• The Psychology of Victim-Blaming by K. Roberts

The Psychology of Victim-Blaming by K. Roberts

In my view, this article (see farther below) is applicable to a lot of the spiritual abuse or domestic violence stories we see on spiritual abuse blogs, and how so many churches mishandle them.

I have a few victim-blamers in my own family, including a sister and a brother – my brother’s victim-blaming tendencies seem to start after he joined Alcoholics Anonymous. 

I’d like to say, though, I don’t know if I agree with the author’s view that asking what a victim could’ve possibly done to prevent their victimization is blaming or not. I think it would depend on the tone, motivation, timing, etc, behind why one is asking.

For example, if someone comes up to you who was just mugged minutes before,  I do think that it is not the time to ask the person, “what could you have done differently to have reduced your chances of having been mugged.”

I personally have never been mugged, but I am very interested in reading articles by law enforcement that would give me tips so as to lessen my chances of being mugged. I don’t view such practical advice as always or necessarily being “victim blaming.” I think the timing and context of such advice matters.

The Psychology of Victim-Blaming (on The Atlantic) by K. Roberts


October 2016

When people want to believe that the world is just, and that bad things won’t happen to them, empathy can suffer.

…Victim-blaming comes in many forms, and is oftentimes more subtle, and unconscious than Metzger’s tirade. It can apply to cases of rape and sexual assault, but also to more mundane crimes, like a person who gets pickpocketed and is then chided for his decision to carry his wallet in his back pocket.

Any time someone defaults to questioning what a victim could have done differently to prevent a crime, he or she is participating, to some degree, in the culture of victim-blaming.

….“I think the biggest factor that promotes victim-blaming is something called thejust world hypothesis,” says Sherry Hamby, a professor of psychology at the University of the South and founding editor of the APA’s Psychology of Violencejournal. “It’s this idea that people deserve what happens to them. There’s just a really strong need to believe that we all deserve our outcomes and consequences.”

… Hamby explains that this desire to see the world as just and fair may be even stronger among Americans, who are raised in a culture that promotes the American Dream and the idea that we all control our own destinies.

…Holding victims responsible for their misfortune is partially a way to avoid admitting that something just as unthinkable could happen to you—even if you do everything “right.”

…While victim-blaming often brings to mind crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence, it occurs across the board, explains Barbara Gilin, a professor of social work at Widener University. Murders, burglaries, abductions—whatever the crime, many people tend to default to victim-blaming thoughts and behaviors as a defense mechanism in the face of bad news.

Gilin notes that, while people tend to be able to accept natural disasters as unavoidable, many feel that they have a little more control over whether they become victims of crimes, that they can take precautions that will protect them. Therefore, some people have a harder time accepting that the victims of these crimes didn’t contribute to (and bear some responsibility for) their own victimization.

“In my experience, having worked with a lot of victims and people around them, people blame victims so that they can continue to feel safe themselves,” Gilin explains.

…Hamby adds that even the most well-intentioned people sometimes contribute to victim blaming, like therapists who work in prevention programs where women are given recommendations about how to be careful and avoid becoming the victim of a crime.

…While Gilin notes that people are more likely to be sympathetic to victims that they know well, reading about crimes reported in the media can sometimes increase a tendency for victim-blaming.

… At its core, victim blaming could stem from a combination of failure to empathize with victims and a fear reaction triggered by the human drive for self-preservation.

…Niemi suggests that getting to the root of the problem might involve reframing the way we think about perpetrators as well as victims, particularly in cases of rape.

“One thing that might be problematic is the mythologizing of rape and how it’s made to be so that no normal person could be perceived as being a rapist,” she explains. “When it occurs, it’s so horrifying that people can’t conceive that their own brother or person that they know could be a rapist.”

Niemi explains that it can be hard, especially for the loved ones of perpetrators, to reconcile the fact that someone they know so well and see as such a good person could commit a crime that they see as monstrous.

// end

Regarding this portion from The Atlantic article:

“In my experience, having worked with a lot of victims and people around them, people blame victims so that they can continue to feel safe themselves,” Gilin explains.

// end quote

I found similar points in books about work place abuse books I read years ago (I was harassed on a regular basis by one boss I had on a professional, full time job I held).

The authors of the work place abuse books explained that one reason your co-workers will not come to your defense if they see you being abused by a boss is they assume they will be targeted next (something they wish to avoid), and they rationalize their cowardice and inaction by assuming you must have done something, something wrong, to “deserve” being targeted for abuse by the boss.

Here are a few Bible verses about this topic:

Luke 13 (Jesus speaking):

13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

John 9:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him [Jesus], “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

And please see the entire book of Job in the Old Testament for one lesson that even bad stuff happens to good people at times, through no fault of their own.

More on this blog:

Sexual Assault Victims Who Turn on Sexual Assault Victims by K. Burmeister

If You Act Like A Victim, You Will Likely Be Victimized – And: Complementarians Ask Women and Girls to Be Small To Make Men Feel Big

Victimhood, Compassion, and Time Limits

Red Flags, Personality Disorders: Lack of Empathy – an Exception

Why Victims of Shaming Blame Themselves Rather Than Holding Their Cruel Tormentors Accountable – The School of Life

Essays In Defense of (Gymnast) Simone Biles

Victimhood, Victim Blaming, and Moving On

Why Keeping a Diary Helps You Move On And Even Improves Your Heart Health – Daily Mail

The Left Should Just Admit it: Victims Aren’t Always Good People by Deborah Orr

7 thoughts on “• The Psychology of Victim-Blaming by K. Roberts

  1. No matter how I try can’t post comments. Logged in with FB and it always comes back , ” error “. Not teck savvy enough to know what is wrong.


    • @ Mae.

      Sorry you are having problems posting here via Facebook. 😦

      I didn’t even know one could post here via Facebook. I normally sign up for blogs with a secondary e-mail address and use those to log in and post.

      I have looked around the admin area of this blog, but I don’t so far see anything I can click, check off etc, to fix this problem.

  2. Mae, I had a ton of trouble with worpress blogs for a long time. I think, purely by accident, it finally tied into my google account. It automatically came up for me here.

  3. John 9 is one of the most overlooked passages when it comes to determinism. Some Calvinists teach it as Jesus saying the blindness was so He could show His power but they miss the larger meaning. Bad things happen. We are supposed to work to prevent them or fix them or alleviate suffering.

    Determinism is fatalism.

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