Why are we still victim-blaming?
The tragic death of Sarah Everard reminded us that women are not only at risk of violence from men but that we are blamed for it, too.
Reflecting on this situation left me asking why we are still talking about what women can do to stay safe and not what men can do to stop threatening our safety?
As a family lawyer who has extensive experience working with domestic abuse victims and undertaken specialist training in this area, my thoughts turned to how this blame culture can sadly be found in the family court system.
Immediately when we saw the story of Sarah missing, questions were raised in the media as to whether she had been drinking, whether she had earphones in, what she was wearing and why she was walking alone.
This is a shocking but sadly not unusual response to a woman falling victim to a crime. An attempt to lay the blame at the woman’s door for being a victim of a crime due to her behaviour, not focus on the unspeakable crime itself.
I often see this view raise its ugly head with domestic abuse victims, with society questioning why the victim stayed, why they did not leave, why they returned to the relationship after leaving.
Society still seems somehow to apportion blame to the victim for their behaviour.
Experts believe that the peak of the risk to a victim of domestic abuse is not whilst they are in a relationship with an abuser, but at the point the abuser is made aware the victim is leaving and between 1-2 years (sometimes longer) after they have left.
A perpetrator is known for being manipulative and making their victim dependent upon them (emotionally, financially, socially); they are left with little self-confidence and believe their life will be better if they stay.
Or they often feel they are at less risk and their children at less risk of harm if they remain, so is there any wonder they do?
Just because a victim does not leave after the 1st/2nd/100th abusive incident does not mean they are to blame for any abuse suffered.
I was recently interviewed on Talk Radio to give my views on victim-blaming, and I made it clear it was my view that it was very dangerous.
It makes it harder for individuals to report a crime, allowing perpetrators to get away without accountability, ultimately leading to more crime.
This needs to stop, and therefore next time you read/hear of a crime, do not look at what the victim did but what the perpetrator did as the issue.
All victims of crime and abuse need to remember that it is never their fault – they are the victims, not the perpetrator.
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If you need support for domestic abuse and your legal situation, you can find further articles here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist domestic abuse lawyers here.
National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
Please note that Stowe Family Law does not necessarily endorse the organisations listed.