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This page is an overview of the concept of "victim blaming," for those who want to know more about victim blaming in a meta sense for their own writing (and for possibly avoiding it if it's unintended or being more aware in its use if it's intended) or for understanding the concept of victim blaming in Real Life to some extent. If you want to see ONLY fictional examples or examples of how victims are blamed in fiction, please go to Good Victims, Bad Victims.
"Victim blaming" is, simply put, the concept of blaming victims of any misfortune for their misfortune. When the person has actively hurt someone else, it is covered by tropes such as Asshole Victim and Hoist by His Own Petard. That said, when "victim blaming" is referred to, it almost always refers to when someone hurt by someone or something did not actively hurt someone else first and is still being blamed for their own misfortune.
Obvious Victim Blaming
Obvious victim blaming is directly accusing the victim of a misfortune of causing it. Doing this as an author will almost always make your work an Author Tract (or your post as a Troll at best) and is a very bad idea when done unironically - having a major character do this will establish them as a Jerkass at best. Some examples of obvious victim blaming are as follows:
- Blaming a rape victim for being raped due to promiscuity, alcohol or drug use, state of dress, being out after a certain hour, etcetera.
- Blaming disaster victims for building homes in a disaster area, for not preparing enough for the unforeseeable.
Subtle Victim Blaming
More subtle victim blaming is accusing the victim not necessarily of directly causing their misfortune, but of somehow enabling it or bringing it upon themselves via unrelated actions. Some examples of this would be as follows. This may be somewhat less likely to immediately light off Internet Backdraft and seem like Unfortunate Implications - until it is seen, and once it is, may lead to worse since it's far more disingenuous than even obvious blaming:
- Blaming someone experiencing a misfortune for "not having a consistently positive and thankful mental attitude," "not praying enough/not being religiously devoted enough," or similar.
- Blaming someone who became addicted to a substance or mentally ill for being "weak-willed."
- Saying that "true victims / survivors" only act in a certain prescribed way. This one is often thrown out at rape victims, those who've survived the death of a loved one, and the mentally ill - saying that someone's feelings are not legitimate because they are expressed in even a way normally connected to a stereotype or fakery is victim blaming, because it's blaming them for not expressing their feelings "properly."
Now that we've overviewed victim blaming, there are some options for its use. Avoiding or challenging victim blaming and using victim blaming In-Universe to establish a character are the most obvious two for most writers may find some use.
Avoiding Victim Blaming
Let's say you want to avoid victim blaming entirely, which is probably the best course of action in social media discussions, in some forms of writing (generally nonfiction works and in fictional works where you don't want to address the issues which it brings up), and in some other places.
- The first thing to remember is that there are some things that are undeserved by anyone (except, perhaps, to those who have committed them against others, if Eye for An Eye or Poetic Justice is justice in your values system, and even if it is, it's good to remember that such has extreme Values Dissonance). The big Unacceptable Targets of these are generally victims of rape, murder or violent assault with intent to kill, torture, bereavement, genocide of one's people, and terminal illness. Blaming these people in any way is generally seen as Dude, Not Funny unless you're writing something that is intentionally Black Comedy, Crossing the Line Twice, or Dead Baby Comedy - and even then sometimes.
- You do not understand the experiences of another unless you have experienced them, and sometimes not even then. Just because you would not have made a particular choice or agreed with it does not mean the person who did make that choice is bad or inferior or deserving of blame for it. You do not know what influenced that choice, either, unless the person tells you.
- While you may find religious platitudes or moral teachings or positive thinking vital to living a good life, telling someone who is suffering a bad experience that if only they believed/practiced the "right" thoughts or words or whatever that everything would be perfect is blaming them for not doing it and sometimes deeply insulting.