People need to know perils of victim-blaming

Victim-blaming is a devaluing act where the victim is partially or wholly blamed for the crime that happened to them.
Victim-blaming is a devaluing act where the victim is partially or wholly blamed for the crime that happened to them.PHOTO: ST FILE

I was deeply saddened when I read the report on the outrage of modesty (SMU student arrested for aggravated outrage of modesty of woman he met on social media; Jan 10).

It was troubling that something so traumatic could happen to an unsuspecting young student.

However, what concerned me more were reactions from the public. Public reaction has ranged from mistrust of the girl's story to discrediting her character.

This is very disturbing as it reflects a fundamental lack of awareness of what victim-blaming is, and why it is harmful to society.

Victim-blaming is a devaluing act where the victim is partially or wholly blamed for the crime that happened to them.

Besides inflicting further damage on the victim, it is also harmful because policies can be affected by it.

Attributing blame to victims allows us to disregard any underlying societal issues that may enable perpetrators to commit crimes.

Focusing treatment on solely the individual would tackle individual perpetrators but fails to account for why these perpetrators feel like they can commit such offences.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, the fact remains that attributing blame to the victim's actions sends a harmful message that society is not at fault.

We need to confront the fact that there could be underlying problems in society that lead people to believe there is nothing wrong with committing such crimes.

Why did the perpetrator feel like he could get away with such actions? Why did this idea occur to an ordinary student?

Policymakers should focus efforts on targeting the underlying cause of such behaviour: a lack of respect for other people's bodies.

There needs to be a concerted effort that starts by teaching both men and women to respect their bodies and other people's bodies.

Gillian Loy (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline 'People need to know perils of victim-blaming'. Print Edition | Subscribe