This is Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is a phrase that everyone has heard, but no one has an exact definition for. Well Erin Farley, a program coordinator at Penn State’s Center for Women Students, has a definition. “Victim blaming is when the blame for a crime is put on the victim or survivor as opposed to a perpetrator where it rightfully belongs,” says Farley.

Farley says that victim blaming most often occurs with three crimes-dating violence, stalking and sexual assault.

Victim blaming happens when people question the behaviors of a victim or survivor. Most of the time, the one carrying out the victim blaming doesn’t realize what they are doing.

“It’s a bias that’s very ingrained,” says Farley. “People feel safer thinking that the victim or survivor did something to cause this as opposed to that this could happen to anyone and the perpetrators could be someone they know.” As a society, we make these crimes less frightening by deflecting that blame on to the victims.

Still don’t have a clear grasp of what victim blaming is? Here are some examples that Farley provided.


“Sexual assault would stop if people stopped getting so drunk.”

This is victim blaming.

“Why did he/she invite that person back to their room, what did he/she expect would happen?”

This is victim blaming.

“Why did he/she dress like that?”

This is victim blaming.

“Don’t go out alone at night, always watch your cup, and never break from the group.”

This is victim blaming.

“Why didn’t the person just leave if he/she was uncomfortable?”

This is victim blaming.


Farley says that historically when educating about sexual assault, risk reduction was enforced. Risk reduction entails teaching people, particularly women, what to do in order to not be sexually assaulted. “That’s really not getting at the root cause of this, which is perpetrators of sexual violence,” says Farley.

“What we know is that even if people follow all these tips they could still be sexually assaulted.” On college campuses such as Penn State a very prevalent form of victim blaming comes in the form of lecturing women about drinking behavior.

“Again, that’s not addressing the root cause of it because people have a right to drink and what they should expect is a hangover, not to be sexually assaulted,” says Farley.

While those who offer risk reduction tips are most likely just trying to protect someone, the message those comments send is that a crime occurred because of a certain action taken, or not taken, by the victim. With so much self-blame already felt by the victim, a society telling someone that it was their fault only continues to deepen the wound.

According to Farley, the questions we should be asking to solve this problem are “why is this person abusing and how are they getting away with it?”

For those looking to gain a better understanding on victim blaming and related topics, the Center for Women Students holds educational events. The next event is December 1 at 6 p.m. in 106 HUB. The program will cover victim blaming, campus rape culture, and other important topics.