There has been a surge of support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence worldwide. On the flipside, shining light on the issue also attracts the attention of those who are not as well-informed. Lack of education on the topic elicits opinion and unsolicited advice some of which end up blaming the victim.
On this webinar, Sara Mahoney from the Allegany County Probation Department is the esteemed resource speaker to talk about victim blaming in domestic violence. Sara is on her twelfth years working as a probation officer. She is also a trained instructor by the US Department of Homeland Security specializing in domestic violence cases. She investigates and supervises DV offenders as well as facilitates DV offenders support groups.
Sara shares her expertise surrounding the phenomenon of victim blaming. Some of the areas she covered are:
- Defining blame and how it came to be.
- The concept of victim blaming in psychology and how it is manifested unconsciously by professionals dealing with domestic violence victims as well as the victims’ family and close friends.
- How our perception of blame is impacted by the nature of the victim-perpetrator relationship, the type of abuse, and the sex of the perceiver.
- What is self-blame and how individuals can experience its two types which are either linked to self-esteem and internally motivated, or is externally influenced and control related?
- How involvement with the abusers caused them to become less likely to leave, blame themselves for their circumstance, and dependent on the abuser.
- The importance of perceived control and how it can empower victims to believe that they have the ability to influence the events in their life and its outcomes.
- Why victims don’t trust the system, don’t report the abuse as often as it happens and how to negate this effect.
- What professionals should practice in their jurisdiction to mitigate if not eliminate victim-blaming tendencies.
- The concept of multi-directional blame coming from the abuser, the victim his/herself, and the system that makes victims hesitant to come out and report abuses.
- Avoiding revictimization by ensuring that the professionals that assist the victims do not try to control his/her life the same way the abuser did.
- The iceberg theory and a study that looks at the social silence, tolerance, and inhibition that people tend to practice despite knowledge of abuse.
- The reasons why victims do not report abuse to law enforcement as expounded in a research that studied intimate partner abuse.
- Retraumatization triggered by situations, specific interaction, environment and sensations that take the victim back to the traumatic event and how it can affect a victim’s psyche, mindset, and life.
- What institutions dealing with DV, trauma, or sexual assault victims can do to shift towards a more trauma-informed direction by helping versus hindering.
- Poll questions were about ways professionals unknowingly practice victim-blaming and the culture in the participants’ respective agencies.
- Sara addressed the webinar attendees’ inquiries during the Q&A on:
- Influencing others towards trauma-informed practices and preventing victim blaming
- Handling the stress related to the profession and tips to avoid burning out
- Ways to increase victims’ perceived control
- Dealing with victims testifying in cases and trainings on getting victims to provide testimonies for prosecution
- The unconscious/subconscious nature of people to victim blame and championing the cultural shift towards a more positive attitude
Resources Mentioned During Webinar
- Article Link: When Abuse Happens Again: Women’s Reasons for Not Reporting New Incidents of Intimate Partner Abuse to Law Enforcement