6 Examples of Victim-Blaming

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When bullying occurs, people often place the blame on the shoulders of the victim. Most of the time, they falsely believe that if the victim of bullying were somehow different, then bullying wouldn’t happen. They might even ask the victim: "What did you do to cause it?"

While it is true that there are some things that can help deter bullying, like developing social skills and building self-esteem, the truth is that anyone can become a victim of bullying. There are a number of reasons why bullies target others, but none of those reasons is the victim’s fault. The responsibility for bullying always belongs to the bully. Yet many people still engage in victim-blaming and assert that the victim brought about the bullying in some way.

Bullying is never the target's fault. Victims do not need to change or be different in some way to avoid being bullied. Change is always the bully's responsibility.

To keep from blaming the victim for a bullying incident, familiarize yourself with the top six ways that people blame victims for bullying. Make sure you avoid believing these myths about victims.

They Deserves It

Many times, when people hear that someone has been bullied, they have trouble empathizing with what the victim experienced, especially if the victim has negative or annoying personality traits. Despite whether victims are conceited, rude, inconsiderate or selfish, no one deserves to be bullied. This mindset only condones bullying behaviors.

They Should Change

Many times people will point out what is wrong with the victim rather than recognizing that the real problem lies with the bully and his choices. People often find it easier to tell a victim how he should change in order to avoid being bullied than to place the responsibility on the bully. While there are certain life skills that are important for victims of bullying to learn, like resilience, perseverance, and assertiveness, lacking these skills is not a reason to excuse bullying.

They Caused It

Many people believe it is good for a bully to get a “taste of their own medicine.” But this type of attitude only keeps the cycle of bullying going. For example, bully-victims are caught in this vicious cycle. They are consistently bullied and rather than dealing with the situation in a healthy way, they lash out by bullying others.

Instead, they need to learn to handle bullying in a healthy way. They also need to be held responsible for any choices they make to bully others. And most importantly, they need help healing from the consequences of bullying they have experienced. But the fact that they have been bullied should never excuse their choices to bully others. Revenge is never a good option.

They Should Have Known Better

This mindset is equivalent to the thinking that “if they hadn’t gone for a walk alone none of this would have happened.” But the fact is that people should have the freedom to move about in the world without fear of being attacked or bullied. It is important to avoid bullying hot spots, but this does not excuse the bully's choice to target someone.

Blaming a victim for being bullied while alone in a locker room, bathroom or deserted hallway does not address the bigger issue of bullying.

They Didn't Fight Back

Many people will blame a victim of physical bullying for the pain and suffering he endures because they did nothing to defend themself. This type of thinking again excuses the bully’s behavior. Likewise, people will also blame the victim if he defends himself, reducing the bullying incident to a fight instead of seeing it for what it really is—a bully attacking another person and that person defending himself.

They Are Too Sensitive

This statement is a classic victim-blaming statement. When people make comments like this, they are excusing the bully's taunts and teases by indicating that there is a defect in the victim. What’s more, this is a common bullying phrase that implies that the victim's reaction is not normal or natural. This is probably the worst possible thing that someone could say about a victim of bullying because it minimizes what he experienced.

A Word From Verywell

Bullying is a common behavior among children—and too often the targets get blamed. Aim to validate the feelings and experience of the person who is being bullied, while keeping the responsibility for the bullying on the bully. Rather than blaming or shaming the victim, the targets of bullying need support, compassion, and the skills to respond effectively.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Guy A, Lee K, Wolke D. Comparisons Between Adolescent Bullies, Victims, and Bully-Victims on Perceived Popularity, Social Impact, and Social Preference. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:868. doi:10.3389%2Ffpsyt.2019.00868

  2. Da silva JL, De oliveira WA, Braga IF, et al. The Effects of a Skill-Based Intervention for Victims of Bullying in Brazil. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016;13(11):1042. doi:10.3390%2Fijerph13111042

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.