Social Psychology and Victim Blaming: Why you gotta be so rude?

November 03, 2014

By: Anna Agoncillo and Genesis |

The news about rape in the Philippines has been rampant these past few months. More so, survey showed that the trend of victims each year has been increasing (PNP Women and Children Protection Center, 2013).

(C) GMA News Philippines, 2014
In 2012, approximately 346,830 women were raped, as a result, there were about 17, 342 unwanted pregnancies (U.S. Department of Justice, 2013). You can’t rule out men just yet, most of them suffer in silence too. In 2003, 1 in every 10 rape victims were male.

These numbers are from United States and Philippines alone. Imagine how many individuals were raped globally. Furthermore, these are from reported victims. How about those who kept it from others due to social misogyny and shame? Maybe the statistics thereafter will double or even triple. Indeed, it’s very alarming, horrifying and disappointing.

In this video, you’ll see how hard it is to be sexually assaulted especially in a place you call home and by someone whom you call mom or dad.

Victim Blaming in the Philippines

Victim blaming was present:
  • when heavily made-up victims were labelled as “alleged prostitutes”
  • when women were accused to provoke sexual assault due to clothing
  • when victims were believed to be drug addicts or alcoholics
  • when people say, “he/she was asking for it!”
  • when fans protest because a famous figure loses his/her career for having been sentenced with "Reclusión perpetua" while forgetting why he/she was sentenced to begin with
These past few days, the case of Jennifer Laude has been skyrocketed in different social media platforms. Jennifer “Jerry” Laude, a transgender individual, was allegedly murdered by a U.S. Marine, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton. Full article here.

Whatever transpired on the day of murder, only those involved would know. What we know for sure is that she died miserably and the family is now seeking for justice. I have seen a lot of conversations online. It’s shocking to see how our so-called “kababayan/countrymen” would hate on Jennifer for being  transgender, and accuse her of being a thief, a drug pusher, or a prostitute.

I was saddened by the obvious display of judgment from others who seemed to blame Jennifer for her own demise. But really, why blame the victim?

Jennifer Laude did not deserve to die. No one does. No crime as petty as theft and prostitution should equate to death. I may not agree with some of Jennifer Laude’s choices in life but I respect her entirely. At the end of the day, we shall all remember that we can't defeat injustice if we keep blaming the oppressed. Instead, we must help the survivors and their families to rebuild their future. The Laude’s need the support especially at this trying times.

The stigma that you can’t run from

Once you’ve been raped, the outward shame, emotional scars and social stigma stays with you throughout your life. The victims often suffer from serious medical, psychological and financial conditions after the assault (e.g. unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, post traumatic stress disorder or depression).
What upsets me the most is the narrow-minded view of some people that solely blames the victims and exonerates the perpetrators. Aren’t you tired of hearing people say: “oh she got raped because her skirt was too short or she was too revealing”? What might be provocative to you might just be dressing fashionably for some. It’s highly subjective. Furthermore, does it give you a moral right to touch someone without his/her consent just because you find said individual sexually attractive? Of course not!
Victim Blaming, Attribution and Locus of Control

Attribution and Locus of Control are two seemingly the same Psychological constructs that can explain the belief and behavior of victim blaming. Attribution is how individuals explain the cause/s of behaviors and events in their life (Kassin, Fein & Markus, 2008).
While Locus of Control is a belief that one's power over the situation can either be external (control belongs to fate, luck, higher God or other forces) or internal (control belongs to personal efforts and decisions) (Zimbardo, 1985). 
Now let’s apply it to a situation… 
John got raped in a narrow alley at 2AM holding a bottle of whiskey in his hand. 
A person with an internal locus of control and internal attribution will say that it happened because he is too reckless and a drunkard. While a person with external locus of control and external attribution will say that he got taken advantage of because it was too dark outside and there were no police or any other people present. (Can you see how different those two interpretations are?)  

Yes! To blame it solely on the victim is unfair but blaming it solely on the perpetrator is too. Instead, we must look at the bigger picture as all factors add up together.

Parting thoughts
We’ve normalized practices that objectify women or men that it contributed to this wrongful thinking and further allowed the perpetrators to feel less accountable for their actions. We stand by the outcry that we must stop blaming the victims. Keep an open mind, provide sympathy, help them rebuild themselves and empower their choices in order to set good examples for the future generations.

Do good. Seek peace and justice for others and yourself. Need we say more?

Read the previous posts: Depression, Awareness and Coping: Know depression, No Stigma , Rest in Paradise

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Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Markus, H. (2008).  Social Psychology. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning

PNP Women and Children Protection Center. (2013).  Retrieved on October 27, 2014 from

U.S. Department of Justice. (2013). 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey. Retrieved on October 27, 2014 from

Zimbardo, P. (1985). Psychology and Life. Retrieved on October 27, 2014 from

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