“People may not realize the damage that they are doing by placing the blame on the victim ~ but that doesn’t lessen the damage that they cause by doing it.”
― Darlene Ouimet
There is one critical area of bullying that, in my humble opinion (IMHO), continues to be a major issue is victim blaming and/or victim shaming. This issue has been put in the spotlight lately in the Hollywood METOO movement. In that case, it is looked at from a sexual assault angle. But victim blaming and victim shaming may well be one of the most harmful aspects of both issues like rape and bullying to the individual who has it happen to them.
Here are some examples of how it happens in both scenarios:
- A sexual assault victim is asked, “What were you wearing when you were attacked. Was it a sexy outfit?”
- A bullying assault victim is asked, “What were you doing when you were bullied? Did you say something that the bully would have been offended by?”
- A sexual assault victim is asked, “Were you flirting with your attacker?”
- A bullying assault victim is asked, “Did you respond to the bully in a mean way. What did you say?”
- A sexual assault victim is asked, “Did something you say lead the other person on?”
- A bullying assault victim is asked, “Why don’t you just change the way you act, so the bullies don’t bully you?”
- A sexual assault victim is asked, “How much did you have to drink?”
- A bullying assault victim is asked, “What do you think you are doing to have bullies pick you to bully?”
- A sexual assault victim is asked, “Did you talk about sex with the person you say attacked you?”
- A bullying assault victim is asked, “I think if you talked to your bully and explained it hurt you, you might be friends. Maybe it’s a misunderstanding?”
I’m sure you have heard the statements about rape victims and rape blaming. There have been movies about it and plenty of lawyers and judges know that is part of legal proceedings. Is it any wonder why they don’t come forward.
But bullying, we really aren’t discussing it as much. I wrote about my incident of dealing with victim blaming/shaming quite a while ago. That incident happened in 1978, so it was and has been my hope that 40 years later, maybe we would have learned something. Then I saw this video from the movie, Bully, that came out in 2011.
I showed this video to someone who was telling me about a recent incident with their son. They were in total shock after watching the video. After seeing it, I always ask, “What might the victim who was blamed and shamed do when they got home after school that day?”
Would they consider suicide, because, at this point, they might realize that the school administration not only won’t support them, they will blame them?
Might they bring a weapon to school for protection or possible use, because they would feel they have no defense against the bullies?
How damaging was this scenario to the bully victim?
What bothers me the most is that this was part of a documentary. I can’t help but think that the school administrator in this video knew that cameras were on here and, I assume, knew that the film being made was about bullying. If this is true, then the administrator thought this was the utmost correct response to the situation. It truly makes me cry.
I don’t know what the answers are any more to stop it from happening. It seems to continue and we can only hope that eventually victim blaming and shaming will stop. The other week, I opened up this conversation on my podcast. I want to understand why we, as a society, do this to victims. But I need help to understand how this can happen and how we can’t see what it does to the victims.