New Choices | Why We Blame Victims for Domestic Violence
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Why We Blame Victims for Domestic Violence


Why We Blame Victims for Domestic Violence

And how to respond to victim-blaming when it’s directed at you


How many times have you read a news story about a woman accusing someone of abuse only to scroll down to read the comments? Most likely, nestled among a few well-meaning comments of support, you found a bevy of judgment and shaming directed at the survivor. And, they’re coming from both men and women.

“This happened years ago and she’s just talking about it now? Sounds like someone needs attention.”

“If it was so bad, why didn’t she leave? I would walk out the door the second a man hit me.”

“She didn’t even report it to the police. She’s probably just making this up.”

“She only wants money.”

Why do some people jump to blame the victim? At its core, says Elise Lopez, a researcher in sexual and domestic violence prevention and response at the University of Arizona, victim-blaming is about self-preservation.

Compare these reactions to how some people respond to seeing a photo of an overweight person, says Lopez. “People think, ‘If I were overweight, I’d go to the gym everyday and I would lose that weight.’ They don’t think about how hard that would be,” she says.

The same mindset often comes into play when people read about domestic violence. “A lot of people have a gut reaction to violence. It’s emotionally charged. They think if somebody is being abused, they probably did something to incite it.” In essence, if people can find a reason why abuse is the victim’s fault, then abuse is something that can not only be controlled but prevented. And, in turn, it won’t happen to them.



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