How to Stop Victim Blaming
We've all heard the comments:
She should have __________.
If he had only _________.
If she hadn't done __________.
If I were in that situation, I would have _____________.
Unfortunately, it's easier to talk about what someone should have done to prevent something from happening for multiple reasons. If you're talking about what someone "should have done," then you're already analyzing the situation more than the person was in the moment; you already know the negative outcomes, and you already know at least one thing you wouldn't have done.
You are also looking at the situation from an outside perspective. If you put yourself in that person's shoes, you would have the background knowledge surrounding the situation. In the case of most victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, a huge part of that background knowledge is the love they have for the perpetrator. Abusive relationships have layers of dynamics that outside perspectives often can't understand, such as: the relationship isn't always bad, the perpetrator could be a good parent, the victim may fear becoming a single parent, the perpetrator may be the only source of income, the victim may not have a support system outside of the relationship, and the list goes on and on.
But most importantly, it's easier for anyone to blame the victim because we don't want to think about how easily this could happen to us. It's easier to believe that the victim did something wrong instead of believing the perpetrator became abusive without provocation.
Living in a world that blames the victim makes it harder for victims to come forward with their story, harder to seek justice for the crimes that have been committed against them, and hard to find support toward healing. This way of thinking is also dangerous for those not currently experiencing violence. If we are constantly assuming that we would have prevented that situation, then we aren't really prepared if a loved one becomes abusive because we are not seeing the signs of abuse.
So let's start by changing our grammar.
What we say:
"Lisa was approached by Dan at a party. Dan gave Lisa a drink spiked with Rohypnol. Later that night, Lisa was assaulted by Dan." This language focuses on what happened to the victim as opposed to what someone did to the victim.
What we should say:
"Dan approached Lisa at a party. Dan gave Lisa a drink spiked with Rohypnol. Later that night, Dan assaulted Lisa." This language focuses on the actions of the perpetrator rather than what the victim should have done.