Victim Blaming Discourse in Social Media

Written by Lucinda Leung

Victim blaming refers to the escape of responsibility by placing the blame for the crime or other abuse at the hands of the victim. Victim blaming has also been construed as involving judgments that the victims deserve what they get. (Sheikh & McNamara, 2014). Blaming victim is especially common in sexual assault cases. In the modern age, victims who maintain multiple, contemporaneous social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) are at increased risk of victimization. (Arntfield, 2015) Therefore, there are evidence to prove the relationship between victimization and exposure to social media. In our deviance issue on sextortion, victim blaming is not obvious in ordinary mass media but the situation in social media, such as discussion forum, is definitely another picture.

In the discussion forum, when a victim is trying to seek advice, he or she is most likely being blamed by other online users. As far as everyone is being an internet judge nowadays, the keyboard could a powerful weapon in shaping secondary victimization. Previously, we had conducted a social experiment in a well-known forum, LIHKG, by making up a fake story about a friend facing sextortion. According to our social experiment, about 160 feedbacks were collected. About 33 out of 160 comments we collected are about are the victim as being stupid and naive. Some of the users in the discussion forum even asked for the sex video.  The negative comments could not help victims when facing sextortion. Rather than offering social support to the ‘victim’, the online user adopted another attitude putting the problem onto the victim alone. The comments was mostly negative.

From the emergence of online social media, people, even the victim of a crime, could have more opportunities in sharing their personal experiences. However, the feedback of the online users did reflect how the crime is perceived by the public. Undoubtedly, standing a neutral stand and avoid blaming the victim is important. More focus should be put on the influence brought by the crime, but not the victims had ’caused’ the crime. In order to reduce the victim-blaming, proper civil education in educating the public not to judge others online could be considered by the  government. Besides, ‘real-name authentication’ could also help improving the internet security, thus hindering the online users from making too many negative responses.

Reference:

Arntfield, M. (2015). Toward a cybervictimology: Cyberbullying, routine activities theory, and the anti-sociality of social media. Canadian Journal of Communication, 40(3), 371-388. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.eproxy1.lib.hku.hk/docview/1710267451?accountid=14548

Sana Sheikh & Meghan E. McNamara (2014) Insights from Self-Blame and Victim Blaming, Psychological Inquiry, 25:2, 241-244, DOI: 10.1080/1047840X.2014.904138

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