The Dangers of ‘Blaming the Victim’

We’ve all heard the phrase, “blaming the victim.” Normally, this expression applies when the actual victim of a crime is blamed for something he or she did not cause. Things have become so backwards in our crazy culture that we now have an even newer phenomenon: People who are the actual victims blaming THEMSELVES for the very theft or assault inflicted upon them. Yes, you read that right.

Karol Markowicz quotes from her article, “When Robbery Victims Blame — Themselves”: “Last November, Ditmas Park experienced a rash of armed robberies. What made the one at the Lark Cafe unique is that the gunman didn’t target the register. Instead, he took all the laptops of a writer’s group that was meeting there. In a long rumination on the incident, [Brooklyn writer Chaya] Babu writes that she and her writer friends ‘felt angry and violated, but not in a way that necessarily placed blame on the person who did it.’

It seems that if they blame anyone, it’s themselves — for existing and choosing to live in Ditmas Park [Brooklyn] in the first place. In the weeks following the robbery, she and her friends worked on ‘finding space to take into consideration the broader social and economic circumstances surrounding the incident’ and ‘cultivated our sense of compassion toward the robber, whom we imagined must have been acting out of dire need.’” No, I am not making this up.

Victims of crime who feel that their victimizers act out of desperation or “need” would do well to actually study research on the criminal personality. In his book, “Inside the Criminal Mind,” noted psychologist Dr. Stanton Samenow documents in thorough and readable detail what makes criminals different from non-criminal personalities. The distinguishing features of a criminal are not desperation or need so much as a particular way of thinking about themselves, reality and the world. Criminals feel a sense of entitlement to things that are not theirs; a chronic sense of victimization even though they’re not really victims, and, in fact, turn others into their victims.

If you have something that I would like to have, I admire you for your accomplishment and figure out how I can do the same. Or, maybe I stew in resentment but never dream of doing anything to harm your life or your property. A criminal is different. A criminal feels entitled to act upon this resentment and envy, and actually experiences a sense of “ambition” or accomplishment about doing so. Power for its own sake is what motivates the criminal. According to Dr. Samenow’s years of research and experience, criminal personalities are not like you and me. Nor are they like those poor naive souls in Ditmas Park who make excuses for them, even after having been victimized criminally.

There are plenty of impulsive, needy and desperate people who would never initiate force, theft or murder against another human being. They perhaps suffer from all sorts of emotional or behavioral problems, and in the end are generally their own worst enemies. They are not criminals, however, because however self-defeating or irrational they might otherwise be, they seek no power or domination over others. Whatever malevolence they might or might not feel towards others, they harbor no significant desires to bring others down with them.

Nowhere does reason or research support Babu’s thinking that criminals are really victims who are acting out of desperate, needy impulses of desperation, angst and pain. Yet it’s fashionable, in certain circles, to think this way, or at the very least to be SEEN (amongst one’s similarly minded peers) thinking this way.

All this nonsensical rhetoric is nothing more than old-fashioned posing, repackaged as progressive, self-conscious, pseudo-sophisticated “enlightenment.” And the influence it’s having on psychological health and more broadly, our culture, is becoming downright dangerous.


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