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Victim-blamers have empathy, but it's mostly for perpetrators

19 Comments
By Issam Ahmed

You may have seen it among your own friends: a high-profile #MeToo case triggers responses that assign some or all the blame on a victim of sexual harassment, with men more likely than women to side with an accused male.

New research published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly suggests it is men's empathy for other men, rather than their lack of empathy for women, that may be more important in explaining this effect.

"Men are accused of not being empathic enough -- I would say they are as empathic as women, they just might have a different focus," Renata Bongiorno, who led the research, at the University of Exeter told AFP.

More encouragingly, the work also found "victim-blaming" among men fell when were they were asked to see a situation from a woman's perspective -- a possible path towards mobilizing both genders against sexual harassment and assault.

The paper described two studies involving around 230 Australian university students who were asked to read about a clear-cut incident of sexual harassment created for the research using examples drawn from real life.

The incident related to a female student who was harassed by a male student on the same campus.

Over a period of several months, he made repeated unwanted advances that included slapping her buttocks, placing his arms around her waist, and emailing her pornographic images with suggestions they engage in the same acts.

On several occasions after drinking he would bang on her door demanding to be let in to "cuddle," then insult her when she refused to unlock her door.

When the female student finally brought the incident to the college's attention, the male student admitted to most of the allegations but insisted he had been joking around, did not mean to upset her, and believed she "enjoyed the attention."

In the first study, overall levels of victim-blaming were low and men and women showed equal levels of empathy for the female victim.

But men showed greater empathy for the male perpetrator, which helped to explain why they were more likely than women to blame the victim.

Bongiorno said this conformed to social identity theory in which members of a so-called "ingroup" are more likely to empathize with other members of the same group and engage in excusing behaviors.

In the second study, participants were asked to focus on how the incidents would affect the life of either the male or female student moving forward.

Both men and women who focused on the male perpetrator's point of view showed greater empathy for him and blamed the female victim more.

When they were asked to focus on the female victim's point of view, victim-blaming was lower by comparison for both genders.

Bongiorno argued that media depictions that focused too heavily on the potential impact on accused male harassers' careers and lives had damaging consequences that made it harder for victims to speak up.

But she said: "I was encouraged by the second study, where we showed that when men have their attention turned toward the victim, their empathy for the male perpetrator was reduced along with their victim blaming. "I think that's a positive message and way forward for the future."

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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This is an interesting and important topic. For most people, in most situations, establishing rapport through empathy and discussion are a great idea. This is part of the process of establishing peace and cooperation.

However, when dealing with a sociopath, attempts to establish rapport and empathy do not and cannot work, and are used by the sociopath to manipulate those with good intentions. And yes, I am talking about attempting to negotiate with the likes of Trump, Kim, and Putin. One can attempt to negotiate with them, but be aware that they have absolutely no compunction over lying and committing crimes in order to achiev e what they see as beneficial to them personally. We have to be aware of what it is like to deal with the criminally sociopathic.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

But men showed greater empathy for the male perpetrator, which helped to explain why they were more likely than women to blame the victim.

Interesting study. My point of view is that if a reasonable man shows healthy skepticism of allegations then he can be branded as blaming the victim.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"Victim blaming" is simply a made-up term by the extremists of a certain gender who have a pathological need to feel like victims in nearly all situations. For some its a reaction by those who are empowered with the rights and ability to protect themselves, who while strongly favoring those rights and powers, deep down don't really want them. For others its primarily just another vehicle for blaming men for every little thing that is wrong with the world while leaving women looking positively angelic.

The most annoying thing about the term is its use when neither a crime nor a victim have been firmly established as even existing yet, in others, presumed guilty rather than presumed innocent.

Its second most annoying use is when a female has taken outrageous risks and hardly any precautions, finds herself in trouble, and then some of us, especially men, look to the future and implore the women around us to not be so silly. In other words, we are not blaming the victim per se, we are simply warning what is going to happen to the women we care about....then we get ruthlessly attacked for caring.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

"Victim blaming" is simply a made-up term by the extremists of a certain gender who have a pathological need to feel like victims in nearly all situations. 

Sorry Norm, but have you not read the comments here when women have been stabbed or attacked by their partners? There's almost always a remark on how it must be her fault, she must have provoked him, etc.

Or when a celeb has been caught out having sex with a minor - how the girl knew what she was doing/she was a prostitute etc.

Or when a young woman has abandoned a baby, there are immediate calls from some calling for her to be executed/jailed for life, without a moment's consideration as to what kind of trauma she may have gone through & how desperate she might have been to do such a thing.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

"Victim blaming" is simply a made-up term by the extremists of a certain gender who have a pathological need to feel like victims in nearly all situations.

No it's not. People regularly blame victims. Comments like yours are only made by people who don't like their victim blaming being called out.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

The most annoying thing about the term is its use when neither a crime nor a victim have been firmly established as even existing yet, in others, presumed guilty rather than presumed innocent.

This is how victim blamers try to justify their unjustified victim-blaming, when they are entirely different things.

Accused deserve to be considered innocent until convicted guilty, and victims deserve not to be blamed until found guilty of not actually being a victim.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

when women have been stabbed or attacked by their partners?

Yeah...like attacked for the tenth time this year but she stayed on till she got stabbed. Sounds like my own mother who married an abuser...divorced him...got abused some more...then divorced him again. My own mother wore out my sympathy for her. If I had continued to feel as I did the first few times, I would have ended my own life long ago for the pain.

how the girl knew what she was doing/she was a prostitute etc.

And what makes you an authority to know that particular girl? I would say no one of any age knows how a relationship is going to work out. But lets not act like underage girls are all clueless and/or incapable of abusing the age of consent laws to get a payout.

Or when a young woman has abandoned a baby, there are immediate calls from some calling for her to be executed/jailed for life

Well there I agree with you but I would not call it victim-blaming. I would just call that being maliciously stupid. We never ever get all the details in those cases and a whole world of possibilities exist which I will admit most men cannot even begin to understand....and most of them point to the girl being stuck and a man frolicking away care-free.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Accused deserve to be considered innocent until convicted guilty, and victims deserve not to be blamed until found guilty of not actually being a victim.

How in the world do we balance one side being presumed innocent and the other side presumed innocently victimized by that same person???

Further, we have statements by the victim to work with to not presume at all, but rather to declare them reckless or inconsistent. And note that we can and do do the same for the suspect.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Yeah...like attacked for the tenth time this year but she stayed on till she got stabbed. Sounds like my own mother who married an abuser...divorced him...got abused some more...then divorced him again. My own mother wore out my sympathy for her. If I had continued to feel as I did the first few times, I would have ended my own life long ago for the pain.

Many women who are in abusive relationships find it difficult to leave for various reasons. Sometimes they are pursued when they try to leave. Men have been known to track them down to refuge houses and try deceitful means to gain access to the abused person. Others have been gaslighted so much that they feel they can't cope on the outside of an abusive relationship. It's a minefield.

And what makes you an authority to know that particular girl?

I'm not sure what you're suggesting there.

I would say no one of any age knows how a relationship is going to work out. But lets not act like underage girls are all clueless and/or incapable of abusing the age of consent laws to get a payout.

And let's not say all girls are asking for it when they are taken advantage of.

Well there I agree with you but I would not call it victim-blaming. I would just call that being maliciously stupid.

Or maybe a combination of both?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

We must start from the point of accepting that the victim claims and then seek the evidence to verify the claim which too often is not always so easily available.

If there have been more victims from the same male perpetrator helps.

Some victims are locked into violent marriages or relationship and too afraid and ashamed to even speak out or seek help.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Or maybe a combination of both?

Well I hesitate because like I say, since we never get all the pertinent details we cannot say there is a victim per se but rather a girl in a tight spot. No matter how a young girl got pregnant its a fact that they are often (especially in my country) thwarted from getting an abortion, thwarted from getting prenatal care, scorned and/or ignored by society and her own friends and family, considered generally unemployable, and now with rising ages of marriage, literally forced to be a single teen mom.

Many women who are in abusive relationships find it difficult to leave for various reasons.

More details we never know the half of. As a man who had to go confront another man concerning retrieving a female friend's clothes which she unwilling left, I really don't like to be accused of being without empathy. But all my life I have been told to take care of my own problems and my patience for excuses of gender is pretty limited. That said, the amount of sympathy women manage to get always amazes me and its hard to understand women who don't leverage that for their own safety. You need help? Ask darn it!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

You need help? Ask darn it!

In an ideal world, of course. But it's not that simple - as I'm sure you know, having pointed out barriers and obstacles that vulnerable women have to face.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

How in the world do we balance one side being presumed innocent and the other side presumed innocently victimized by that same person???

Because the accused get the presumption of innocence, and victims get the presumption of being victims.

When evidence comes out that one or the other is incorrect, then blame can happen.

Victim blamers accuse the victim as a liar or at fault right away, without any evidence that they have lied or at fault. Then they whine when other people (also wrongly) determine the guilty as accused without evidence. All completely clueless to the fact that they are just as guilty.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

1glennToday  11:46 am JST

This is an interesting and important topic

Naaaaa.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Because the accused get the presumption of innocence, and victims get the presumption of being victims.

Victims of a ghost? Seriously, Jane says Bob raped her. Bob says it was consensual. So when talking to Bob you say that maybe Jane is lying. And when talking to Jane you say that Bob is surely a rapist. That's completely crazy. You are insisting that we claim guilty and innocence at the same time. Its totally incompatible. What you say to Bob is "I don't know what happened, but tell me your story.". And to Jane you say, "I don't know what happened, but tell me your story". You treat both with compassion because BOTH could be victims if you think about it, or only one or the other, or neither. The "he said, she said" conundrum is real and as soon as you go assuming one is a victim, you just screw the other over.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Victims of a ghost? Seriously, Jane says Bob raped her. Bob says it was consensual. So when talking to Bob you say that maybe Jane is lying. And when talking to Jane you say that Bob is surely a rapist.

Who is talking about talking to either of them?

You give the presumption of victimhood to the victim, and you give the presumption of innocence to the accused.

You seem to think it's impossible that both could be true.

That's completely crazy. You are insisting that we claim guilty and innocence at the same time.

No YOU are claiming this. You claim the accused is innocent, and you claim the victim is guilty of lying about the incident.

Its totally incompatible.

No it's not. Jane may be a victim, and Bob may be innocent, and get this, both can be true.

What you say to Bob is "I don't know what happened, but tell me your story.". And to Jane you say, "I don't know what happened, but tell me your story". You treat both with compassion because BOTH could be victims if you think about it

Yeah, which is why Bob gets treated as innocent.

This doesn't justify victim blamer's accusations of Jane as a lyer.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What can be done to make these discussions more welcoming to women posters?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

One way is for readers to stop bickering and bombarding the discussion with posts when they could make their point in two or three posts. Please recall your high school debating days.

Was gonna make my own comments, then read this which is spot on

Norman GoodmanToday 02:06 pm JST

"Victim blaming" is simply a made-up term by the extremists of a certain gender who have a pathological need to feel like victims in nearly all situations. For some its a reaction by those who are empowered with the rights and ability to protect themselves, who while strongly favoring those rights and powers, deep down don't really want them. For others its primarily just another vehicle for blaming men for every little thing that is wrong with the world while leaving women looking positively angelic.

As I scrolled down the page I though I'd better point out some truths to the following commentator.

Toasted HereticToday 02:12 pm JST

Sorry Norm, but have you not read the comments here when women have been stabbed or attacked by their partners? There's almost always a remark on how it must be her fault, she must have provoked him, etc.

What like this woman

https://www.tokyoreporter.com/crime/yamato-murder-victim-sustained-more-than-20-stab-wounds/

Which seems to be the norm lately.

Or when a celeb has been caught out having sex with a minor - how the girl knew what she was doing/she was a prostitute etc.

Such Asia Argento, who jumped on the #metoo hysteria claiming the victim, all the while she had slept with minors.

Or when a young woman has abandoned a baby, there are immediate calls from some calling for her to be executed/jailed for life, without a moment's consideration as to what kind of trauma she may have gone through & how desperate she might have been to do such a thing.

What like these two classy young women, one of which got pregnant while working as an under aged prostitute then got a "friend" to help her ditch the baby before anyone realised what she was doing to earn those big dollars.

https://japantoday.com/category/crime/two-17-year-old-girls-arrested-for-dumping-newborn-baby’s-body-near-river-in-june

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

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