Victim Blaming


Hello folks, I want some views on this issue that I see come up more and more in the popular discussion.

These days there’s seems to be a lot of accusations of “victim blaming” when discussing some moral issues and I was just hoping for some views on what an appropriate definition of this is,

Here is the most common example:

A woman gets raped and someone claims she has moral culpability for wearing a short skirt.

I think this seems rather ridiculous because although we can talk about issues of morality concerning immodesty separately, the fact that she wore a short skirt does not morally excuse or give a right to the person committing the rape.

On the other hand, here’s another example:

Your teenage child is out at night and they walk home through what they know is a bad neighborhood and they get mugged, is the parent in the wrong if they put some blame on their child for this (for knowingly going through a bad part of town at night)? Simply walking through a neighborhood doesn’t excuse the mugger, but at the same time you might think a parent would expect their child to know better to ensure their own safety and be upset with them for possibly being irresponsible or reckless.

How are these two scenarios substantially different or alike?

I’ve simply taken victim blaming to mean: wrongly applying moral culpability to someone who does not deserve it for something that was done to them. Does this make sense?


I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment.

In extreme cases like the ones you mentioned, I often think the experience is trauma enough. It may certainly have been unwise to dress a certain way that might attract unwanted attention, or to not lock your door at night, or to stumble drunk through a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night. But to bring that up to someone who experienced assault as a “I told you so” or “That’s what you get” is, IMO, just kicking someone when they’re down. And they probably learned that lesson plenty already, so it comes off as being told, “Oh yeah, and you’re stupid, too, because this happened.”

Is it reality that there are safety precautions we can take to protect ourselves from certain things? Yes, and we should take care to learn them and teach them to people entrusted to our care. But even if a person doesn’t take those precautions, it doesn’t mean that they deserve what happened to them. And sometimes a person does take those precautions but they’re still targeted.

The person to blame is the person (or people) who do the assaulting.


I think there’s less victim blaming than there used to be.

I also think it’s inevitable for people to assign some blame to the victim. And that’s not always a bad thing.

When my son is roughhousing with his friends, I always tell him: “You’re playing too rough. If you get hurt I don’t want to see you get mad at your friends.”

Of course, that is provided that someone doesn’t stomp on someone else’s head.

In a less serious sense of victim blaming, every few months there’s a rash of car break-ins around our neighborhood. 99% of the time the cars were unlocked. And I always say, “It’s too bad it happened, but they should have locked their cars.”

No, you shouldn’t walk down the dark alley in the bad part of town. But if you do get mugged, you still are the victim and the bad guy should be the one to be punished.


I dont think it’s an “i told you so.”

IMO, pointing out “the blame” on the victim isn’t about blaming the victim, but encouraging others to think/act differently.

In your example of rape, I don’t think those who say the girl should not have worn the skimpy outfit (or gotten extremely drunk at Spring Break, or invited a strange male over etc.) is morally responsible for her rape. She may share the blame in some way, but, moral culpability would suggest that she intended to be raped. Rather, she’d be morally responsible for the actions taken regardless of if she was raped or not (ie -binge drinking, the intention to engage in extra/pre-marital sex etc.)

In their zeal to create a world where no individual can sin, some people refuse to believe that a victim can play a role in their own demise. So the very mention of facts pointing to any suggestion of a victim’s role in a crime is immediatly labelled. Even so far as to point out the higher risk of disease for an obese person; you’re accused of “shaming”, as if facts are no longer as important as feelings.


Women get raped wearing a burka,so what?


I think we don’t put all this is the proper perspective because we don’t think of *temptation *when we (as a society) toss out the concept of sin.

It is wrong to steal. But isn’t it also wrong–a different wrong–to tempt someone by leaving some cash on the seat of an unlocked car? It is wrong to rape, but isn’t it also wrong to dress in a sexually provocative way?

So the issue is that there are *more *wrongs being committed, not dividing up the wrong of one act. It is 100% wrong to rape. If the woman dressed in a way to incite lust, got drunk, and behaved provocatively, she *also *did something wrong, but it was her own separate sin; it doesn’t take guilt away from the rapist. If a woman dressed and bahved modestly and someone raped her, then there was only one wrong done.

IOW, women should be modest because that is the right thing to do, to refrain from tempting others to *any sort of lustful sin. And people wearing expensive suits should prudently avoid places where they might tempt others to greed or envy. Etc.

*Lest anyone accuse me of sexism, St Thomas Aquinas would say that dressing in costly clothing among others who are not dressed like that would also be a form of immodesty.


Page one,Chapter one Verse one its her fault,aren’t you lucky women were invented


Social psychologists maintain that one of the main reasons why we tend to blame victims is to give us a (false) sense of security. IOW, if we don’t make the same mistake as the victim did, nothing bad will happen to us. Perhaps there is a sense of superiority involved as well.


Yes, agreed. We can be an incredibly selfish and insensitive people.


I don’t disagree, but I think it can be problematic when we link the things together. It’s not wrong to tell someone that they should be careful not to tempt others. But I think we have a tendency to go beyond and that and suggest, “Well, you committed this sin which *caused *this other person to do this sin against you,” which is false.

When I was in grad school, one of my friends was mugged on his way to class in the middle of the afternoon in broad daylight taking the same route he did everyday. He wasn’t in an area considered “unsafe”. He was just there and the kids who jumped him had already made their decision to do what they did before he even showed up. He was just the next guy who came along. But you bet he went over all the things he “did wrong” a million times in his head, when there was literally nothing he could have foreseen to prevent the situation.

A lot of people who intend to victimize others do the same thing - they may select the targets based on certain criteria, but there’s often little the target can do to alter those criteria. Rape victims are rarely targeted for what they are wearing. They are targeted because they are available and because the attacker thinks he (usually) will be able to overpower. That goes for stranger or acquaintance (where maybe the attacker is interested in learning more about the vulnerabilities of the target).

(I would, however, say it is very different when a woman wears a miniskirt and crop top to a crowded bar and is then upset that lots of men chat her up and buy drinks. That’s a situation where a deliberate choice in clothing is sending a very mixed message.) People can accidentally leave a car unlocked or take a wrong turn and end up in an unfamiliar neighborhood. That’s a different situation.


Did you miss the part where I said: “It is 100% wrong to rape.”?

My point was not that women are to blame for the rape but to suggest that because we do not think of tempting people as wrong, there may be a confusion in the way people think. I wanted to say that when women dress and behave provocatively, which people feel is wrong but don’t discuss, it is wrong to put any blame on her for the rape, but she did do something she shouldn’t have done irrespective of the result–it was not wrong of her to do it because she was raped, it was wrong aside from the crime committed against her.


Totally agree.:thumbsup:
I think it takes a really awful person to blame a victim for a crime that has been done to them. I have even heard people blame victims of 9/11 and I wonder what must be going through their minds to come to such a conclusion.


If you keep saying this you are still engaging in victim blaming. What exactly should a woman wear to avoid being raped or harassed?


As another poster mentioned, women in burkas get raped.

My point is that it is wrong to dress and behave in a way to incite lust *not *because a woman who does so might get raped but because it is wrong in itself.

Our society, however, does not really recognize that as a sin, so we don’t talk about it. However, I wanted to suggest that the repressed feeling that women dressing and behaving like that is wrong does come out when a woman who has been dressing and acting like that is raped.


Yes. And so when the subject of rape and how a woman is dressed comes up any discussion of what the victim was wearing is pointless and insensitive. It should be shot down immediately because one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. Don’t even go there. It’s off topic, if you will, but in a more egregious way. Want to talk about dressing provocatively (not you specifically, but when the topic comes up)? Start a new thread.

Our society, however, does not really recognize that as a sin, so we don’t talk about it. However, I wanted to suggest that the repressed feeling that women dressing and behaving like that is wrong does come out when a woman who has been dressing and acting like that is raped.

And it shouldn’t. There is a time and place and while discussing victims of sexual assault isn’t it. Let’s change that.


I understand what you’re saying, but the problem is most people will reasonably assume that you’re bringing it up as a way to blame the victim. Plenty of people say victims had some responsibility for having been raped simply because of the the way they’re dressed.

Since the victim’s clothes are irrelevant to the crime discussed, there’s no reason to talk about it. They’re two separate issues.


I have to agree, what particular clothing a woman wears has ZERO to do with if they get raped or not…rape is not about the actual sex, that is a common misconception, it is about control, power over another, taking of innocence, etc.

I think people are slowly coming around to this.


It’s one thing to have a conversation like this on a Catholic message board, but I think it needs to be talked about in the wider society. Because any discussion on the topic is generally shot down as a Puritanical attack on women’s freedom, it doesn’t happen; thus my suggestion that it comes up when people discuss the issue of rape *in a generic way, *esp shortly after a huge national conversation about rape on college campuses, many of which are purported to involve young women dressing and behaving immodestly.

So I agree they are two separate issues. They are two separate issues one of which cannot be spoken of.


Guess we’ll have to disagree on the appropriate time and place. Practically speaking, bringing this issue up in any situation concerning rape is unlikely to be well-received, even in your suggestion’s scenario.

Although I acknowledge it’s hard to have a decent discussion regardless of context --even on CAF [IE. modesty threads], we should still be prudent about when to bring it up. What is modesty exactly and why is it important? Those sorts of things should be addressed on their own. It’s hard no doubt about it though.


I wouldn’t bring up on a thread that was primarily about rape, per se, but this thread started off as being about blaming the victim :confused:

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