Domestic violence doesn’t just impact the men and women who are abused, it affects their families, their friendships, and their communities. We are responsible, as a community, for working and committing to making a change.
No one should have to live in a world where violence is ignored by bystanders who witness it and where survivors get blamed for assaults.
According the the CDC’s most recent National Partner and Sexual Violence Survey in 2015:
- 43.6% of women have encountered some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
- 1 in 3 women have encountered contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by a intimate partner
- 1 in 6 women are sexually coerced at some point in their life
- 1 in 5 women are raped at some point in their life
Based on these statistics alone, you probably know someone who has survived some form of domestic or sexual abuse.
When the lives of our co-workers, friends, or family members are disrupted by traumas like these, it affects our lives as well. Sometimes it may not be in an obvious way, but understanding how to communicate with survivors is just a part of understanding how to behave appropriately in a community. You never know what someone has been through unless they tell you- and certain comments will ensure that never happens.
Essentially, victim blaming boils down to how we frame our conversations about domestic / sexual abuse.
Who are you focusing on?
What kinds of questions are you asking? Victim blaming means subtly or obviously claiming that suvivors of domestic/sexual abuse are at fault for the trama they endured.
How Do We Avoid Victim Blaming?
Understand that there is no “Cycle of Abuse”
There are a lot of materials out there about the Cycle of Abuse theory that was created by Lenore Walker in the 1970s. While, yes, this is a real concept that has been used to teach/educate people about domestic violence, it is actually a harmful one. The idea that domestic abuse occurs in a cycle suggests that it is predictable, a sort of if/then statement. It follows then that if domestic abuse should be predictable, the victims of it should be able to recognize what is happening and get out before violence occurs again. However, domestic violence is not predictable. The survivors of domestic violence never know when it is going to happen, even if there are some recognizable patterns of behavior.
Don’t Assume All Survivors will Act the Same. Do not expect a specific reaction from the survivor regarding their abuse.
Everyone handles and copes with abuse differently. There is no “normal” response. Just because someone is not acting how you might expect them to does not mean that they have not been affected by or are not dealing with the situation.
Don’t Call Female Survivors of Domestic Abuse “Battered Women”
When you call someone a battered woman, it becomes a part of who they are. It also ignores the person who has abused them, relieving them of blame from the situation. Don’t focus on what the survivor has suffered and forget the person that did it to them.
Remember What They Were Wearing is Inconsequential
Asking someone what they were wearing the night of their assault is one of the most tired ways of blaming the survivor for what happened to them. Wearing a low-cut top is not asking for it. Wearing high heels is not asking for it. Wearing a short skirt is not asking for it. People are abused in sweatpants and cocktail dresses- the outfit does not determine whether an assault takes place.
Think About the Questions You Ask the Survivor
When you are listening to a survivor tell their story, try not to ask questions that start with “Why?” When suggest other ways that the situation could have been handled, you undermine the survivor’s story. Be an empathetic listener and do not offer suggestions on how the situation could have been handled. Never assume that the survivor is at fault for what happened to them. No one deserves to be abused. There is no action someone can take that justifies abuse.
We donate a portion of all of our profits to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) in Madison, WI. DAIS provides support, education, and community outreach efforts to our local community.
Check them out at this link: https://abuseintervention.org/
If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Stay Safe, Stay Informed, Stay Bootyfull! ❤️