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Victim blamers and generalisations


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Got into a debate with someone who keeps saying things like "Everyone has a problem with being a victim now." "People with mental health problems who aren't seeking treatment are bad." "There are plenty of charities that provide mental health care so there is really no excuse for a narcissist to not be in therapy." 

When asked to explain exactly what they mean by these statements and asked why they were not gross generalisations, they say they are only talking about America. Yet as I'm from another country and am a cosmopolitan, when someone says everybody, they mean everyone everywhere. I don't even think they are correct about their statements being the true state of affairs. Whenever I have discussions with this person about ethics or mental health they always seem to get drawn into judging someone or making sweeping generalisations like this and it's really straining the relationship. I don't want to upset this person by blasting them with proof and counter arguments and whenever I try to, they are claiming I'm not understanding what they mean but they invariably end up saying something that in the context of our discussion cannot be taken to mean other than these generalisations. It always seems to focus on victims and abusers in the end and it always seems like what is being said is that we should ignore more people claiming to be victims while locking up certain people and throwing away the key.

Then because I won't agree with generalisations or extreme human rights breaching measures, I am told I am being too sympathetic to the wrong people. I'm empathetic, with everyone, I consider it to be part of my work in ethics. I am accused of giving excuses for abusers and excuses for people who I'm to perceive as lazy irredeemable victims or else I'm the bad guy.

Why do victim blamers make such sweeping generlisations, refuse to retract them and only seem to be content when you agree with the overall theme of their message, which seems to be somewhere along the lines of everyone is irredeemably shit, but not me, even though I too am a part of everyone and I feel like I have been victimised in the past, as I know this person does too.

I can't help but get the feeling that this revolves around this person trying to treat others as they treat themselves. They blame themselves for their own powerlessness during the time of their abuse, which was extreme to say the least. 

So I guess what I want to know is, how do you make someone realise that the only way to stop blaming yourself for things that weren't your fault, is to not do it to other people. 

I guess I just see it as a waste of everyone's time to deviate from talking about helping people to target one group and specify "but not them". 

Sidenote: this post is unrelated to the content of the barriers to equal opportunity in education post in the ethics section.

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I think that what you describe is not a psychological effect per se, but rather a symptom of certain types of political views, but there are underlying psychological reasons for elements of it (such as blaming victims).

What I means is the reason why certain folks are not seen as victims, whereas others might be, tends to be heavily influenced by societal views and politics. To take a recent example, certain folks view refugees as victims, whereas others might consider them as threat.

Other examples have shown that e.g. in cases of rape, victim blaming is related to racial stereotypes and correlate with racism scores. When it comes to healthcare, studies from the 70s have shown that certain political ideologies blame individuals and their decisions on poor health, rather than e.g. failures and cost in the medical system. 

Another related belief is the so-called just-world hypothesis, in which individuals believe that the world is inherently morally fair (e.g. noble actions are rewarded and evil actions are punished). Those knowingly or unknowingly ascribing to this belief obvious also tend to blame the victim as the assumption is that they did at least something wrong, otherwise they would not have encountered the bad event and so on.

 

I suspect at least one element of it, is that folks want to belief that they are in entire control of their lives. And if they are, they cannot be victims. Conversely, folks only become victims because of their choices, rather than circumstances (as the latter would be contrary to their assumption of control). There are, as mentioned, political overlays as well as self-experience that influence the likelihood of such attitudes. For example unsurprisingly, folks who are struggling are less likely to believe in a just world.

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No one should have to be reminded that generalising is only partially right ( or partially wrong ).

My opinion has always been that,  a victim can be dumb …
( -assaulted while walking through Central Park, alone, at night
   -raped while the only female , wearing revealing clothing, at a drunken frat house party
   -hit by bus while crossing the street wearing headphones, a  hoodie, and not looking both ways
   -etc. )

but certainly cannot be blamed, or faulted.
 

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23 hours ago, MigL said:

No one should have to be reminded that generalising is only partially right ( or partially wrong ).

My opinion has always been that,  a victim can be dumb …
( -assaulted while walking through Central Park, alone, at night
   -raped while the only female , wearing revealing clothing, at a drunken frat house party
   -hit by bus while crossing the street wearing headphones, a  hoodie, and not looking both ways
   -etc. )

but certainly cannot be blamed, or faulted.
 

I agree completely. Ultimately the antagonist should be facing the most blame and fault. In a world where everyone is law abiding, it wouldn't matter how dumb you are, you should be able to walk through a park at 3am without being attacked. Although I suppose, in a world like that, we'd never call that a dumb thing to do in the first place.

On 12/1/2020 at 11:35 AM, CharonY said:

There are, as mentioned, political overlays as well as self-experience that influence the likelihood of such attitudes. For example unsurprisingly, folks who are struggling are less likely to believe in a just world.

In the area of self-experience, do you think it is possible that some who blame the victim, do so because they also blame themselves for their own victimisation in the past? Let's say a person blames themselves for being abused as a child, is there a chance they will also blame others who were or are in the same circumstance? 

I posted this in the psychology and psychiatry section because I wanted to probe the motivations of such individuals. 

I feel that the political overlay is a correlation but not a causation, as I've been witness to victim blamers from across the political spectrum, so I'm not sure political views are the deciding factor. It may be that politics determines what you blame victims for and what you don't blame them for, or what type of victims you focus on, but does not determine whether or not someone behaves in the manner of a victim blamer. 

I suspect that this conversation may lead to the identification of a number of different motivation hypotheses behind the victim blaming behaviour. At least, that's what I want this conversation to lead to. I have a theory about the person I am speaking of in my OP but it wouldn't surprise me to find out it's not a catch all explanation. 

Edited by MSC
Changing theories to hypotheses on MigLs point below.
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No studies or data to back this up...

I suppose a person who has been victimized, and is embarrassed/ashamed to have put themselves in that position, might feel that anyone else who does the same, ought to have known better. They might equate doing something dumb, to being at fault.

I base this on how critical former smokers, who have since quit, are of smokers who don't quit.
After they, themselves have quit, they consider other smokers, who haven't quit, almost criminal.
( no, I don't smoke and never have )

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16 minutes ago, MigL said:

No studies or data to back this up...

I suppose a person who has been victimized, and is embarrassed/ashamed to have put themselves in that position, might feel that anyone else who does the same, ought to have known better. They might equate doing something dumb, to being at fault.

I base this on how critical former smokers, who have since quit, are of smokers who don't quit.
After they, themselves have quit, they consider other smokers, who haven't quit, almost criminal.
( no, I don't smoke and never have )

I get what you mean though. I'm a smoker and my biggest critics of that do tend to be past smokers. When I do eventually manage to quit I can see myself becoming critical of smokers more although I'll try to be constructively critical about it. Until I actually give up though I'd still not try to deter someone else trying to quit. As I have attempted to give it up, I've found that a relapse leads to a lot of negative self-criticism and shame. Which usually leads to a longer attempt next time. 

I'm aware of the lack of studies, which is why we are confined to the realm of hypothesis for now. Maybe some grad student will see this conversation and look into it for us haha

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2 hours ago, MSC said:

In the area of self-experience, do you think it is possible that some who blame the victim, do so because they also blame themselves for their own victimisation in the past? Let's say a person blames themselves for being abused as a child, is there a chance they will also blame others who were or are in the same circumstance? 

I only had a very cursory look on the lit in a very different context. As a whole, it seems that the dynamics is very complex, especially as the perpetrator-victim interaction heavily influences the victims. Rape victims who were also subject to child abuse are more likely to attribute blame to themselves, for example. 

It is a well-known observation that in abusive relationships the perpetrator creates a situation where the victim believes that the situation is their fault, which is likely to colour their view. 

The smoking example is related to a different phenomenon, I think. Folks that have e.g. overcome adversity or have become successful tend to ascribe it to their own abilities (but again, it also correlates with their belief in a just world, so it may a bit of a chicken or egg situation) and then are less empathic to failures of others.

There are studies that show that a belief in meritocracy (specifically, belief that the world is based on meritocracy, which is related to the just world hypothesis), is inversely correlated with traits such as empathy and is associated with higher levels of stereotyping. 

(see e.g. Madeira et al. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02007)

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