What does it mean to live in a 'Victim Society'?
We live in a victim-blaming society. This simply means that we assume when any crime, big or small, is committed that the person who it was committed against did something to bring it on.
For anyone who has never come across this concept before I find there are two main reactions; the first being ‘now we don’t’ and the second ‘well it’s true’. So starting with no we don’t…
One of the most popularized examples of this thinking is what is now referred to as ‘rape culture’. This is the idea that in all forms of sexual assault the victim is often said to have done something to deserve it. This leads to questions like ‘what were they wearing’, ‘had they been drinking’ and ‘had they egged them on’.
The fact of the matter is that in these cases even most victim feels as if they somehow brought about this crime. One of the common reactions to sexual result is a sense of guilt within the victims. As if they have done something wrong. This is the result of the internalization of victim blaming culture.
While rape culture is an intense example, this thinking permeates almost all areas of our lives. Take for instance the common phrase ‘they’re too trusting’ or ‘I am too trusting’. What does that actually mean? Usually that something unpleasant has recently happened to the said person and they are taking on the blame.
The truer statement is ‘I am trusting’ or ‘they are trusting’. The ‘too’ comes from the knowledge that something has or will happen to this person because someone else will take advantage. And that’s the bit we need to realize, they are a victim of someone else’s actions. They’ve done nothing wrong in being trusting.
Another example might be the bullying of children for non-conforming attributes. This differs from school to school but some obvious ones we give the children are mockery based on appearance, intellect or athletic prowess. And I assure you every child who has been bullied has had an adult in their life, whether directly or indirectly, told them that it is because of the attribute they possess and they are somehow deserving of it.
If you don’t believe me notice this common phrase ‘they only tease you because you’re different’. Now reverse it ‘if you weren’t different they wouldn’t tease you’. Whether or not you know it that statement is telling whomever you say it to, that the bullying they’re experiencing is because of an attribute they possess. Which is an indirect way of saying that it’s their fault?
Other examples of this include ‘they’re too kind’ ‘they’re too naïve’ or the advice given such as ‘you need to toughen up and get smart’. The general message is ‘if something happens to you, you had something to do with it’.
So hopefully now you can see the victim blaming culture. It’s prevalent, it’s everywhere and now you’re probably thinking ‘yeah but it’s true’.
From the lens of our programming in this society, it does seem that victims are often at least partly in the wrong. I mean every girl knows that you shouldn’t walk home by your self late at night especially if you’ve been drinking because ‘you’re just asking for trouble’.
In fact, we’re not supposed to walk anywhere alone, let alone in the dark if we don’t want to get accused of asking for trouble. We also have to be careful about our clothes and what they might ‘be inviting’. Basically, we just need to be ready for an attack at all times.
But let’s not get too deep into that specific form of victim blaming that’s wrapped up in our gender stereotypes. I want to stay with the main concept. Which is as we begin to become aware of victim blaming the next thought is usually ‘well it’s true’.
They say we should protect ourselves and arm ourselves against all those that would do us wrong. I’m not saying that’s not true, it’s not bad advice, actually. The issue comes in the statement reversal which is ‘if someone’s done you wrong its because you didn’t protect yourself enough’. This is the crux of victim blaming.
People do exist in this world whose self-motivated actions may end up hurting you. This has nothing to do with you. It’s not because you did anything wrong, because you didn’t protect yourself enough or because you were somehow leaving yourself open to it.
These people do these bad things because of them and their story and where they’re up to. And if no one’s said it to you, let me;
“What happened was not about you. There is nothing you could have done differently. This is not your fault. The only thing that matters is what you do now that it’s over. And I believe you are a strong wonderful person who will get past this.”
The problems with victim culture are numerous. There is a big push in the self-actualized community to stop being a victim of your own life. But most don’t realize what they’re asking and thus it’s hard to do. We live in a victim society, we’re asking you to go against all of the training and programming you’ve had so far.
It’s not just a matter of stop sitting on your haunches feeling victimized. That’s just dealing with a result of the thinking. It’s symptom treating instead of disease curing.
To begin to cure yourself of this thinking you need to change a rather significant thought. Which is
‘life is not what’s happening to you, but what you do with it’
As a society, we tend to define ourselves by things that happened. Just think about how you might introduce yourself to someone and you will see that in the way you give a chronological order or major achievements as if it explains who you are.
So try this simple exercise, next time you’re recounting your day don’t focus on what happened but what you did. For instance rather than saying ‘my boss was a dick, there were a lot of emails and then I had a burger for lunch’. Try recounting your day from an actions point of view for instance;
‘My boss yelled at me and I told him he was being unreasonable but he’s an asshole so I just wasted my time on my emails not really doing them and waited till my lunch break where I drowned my sorrows in a greasy burger’
‘I stayed calm as my boss yelled at me and then stayed focused on my emails and got them cleared before I took my lunch break and rewarded myself for my hard work by having my favourite meal.’
In both of these descriptions, there is an awareness on your actions, and feelings, which is also a focus on what you can actually do something about. You can’t control your boss (although many of us would like to) any more then you can control the number of emails you receive or the weather.
This is just one little exercise of many you can do to change the mindset of victim culture thinking. It’s a personal favourite of mine because it’s easy and it gives you a sense of power as well.
For those of you still with me, you may be wondering why we have victim blaming in our culture anyway. It’s a good question with a surprisingly simple answer; we don’t want to think the world is random.
When we victim blame we give a sense of order to the senseless acts. Whether it’s trust betrayed, a serious crime or abuse, there’s a part of us that wants to think there’s a reason for it.
For many victims, there is a sense of comfort in believing they were targeted for a specific reason because if they know what it is and can change their action then it won’t happen again. The same goes for observers; if that victim was a victim because of something they did then that is something we can now avoid doing.
It is our futile attempt to bring order to such things. We do it in our personal lives as well. We would like to believe that our ex cheated on us because we weren’t satisfying them rather than ‘just because’. Or that we got swindled out of money because we were too trusting and next time we won’t be. Or that we got fired because of incompetence… okay, maybe that one is true.
The point is victim blaming serves an important role in creating a sense of order to why things are happening. And it’s important to understand any social construct and the purpose it serves if we want to change it.
So how do we balance our need for order in the universe with trying to lessen the victim blaming culture? It’s a fine line. My first choice would be if we could all embrace the complete lack of order in the universe. But probably not going to happen.
Alternatively, we can distinguish the difference between believing actions we take when something happens to us reveals our character and believing our actions are why things happen to us... you see what I mean about the thin line yeah?
It is still, in essence, focusing on how we react to things as opposed to what those things are but it is a difficult distinction to make. So practice makes perfect. Just start by focusing on your actions, reaction and feelings instead of the events themselves.