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The Real Reason We Blame Victims

Victim blaming; just-world hypothesis; the just-world bias; just-world fallacy; victim shaming; Mother Teresa suffering closer to God; She got what was coming to her! You reap what you sow. What goes around comes around. He got his just deserts.

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to like to reveal the reasons we actually blame victims for their suffering & plight and the link to the Just-World Hypothesis.

First a quick update: 

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Now, let’s talk about the reasons we actually blame victims for their suffering & plight and the link to the Just-World Hypothesis.

Do people that suffer deserve it?

Do the people of Haiti deserve the suffering from the earthquake? Do the people of Afghanistan deserve the suffering from the Taliban takeover? Do the victims of rape deserve their suffering?

The way that you choose to answer this question will reflect the fallacies that you hold to be true about life and the world.

If you believe in a just world, then you must also believe that the victim is to blame: She got what was coming to her! You reap what you sow. What goes around comes around. He got his just deserts.

However, believing in a just world, also has its benefits, as I will explain shortly.

“People have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve.” – Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University

When we hear about something bad, something that we hope would never happen to us, then we try to justify what happened by moving the blame and responsibility onto the victim; we paint them negatively or we try to minimize their suffering.  

Victim Blaming and Self-Serving Bias

Sometimes, we belittle the victim or shame or blame them just to make ourselves feel better. If we can justify what happened to them, then we won’t feel as much of their pain. And the greater their pain and suffering, the more we place the blame directly on the victim. For it is much easier to stomach that the victim must have caused his/her own suffering rather than to accept the other possibility, that the world is not fair and there are many evil acts and actions over which we have no control.

If we choose to believe that the victim is responsible for what happened to him, then we feel as if we are in more control of our lives. We actually believe that perhaps we are superior, more intelligent and smarter than the victim, and therefore, this could never happen to us.

Thus, the belief in a just world creates a sense of comfort; we feel less responsible or we feel less pain for the suffering of the victims.

The belief that the world is a just world and is predictable is called the Just-World Hypothesis, or the Just-World Bias or Just-World Fallacy.

Origins of The Just-World Hypothesis

The just world hypothesis most likely begins in childhood and is reinforced by cultural programming – comic books, stories, fairytales & fables, and Hollywood movies where good conquers evil and the villain loses to the hero.

This belief also gives us a false sense of power thinking that we actually can control all outcomes since the belief is that there is a cause to everything and that there are consequences for bad behavior/wrongful actions.

Now, there is a tremendous advantage to this belief: if you fear that doing bad will bring bad upon you, then you will be more deliberate in your choices and actions, and you will avoid doing bad, wrong or evil. You will fear doing the wrong thing because you fear you will be punished.

Irrational Ways We Try To Justify Blaming Victims  

What about, though, children who get cancer, or children who are raped?

You can explain the suffering based on an unjust world and fight for protection, prevention or restitution, or you can try to explain it by again blaming the victim or offering another theory, hypothesis or interpretation of the event. For example, Mother Teresa believed that suffering made you closer to God. New Age supporters believe in a Just-World Hypothesis and will argue that the suffering was a choice made by the victim before he/she came to this life; New Agers and other religions will also argue that the suffering is the direct result of karma – the payback for evil deeds performed in a former life.

“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you…There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.”

Mother Teresa

Blaming the victim means you do not think about the situation.

Note the way that we will belittle or negate the worth of a victim. And again, the greater the suffering, the more we will look for reasons to shame and blame the victim’s behavior or character, and the more we will seek to negate their sense of humanity and self-worth.


Again, we want the world to be fair, so we pretend that it is by blaming the victim for their plight and suffering. ‘If you do good, you will be rewarded; if you do bad, you will eventually be punished.’

Why We Want & Perhaps Need To Believe In A Just-World Hypothesis

Believing in a Just-World Hypothesis empowers us to plan out our lives and to believe that we can achieve our goals because we assume that our actions will have predictable consequences. Accordingly, successful people must also deserve their success?

What about traffic accidents, rape, domestic violence, illnesses, and poverty? Children can be born into poverty, or they can be the actual victims of war or exploitation.

We blame the woman for the rape based on her behavior, but not her character. ‘She was wearing provocative clothing and therefore she asked for it…she should not have been out alone at night…she was drinking, it’s her fault.’

Notice the way we blame victims of illnesses and diseases (with the exception of cancer, whereby we believe that everyone is helpless and a true victim to cancer.) Contrast this with our perception of victims of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.

Finally, if you firmly believe that the world is just and fair, then you will most likely look down on underprivileged people and you will be less likely to take action and fight for any change or to try to alleviate the pain and suffering of others – of victims. The solution is to step back and take time to assess each situation, to seek to express empathy and compassion, to accept that the world is both fair and unfair, and to focus on what you can control.

If you or a friend need help to resolve pain from love or failed relationships, do as others have done and resolve it rapidly and be set free of the pain by experiencing my SRTT process  – without reliving the pain: book a one-on-one session with me.

You can add to the conversation below.

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.

Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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