Blaming the Victim

Victim blaming holds victims responsible, in some way, for their own misfortune. One might assume a natural sympathy for victims of crime or injustice, but that is not the case for many victim blamers. Victims can elicit a variety of negative social responses. People often derogate the poor and unfortunate due to deeply rooted myths about justice, innocence and guilt, defensive attitudes, and denial of unpleasant historical realities. Victim blaming can occur in a variety of contexts but has been increasingly linked to the criminal justice system and controversial political debates about health care reform, gender equality, the welfare state, and the “war on terror.”

The term was coined by William Ryan in his book Blaming the Victim (1976). Ryan sought to discredit long-standing stereotypes in ...

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