It is unfortunate enough to be a victim of abuse, domestic violence, or a senseless crime but to be blamed for it is incredibly devastating.
Many victim’s experiences are often minimized and invalidated by their family members, legal and medical profession, and society at large. The subtle message of victim blaming is “You are responsible for and deserve what you got!”
No one ever deserves violence. To blame victims for the traumas they’ve suffered is a form of violence in and of itself. It is what is referred to as re-victimization. Victim blaming is the biggest slap in the face to those who are already down and out.
What is “Victim Blaming”?
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. This blame can appear in the form of negative social responses from legal, medical, and mental health professionals, as well as from the media and immediate family members and other acquaintances.
Some victims of crime receive more sympathy from society than others. Often,the responses toward crime victims are based on the misunderstanding of others. This misunderstanding may lead them to believe that the victim deserved what happened to them, or that they are individuals with low self-esteem who seek out violence. As a result, it can be very difficult for victims to cope when they are blamed for what has happened to them. ~ The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, August 2009 ~
As human beings what we crave most from others is acceptance, understanding, love, and compassion. We need these things as much as we need air, food, water, and shelter. In times of our greatest pain and despair the last thing we expect from those we care about is blame and shame.
Yet this is the experience of many victims.
I’ve heard many people say “I can’t believe they don’t believe me!” “My family continues to think this person who (physically, emotionally, sexually) abused me is not responsible.” “My family blames me for ‘ruining’ our family.” “My family blames me for causing ‘drama’.”
Most people first disclose to those who they feel closest to and safe with about the traumas they suffered. When they are met with attitudes of minimization, invalidation, and blame it often makes them feel like they’re “crazy“. This is especially true in cases of past childhood physical and sexual abuse.
Avoidance, denial, and minimization doesn’t change what happened.
It is as if people believe that if we don’t talk about it and turn a blind eye about what happened then it will go away. However for many victims of violence the impact of trauma they suffered often last for months, years, and sometimes a lifetime.
Violence and trauma are the underpinnings of many of the emotional/psychological and behavioral issues we see in individuals and society at large. Unresolved trauma can have damaging effects on every aspect of a person’s life.
From a higher perspective victim blaming is part of what perpetuates human drama, trauma, and suffering. Invalidation, minimization, devaluation add fuel to an already raging fire. Acceptance, validation, fairness, justice, compassion, and love heal.
How do you cope with “Victim Blaming”?
If you’re someone who is the victim of “victim blaming” the first thing you need to know is “It is NOT your fault!”. You are not responsible for the abuse, and violence you suffered in the hands of others. You do not need to explain or justify “why” it happened to you.
Second you need to realize that you can not get validation and support from people who are incapable of providing it to you. This is a tough one because most people want apologies and validation from their abuser and from their family members.
You may never get an apology from your abuser and validation from your family members.
That doesn’t mean you can’t heal or move forward in your life. You can heal from trauma and move forward in your life without the apology or the validation from family members.
Personally what worked well for me was enlisting people outside of my abuser and family members who accepted and validated me. Initially it was my English as a Second Language tutor/Second Mother Shereen. Then it was living in a group home that provided and protected children from abusive homes.
For you it maybe a therapist, a best friend, a clergy person, an online support group that provides that acceptance and validation you need to move forward. You want to surround yourself with people who care about you and sometimes it may not be your blood related family.
Ultimately you need to take your power back.
This means refusing to be a victim of victim blaming. It may mean for a while you’ll need to cut contact with toxic people and relationships. It may mean that you’ll need to be very selective with whom you share about the traumas you suffered.
It may mean relinquishing your hope for an apology from your abuser. Often it means surrendering the desire for justice to a higher power. It is about trusting that justice will be served one way or another. It is also about knowing that you are much greater than what happened to you.
Please take time to share your questions, and comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Have you experienced victim blaming? What helped you cope with it? If you found this article helpful please share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Thank you.
Peace, Love & Gratitude,
PS: If you want more information about how to claim your power back listen to my interview with Darlene Barriere, author of “Victim to Victory” at the Mental Health Telesummit. Below is a quick detail about our interview.
Healing is a Choice: Re-interpreting What Happened to You and Turning Pain into Power!
~ How our emotions talk to us and why we need to listen
~ What forgiveness really is and how sustained anger is poison to Who We Really Are
~ 3 steps to replace negative thoughts about your Self and Turn Pain into Power