The family has always been considered one of the most important institutions in many cultures, ideally providing its members with their fundamental needs for safety, food, affection, intimacy, and socialization. In fact, conflict is inevitable in families and violence is all too often pervasive.
In their daring analysis of family violence and abuse, Gelles and Straus (1988) assert: “You are more likely to be physically assaulted, beaten, and killed in your own home at the hands of a loved one that in any place else, or by anyone else in our society.” They conclude that, “Violence in the home is not the exception we fear; it is all too often the rule we live by. Cultures can promote victim-victimizer, violent, or blame systems, or they can promote respectful relationships among its members who in turn make a sound commitment to resolve conflicts non-violently.”
Victim blaming is one of the barriers that places survivors in greater danger. This attitude marginalizes the victim/survivor, and makes it more difficult to trust and come forward; it also reinforces the abuser’s attitude that the victim/survivor deserved what happened to them.
One of the main reasons we tend to blame the victim is because if we can make excuses for the behaviour, we can tell ourselves it will not happen to us, because I am not like them. This reaction does nothing to help the victim, and further isolates them.
We need to change our view and language to help bring down this barrier. Some things that we can do right now are: 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; acknowledge that survivors are their own best experts and provide them with resources and support; and avoid victim blaming in the media.
Reframe the question, “Why does the victim stay?” to “Why does the perpetrator abuse?”
If we remain silent, what our silence is really saying is that we do not see the unacceptable behaviour that is occurring.
(Sources: http://www.zurinstitute.com/victimhood.html; http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/educated/avoiding-victim-blaming/)
This article was submitted as part of a month-long campaign organized by theSylvan Lake Family Violence and Bullying Coalition and Building Bridges sub-committee to raise awareness of the family violence and bullying that takes place in Sylvan Lake and beyond, and the resources available to help cope with them.