Episode 59: "What Is Victim-Blaming and Why Does It Matter?"Support the show
Today, we’re answering questions from local teens about what victim-blaming looks like.
This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic violence response organization, providing services at no charge for survivors of dating and domestic abuse for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “What is victim-blaming and why does it matter?”
Victim-blaming is when someone blames a target or victim for someone else’s abusive or bullying behavior or violence. Unfortunately, this is a common way that people respond to a victim when someone else is abusive. In 2021, this way of thinking is still ingrained in our worldwide culture, through movies, TV, music, and our own biases and thoughts.
Here are some examples of victim-blaming:
Why does victim-blaming matter? Abuse and violence are never the victim’s fault. Abusive behaviors are a choice, and the person who uses these behaviors made the choice to act that way. Even if alcohol or drugs are involved and make the person’s behavior worse, choosing to drink or engage with substances is also a choice.
The culture of victim-blaming in our world today is one reason why it can be hard to talk about abuse and violence. If a friend tells you they’re a survivor or that they’re currently dealing with an abusive relationship, think about how you respond. It’s not our job in the moment to fact find and decide whether or not something actually happened, or whether our friend acted the right way when the abuse happened (plus, there is no right way to act!). Our job is to believe our friend and listen, hold space for their feelings, and get them help if needed. You should always report something on your own, though, if your friend is in immediate danger.
The stigma or judgement of speaking up about abuse is real, and so harmful. If we want more people to recover from trauma and feel empowered in their lives, we have to stop blaming victims. Believe survivors of abuse, and challenge and change victim-blaming phrases when you hear them from others.
To speak with an expert about dating violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.