Why We Blame Victims for Domestic Violence


How many times have you read a news story about a woman accusing someone of abuse only to scroll down to read the comments? Most likely, nestled among a few well-meaning comments of support, you found a bevy of judgment and shaming directed at the survivor. And, they’re coming from both men and women.

“This happened years ago and she’s just talking about it now? Sounds like someone needs attention.”

“If it was so bad, why didn’t she leave? I would walk out the door the second a man hit me.”

“She didn’t even report it to the police. She’s probably just making this up.”

“She only wants money.”

Why do some people jump to blame the victim? Victim-blaming is about self-preservation.

Bottom of Form

Compare these reactions to how some people respond to seeing a photo of an overweight person. “People think, ‘If I were overweight, I’d go to the gym every day and I would lose that weight.’ They don’t think about how hard that would be,” she says.

The same mindset often comes into play when people read about domestic violence. “A lot of people have a gut reaction to violence. It’s emotionally charged. They think if somebody is being abused, they probably did something to incite it.” In essence, if people can find a reason why abuse is the victim’s fault, then abuse is something that can not only be controlled but prevented. And, in turn, it won’t happen to them.

Victim-Blaming Makes Survivors Afraid

It took one victim 12 years after leaving her abuser to identify as a survivor.

“I was afraid of being shamed and judged,” she says. “There’s still this stigma … a reluctance to believe women’s stories. And I think that hasn’t changed. We need to believe women when they tell their story.”

What Victim-Blaming Looks Like

Following are a selection of real comments underneath several news stories concerning accusations of abuse.

“He just signed a contract upwards of $100 million and he abused a woman. I really wish people would stop making such a big deal about it.”

“Why is it that everyone saw this coming but her? Then she pops out two kids for him? Let’s see what idiot she hooks up with next.”

“Not to disclaim her accusations, but where is the paper trail to back up these allegations? There wasn’t any mention of police reports being filed.”

Below are some suggested responses for three common victim-blaming statements:

  1. Why didn’t she just leave if she was really being abused? “Well, it’s actually kind of hard for victims to leave,” “It can be hard for a victim to leave if they do not have financial resources, if the abuser is the primary breadwinner. Many abusers will also threaten to harm children or pets if the victim leaves. Victims often need time and support from family and friends to develop a safety plan for leaving.”
  2. Why didn’t she report it to the police?

Many survivors don’t report abuse to the police because they’re afraid of retributions from the abuser. They may also be ashamed, embarrassed or reluctant to let others know what’s going on. Also, many times, abuse is not physical—it’s psychological, emotional, verbal or financial, and these types of abuses are not often seen in the eyes of the law as “illegal.” Survivors may also blame themselves for the abuse—if she fought back, she may fear she is partially to blame (she isn’t, agree experts), or that she could be charged as well.

Finally, if the survivor is dependent on the abuser financially, she may be afraid that by calling the police, he could be sent to jail or lose his job, an especially fearful situation if there is no second income.

  1. She’s obviously looking for attention/fame/money/retribution. Survivors and advocates alike whole-heartedly agree that it is not easy coming forward to report abuse or assault and few women would want to bring that type of attention on herself without a good reason. Survivors often fear no one will believe themwhen or if they report abuse. Furthermore, studies show that false allegations of spouse abuse are far less prevalent than the problem of survivors who don’t report the abuse at all.

Additionally, abusers often craft a situation ahead of time to paint the survivor as troubled and the abuser as the competent hero trying to help her. It’s all part of the power and control that abusers try to exert over victims, even after she reports abuse.

If you or someone you care about is a victim of Domestic Violence help then reach out to Domestic Safety Resource Center. Domestic Safety Resource Center, PO Box 953, Lamar, Colorado 81052, (719) 336-HELP (719)336-4357

Filed Under: City of GranadaCity of HollyCity of LamarCity of WileyCountyEducationFeaturedHealthLaw EnforcementMedia Release


About the Author: