Responsibility and blame

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When I have hired staff or recruited volunteers for domestic violence or sexual assault organizations, I did not necessary look for extensive knowledge about the issues. I wanted to see if and how they dealt with victim-blaming.  Did they hold battered women responsible for being abused?  Did they consider rape victims to have done something wrong? (as Ask Amy recently did when she said “You were a victim of your own awful judgment.”)

I am concerned when I read in the abstract of the recent article “ ‘But sometimes I think . . . They put themselves in the situation’ : exploring blame and responsibility in interpersonal violence.” in the journal Violence Against Women that volunteers hold attitudes that blame victims.

What do you think?

The full abstract and citation is after the jump.

“But sometimes I think . . . They put themselves in the situation”: exploring blame and responsibility in interpersonal violence.

Thapar-Björkert S, Morgan KJ. Violence Against Women, 2010; 16(1): 32-59.

Click here for a link to the journal.

(Copyright © 2010, Sage Publications)

This article draws on narratives of volunteers working with women who have experienced violence. It explores how institutional discourses nurture a culture of blame and responsibility. Using qualitative data, it examines the ways in which women victims are seen as complicit in their own victimization. An indirect consequence of the blame/responsibility dichotomy is that victims are depicted as deserving their fate. There is, therefore, a culture of resignation in which violence is normalized. It proposes that if institutional practices are embedded in a feminist tradition, they can provide a more sustainable framework for challenging sexual and domestic violence.

David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project Prevention Connection, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 29 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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