Disclaimer: none of my experiences are described here for any purpose other than to demonstrate how even minor events can change a person's views. I am not in any way suggesting that my experiences are equivalent to victims of violent or sexual assaults.

So, we often see victim blaming discussed on here and elsewhere, but I don't see a lot of discussion on why it doesn't work. Here are two examples from my life, using something relatively low-impact, and how it affected me as a person.

Experience 1

My first experience having a law enforcement officer blame me was in high school. I was with two friends walking on a weekend evening to a local record store (these were places where you bought music in the long long ago). We had probably done this walk dozens of times, but this night we ran into some young guys intent on causing trouble. For reasons still unknown to me, one of them approached me, asking, "did you say something to me?!" I responded with, "No, we were just walking to the..." and he proceeded to throw a fist across my face.

Most people have a fight or flight response of sorts. I found out that night that I have a fight response. I saw red, and was ready to reciprocate when my friends pulled me off and we ended up running away. They did not follow. They were just being idiots and looking to act tough. Thankfully, my friends' cooler heads kept me from getting into a fight with multiple guys. I was fortunate that night, and I'm glad for it.

I later reported it to the police, and their response? "What were you doing there in the first place?" The onus of blame was immediately on me and my friends for simply existing. No question of where they were, the time, the nature of the attack, or anything pertinent. They had zero interest in doing anything for a teenager who was violently assaulted for no reason. I was at fault merely for being there. That seriously diminished my opinion of police. And as far as assaults go it was pretty minor.

They halfheartedly offered to patrol the street that night, but the general attitude from them was, "too bad, kid." That was my first experience with lackadaisical policing, but certainly not my last.


Experience 2

Fast forward to grad school. My daily driver is a beat up old Integra with one nice thing: an upgraded stereo. I was fortunate to park in a garage so I would sometimes not take the face plate off of my stereo. Stupid, I know, but this doesn't justify being robbed, right? HAHA YOU ARE WRONG.

As I looked through my car and tried to figure out what the thief stole from me, I called the police to file a report for insurance purposes. A cop shows up an hour or so later, and starts asking me questions. One of his first questions, "did you have an aftermarket stereo?" I answered yes, and he then asked, "did you remove the front plate?" I said no, and he said, "well, you were kind of asking for it then, no?"


Ah, yes, those words: "asking for it." As if everyone who has ever done something that is not entirely minimizing risk in any situation is simply "asking" for harm. I wanted to say, "that's an absurd question," but I've long since learned that cops don't take well to people asking questions or having opinions, so I just said, "it was an unfortunate choice on my part" and tried to move to finishing it up. He then told me they couldn't do anything and left.

The Consequences

I pretty much distrust and doubt cops. That's not to say that I don't respect that they have difficult and often thankless jobs, but having cops treat you like you're at fault when you've been victimized is a quick way to learn to lose faith in the system. And therein lies the problem: without faith in the system, people quickly decide to just "accept" what happens. Why bother calling a law enforcement agency when they'll just shit all over you and make you feel even worse that you were somehow victimized?


Here's another kicker to me: my experiences were relatively minor. Sure, a fist in the face sucks, but all I had was a sore jaw for a few days. Sure, it sucks to lose a stereo, but my car was still perfectly sound otherwise. I've been fortunate in that my experiences with assholes has largely been limited. But if someone like me who is by no means anti-system or prone to hating authority can end up with lingering doubts based on pretty low-impact experiences, imagine what it does to people who get blamed during violent or sexual assaults?

This is why victim blaming sucks: because not only do you damage the person you blame, you damage the system itself. By blaming people who are vulnerable, you diminish the belief in fairness and justice not only for the victim, but for those around the victim. When a person in a position of government authority sees an inequality as "too bad," it perpetuates the idea that the inequality is itself the norm. And inequality as not being the norm is effectively the point of having a sovereign government in the first place.