“1 in 3 women have experienced some form of abuse or domestic violence in their lifetime.”
This statistic is extremely alarming, but what is even more shocking is the lack of support women receive in their communities- especially in the South Asian community. Instead of receiving endless amounts of support, women are shamed and victim-blamed.
Credit: Battered Not Broken
In South Asian communities, women are taught to keep their pain silent. “Log kya kehenge?” (what will people say?) is a common phrase taught and passed down through the generations. As a result of this conditioned way of thought, most people in our communities are brought up to believe that a woman who is a victim of domestic violence is at fault, and less of a human being. Women are taught to put up with this behaviour from a young age because their families FEAR what others will say or think. They face much scrutiny and unjust treatment for being brave enough come forward against injustice simply because it deviates from what is “culturally accepted.”
Women are shamed, degraded, and treated poorly for a situation that is out of their control, which can further silence those who are debating on coming forward. Using culture to justify this way of thinking must cease because nobody asks to be abused and nobody deserves abuse.
Some common phrases of victim-blaming that I’ve heard:
“Why doesn’t she just leave him if it is so bad?”
“She keeps taking him back, so it can’t be that bad”
“She probably provokes him”
To knowingly or unknowingly suggest that a woman deserves this type of treatment is wrong and dangerous because it enables and grants the abuser the power to think that their actions are justified. When nobody is condemning or punishing a man for his actions, he will feel entitled to continue an act as heinous as abuse. What baffles me is the lack of phrases in the communities that place accountability on the abuser. Some examples of phrases that avoid blaming the victim would include:
- “Why can’t he control himself from placing his hands on a woman?”
- “He is solely at fault because he should be mature enough to know abuse is wrong”
- “He keeps trapping her with manipulation tactics, and our support should be with HER”
I have often wondered why people place blame on a woman and shun the idea that a victim can indeed exist. When we think of a victim of a robbery, we correctly empathize with the victim and place blame on the person who commits the crime. I compare these situations because there is a victim and there is a perpetrator in both situations, and also because the situation is out of the victim’s control.
Furthermore, we don’t shame the victim by saying, “Well, she was carrying her money on her, so she definitely deserved it.” Why is the same decency not granted to victims of domestic violence within our communities? Why are women forced to feel shame by their own people?
“There’s just this really powerful urge for people to want to think good things happen to good people and where the misperception comes in is that there’s this implied opposite: if something bad has happened to you, you must have done something bad to deserve that bad thing,” says Sherry Hamby, a professor of psychology at Sewanee University.
This psychological research has suggested that the idea of a victim threatens the sense of security people have implemented in their brains. They fear the situation, so they couldn’t possibly believe it could happen to them, and as a result, victim-blame to cope. The realization needs to be reached that victims are living this nightmare that is feared, and on top of the trauma, they have to deal with a community of THEIR OWN PEOPLE shunning them for something they didn’t ask for.
The reality is that victims exist, and the sooner we start accepting it, the sooner we can HELP VICTIMS.
Here are some ways to stop victim blaming and help victims:
1. Place all accountability SOLELY on the abuser. Shared blame implies that a woman is still at fault when the fault should only lie with the abuser
- Remind victims that they are brave and that this is out of their control and not their fault
- EMPATHIZE DON’T SYMPATHIZE
- Stop telling victims “to just leave.” Abuse is a vicious cycle and requires the understanding that victims may take time to leave their abuser.
- Speak out against any form of victim blaming you see
Help victims. Even if it deviates from what the community has stated is “right.” You don’t need to have gone through it yourself to be able to show kindness, empathy, love, and support. If you notice you have been blaming a victim, then break your mind from what you have been conditioned to believe, and help our fellow women. We need to stand with one another and end this stigma of shaming women into thinking any of the abuse they’ve suffered is their fault. The sole person to blame is the abuser: the horrible person going out of their way to hurt our fellow women. As a society, we must stop fearing the word “victim” and start to fear the actual problem: the fact that abusive men are running about beating and harming women.