Shame on the Victim Blame Game

Public Safety concludes every Timely Warning Notification with the same few concise points of advice: “use your intuition”, “walk confidently and alertly” and “keep a distance”—all practices the victim is expected to adhere to.
The advice is putting the responsibility on the victim to make better choices.

But we believe it isn’t the victim who should be expected to change. It is the perpetrator. We live in a culture of victim blaming and it needs to stop. This weekend, a Seattle U student was assaulted on the north side of Campion Hall early in the morning. The student was able to escape the suspect and contact campus safety. Following the notification of the assault, the email ends, as usual, with the “prevention tips for incidents such as this,” again implying that the victim was at fault.

We need a shift. We need a change in the way we look at crime and rape and assault and victims. We don’t need to be told how to avoid being robbed, we need to be told not to rob. We don’t need to be told how to avoid being assaulted, we need to be taught not to assault.

When will we stop trying to just prevent violence and start trying to prevent violent people?

When we blame victims and give people tips for preventing dangerous incidents, we foster a culture of fear. We don’t want people to be afraid. We want them to be safe.

While giving preventative tips is important, the finger is pointing the wrong way. What really needs to be prevented here is not people in dangerous situations, but rather people causing dangerous situations.

Victim shaming isn’t a trend that is going to change overnight. It is a cultural phenomenon that has permeated our society and we won’t have an easy time re-learning the existing ideas. But we need to start somewhere.