Survivor Viewer Guilt


Have you noticed comments on online forums where people question how the victim of a crime became victimized?  Over the past years I’ve seen quite a few instances where online comments ask why a woman wasn’t careful enough before she was raped.  It’s become common place now to ask why did she go with him?   Didn’t she know this was a bad decision?  Why was she drinking so much at night?  This is different than speculation on the actual events.  You can dispute the validity of events, but people should be wary of blaming the victim by asking why they didn’t place the onus on themselves to prevent their own victimization.  I call this survivor viewer guilt, because they are not directly involved in the crime, but feel as if they need to interject their own comments after the fact.

This happens often in online communities and I feel it is something new that must be addressed.  Why do people feel as if they need to victim-blame someone they never even met or were involved with?  I don’t believe it is out of malice but because they feel personally guilty.  I call this survivor viewer guilt.  We’ve all heard of survivor guilt, where a survivor of a crime feels guilty they are alive when someone else died.  Survivor viewer guilt exists because as humans, we instinctively want to protect the victim we hear about even if there was no possible way to do so.  Because we failed to protect them (even though we may have never known them), we feel survivor viewer guilt and project this guilt onto the victim to relieve ourselves of it.  We ask why the victim didn’t do more because of our guilt.

As humans, we will always have these protective feelings and they are what separate us from sociopaths, so it is okay to feel such way.  However, when you recognize what is happening, you must stop the transference unto the victim.  When we better understand the nature of our actions, we will understand who we are.  Crime will continue to happen, but we can stop the further victimization of those accosted by changing the way we speak to each other.  We must acknowledge we feel guilty, but also acknowledge there was absolutely nothing we could do and that we still want the best for the victim we are hearing about.

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