Healing From Emotional Abuse: What Does Victim Blaming Mean?

Healing From Emotional Abuse: What Does Victim Blaming Mean?

Can you heal from abuse?  What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day.  And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough.  Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation.  But it doesn’t have to be a five year process either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entires lives have been impacted by their narcissist.  Yours doesn’t have to.  To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.

Hello and Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. I’m Marissa F. Cohen.  Today, we’re talking about Victim Blaming. What is Victim Blaming?  Victim Blaming is Devaluing the victim of a crime, an accident, or any time of abusive maltreatment by holding them wholly or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct against them.

In laymen’s terms, that means blaming somebody for the crime that they did not commit.  That they were a victim of. Or putting any sort of blame on that person, even though they had no part in the making of the decisions.

There are a lot of ways that people might not realize that they’re victim blaming.  A lot of really common phrases are blaming somebody by saying that they’re doing this for attention.  Or they’re saying it for attention. By asking somebody how much you drank.  If you were at a party and something bad happened to you, saying, “how much did you drink?” Or, “did you use any drugs?”  And using that as a means to explain why that person is at fault for what happened to them.

And my absolute least favorite ever, and it still, I don’t understand how, but it’s still so common that this is the first thing people ask victims of sexual assault after it happens.  “What were you wearing?”  Why on earth would somebody’s clothing determine whether it’s okay or not okay to take advantage of that person? I’ll never understand. Or, “if you didn’t want that to happen to you, than you shouldn’t have… blank.”  So you’re saying that they are the cause  of what happened to them because of something they did.

And while some of these play a part in being targeted for abuse, they are not the reason for the assault. The only reason a sexual assault happens is because offender chose to offend. The victim does not have a choice or any say. They don’t give consent. And that’s what makes it sexual assault. 

Rape and sexual assault are never about sexual urges or being turned on.  It’s about power and control.  Being able to overpower a person, and take away their control.  It’s a violent and coercive shift in the power dynamic. 

A perfect example is, On January 1st, 2020 an article came out from Northern Illinois University’s newspaper, the Independent, citing a classic example of victim blaming.  A woman was sexually assaulted in an alley behind a bar, and the lawyer representing the establishment, El Hefe Super Macho Taquiria, stated that “she was more than 50% of the proximate cause of injury.”   That’s his way of saying, she did this to herself. The survivor claims that she was drugged at the establishment and assaulted by the two security guards that escorted her out to the back alley behind the bar.  The bar’s defense against that was that she  became overly intoxicated and, “neglected to take adequate and proper steps necessary to protect her own safety while at the establishment.”  So now, not only are they saying that their employees, their security guards were not responsible for what happened, but she completely is because she was drinking and became intoxicated.

Now, I know that, that’s not an excuse, and that’s classic victim blaming. But that is so dangerous to survivors.

So, what do you think about that?  Does the responsibility of safety fall on the establishment or on the patron?

I know from working in the restaurant industry for 12 years that laws surrounding getting a liquor license will tell you that the establishment is to blame.  They are required to maintain a safe environment for patrons by monitoring drinking while in the establishment.  But what do you guys think?

Another example is:

In 2018. the Centre de Communautaire Maritime in Brussels featured an exhibit filled with clothes worn by victims of sexual assault to combat the idea that what you were wearing does not in any way justify rape.  There were clothes from button up tops and dress pants, to dresses, jeans and even baby clothes. Toddler clothes. Clothes that you were too young to be able to know or be able to conceptualize what sex is. And they were hanging on the wall.  Hundreds of pieces around this exhibit.  And it was really eye opening for a lot of people.  It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.  What matters that somebody else is taking control of you.  Whether you are conscious or unconscious.  Whether you are a child or an adult.  If there is no consent, it is sexual assault.  It is rape  The belief that what you were wearing  causes rape is extremely damaging to survivors. 

There are numerous programs you’ll see around college campuses in April.  There’s denim day.  There’s the Clothesline project.  There are all these programs and all of these things to show you that it really doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.  There was a girl that was raped while wearing jeans and the judge decided that the perpetrator was not guilty because jeans are difficult to take off.  And in order to pull jeans off of a person, the person wearing the jeans needs to help.  So she was partly responsible for her rape and therefore, he was not guilty, which is the origin of Denim Day.  People wear jeans on Denim Day to show how ridiculous a claim that is. You can be raped in anything. 


Think about it this way.  Do we blame people that wear backpacks or purses for their belongings getting mugged?  Do we blame people who were the victim of a drive-by shooting or a school shooting for being shot?  What is the difference?

When victims come running out of a school, or afterwards on the news when we see a school shooting, we never, ever, it doesn’t even cross our minds to blame the people that were shot.  Or the people that were there, that were not the shooter or the event.  So why do we blame survivors of rape and sexual assault for what happened TO them without their consent?  What’s the difference?

Another example.  After the video was released of former Baltimore Ravens Running back, Ray Rice beating his then fiancé (now wife) Janay Rice, the Baltimore Ravens tweeted about how that was Janay Rice’s fault.  She was clearly the victim in all the videos.  There was nothing she could have done to deserve being punched like that, then dragged by her hair out of the elevator.  But we try to blame the victim because the Baltimore Raven’s didn’t want the negative PR against Ray Rice.  That’s not right.

And what about that case in Stubenville, Ohio? There was a 12 year old girl that went to a party, just like 200 of her classmates. She got drunk and passed out and then was gang raped by her entire football team. Clearly she was too young to be drinking, but you know what, so were the 200 other people that were there, including the football players.  So why is it that the town of Stubenville turned against the girl who was gang raped by the football team, and not the football team?  And not the students that took videos?  Why was she the one that was vilified and tormented and harassed until her family left the town?

As a society, I feel that we tend to value people who are “more important.”  Who have a higher value.  So the football team brought money and attention to Stubenville, so it only “makes sense” to value them more than the victim of a crime, right?  That makes total sense.

And transitioning past that, who remembers the Harvey Weinstein case?  I mean, how could you forget it?  A ton of celebrities came out about that, starting with Ashely Judd, Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and it eventually got to Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon, and all of these people who hold so much value in society.  We never for a second doubted these women.  Not once did I hear anyone say, “Oh, they’re probably lying about it for attention.”  Why? Why do we put more belief in people who “hold value” than other people who are victims of the exact same crime?  Why do you think nobody doubted the famous celebrities that came out and spoke up about their abuse?  And why are we the first ones  to jump on people that  accuse famous people?  Like Bill Cosby’s accusers.  And the accusers of famous NHL players or basketball players?  Why are we so quick to judge them, but we’re not nearly as quick to judge famous celebrities who are accusing other people?

Do we think fame or celebrity or value affect peoples likelihood to believe the victim?


Here is how Victim Blaming hurts people.

It makes victims less likely to come forward because they don’t want to be blamed or not believed by people.  They’re afraid of the JUDGMENT that comes from coming forward. It prevents people from breaking their silence, and getting the help and healing they really need!

It silences victims and empowers predators.

The documentary The Hunting Ground from 2013, followed a bunch of survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.  In their research, they found that only about 9% of males in the world are abusers.  Of the small percentage of men who are abusers, about 85% of them rape 6 or more people.  So, why are we empowering small percentage of perpetrators that are hurting people, instead of the giant number of survivors every single day? Why do we empower the people that are hurting people, instead of the people that are trying to heal? 

And I understand, I always get this.  You might be thinking, “Hey Marissa, but what about false reports? Those people must account for something.”  I’ll get more into this topic in another podcast, but only between 2%-8% of reports to authorities are false reports.  Now, take into consideration all the sexual assaults that happen. 1.5 million girls will get raped in college. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men get raped in their lifetime.  And of all of that, only 5% of cases get reported to the authorities.   And of that 5% only 2-8% are false reports.  That is the exact same number, it is equal to every other crimes false reporting statistics.  2-8% of breaking and entering reports are false reports.  2-8% of homicides are false reports.  2-8% of every criminal act reported to authorities are false reports. So why are rape victims the only ones with the bad reputation?  Why are rape victims the only ones that are doubted?


Bottom line, be more mindful of victim blaming in your every day life!  Let’s empower survivors and champions to take their voices back and tell their stories.  We can stop so many horrible things from happening if we stop doubting survivors, and we start believing them and empowering them to speak their truths.

Hey! If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!

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