by Trish Malcomess
** TW: Contains discussion on sexual assault and domestic violence
Artwork – Incrimination – Collage on Linen – 12” x 12” – 2016
For more years than I care to remember, I’ve been watching the strange cultural phenomena of rape and the subsequent effects on our society. Having a naturally curious disposition I wanted to understand how this phenomenon had crept into the fabric of our culture. So, like a forensic scientist I began sleuthing around and to my horror, discovered untold social structures perpetuating and supporting this epidemic. Or should I say pandemic? I expressed a small portion of my findings through a body of work called: Social Construct. Dumbstruck, I found that the biggest structure perpetuating a culture of rape is Victim Blaming.
In my quest to understand, I looked at the psychology behind Victim Blaming. Pouring over research papers, I found the term Just World Hypothesis (JWH) which is based on an individual’s belief that the world is a safe, just place where people get what they deserve. People want to believe that the social system that affects them is fair, legitimate, and justifiable thus creating a false sense of security. At its core, Victim Blaming stems from a knee jerk, fear reaction triggered by the human drive for self-preservation. It is this idea that when something bad happens to a person, it could happen to them too and thus mistakenly believe that survivors must have done something to deserve their fate. Institutions are particularly prone to this dynamic as survivors threaten the status quo of the group that must at all costs be preserved.
Victim Blaming devalues the prey, holding them responsible for the crime while releasing predators from all responsibility. It is multi-faceted and ironically surfaces in the form of negative responses from the social structures purportedly in place to support the wounded. In a cruel twist of the knife thrust into a survivor’s heart, family, friends, criminal justice personnel, the legal system and professionals alike too frequently pathologize female reactions to trauma. It is the vice that silences.
I have no solution to this vice other than to shed light on the matter and expose it for what it is. I can say however, that when the focus is placed on the perpetrator who becomes the subject of the crime, incriminating the survivor is significantly reduced.
Due to the increase in domestic abuse arising from CoVid quarantining, I’d like to emphasize the fact that those preyed upon by intimate partners are more frequently blamed than those raped by strangers. Survivors of domestic sexual abuse experience far greater distress due to victim blaming and thus prefer to remain silent to avoid secondary victimization.
Originally published April 3, 2021 at https://trishmalcomess.art/blog/2021/4/3/the-vice-that-binds-2cm3t