Please note: There may be some triggering content in this article. If you need to speak with anyone, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
When someone going through a traumatizing event, there are two types of responses: blame the person for what they went through, or empathize and support them through recovery. While cultures vary on the rate of doing this, unfortunately, America struggles greatly with victim-blaming. According to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 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.” Victim-blaming can appear from legal, medical, and mental health professionals as well as from the media and from family members, friends, acquaintances and more.
Victim-blaming can cause a lot of psychological trauma. Dr. Anju Hurria, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California-Irvine told U.S. News, “It’s really considered a secondary trauma or a secondary assault.” She says that people who experience victim-blaming experience “greater distress, increased amounts of depression; [it] usually complicates their post-traumatic stress disorder, if they’re experiencing that, because they’re dealing with two different assaults.” When a person is victim-blamed, they are less likely to come forward in the event of future assaults because they fear they will not be believed.
Children who are victim-blamed will likely take those harsh statements as truth, and may continue to blame themselves for many years to come. A study conducted by a researcher from California listened to the narratives of 8 rape survivors and found three main themes that silenced them from further disclosing what happened to them: 1) negative reactions from professionals, leading the person to question if saying anything would be effective, 2) negative reactions from friends and family leading to feelings of self-blame, and 3) negative reactions leading to questioning whether their experience qualified as rape.
The Atlantic argues that many people don’t want to accept the fact that their seemingly “normal” friend, family member, coworker, etc. is capable of committing such an act. However, realizations need to be made that bad things can happen to good people, and unfortunately these acts can happen to anyone. Individuals who have gone through traumatic events needs to be validated. They need to feel heard, respected, and appreciated for coming forward.
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