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  • Jan24Mon

    Check your responses, are you victim blaming?

    January 24, 2022 Melodie Bissell
    Filed Under:
    Abuse Awareness, Vulnerable Sector

    Victims often stay silent about their abuse. They may fear they will not be believed, or fear further abuse from the offender. Too often we hear that the blame for the abuse is placed on the victim rather than the offender.

    Statements like these fall under the term victim-blaming:

    • “She was flirting with him!”
    • “He is known to be a liar.”
    • “What was she thinking would happen if she dressed that way?”
    • “He has chosen an alternative lifestyle and brought it on himself!”

    We want to strongly caution you against approaching any reports or concerns of abuse from that perspective. Instead, we encourage you to appoint an individual to be responsible for receiving reports that will advocate for transparency and truth and also to be an advocate for the victim. 

    On occasion, allegations of abuse may be found to be false. It is always our hope that that is the case. However, most allegations of abuse are found to be true, or there is some element of truth to them. It is always best to be seen as a safe person receiving the report and responding with care, empathy, and willingness to listen and respond.

    Victim blaming is a devaluing act that occurs when the victim(s) of a crime or an accident is held responsible — in whole or in part — for the crimes that have been committed against them.  Another way to understand this is that victim-blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. The study of victimology seeks to mitigate the prejudice against victims, and the perception that victims are in any way responsible for the actions of offenders.

    When it comes to children or youth, they are never to blame for the abuse that robs them of their innocence. They are not at an age that they can make decisions regarding sexual acts or behaviour directed their way by an adult or someone in authority or control. They may be flattered by the attention, but that does not mean they are to blame.

    There is also a greater understanding now of the influence of individuals in a position of power, influence, authority, and control. For this reason we recommend that all staff, volunteers and leaders sign a Code of Conduct spelling out their duty of care and the expectations for their interaction with those they care for.

    We caution you against victim-blaming as it perpetuates the cycle of violence. Survivors who internalize blame tend to feel deep shame. They hold themselves accountable for their abuse and are less likely to report it. This is particularly true for people who come from marginalized populations.

    Victim-blaming is often associated with psychological and spiritual abuse.

    Therefore, we encourage you to:

    • Approach all incidences of abuse with an open mind, eager to discover what occurred and to hear what transpired. “I am so sorry this has happened, please help us understand what happened.”
    • Challenge victim-blaming statements when you hear them.
    • Do not agree with abusers' excuses for why they abuse.
    • Let survivors know that it is not their fault.
    • Hold abusers accountable for their actions: do not let them make excuses like blaming the victim, alcohol, or drugs for their behaviour.
    • Report all child abuse to child protection agencies.  Leave the investigation to the professionals.
    • Encourage a third party to investigate incidences of sexual harassment and crimes against adults.
    • Cooperate with the investigations.
    • Document everything.
    • Avoid anything that would appear as if you do not believe the victim or from adding further trauma to the situation.
    • If you can’t advocate on behalf of the victim, then find someone that will. 

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