Rethinking 'Don't Blame the Victim':
The Psychology of Victimhood
By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.
Source: Zur, O. Rethinking "Don't Blame the Victim": Psychology of Victimhood. Journal of Couple Therapy, 4 (3/4), 15-36. Copyright and permission to post by Haworth Press, Inc.

See also: The Culture of Victims and How Therapists Fuel the Victim Industry Online course: Psychology of Victims for CEUs Radio Interviews: Victimhood I ~ Victimhood II ~ Victimhood III Blog: Victim Psychology TABLE OF CONTENTS  Abstract  Psychology of Victims 1. Victims' Characteristics  The Blame Approach 2. Victim-Victimizer Dyad  Re-Thinking Blame 3. The Making of a Victim  Re-Thinking 'Don't Blame the Victim' 4. Typology of Victims  On Victims and Victimizers  From Blame to Healing  References

ABSTRACT. The psychology of victims and the dynamics of victimhood have been largely ignored by scholars and clinicians. While in past years the tendency has been to blame victims, more recently the tide has turned. It is now politically incorrect to explore the role of victims in violent systems, as exploring the psychology of victims has become synonymous with blaming the victim. While shying away from blame, this article will explore the familial and cultural origins of victimhood, victims' characteristics, their relationships with the perpetrators, and offer a victim typology. As we move from blame to a more complex understanding of violent systems, the perpetuation of these systems in our culture, and the role victims play in these systems, we provide ourselves with better tools to predict and prevent further victimization. This paper inquires into the rarely explored, politically sensitive topic of the nature of victimhood. While the psychology of perpetrators and bystanders and the dynamics of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been thoroughly examined (Ochberg & Willis, 1991; Viano, 1990; Walker, 1979), the psychology of victimhood as a personal and cultural phenomenon has not. Hierarchy, inequality, and violence have always been part of human social structures. There were always rulers and ruled, leaders and followers, the fortunate and the needy, the powerful and the weak. Various cultures have treated disparities in status, power, fortune, and ability in different ways. Buddhists emphasize the aspect of karma and destiny, while in the modern West the focus has been on freedom and choice, and the individual's control of destiny. In this Western worldview, inequalities and differences are often associated with injustice and victimization. Traditionally, two main approaches have dominated the way we look at victimization in the modern West. In the first approach, the finger points the blame at the victim (Brownmiller, 1975; Ryan, 1971;

Similarly. is dangerous as well. teasing. 1979). RETHINKING BLAME & THE NEW CULTURE OF VICTIMIZATION Marion Barry. Zur & Glendinnning. Barbaree. domestic violence and sexual abuse. 1971). Zur. Women victims are too often blamed for being provocative. It concentrates on adult victims and on patterns of victimhood established early in life. It does not seek to blame. The most obvious manifestations of this "blame the victim" approach are rape cases. but the politically correct attitude of non-blame. Walker 1979. causing the amputation of his two legs. and mothers of daughters who have been sexually abused are assumed to be sexually frigid. Whether the issue is wars and politics. Yollo & Bogard. or husbands in domestic violence (Hughes. A likely response to this paper might be to think that the intent is to blame the victims. whether as soldiers on the battlefields. Keen. a woman who was raped. or just plain "asking for it" (Brownmiller. "asking for it" or "deserving it" (Sundberg. 1975. Sykes. for proposing. 1991. Fear of blaming preserves and perpetuates the systems of abuse and victimization. who was caught red-handed smoking crack. as this paper explains. 1984). 1991. Barbaree. 1985). & Marshall. 1991. Blame is counter-productive. when it produces a climate that forbids exploration of the role of victims in systems of violence. blamed it on that "bitch" who "set me up" and later insisted his prosecutors were racially motivated. This approach has been promoted by a brand of feminism. and. or the handicapped responsible for their misfortunes (Ryan.C. however it lays all blame entirely on men. It is my hope that this paper will be of benefit to victims and perpetrators. the legal and political systems promote and . 1993. or an economically disadvantaged person. but rather to apply systems analysis to increase our understanding of the dynamics and origins of victimhood and the different types of victims. rather than on the effects of a single trauma. in domestic violence cases women have been blamed for being masochistic. a person of color. Rose Cipollone blamed the tobacco industry for the deadly lung cancer she developed after smoking continuously for 40 years. A man who jumped in front of a moving train in New York. responding to sexually provocative women. 1987). Keen. Not only do people wish to claim the status of victim. 1971). 1988). which holds the male-dominated patriarchal system responsible for all the evils in the world. minorities. 1987). emotionally cold. THE BLAME APPROACH The civil rights and feminist movements have shed light on the utmost injustice of holding the poor. This may be a battered wife. the former mayor of Washington D. withholding. This investigation attempts to describe the complex relationship between the diverse and complementary roles that perpetrators and victims in general and men and women in particular assume in the dynamics of violence. 1989. These two approaches of blame have not only failed to resolve the violence and suffering but in fact. I would like to state from the outset that the aim of this paper is to help victims and victimizers end their abusive relationships. again. girl victims of sexual abuse are accused of being seductive. sexually frustrated beings. 1991. 1992. It focuses on intimate violence and not on random incidents among parties who have no past relationship to each other. Mrs. seductive. Russel. Walker. politicians in government. have tended to perpetuate and exacerbate them. toxic dumps and the corporations. AfricanAmericans are viewed as lazy and incapable if they are unemployed (Ryan. sued the engineer and the subway system for negligence. The second approach views men as solely responsible for violence. 1991. and generally unsupportive of their husbands (Caplan & Hall-McCorquodale. and Zur & Glendinning. rape or incest victims. Men in this myth are seen as helplessly lusty.Sundberg. The second approach also concentrates on blame. suggestive. and to the professionals who help those in violent systems. or nuclear weapons and the military industrial complex. & Marshall. At the heart of this approach is the split between men's aggressive and violent nature and women's inherent goodness (for further discussion see Keen. the finger is pointed at men as the culprits.

However. Victimization is neither a recent nor especially North American phenomenon. Ironically. Western culture. 1992. While programs such as AA. many claims for rights pose a moral claim on someone else. and victimization are perpetuated.legislate it as well. This view of 'failure' readily leads to victimhood and blame. Fighting for a 'right' infers that a right was denied. and specifically in psychotherapy. GA. Not feeling happy indicates some sort of failure. Similar to the rights movement is the recovery movement. and particularly North American culture. but actually must take total control of our individual and social destiny. The American emphasis on freedom and choice also implies that we are in charge of our destiny. Cipollone $400. What seems to be a noble. as in the battle between smokers and non-smokers and very often between men and women. When this happens. NA. Identifying oneself primarily and over long periods of time as an adult child of an alcoholic is to embrace the permanent identity of a wounded victim. In the last decade we have seen an explosion of 12-Step programs attending to an endlessly growing list of addictions. Accordingly. and the inalienable right of each person to pursue happiness. Whether it is by working hard to get ahead. but also prevents them from growing to a place of empowerment and choice. Americans. some programs like ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and CODA (Co-Dependants Anonymous). conflict. injustice. The constitutional promise to all Americans that they have the right to the pursuit of happiness gives rise to the expectation that Americans are supposed to feel happy. Fighting for a right all too often means claiming a victim status. Unlike the Buddhist acceptance of evil. 1993). Remaining indefinitely with ACA groups not only keeps people in the mode of the victim. or illegal immigrants. the rights movement often victimizes one group while liberating another. Middle-Easterners." The culture of victimization is closely tied to what Amitai Etzioni (1987). The victim says "it is definitely not my fault. abused children. expect things to turn out well. like evil and inequality. or Russians. when violence occurs and victims suffer. and hierarchy. or by social and political activism. While becoming conscious of the original family dysfunction and its effect on the individual is often necessary for healing. by pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. minorities. the homeless. and the possibility of resolution and healing is destroyed. it is interpreted not as an act of God or a manifestation of karma. but as a failure that must be corrected.000 in damages.000 in damages to be paid by the cigarette manufacturer. Marion Barry got only a slap on the wrist. Within this cultural psychology. The American culture has nevertheless provided a unique and increasingly fertile ground for the cultivation of victimization. and OA . a sociologist at Georgetown University. can easily perpetuate the membership's sense of victimization instead of enhancing their sense of self-mastery and personal power (Kaminer. The concepts of 'rights' and 'victims' are often closely related. justified. While not always the case. such as women. it is only the first step. the immoral nature of social inequality. lies a belief in people's inherent ability to change themselves and their environment Violence and victimhood. or when inequalities exist. The courts awarded Mrs. long overdue act of protecting a victim can easily turn to blame and warfare. AIDS victims. called the 'rights industry. unlike Far-Easterners. Tavris. has evolved notions about the individual's freedom to choose. inequality. we believe that we not only can. experimental animals.' This 'industry' is a collective term for those who fight for the rights of groups. within the recovery movement. and the man who deliberately and voluntarily jumped in front of a New York subway train collected $650. Many of the 12-Step programs help their members master recovery and discourage feelings of blame and victimhood. must be fought and eradicated.

neither responsible nor accountable. in selfdefense. Elizabeth Taylor. Hope is established when the victims acquire higher self esteem. Oprah's. The question then becomes. 1993. The victims 'merely' seek justice and fairness. 1993). it neither reduces pathology nor protects the victim. why is the blame approach so pervasive? The answer lies in understanding that not only do the mental health workers mirror the general culture of victimization. It is also at the heart of the legal system's approach. and face-value justice. and Michael Reagan are leading this newest trend. but they also abide by the unspoken politically correct rule that the role of the victim in violent systems is NOT to be explored. a person can achieve moral superiority while simultaneously disowning any responsibility for one's behavior and its outcome. proudly confessing their victimization on national T. publicly competing for the status of victim. If they become violent. short term. many people in recovery compare their individual sagas of abuse in alcoholic families or sexual harassment on the job. women who were abused as children are likely to engage in abusive relationships unless some healing occurs (Viano. 1986). the co-dependency movement assumes. guilty from innocent. Shamelessly. and where everyone is defined as some sort of survivor. 1990).V. 1992. Sending an abusive husband to jail stops the beatings. the civil rights movement spearheaded the effort to stop . The faulty part of this legal approach is the focus on simplistic. and Donahue's shows are saturated with victims from all walks of life. 1992. or conviction from acquittal. In claiming the status of victim and by assigning all blame to others. and when they can feel that they are entitled to loving relationships. Geraldo's. Sykes. The hope for victims does not lie in the blame approach and the legal system. We have become a nation of victims. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. linear. or jailed. The victim is always morally right. and forever entitled to sympathy. By confirming the wife's status as a victim. At the heart of the blame approach is a system of warfare. Kaminer. The victim stance is a powerful one. where everyone is leapfrogging over each other. which attempts to respond to injustice and violations by identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators and compensating the victims (Sykes. As such. the wife may simply find herself another abusive man. with the experiences of World War II Holocaust survivors who endured the atrocities of the concentration camps (Herman. Hughes. it is only as a last resort. The blame-victim approach is not confined to the rights or recovery movement. the legal solution is likely to perpetuate further violence. the imprisoned husband may leave prison with more rage and violent tendencies than he had when he was incarcerated.attend to a specific addictions. RETHINKING 'DON'T BLAME THE VICTIM' In response to decades of racial oppression. if mental health workers are devoted to healing and prevention. 1992. 1992). Whether or not their abusive husbands were charged. 1993). restrained. Tavris. which centers on the outcome of moral or legal battles rather than on the resolution of conflict and the prevention of future violence. learn to differentiate between love and violation. On the one hand. Kitty Dukakis. and is insensitive to situations where some responsibility is shared by both defendant and plaintiff. that 96% of the population are victims of a disease they call 'co-dependency' (Schaef. and may give the wife a feeling of justice and revenge. and on the other hand. Today it is fashionable to be a victim. It is concerned with differentiating between two opposite poles: right from wrong. (Hughes. ludicrously. and it will not teach the wife about her more subtle role in the violent relationship. It will not help the husband deal with his violent behavior.

on the effect of traumas on victims (including PTSD research). prevent. This popular approach implies that women in battering relationships. 1988. have absolutely no choice.' Do not blame the victim has been translated into: do not explore the role of the victim. In reality these two situations cannot be compared so easily. and allying with patriarchal society and sexist men (Caplan & Hall-McCorquodale. exploit. 1990). police. Any analysis which assumes that women make choices. 1984. The conclusion was clear: 'do not blame the victim. and destroy weaker ones (Brownmiller. Yollo & Bogard. The feminist and civil rights movements have been instrumental in attempting to correct this gross injustice by fighting for equal rights and dignity for all people. is to reduce them to helpless. for fear of being accused of 'blaming the victim. but also casts them in the totally helpless role of victim. Sundberg. and no control over the initiating of. 1991. 1992. and staying in these abusive relationships. or even unconsciously invite abuse. To use Seligman's model in a battering situation is not only humiliating and degrading to women. .' Though valid within its historical context. Barbaree. inadvertently perpetuating further victimization. Herman. & Marshall. some have carried the principles to illogical extremes. incapable creatures. While the feminist and civil rights principles are undebatably just. and legal systems' high tolerance of wife beating (Gelles & Straus. is seen as blaming the victim.blaming the victims. 1988). Sexual coercion has haunted women for many millennia. In it he contends that blaming the victim is a method of maintaining the status quo in the interest of the group in power. contribute to their misfortune. rape counseling. Theories of victimology and research have concentrated mainly on domestic violence. paralleling the ways that dominant cultures enslave. and that they are neither the only victims nor totally innocent and helpless. grim economic realities. re-victimizes them. and the social. This perception stems from their often. William Ryan wrote his book Blaming the Victim(1971). while most scholars have avoided this field altogether. In an understandable backlash. Walker (1979) uses Seligman's (1975) theory of 'learned helplessness' to explain why women do not leave their battering relationship. 1992. There is no doubt that most battered women do not perceive that they have any viable and safe options such as shelters. 1992). Very few writers have warned against the unrealistic and ultimately patronizing portrayal of victims of crime as total innocents (Viano. In her popular book The Battered Woman. Cook & Frantz-Cook. 1979. There are those who would consider the culpability of a woman who knowingly dated a man who had previously raped her on a par with that of a young girl victim of child-rape. To adhere to a victim ideology which states that victims are always and completely innocent is absurd. and in fact. 1985. Herman. perpetrators and bystanders. realistic fear for their own and their children's lives. this message also resulted in silencing any exploration of victimhood during subsequent decades. or legal services geared specifically to abused women. no say. Walker. It has yet to be widely understood that by alleviating all women or any victim from any and all responsibility to predict. betraying women. and on treatment. 1979). still it is important to differentiate between relative degrees of responsibility. While it is clear that abuse of women by men is unjustifiable under any circumstance. Walker. like the experimental dogs.

I. Gelles and Straus (1988) assert: "You are more likely to be physically assaulted. drug abuse.' in fact. or by anyone else in our society" and conclude that. drunk driving. and disputes between countries that share a common border are reportedly more bloody and less likely to be resolved by non-violent means that international wars between countries which do not share a common border (Keen. The political arena presents a very similar picture. the psychology of victims is largely an empty field. ideally providing its members with their fundamental needs for safety. The commonly held belief is that the victim and victimizers are strangers to each other. smoking. beaten. had an ongoing active relationship with their murderers. and socialization. We must dare to expose the cultural and psychological forces that lead to violence. The agency also claims that most of these children (80-90%) are abducted by a parent in a custody dispute and not by strangers (Gelles & Straus. not all abused children become abusers. barricade their homes.Mental health workers are fully aware of the wide array of self destructive behavior. It shows that at least 88% of murder victims in the U. sociological. Zur. Enmity increases with the decrease of proximity and increase in similarity among the warring parties. and clinical data have repeatedly shown that while most abusers were abused as children. 1990. yet it can be argued otherwise. abused. that some repeatedly get into trouble. "Violence in the home is not the exception we fear. The mass media saturates us with stories of innocent victims who have been raped. and bystanders play in such systems. Civil war and wars of liberation are often more brutal than wars between nations. While the media. obsessive gambling. Despite this awareness. and murdered by people unknown. 18-19). such as playing Russian roulette or the Chicken game. intimacy. Wolfgang & Ferracuti. The F. To understand better the dynamics of violent systems. 1986. to relatives (24%). reports that 1. not to take candy from them or follow them to their cars. In their daring analysis of family violence and abuse. research has shown that both perpetrators and victims are likely to come from backgrounds where they suffered or . of course. More and more Americans arm themselves. and to explore the complementary roles that abusers. The relationship ranged from intimate or close friends (28%).S. conflict is inevitable in families and violence is all too often pervasive. suicide. 1967). we must first free ourselves from the binds of politically correct thinking. Legal. and. and killed in your own home at the hands of a loved one that in any place else. self mutilation. 1991). and acquaintances and paramours (36%). ON VICTIMS AND VICTIMIZERS The family has always been considered one of the most important institutions in many cultures. it is all too often the rule we live by" (pp. food. and avoid going places for fear of violent crime. 1988).5 million children are abducted each year. robbed. Only 12% of the cases involved complete strangers (Jain.B. In cases of domestic violence. Murder statistics shed further light on the relationship between victimizers and victims. They are aware that some individuals are more prone to be picked upon. Milk cartons and grocery bags carry pictures of missing children who have been abducted. From a very young age we are taught not to trust strangers. affection. and the milk cartons tell us the danger is 'out there. the home and one's own neighborhood are the places where one is most likely to get hurt. In fact. and that some are more easily victimized than others. our teachers.

The Victim-Victimizer Dyad Co-alcoholics are coupled with alcoholics. unconscious. the lack of responsibility and accountability. of not being successful in affecting one's environment or in one's life. righteousness. or even relief as the bad self is punished. and their relationship to the trauma. Victims' Characteristics The basic mode of operation of an adult victim is a feeling of helplessness and self-pity. The victim's locus of control is likely to be external and stable. victims are likely to attribute the outcome of their behavior to situational or external forces rather than to dispositional forces within themselves. a sense of shame. and. the line between victims and perpetrators is not that clear. 1. or a hostage situation. apparently and unexpectedly. Similarly. perpetrators and victims are much more likely to be intimately involved with each other than to be strangers. or both. for the most part. as is so often argued. Whether the trauma is domestic violence. This mode is consistent with a number of psychological variables. and legal context lies not in external factors. Apparently. what separates women who leave abusive husbands from those who do not? Or what separates Vietnam veterans who today live meaningful lives from those who have become drug addicts or live in the mountains as armed survivalists? The difference between victims and non-victims who operate within the same social. This means that as long as the cost of being a victim is less than its benefit. Being a victim in early life no doubt increases the likelihood that later in life one will become a victimizer. Low self-esteem. and an internal sense of badness are integral elements in the psychology of those who perceive themselves as victims. Consistent with the above characteristics. the belief that the outcome of events is due to luck or random events (Rotter. we must understand the major characteristics of a victim or what differentiates victims from non-victims. economic. They may include the right to empathy and pity. no sense of accountability. An external locus of control orientation is a belief that what happens to a person is contingent on events outside of that person's control rather than on what one does. someone who initially was violated. According to social exchange theory (Worchel. While the costs and suffering of victims are apparent. the individual will maintain the behavior. 1984) and behavioral psychology. 2. provide enough rewards and benefits to sustain the victim type of behavior. hopelessness. as described below. and a typology of victims. a victim. masochists with sadists. the benefits are much more subtle. It describes the main characteristics of victims. their relationships to the abusers. and the tendency to blame. and victimizers . then became a violator. the world around them. the question is: what separates those who overcome the trauma and live life meaningfully from those who suffer at length from acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? For example. in this context. The following section provides the first comprehensive description of victim psychology. PSYCHOLOGY OF VICTIMS In order to understand the psychology of victims. in how they view themselves. refers to the consistency of the out-of-control feelings of the victim vs. 1990). The abused is likely to abuse or be abused again.witnessed consistent abuse (Gelles & Straus. helplessness. guilt. Stable. victims harbor feelings of self-inefficacy. victims' actions. Viano. To summarize. or when a victim's behavior is rewarded. the origins of victimhood. Abused and abusers can also be embodied in the same person. abusers with abused. political. but. 1971). sexual molestation. 1988.

'morally right' partner outweigh the hardships of living with an alcoholic. to be the competent. U. Later America felt victimized and threatened by the tiny island of Granada.with victims. and military generals often justify their actions through blame. such as robbery. guilt. When the alcoholic stops drinking it is not unusual for the relationship to end and for the co-alcoholic to find another 'wet' alcoholic. and which must never be acted upon. A single event. so. feelings of shame and guilt. the 'rights movement. America got into the war in Vietnam and sustained 40 years of cold war to avoid 'becoming a victim' of the spread of communism. described in the following section. does not transform a person into a victim. responsible. foreign policy is based on claims of 'self defense' and blame. and care with betrayal. In all these dyads the roles are mutually dependent and complementary. As long as she associates love with violence she will not be attracted to non-abusive men. people's journeys towards victimhood often start at home with abuse or abandonment. plane crash.S. exemplify the power embodied in the unconscious make-up of the victim to evoke victimization. They learn to associate love with abuse. The conclusion is simple. and the disabled. do politicians. The basic assumption of this paper is that there is no gene for victimhood. Similarly in abusive relationships. The familial environment of early childhood is influential in preparing individuals to embrace or reject the victim role. they believe their own badness caused the abuse and that they must deserve it. Those who were abused in their childhood internalize shame. minorities. and especially co-dependency groups have contributed to the development of a nation of victims. As the 'American dream. and more recently by Somalia's so called War Lord Adid. These needs often manifest in countertransference analysis during psychodynamic psychotherapy. The power of these roles has been shown most clearly in the alcoholic and co-alcoholic and in intimate abusive relationships. stepfather. . too. Within this political victim-blame climate. Victims have complementary needs to be in relationship with victimizers. 1992). the co-alcoholic need to control. intimacy with violation. but because of the cultural and familial influences that shaped them in certain ways. Two types of forces are most influential in our lives: the social/political and the familial. attorneys. or abusive feelings. Therapists who work with victims often experience aggressive. low sense of efficacy. such as women. The social and political realities are likely to systematically victimize certain groups. Noriega of Panama. or former husbands and healing did not occur. war. The Making Of A Victim Are victims made or born? This question is tied to the debate of nature vs. and a low sense of self worth. and possibly a desire to be punished. In order either to make sense of their world or protect their ideal view of their parents. violent. Adults who maintain a primarily victim identity will not be attracted to a non-abusive partner not because they are masochists by nature. or rape. These feelings evoked in the clinician by a victim-patient. 3. belief that they are not in control. if the woman has a history of abuse by father.' the recovery movement. and Sadam Hussein of Iraq. nurture and the dialectical balance between destiny and choice.' the legal system. The victim's identity and (mainly unconscious) needs are connected to low self esteem. They internalize the message that they are not worthy of love. she is likely to be attracted to abusive men. It takes a certain consistency in the environment to raise a victim (Sykes.

Non guilty. children may not have any other frame of reference. The following is an attempt. in most cases the situation is more complex. These are innocent victims whom we cannot expect to be able to . Typology of Victims The basic assumption of the legal system is that there is one party in a dispute who is guilty and 100% responsible for the crime. and another party who is totally innocent. With external support or internal resiliency they can become neither (See figure 1). destruction by self or others is the last means of maintaining a feeling of being potent. Children who were abused received repeated reinforcement in their childhood to act as a victim. video games. to classify victims according to their relative degree of responsibility and power to control or affect situations. a girl who observes her mother being abused is more likely to engage in such behavior herself (Gelles & Straus. If a boy identifies with an abusive father. suicidal. based partly on Mendelson's (1974) original formulation. a clear message is sent that it is acceptable to use force as a means to achieve a goal. 1988). and national and international politics all legitimize the use of violence to resolve conflicts. Television programs. victims. an interactive violent video game. or can be turned onto another person. and are most likely to fall into the role of victims. a person can become either self destructive (self mutilators. Whether it is Sunday morning cartoons.Victims of childhood abuse may become victimizers. It is not uncommon for a person to assume both roles and become an abuser as well as a victim. or the armed invasion of a foreign land. Social legitimacy of violence and victimization in our culture goes far beyond the familial battlefields. movies. to 100% responsibility /total guilt. or both. For these people. When the culturally violent messages complement the familial ones. and other self defeating behaviors) or destroyed by others (victim). While in some cases the responsibility is clear. victimizers. 1. These categories also judge the degree of guilt or responsibility. neighborhoods. or both. school playgrounds. ranging from total innocence/no guilt.innocent victim: This category includes victims who do not share the responsibility of the offence with the perpetrators. The pain and rage from the abuse and betrayal may turn inward. Often it was the only way to get acknowledged by parental figures. Identification and imitation of the parents' roles of victim or victimizers may lead to corresponding behavior. When the rage turns inward. Similarly. 4. we can expect him to attempt to repeat the abusive behavior.

Victims who are slightly more guilty than the offender. as many of them (40%) did). where with some awareness. They are not caught by surprise. awareness. Victims of unexpected natural disasters: victims of earthquake in a non-earthquake zone. challenge. A man who contracts a sexually transmitted disease from a prostitute. Willing participants in a Chicken Game.avert the offence by anticipating it or by preventing it. Those who suffer a crime while unconscious. the offender can easily withdraw from the situation. information. Examples:       Children who are sexually or physically abused. Victims of random or rampage shooting. unprovoked. Victims With Minor Guilt: This category includes victims who with some thought. Jews who suffered during the Holocaust (are of course not responsible for the Nazi's evils. Victims who share equal responsibility with the perpetrators: This category includes victims who share equal responsibility with the offender for the harm inflicted on them. Adults who were victimized due to being in the wrong place and the wrong time. 3. Examples:     Co-alcoholics. or neglected. planning. co-addicts after the initial phase of their relationship (after it has been clearly established that the partner is an addict). tease. been less co-operative. preparation. 4. or double suicide. but they could have resisted more. or entice the perpetrator. These are people who are conscious and aware of the situation and chose to be part of it. Victims who seek. Drunk people who harass sober bystanders and get hurt. as this paper states. to follow. Unlike those in the previous category #3. Cult members who chose to enter the cult as adults and then were brainwashed and harmed. at the full mercy of others. and some responsibility shared between the couple). They could have read the situation better and left in time. Marital rape victims after the first few episodes (when the pattern has been established and it is no longer a surprise) Women who are raped after choosing to get drunk (the minor responsibility is for electing to be completely helpless and unconscious. gun dual. and perpetrated by complete strangers.' Examples:      Adult victims of repeated domestic violence where shelters are available (after patterns are established and it is no longer unpredictable). Rape or murder victims when the crime is unforeseen. and common sense could have anticipated the damage that occurred. the abuse must be viewed also as an interaction. the offender is less responsible for the damage than is the victim. They 'could or should have known better. or consciousness could have expected danger and avoided or minimized the harm to themselves. Severely mentally ill or disabled adults who get hurt or exploited. 2. Examples:    An abusive husband who is killed by his battered wife (he is primarily responsible but. . and not gone like lambs to the slaughter. While they seek the damaging contact. This category includes victims who are active participants in an interaction where they are likely to get hurt. unlike those in category #5. and caution they could have prevented the assault. in a situation that has the potential to be dangerous).

those that promote harmony). how they escalate towards violence. economical. more attractive. Citizens who collude by passivity in their country's atrocious acts and get hurt by other countries armies (i. and incomplete grid to determine guilt or responsibility.e. as discussed in this paper.victims in self-defense. is not genetically programmed. Instead. cultural values (cultures that promote violence vs. Laszlo. strong). functional). loved. Applied to victimization. Jonestown. When evaluating the degree of responsibility. Who is right or who is to be blamed is not the concern of this approach. and what may affect them to shift toward non-violent resolution. yet lose the war. similarly. An individual or group can win the battle. become the victim of the year. it offers ways to intervene and hopefully stop the patterns of violence. (i. Suicide by those who are not mentally ill. . women. Victimization.e. politically inactive German civilians who did not fight the Nazi regime and got killed by the allies army attacks) 5. nor protecting future generations from continuing the cycle of abuse. neglected vs. the following assumptions arise:   Victimization. while not accounted for in the above categories. healthy. political. An alternative approach is the systems analysis approach (Bateson. the following parameters must be also included: ethnicity (minorities are more disposed to victimization than those in the majority). happens within a context of relationship and a certain environment or culture. Demographic. like violence. and personal variables. nor in protecting the victim from further victimization. Examples:     Rapists who are killed by their complete stranger. minorities. or the poor keeps the race for victim status alive. Blaming men. FROM BLAME TO HEALING Violence begets violence. nurtured). are nevertheless crucial for the assessment of guilt and responsibility. the one who inflicts the damage is not guilty and acts in pure self-defense or as expected from his position. It is apparent that the blame approach is neither effective in resolving the problems of violence. each participant's behavior must be understood within the context of the relationship and its legal. Applying systems analysis to victimization. In these cases. weak vs. systems analysis is concerned with the ways the dynamics of victimization develop. and abused. blame begets blame. dysfunctional vs. mental status (mentally ill. 1976). and social context. inconclusive. This category is reserved for legally and clinically sane adults. gender (women are more disposed to victimization than men). cultural. Hence. Mercenaries who are wounded or killed. Waco). They comprise a controversial. (Mentally healthy and competent individuals can choose to commit rationally planned suicide for which they bear the full responsibility) The above categories represent an attempt to differentiate among many situations of victimhood. injured.. Victims who are exclusively responsible for their victimization: This category includes victims who initiated the contact and committed an act that is likely to lead to injury. Victims' blame behavior and lack of accountability are the very reasons they may continue to get hurt. rich). the rich. People who smoke and get lung cancer. physical attributes (less attractive. 1979. familial background(abused.socio-economic status (poor vs.

such as non-violent or peaceful resolution. to assume a new role and new behavior. Victims should never take total responsibility for their suffering. such as race. Viano. and from hopelessness to empowerment. and ability to plan and control behavior. etc. one must approach the individual victim with empathy and attempt to understand the present selfdestructive behavior in the light of the victim's past and evolution. the most immediate task is to prevent any imminent violence. The therapist must then seek to understand how gender. such as the abuser. Special attention must be given to history of abuse and abandonment. physical. Next. While acquiring a cohesive sense of self.    Participants in the victims-victimizers-bystanders dynamic assume (mainly unconsciously mutually dependant and complementary roles. and popular trends. and bystanders. therapists must first understand the interplay between husband and wife and how their behaviors contribute to the maintenance and escalation of violence. In cases when one ends up working with the victim individually. must be taken into account. The non-violent options will alter the victim and victimizer roles. Victimization is a complex phenomenon and any inquiry or therapy must include multiple approaches or perspectives. Five types of considerations.) contribute. educational. but focus on the destructive system they both developed and maintain. one has to walk the fine line between empathy and collusion. and the environment (including bystanders) must be examined. the media. victimizer. Whether the therapist works with individuals or the whole system. or they can promote respectful relationships among its members who in turn make a sound commitment to resolve conflicts non-violently. sanity. Looking at the different roles in victim systems. or bystander. abused. Finally. the cultural context as revealed through the legal. violent. and gender. Fourthly. Cultures can promote victim-victimizer. from helplessness to accountability. and political systems. or blame systems. and perpetuate their violence system. Subsequently. cultural and sub-cultural factors present since childhood. The therapist should neither blame the abusive husband nor the battered wife. as mutually dependant is the foundation stone of this approach. the therapist must know and understand how the culture and subculture within which the couple operates (including the criminal justice system. all equally important. Intervention or change in the system can be initiated at any time. It is of utmost importance that there is no blame or finger pointing towards the victimizer or the victim. should be explored prior to any intervention when therapists work within a victim-system. The interaction within the victimizer-victim-environment can lead to violence or to other options. collude. and economical resources must be assessed (if necessary. Any change in behavior by one of the participants is likely to affect the others' behavior and may lead to a different outcome. must be considered. both victim's and abuser's behavior must be empathetically understood within the context of their familial history. 1992. systems analysis also demands a look at the generally ignored role of the victim. the victims must be . While the psychology of abusers (Beasley & Stoltenberg. Only with the understanding of the above components and the use of system theory (often in conjunction with other theoretical orientations) is the therapist likely to intervene effectively. apply to the couple's violence system. whether victim. The long-term goal must be to help the patient. The ultimate task of therapy is to help all participants live their lives meaningfully and with more dignity. protection should be providing accordingly and/or immediately). Thirdly. by any participant. there must be an assessment of the victim's level of consciousness. intellectual. 1970) has been thoroughly explored. such as disability. Finally. and other factors. and may include termination of the relationship. 1990) and bystanders (Lantane & Darley. victims. Applying these clinical guidelines to the case of domestic violence (where the husband is the abuser). Secondly. the therapist's goal is to move the victim from blame to responsibility. economic status. the nature of the interaction between victimizers. Without blaming. the woman's mental. economic and community resources. Firstly. race. however they must develop an understanding of how they contribute to their own victimization.

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