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RSN™ Guide: Victim Bashing or Blaming
Victim Blaming or Bashing – The SCARS View
Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. The study of Victimology seeks to mitigate the perception of victims as responsible.
There is a greater tendency to blame victims of rape or romance scams than victims of robbery if victims and perpetrators know each other.
Victimology is the study of victimization, including the psychological effects on victims, relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system—that is, the police and courts, and corrections officials—and the connections between victims and other social groups and institutions, such as the media, businesses, and social movements.
Victim Of A Crime
In criminology and criminal law, a victim of a crime is an identifiable person who has been harmed individually and directly by the perpetrator, rather than by society as a whole. However, this may not always be the case, as with victims of white collar crime, who may not be clearly identifiable or directly linked to a crime against a particular individual. Victims of white-collar crime are often denied their status as victims by the social construction of the concept (Croall, 2001). The concept also remains a controversial topic within women’s studies.
The Supreme Court of the United States first recognized the rights of crime victims to make a victim impact statement during the sentencing phase of a criminal trial in the case of Payne v. Tennessee 501 U.S. 808 (1991).
A victim impact panel, which usually follows the victim impact statement, is a form of community-based or restorative justice in which the crime victims (or relatives and friends of deceased crime victims) meet with the defendant after conviction to tell the convict about how the criminal activity affected them, in the hope of rehabilitation or deterrence.
Secondary Victimization Of Scam Victims
Secondary victimization is the re-traumatization of the victim of a highly emotionally charged relationship-based scam (such as a Romance Scam) through the responses of individuals and institutions. Types of secondary victimization include victim blaming, disbelieving the victim’s story, minimizing the severity of the impact, and inappropriate post-assault support, therapy, or treatment by professionals or other organizations. Secondary victimization is especially common in cases of romance scams where non-victims fail to understand that after the initial contact, psychological manipulation removed the power from the victim just like it does in cases of sexual assault.
Romance scam victims experience stigmatization based on scam myths and urban legends, and the unwillingness of other victims to accept that they were scammed. They will, therefore, blame other victims as a means of expressing their own shame.
Frequently, the lack of understanding of the manipulation techniques and the hijack of the victims own mind during a scam will cause society, law enforcement, and even friends and family to blame the victim for what happened. Victims frequently suffer isolation, psychological abuse, “slut-shaming” (something derived from rape accusations), public humiliation rituals, be disowned by friends and family, be divorced if already married, or even be killed (when they attempt to track down their scammer by visiting them in Africa).
The core basis of the blaming stems from the initial period that was under the victim’s control, when the victim made a conscious choice to interconnect and interact with the unknown person. Non-victims rarely understand how rapidly the Amygdala Hijack can occur, and then how expertly scammers employ continuing manipulation, such as Gaslighting to control the victim throughout the scam.
Victim blaming is also exemplified when a victim of a romance scam is found at fault for performing actions, such as when they lie to family or friends about the scammer and engage in deception with money transfer services over their relationship with the recipient. SCARS and other Victim Advocacy Groups, as well as medical professionals, are doing their best to educating the public, government, and law enforcement on the definition of consent in these cases, and the importance of refraining from victim blaming.
The Ideal Victim Concept In Law
An “ideal victim” is one who is afforded the status of victimhood due to unavoidable circumstances that put the individual at a disadvantage. One can apply this theory to any crime including and especially romance scams.
Nils Christie, a Norwegian criminology professor, has been theorizing about the concept of the ideal victim since the 1980s. In his research, he gives two examples, one of an old woman who is attacked on her way home from visiting her family and the other of a man who is attacked at a bar by someone he knew. He describes the old woman as an ideal victim because she could not avoid being in the location that she was, she did not know her attacker, and she could not fight off her attacker. The man, however, could have avoided being at a bar, knew his attacker, and should have been able to fight off his attacker, being younger and a man.
When applying the ideal victim theory to romance scam victims, often judicial proceedings define an ideal victim as one who resists their attacker and exercises caution in risky situations, despite law reforms to extinguish these fallacious requirements. When victims are not ideal they are at risk of being blamed for their attack because they are not considered real victims of the crime. Because they do not fit the criteria being laid out in the view of law enforcement and society, they cannot be considered real victims and thereby their scammer will not be pursued aggressively.
This is the prevalent scenario that most scam victims find when they approach the police, their family, and friends. Because the scam victim initially participated willingly, and then compounded it by voluntary transfers of money, they are viewed as being complicit in their scam.
A victim who is not considered an ideal, or real victim, is one who leads a “high risk” lifestyle. In many crimes, this would be a person who is partaking in drugs or alcohol or is perceived as promiscuous. In the case of scam victims, most of them fall into this classification by the fact that they are willingly reaching out to or connecting with total strangers. The lack of simple precautions in this regard makes the typical scam victim viewed as being not ideal in the legal context.
A victim who intimately knows their attacker is also not considered an ideal victim – there are scam victims that were scammed by a family member who was converted, knowingly or unknowingly into a MULE.
The perception is that these behaviors discount the credibility of a romance scam victim’s claim or that the behaviors and associations create the mistaken assumption of consent. Some of or all of the blame of the scam is then placed on these victims, and so they are not worthy of having their case reported to law enforcement or presented in court. These perceptions persist in police departments around the world.
In addition to an ideal victim, there must be an ideal perpetrator for a crime to be considered ideal. The ideal scammer does not know their victim and is a completely non-sympathetic figure – one who is considered sub-human, an individual lacking morals.
The Global Situation
Many different cultures across the globe have formulated different degrees of victim blaming for different scenarios and crimes, hate crimes (such as romance scams, rape, and domestic abuse).
Victim blaming is common around the world, especially in cultures where it is socially acceptable and advised to treat certain groups of people as lesser. Money Mules are a good example of this.
In February 2016, the organizations International Alert and UNICEF published a study revealing that girls and women released from captivity by Nigeria’s insurgency group Boko Haram often face rejection by their communities and families. Their children born of sexual violence faced even more discrimination. We see exactly the same thing in many families of scam victims, where family members will turn away from the victim when they need the support the most. In some cases reconciliation can take years to be resolved – in some cases only when the family member is scammed does the understanding necessary exist for reconciliation.
This is especially pronounced in Asia cultures, which is one of the reasons why romance scam victim suicide rates are so high for Asian victims.
In western culture victim blaming has been largely recognized as a problematic way to view a situation, however, this does not exempt westerners from being guilty of the action.
Are There Opposing Views?
Roy Baumeister, a social and personality psychologist, argued that blaming the victim is not necessarily always fallacious. He argued that showing the victim’s possible role in an altercation may be contrary to typical explanations of violence and cruelty, which incorporate the trope of the innocent victim. According to Baumeister, in the classic telling of “the myth of pure evil,” the innocent, well-meaning victims are going about their business when they are suddenly assaulted by wicked, malicious evildoers. Baumeister describes the situation as a possible distortion by both the perpetrator and the victim; the perpetrator may minimize the offense while the victim maximizes it, and so accounts of the incident shouldn’t be immediately taken as objective truths.
In context, Baumeister refers to the common behavior of the aggressor seeing themselves as more of the “victim” than the abused, justifying a horrific act by way of their “moral complexity”. This is something we see frequently in both the scammers themselves, and in the apologists that defend the scammers as victims in their own right.
In our view, there is some truth to the initial culpability of the victim. Yes, they were being careless and engaged with the scammer knowing it was a stranger. That is the essential fact of the romance scam. Either they were looking actively on a dating website, or casually on social media. The simple truth is that the victim was open to the connection that led to the scam. However, that is like saying they welcomed the scam, which is clearly not the case.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Victims share initial high-risk openness, but the scammer committed the criminal act.
Horseshoe Theory And Nonpolarized Views
Some scholars make the argument that some of the attitudes that are described as victim blaming and the victimologies that are said to counteract them are both extreme and similar to each other, and is an example of the horseshoe theory.
For instance, they argue that the claim that “women wearing provocative clothing cause rape” is as demeaning to men as it is to women as depicting men as incapable of controlling their sexual desire is misandrist and denies men full agency, while also arguing that the generalization that women do not lie about rape (or any generalization about women not doing some things because of their gender) is misogynist by its implicit assumption that women act by simple default action modes which is incompatible with full agency.
The same applies to romance scams. The victim’s provocative actions in inviting the scammer into conversations are demeaning to the victims, and minimize the real responsibility for the crim by the scammer.
It is our view that it is important to understand the context, and for the victim to acknowledge their role in permitting the scam, but not blaming them for it.
Victims are uniformly careless online – we can all agree on that. But that carelessness is not an invitation to be abused by the scammer. Therefore, while the victim failed to take proper precautions, such a when a person forgot to lock their front door, it is the criminal in all cases who justifiably deserves the blame. Of course, we will talk openly and honestly about what happened to you, and at times that may feel like blaming but we are really just trying to help you get past your own denial and accept the reality of what happened to you.
This distinction may be subtle, but it is very important both in the prosecution of scammers and in the recovery of victims. Victims need to understand that they had a role in the scam, that the failure to take precautions enabled it, but with or without the precautions the scammer was still scamming – it was not a crime that would not have happened without the participation of that victim. Meaning the scammer was going to scam regardless of who they found available.
We hope you have found this paper useful in better understanding the victimology of scam victims from both the perspective of the victim and from those that blame them. If you are a victim we encourage you to suggest that your family read this and other RSN™ Guides to better understand your experience and to minimize their blaming of you.
Please provide us with your feedback on this paper, we would love to hear from you.
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Tell us about your experiences with Romance Scammers in our Scams Discussion Forum on Facebook »
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FAQ: How Do You Properly Report Scammers?
It is essential that law enforcement knows about scams & scammers, even though there is nothing (in most cases) that they can do.
Always report scams involving money lost or where you received money to:
- Local Police – ask them to take an “informational” police report – say you need it for your insurance
- Your National Police or FBI (www.IC3.gov)
- The Scars Worldwide Reporting Network HERE or on www.Anyscam.com
This helps your government understand the problem, and allows law enforcement to add scammers on watch lists worldwide.
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Visit our NEW Main RSN Facebook page for much more information about scams and online crime: www.facebook.com/RSN.Main.News.And.Information.Home.Page
To learn more about SCARS visit www.AgainstRomanceScams.org
Please be sure to report all scammers HERE or on www.Anyscam.com
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