Sexual assault is the only crime where there is more prosecution aimed at the victim than the perpetrator. It seems as though people are ready to believe the absolute best about the perpetrator and the absolute worst about the victim.
This is called victim blaming. When a victim of a crime is held responsible, in whole or in part, for the crime committed against them. One of the biggest frustrations for me personally when it comes to victim blaming is the complete inconsistency with which it happens.
We don’t believe that victims who are mugged are responsible. We don’t believe that they were “asking for it” because they were wearing a watch. We don’t blame a company when its profits are embezzled, or the cashier who hands over money to an armed perpetrator. But it seems that all logic and consistency flies out the window when it comes to sexual assault.
In the first part of this post we covered two reasons why we victim blame: ignorance and fear of the darkness. Today let us look at two more reasons society is so prone to blame victims for the sins of their perpetrators
3. Victim Blaming comes from an idol of control
I use the term idol here to refer to something we worship. We all worship something or multiple things in our lives, and I believe much of our victim blaming comes from an absolute worship of the ability to control.
It is an innate human desire to be able to control our own lives. We crave the ability to bring about the good things we desire in life as well as the ability to prevent the bad things in our lives from happening. Even though all of us know better, it seems as though deep down many people continue to operate in the belief that “Good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people” and so whenever our experience rubs against this we quickly come up with a way to understand it.
If good things happen to good people, then all we have to do to control our own lives is to be good. We worship the ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones. When we worship something we are willing to go to great lengths to protect it, even such lengths as blaming innocent victims for the horrific things that have happened to them.
To admit that sexual assault happens to innocent people, to “good” people, means we must admit that we too are vulnerable, and this is in direct opposition to our idol of control. So rather than admit that we are vulnerable…we blame victims.
If I blame a victim for being too flirty, all I have to do to feel in control is to not flirt.
If I blame a victim for wearing too short of a skirt, all I have to do to feel in control is wear a longer skirt.
If I blame a victim for drinking, all I have to do to feel in control is not drink.
If I blame a victim for where they went, all I have to do is not go to that location and I feel like I can control my life.
In my own sinful desire to be in complete control, I am forced to explain away the bad things that happen to other people so I can tell myself, “They didn’t control their lives enough. But I can.”
Yet the elephant in the room is that none of us are in control of our lives.
Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of a man plans his way; but the Lord establishes his steps.”
I am not in control, and as a human being, I am vulnerable to others. So are you. We must be willing to admit this or else we will end up placing blame simply to make ourselves feel better.
Which leads to the final aspect of victim blaming….
4. Victim blaming comes from pride.
All victim blaming in society, ultimately comes from a place of pride. The essence of victim blaming is the idea that, “I would never do what that victim did, therefore this would never happen to me.” Very simply put it is the idea that you and I are better than the victim. That we are smarter, wiser, more ready to defend ourselves, more in control, and mostly: more moral.
Victim blaming at its core, is us reassuring ourselves deep down, “I would never let this happen to me.”
Many of us are too prideful to be willing to admit our thinking is wrong. We are too prideful to learn and grow out of our ignorance.
Many of us are too prideful to admit that we aren’t in control, that in end, we don’t have the final say on what happens in our lives.
I am writing this as a fellow prideful man, who has been wrong on so many topics so many times and am continually being reminded to humble myself. Being humbled is never a pleasant experience, but if all it takes for a victim to be cared for, spoken truth to, and loved, is for us as a society to humbly admit we have been wrong, then I am all in.
May our hearts be softened, and may we give a new ear to victims so that we might fight for them instead of against them and may we be forgiven for blaming victims for the actions of their abusers.
It is not your fault.
We are sorry.