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Blaming the Victim

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Haruka: Two women behaving like that with each other. You're filthy! Both you AND Natsuki Kuga!
(Shizuru slaps her)
Shizuru: What happened was something that I did to her. I will not have you insulting Natsuki.
My-HiME, Episode 22, "Collapse".

There are crimes in this world. Crimes will typically have a perpetrator/perpetrators and victim or victims.

There are, unfortunately, tendencies in some cultures or between some individuals to lay the blame for the crime at the feet of the victim; for example, common forms include "If you didn't want your house robbed, you should have locked the door", "If you didn't want to be raped, you shouldn't have worn those clothes", "If you didn't want to get scammed, you shouldn't have been so gullible", and "If you didn't want to get beaten up, you should have complied with the assailant's demands".

In fiction, Blaming The Victim usually takes on one of two basic forms:

  • In the first, the perpetrator is attempting to justify their own bad behavior and refusing to take responsibility. This almost always serves as a Kick the Dog moment for the perpetrator.
  • The other is when a person or group blames the victim to demonstrate to the audience that they are unsympathetic to the victim and/or their plight. This can be allowed to give our hero a chance to engage in Shaming the Mob for a happy ending, or it can be used to set up a Downer Ending, where the victim is denied justice.

This is the favorite tactic of a Manipulative Bastard. Compare and contrast with Asshole Victim, although the perpetrator might try to cast their victim as such. The Social Darwinist may also use this tactic, blaming any victims as being "weak" or otherwise unworthy of survival. Villains that are Playing the Victim Card might also accuse those who confront them of this to discredit them if theyíre feeling desperate; it is not uncommon, however, for psychological abusers to cast themselves as the victim while shifting the blame to the real victim at the same time.

Why Did You Make Me Hit You? is one of the forms of victim-blaming. Can also overlap with Slut-Shaming and Honor-Related Abuse.

For more information on the subject, see Victim-Blaming. Compare Good Victims, Bad Victims, which is when writers use specific character types to influence audience feelings about a victim in a work.

See Guilt Complex and It's All My Fault for situations where the victim blames themselves.

As this is both Truth in Television and a highly sensitive matter, No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: This is part of the Judges' over-the-top attitude to policing. The Judges will often arrest the victims of a crime for "incitement", if for example, their car was stolen in a high-crime district or if they were seen with expensive jewelry. Even if they aren't, the victims of a major crime are often still arrested for one of several lesser ones, including jaywalking.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • X-Men villain Apocalypse is prone to doing this in his less well-written appearances, calling people "weak" for losing even if the loss is due to extenuating circumstances. This comes back to bite him in the "Apocalypse versus Dracula" mini-series when his own descendants opt to become vampires and join Dracule due to being sick of his Bad Boss tendencies.
    • Part of the reason the Civil War event was so divisive was the impression that the Pro-Registration side was pulling this on the Anti-Registration side. While the Pro-Reg side did have good points for throwing their support behind the Super Human Registration Act (SHRA), blaming the Anti-Reg side for being "unreasonable" rang hollow when they did things like trying to arrest Captain America before the SHRA was even ratified note  and launched an unprovoked attack on Luke Cage in his own house just after midnight (when the SHRA came into effect).
  • Julie Winters in The Maxx firmly believes that people don't get robbed or raped if they aren't stupid, and dismisses any objections to that worldview as "liberal-feminist garbage". This attitude makes her terrible in her chosen occupation of "freelance social worker" and is hinted to be the result of her own trauma.
  • The Transformers Megaseries: The Monstrosity mini-series has Scorponok (having seized control of the Decepticons after overthrowing Megatron) launch a massive assault on an Energon facility, then destroy it in the belief that the resulting scarcity will lead to mass chaos where only the strongest will survive. When other Decepticons point out he's just killed many of their own troops, he dismisses the casualties as "weak" and undeserving of living, never mind that very few Transformers can survive being at ground zero of an explosion visible from space.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): In issue #95, Artemis visits a shelter for women escaping abused relationships. Artemis asks one woman why she didn't fight back against her abusive husband. When the woman responds that the man would have killed her, leaving her children to starve, Artemis coldly responds "Good! Better they starve than have a mother who is a parasite and a coward!". Even a reporter doing a newscast on the shelter is appalled by this response.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Big Hero 6, the villain states that Tadashi's accidental death in a fire was his own fault; it's made worse by the fact that Tadashi only put himself at risk in the first place trying to rescue the villain. Upon hearing this, Tadashi's brother Hiro snaps and nearly kills the villain.
  • Wonder Woman (2009): Artemis loathes her younger sister Aleka's lack of fighting skills and preference of books over battle. When Aleka is murdered by the traitorous Amazon Persephone, Artemis is more disgusted at Aleka for failing to stop Persephone than shaken up by her death. When Aleka is resurrected as a zombie by Ares, Artemis calls her a disgrace.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A major source of drama in The Accused is that many people believe Sarah deserved to be gang-raped in a crowded bar, both because of her past involving drugs and because shortly prior to the rape, she was wearing revealing clothes, had been drinking and danced provocatively with one of her rapists (she also had a boyfriend at the time). Sarah's lawyer Kathryn is initially reluctant to pursue stronger convictions against the rapists or let Sarah testify, partly because her past and behavior may cause the jury to blame her or otherwise see her as unsympathetic. Kathryn later regrets this and the narrative itself takes the view that Sarah was blameless for the horrific violence inflicted on her.
  • Adam (2019): After one of Casey's friends, a trans woman named Nelly, is murdered by a cis man she had sex with without disclosing her gender, Adam's friend says he can understand the guy having a hostile reaction (while saying he isn't defending her murder). Casey is naturally outraged and takes this as victim blaming.
  • Cape Fear: Explored. Max Cady's rape and battery of a teenage girl appalls his attorney Sam Bowden, who willingly buries the girl's history of promiscuity because he knows it would help Cady get acquitted.
  • Daredevil (2003): Early in the film, Matt and Foggy are defending a woman named Angela who was raped by a man named Jose Quesada. Both Quesada and his lawyer argue that the sexual encounter was consensual and use Angela's criminal history against her. Quesada is acquitted, leading to Matt taking matters into his own hands.
  • A Good Woman Is Hard To Find: One of the cops who comes to Sarah's house victim-blames her for having been with (he thinks) an abusive boyfriend, enraging her.
  • Head in the Clouds: Discussed as Gilda rejects Guy's suggesting of reporting Lucien to the police for beating Mia, because she's a stripper and so they would say she'd brought it on herself.
  • In Hundra, the titular character finds her friend being raped in an alleyway. Rather than helping her, she berates her for her weakness in "letting" men mistreat her until she gets angry enough to fight back.
  • In Insiang, Dado warps Tonya into thinking Insiang charmed him to sleep with her and she ends up scolding her daughter for flirting with him, despite looking hurt and in tears.
  • Kimi: Angela relates that after going to the police about her rape, they put her on trial instead of the rapist. It's made clear nothing came of her complaint.
  • Promising Young Woman: Dean Walker and Madison both tell Cassie that Nina shouldn't have expected anything less than "what happened" (her rape) when she went into Al's college room drunk.
  • Pulp Fiction: Also an example of Grey-and-Grey Morality. When Butch refuses to take a dive in his boxing match, he inadvertently kills his opponent, and reasons that the guy deserved it for being an inferior boxer ("If he hadn't laced his gloves up in the first place he'd still be alive.") Of course, it could also be argued that if the opponent hadn't agreed to a fixed fight in the first place he'd still be alive.
  • Rafiki: As Kena's father notes, she's the one arrested along with Ziki after they get beaten up for being lesbians, with all their attackers allowed to go free.
  • Real Genius: After Kent sabotages the laser, he tells Knight that it was his own fault for not inspecting the optics before running it.
  • Scream 3: The film reveals that Sidney's mother Maureen Prescott was once an aspiring actress named Rina Reynolds who was gang-raped at a party. John Milton, the leader of the gang rape, argues that "Nothing happened to her that she didn't invite... in one way or another no matter what she said afterwards."
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968): Jekyll downplays his murder of Gwyn by calling her a trollop, as if it makes her insignificant.

    Literature 
  • By the standards of Dayao from Always Coming Home, any woman without a proper escort is fair game who is asking for it.
  • The teachers in Doom Valley Prep School subscribe strongly to Social Darwinism and turn around to blame the victims of bullying for being bullied. The alchemy teacher calls Peter being unwillingly gender-bent by Michael "a good lesson" and admonishes him, now her, for being "stupid and trusting." Just in case the reader thinks this is an isolated incident, Lady Plague then has the incoming female students, of which Peter->Petra is one, go through a Secret Test, and when a disembodied voice cries out that those who manage to get extra room keys will be rewarded, the victims who were beaten and had their keys taken by force were left with none, they were all shoved into a barracks, and blamed for failing to defend themselves. The bullies are taken to task for failing to authenticate what they heard, resulting in breaking the rules and found themselves in separate barracks, but that hardly helps. And the male teachers apparently did something similar in the boys' dorms...
  • Earth's Children:
    • In The Valley of Horses, when Jondalar first learns that Ayla became pregnant after being raped by a Neanderthal man, his knee-jerk response is to express disgust that she "let one of them" have sex with her; this is due to Jondalar's people thinking of Neanderthals as animals rather than another type of human, and having sexual relations with "flatheads" and children born of such unions are consequently seen as massive taboos. After Ayla calls Jondalar out on this and storms off, Jondalar moves past his initial revulsion and is instead disgusted with himself for suggesting she was to blame for the rape, especially as she'd willingly shared with him this extremely painful part of her past. He later apologizes to Ayla and she chooses to forgive him.
    • In The Plains of Passage, Echozar says his mother's brother-in-law blamed her for the attack on her and his brother, which saw her gang-raped and her mate killed when he tried to protect her; her brother-in-law proclaimed that she was ill-favoured by the spirits and so carried misfortune with her. This opinion was only cemented when she gave birth to a supposedly deformed son as a consequence of the rape, leading to them both being banished (in truth, Echozar is not deformed but looks different from most of the Clan due having a Neanderthal mother and Cro-Magnon father).
  • A Father's Wrath shows this as a cultural more. When women find themselves drugged or brainwashed into being raped, society at large blames them. Main character Jon Barton learned this one first hand when his wife was drugged with powerful magical aphrodisiacs, right in front of him, and the would be assailants tried to trick her into verbally confessing. Jon executes the scoundrels on the spot when they challenge him for trying to intervene, demanding his identity, and he provides proof that he's a viscount, as the adopted son of their Lord, Marquis Liaflaf.
  • After Scarlett is nearly raped in Gone with the Wind, her rival India Wilkes cruelly tells her "What happened to you this afternoon was just what you deserve and if there was any justice, you'd have gotten worse.'' (Scarlett had repeatedly ridden through a crime-ridden part of town despite repeated pleas and warnings not to do so) Scarlett then learns that the local men have gone out to avenge her and will be hanged if they're caught. India makes it quite clear that she blames her for this too. When her husband Frank is indeed killed, along with another man, and her beloved Ashley is injured, Scarlett even turns this attitude on to herself.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, the Aunts preach that Janine was to blame for her being gang-raped at fourteen, insisting she led her rapists on and that God was "teach[ing] her a lesson". The other Handmaids are forced to repeat this to Janine over and over until she finally breaks down and 'agrees' that it was her fault. The Aunts in general state that men can't always control themselves and that it's up to women to keep themselves modest so men won't be tempted.
  • The House of Night: In one of the later books, a girl named Becca starts flirting with Aurox with the intention of having sex with him. When he inadvertently says Zoey's name, though, Becca is put off and bites him, then becomes afraid of him after sensing he's an otherworldly creature and tries to leave. Aurox ends up pinninLiterature/g her against a tree and ignores her pleading to leave her alone, but is stopped from going further when a teacher intervenes. However, the teacher tells Becca that it was partly her fault for leading Aurox on and that she's "crude" for turning him down just because he's attracted to Zoey.
  • Maya's Notebook: The 13-year-old Azucena is raped by her father (who has also raped her sister) and she becomes pregnant, miscarrying later on. Yet people in the village blame her and her mother, because they figure her father can't help it. Sauce a ends up having to move out of town.
  • In the first tome of Millennium Series, Lisbeth calls Harriet Vanger a coward for not killing her brother, weeks after she humiliated Nils Larssen, her own abusive guardian. However, by the third book, she matures enough to understand the precise situation.
  • In Starting A New Life For The Discarded All Rounder, the country protagonist Roa hails from has a systematic culture of victim blaming. Whenever there's a conflict between the mentor and apprentice of the highly touted apprenticeship system, the legally powerless apprentice is always held to blame, regardless of the actual circumstances. In this culture 80% of apprentices wash out of the program, and the top brass is strangely proud of this, thinking their country has somehow mastered a system of separating the wheat from the chaff. Any time there's evidence this is wrong, assassins are sent to "clean it up." (Ie, eliminate the apprentice who provides hard evidence of the system's flaws, just by existing.)
  • The plot of Worm is set up by the protagonist Taylor being bullied to the point of a Traumatic Superpower Awakening by three female classmates, one of whom is a lawyer's daughter with enough social clout to make sure that not only is Taylor not believed but is also made to look like she's antagonizing them unprovoked.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock: Victim-blaming is the main reason Andrew Ryanís ĎGreat Chainí fails; he fundamentally refuses to believe that there is a difference between someone being unwilling to pull themselves up by their bootstraps or being unable to do so due to circumstance. His final speech even has shades of him blaming Jack for being a slave who was sold, experimented on, and brainwashed.
  • In The Exorcism Of Annabelle Sunray, The Preacher, who runs The Church, tells the abused and suffering orphans under her care that their suffering is their fault and Godís punishment for their sins. She even goes on to tell Annabelle that her fatherís molestation of her is somehow her fault.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Vivienne and Sera are a mage and an elf who live in a Crapsack World where anti-magic and and anti-elf Fantastic Racism thrive. Due to Internalized Categorism, they both blame their fellow mages and fellow elves on their own systemic oppression under mundane humans.
  • Dwarf Fortress: In a more ridiculous version of this, one particular Miscarriage of Justice you can carry out is legally blaming the victim of a crime as the perpetrator, subjecting them to the punishment. This isn't recommended, as dwarves will see right through this and be utterly outraged "after the bizarre conviction against all reason of the victim of a crime". Do this just once, and they'll be pissed. Do this a lot, and the ensuing mass riot may shut down your fortress completely.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses::
    • In Chapter 17 of Crimson Flower, should Edelgard confront Dimitri, Dimitri calls her out for trying to invade Faerghus and killing his people and closest friends. Edelgard in response blames him for trying to kill and reconquer in retaliation to her conquest. In the original Japanese, she instead asks him if killing more people will make him happy.
    • A twisted case can happen during Chapter 20/21 of Silver Snow/Verdant Wind should Seteth or Flayn fight Thales. In spite of TWSITD manipulating Nemesis into genociding the citizens of Nabatea, Thales instead blames them and their kin for banishing his people to the depths of the earth in the past.
  • Persona 5:
    • Futaba's mother was killed by Akechi via mental shutdown and Futaba was blamed for her death after Shido forged a suicide note. This resulted in Futaba being treated terribly by her guardians and developing intense agoraphobia along with auditory hallucinations. Things get better after she joins the Phantom Thieves, however.
    • Kamoshida humiliates Ryuji by telling everyone about his home life in a bid to make his volleyball team the only frontline sports team in the school. This causes Ryuji to attack him, and Kamoshida retaliates by breaking Ryuji's leg in 'self-defense', then disbands the track team, causing his teammates to view him as a traitor.
    • Akechi is the bastard son of Shido and a prostitute. Eventually, his mother couldn't bear the shame of having a child out of wedlock anymore and killed herself, leaving Akechi in foster care where he was alienated for his heritage. He refers to himself as a cursed child and cites himself as the reason his mother died, though he also has a massive grudge against Shido.
  • In Silent Hill 2, Angela's mother blamed her for the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, telling Angela that she deserved what happened to her.
  • The Nintendo DS tie-in game for Transformers (2007) has Megatron dismiss the deaths of loyal Decepticons Blackout and Barricade at the hands of an AllSpark-empowered Starscream as them being "weak" before turning on the player character for being badly damaged. The player character protests that he could be repaired, but Megatron kills him and devours his Spark anyway, sneering it would be a waste of resources. Naturally, Megatron ignores that the player character helped thaw him out of his frozen prison and had just fought (and defeated!) Starscream (which was the reason he was badly damaged).
  • Transformers: War for Cybertron: In the first level, Megatron happens upon a triage station set up to tend to wounded Decepticons. He expresses his disgust, snarling that Decepticons should either be fighting, or dead.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 
  • Joe vs. Elan School:
    • Elan School's "therapies" themselves are abusive at their core, and students are made to believe that any abuses they receive from the staff or other students are their own fault.
    • Joe's parents are more than willing to praise Elan School and decry Joe as absolute scum in the same breath, ignoring his stories about how Elan abused him, and telling him that his behaviors after he leaves Elan — which are caused by his post-Elan PTSD — is just proof that he needed Elan's "therapy". Joe's narration sums it up with a quote he heard: "Sometimes people pretend you're a bad person so they don't feel guilty about the things they did to you."
  • unOrdinary: John blames those he attacks for his attacks, even those who he's never spoken to before or who tried to defend him from bulling or befriend him are all painted with the same brush. Anyone who tries to point out that he's hospitalizing people for things other people did and which they were unaware of or were defenseless victims of is also attacked for antagonizing him.

    Web Video 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Parodied when Cell makes a Black Humor joke while chasing Android 18 with the intent of absorbing her and evolving into his perfect form.
    Cell: Just look at what she's wearing! She's practically asking to get absorbed!

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In the episode "The Weirdo", upon observing Sussie getting bullied by Julius and his gang, Darwin claims that she's making herself an easy target by being so weird. Never mind that she can't help it, or that the people who bully her would find another reason to bully her if not that because they're, well, bullies (and Darwin should know, because he's been victimized by the same Gang of Bullies due to his naïve nature, both before and after this episode).
  • Beavis And Butthead: In the episode "Breakdown", Principal McVicker gets institutionalized after getting harassed by Beavis and Butt-Head one too many times. Upon seeing them enter his facility, he has another Freak Out. In response, the staff smack him and condemn him for his actions. Of course, they are ignoring that not only were the two responsible for his predicament in the first place, but they continued to harass him during their visit. The staff then has McVicker set up for electroshock therapy as punishment.
  • Family Guy:
  • Oscar's Orchestra: Thadius blames Oscar for being forced to play the piano and by extension his hatred of music, but Thadius held all the power over Oscar in that situation and started actively abusing him after the failed recital. In addition, it was Thadiusí mom that forced him to play the piano in the first place, who was completely apathetic to her sonís abuse of his piano.
  • The Owl House: Emperor Belos justifies every bit of the harm he's caused this way.
    • He very explicitly blames the Grimwalkers for their own deaths. He laments to the Collector that it hurts every time they choose to betray him, though even questioning him can count as betrayal, as he demonstrates minutes later when he tries to kill Hunter for just asking him what he did to the other Golden Guards. Contrary to what he claimed earlier, Belos isn't even upset about Hunter's supposed death, just annoyed that he has to make a new one now — in fact, he looks more upset after learning that Hunter survived.
    • The creation of the Grimwalkers also points to another disturbing bit of victim blaming — all of the Grimwalkers are clones of Belos's brother, Caleb, who he murdered after finding out that Caleb had fallen in love with a witch. In "For the Future", when a dying Belos hallucinates Caleb's ghost, he outright screams at him that his death and everything that followed was Caleb's own fault, and tries to attack him.
  • Regular Show: In the episode "Eggscellent", after Rigby has a near-fatal allergic reaction to an omelette he consumed at a restaurant, Benson claims that Rigby could have avoided this if it weren't for his own stupidity. In response, Mordecai punches Benson in the face and lays into him for his callous behavior.
    Benson: Well, I hope you've learned something from this.
    Mordecai: What?
    Benson: Maybe if you were working like you were supposed to, none of this would have happened.
    (Mordecai punches Benson in the face, in which his co-workers try to restrain him)
    Benson: Mordecai, what are you doing?
    Mordecai: What's your problem?! This has nothing to do with work! He just wanted the hat!
    Benson: And look where it got you! That friend over there is only gonna get you in trouble!
    Mordecai: Sure, take advice from Benson about friends since he's got so many of them.
    Benson: I have friends.
    Mordecai: No, you don't! Everyone only hangs out with you because you're our boss! Rigby may have tried to win the hat, but he doesn't deserve to be put in a coma because of it.
  • South Park: In Season 21, after Heidi breaks up with Cartman, her friends start to mock her for having ever dated him, disregarding the amount of trauma Heidi endured from the relationship. In turn, Heidi goes back to Cartman and becomes his Distaff Counterpart. Despite this, her friends still wonder why she decided to go back to Cartman after finally dumping him.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the episode "Stuck in the Wringer", when SpongeBob hits his Rage-Breaking Point with Patrick (whose stupidity is ruining his life) and gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, the townspeople catch wind of it and angrily scold SpongeBob for chewing out Patrick.
    Sandals: You know, kid, your body isn't the problem. It's your heart. You deserve what you've gotten. Come on, we're out of here. Some people are just born mean.
  • Tangled: The Series: In the episode "Rapunzel's Enemy", Uncle Monty is the one person in the kingdom who doesn't like Rapunzel, his reasons being that he's a holder of traditional values and Rapunzel herself isn't a traditional princess. But what else is he expecting when Rapunzel was stolen from her parents and locked in a tower for eighteen years? Of course, she can't be a traditional princess after suffering emotional abuse and constant isolation. It's not like the circumstances of Rapunzel's upbringing are unknown to the public; the tale of the Lost Princess spread, and the celebration of her return lasted a week according to Eugene. Monty's is negatively judgemental towards Rapunzel because of her quirks, even though said quirks are the result of her trauma. It certainly doesn't help his case that he likes to throw tomatoes at a statue of Rapunzel for fun.
  • Teen Titans (2003): Slade justifies his manipulation and control of Terra this way.
    Slade: She wanted control, and that's what I gave her; my control, her body.

 
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Video Example(s):

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Oh, shut up

With both his body and mind literally falling apart, Belos hallucinates (or possibly sees the ghosts of) his brother and the Grimwalkers, all of whom he murdered. At first, he tries to rationalize his actions by claiming that he saved Caleb's soul, but eventually he's so exhausted that he can only weakly tell the silent specters to shut up.

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Example of:

Main / HauntingTheGuilty

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