A disturbing trend in many cases of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and rape against women and girls is the tendency to blame the victim of the crime, rather than the perpetrator.
Within this culture of victim blaming, women are told to change their own behaviour in order to avoid being assaulted or raped. Women are told repeatedly to dress less provocatively and use less makeup, drink less alcohol, not to go out at night, and not put themselves in risky situations. The sad part of this culture of victim blaming is that this proliferates the belief that women are at fault when they are attacked and leads to a lack of accountability for men. In some cases, those blaming the victim believe that such events could never happen to them be they are more careful.
The other trend in cases of defilement and rape against women and girls is to apportion blame to the victims’ parents or guardians for putting the victim in risky situations. This has been witnessed in the current issue of Andrew Ngomwa who is alleged to have repeatedly raped his niece.
Reading through social media comments on the issue, makes one wonder whether those commenting really took time to process the information at hand and understand the dynamics of sexual assault. A good number of people are questioning and blaming the mother of the victim apparently for letting the daughter stay with her uncle who was divorced and many allege is a known abuser.
I have seen comments blaming the mother of the victim as being irresponsible for failing to look after her own daughter.
Studies have shown that victims of sexual assault and rape, know the perpetrator and oftentimes it is someone they trusted. This could be the father, uncle, brother, close friend, a teacher, or their neighbour.
I feel we are missing a point when we start blaming the mother. She had no reason not to trust her blood brother to protect her daughter the same way many mothers have no reason not to trust the fathers of their children. It is the perpetrator who is to blame here and not anyone else. His responsibility was to take care of his niece and not to abuse her. Blaming the mother is the same as saying that the perpetrator is not entirely wrong for committing the crime, rather it is the girl and her mother who are partially to blame for allowing such a crime to happen. This is wrong.
Calling the mother of the victim as an irresponsible parent is very wrong. There are valid reasons why a parent would let their children live with a relation. No parent would do so if they have a choice not to. If a parent has prior knowledge that their children will be abused, whether physically or sexually, they would definitely not let the children stay with a relation. What about the fathers who sexually abuse their children? Where is a mother supposed to keep her daughters?
So the next time you find yourself wondering what someone else did to bring on their misfortune, take a moment to consider the psychological attributions and biases that affect your judgment. Rather than blame the victim, try putting yourself in that person’s shoes and perhaps try a little empathy instead.