happens during certain hours of the day and the victim was putting herself in danger by daring to be an active member of society past a predetermined curfew. So, what you're essentially saying is that she shouldn't have gone out late at night if she didn't want to get attacked. That is absurd. Source: iStock
How Much Was She Drinking?Remember the horrible Steubenville case? When some football players were accused of sexual assault, many people immediately blamed the victim because she was so drunk that she was basically not conscious. They kept saying she shouldn't have drank that much, and that if she were more sober, maybe it wouldn't have happened. So, basically, it's okay for a girl to be assaulted just because she drank? That's an insane statement. It is not anyone's fault for blacking out, it is the assailant's fault for having sex with someone who was not able to consent. Sure, they chose to drink, but that does not give anyone the right to put them in harm's way because they're incapacitated. This is another example of coded language for, "She was asking for it," and it needs to stop. Source: iStock
She Shouldn't Have Been AloneOf course, buddy up with a friend or co-worker if at all possible for safety, but that does not mean that someone else could have prevented an attack. Sometimes you're just traveling alone, whether it's by circumstance or by choice, and it's not your fault for being alone or not having a buddy in place. And honestly, it's not too much to ask for safety when alone, it's a right. Source: iStock
I Don't Believe YouIf someone feels comfortable enough to tell you what happened to them, it's not your job to question the validity of their story. It suggests that they made it up or fabricated their assault. This is the part that makes it harder for them to get justice for their attack. Why would anyone make up being assaulted? I know what some of you might say - that some people HAVE done just that. Okay, sure, it happens once in a while - but it's rare, and it does not happen all the time. Most victims do not lie about what happened to them. Assuming that they do makes it that much harder for other victims to tell someone what happened to them. Source: iStock
Well, Did You See What She Was Wearing?I hear this so often that it is actually legitimately disturbing. It doesn't matter if a girl is wearing the shortest dress in existence or something that covers up her whole body - she can still be assaulted. It doesn't matter if her skirt is short or her cleavage was out. The person who attacked her still shouldn't have attacked her. Enough is enough with this!
Why Did You Take Nude Selfies If You Didn't Want Them Leaked?Last Labor Day weekend, many celebrities had their iClouds hacked in to and their nudes widely circulated and this response was heard over and over again in media coverage. You're allowed to take nudes and share them with someone you trust to your heart's content. If you intended for them to be seen by one person, that's as far as they should be circulated. No one is "asking for it" by taking nudes in the first place. Source: iStock
She Was Wearing Too Much MakeupYoung girls who are taken advantage of are frequently accused of attempting to look and act older, and a lot of the time, the amount of make up a girl is wearing is called into question. Why? Blaming an external factor that makes the victim look "slutty" or like she was "asking for it" by expressing herself is easier than blaming the perpetrator and holding him/her responsible. No one gets raped because they were wearing make up, they get raped because there was a rapist present. Source: iStock
Why Didn't You Fight Back?Stop implying that it was on the victim to prevent the crime. Whether you're out-powered, threatened, or unconscious, sometimes you can't fight back. I'm hearing this more and more in reaction to gun violence. Of course, knowing how to physically defend yourself is helpful, but that's not the point. The victim shouldn't have anything to fight back against to begin with. Source: iStock
But She Didn't Say NoSometimes you can't say no. Sometimes the perpetrator is a relative, trusted friend, significant other, or teacher. Sometimes there wasn't a "no" because of limited speech faculties at the time of the attack. The absence of a "no" does not equal consent. No "no" doesn't mean "yes."
She Deserved ItStop. No one deserves it. I don't care how awful you perceive that person to be, no one deserves to be raped, attacked, abused, or assaulted. Even if you hate them. No one deserves it. Period. Don't ever say this.
Which of these victim blaming phrases have you heard? Which have you said? What did we forget to include? Tell me in the comments.
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.