Don't Blame the Victim

Blaming the victim is a cliché because it is all too common. It occurs when we observe the misfortune of others. It even happens when someone suffers from a stroke.

People often want to explain away bad things that happen to other people by believing that bad things only happen because the victims allow, or even want, bad things to happen to them. This attitude is seen when it comes to blaming the poor, blaming victims of violence, blaming those who suffer from anxiety and depression, and even blaming people who are diagnosed with serious illnesses such as strokes, heart attacks, and cancer.

Why do people blame the Victim?

It is easy to blame the victim

Often, when we learn that something is preventable, we blame the victim. When health blogs tout evidence that links bad habits or negative coping mechanisms to disease, it can be easy to fall into the trap of blaming the people who suffer from ailments for essentially 'causing' their own health problems.

As more and more evidence mounts linking personality with stroke outcome, it is becoming clear that negative personality traits do, indeed play a role in stroke. However, it seems that scientific studies that link personality with stroke outcome can be used to further persecute the stroke survivor. Risk factors can certainly provide helpful direction for avoiding disease. But they can also serve as a double-edged sword, hardening those who believe they have worked hard to circumvent risk factors and thus, bad outcomes. Sometimes, when personality traits are linked to health problems, others may view unhealthy individuals as though they 'were asking for it.'

Blaming the victim gives people an excuse for not helping others.

Often, family members or friends of a stroke victim feel guilty for not helping. When one feels justified in blaming the victim, it essentially shifts guilt about not lending a helping hand. Sometimes, people want to help, but do not know where to start.

Instead of blaming the victim because you feel guilty about not helping, here are some tips for helping a stroke survivor.

Blaming the victim gives most people a false sense of security.

It can allow us to believe that if we avoid doing the terrible, unwise, or stupid things that are known to lead to a particular problem, we will effectively avoid the problem. It allows us to believe that we can protect ourselves by being better than someone else who is, perhaps, a workaholic, too grumpy, too critical, and too moody.

Blaming the victim gives people a false sense of predictability.

Blaming the victim can actually be an attitude that people hold onto in order to believe 'it can't happen to me. ' Blaming the victim allows people to believe that unpleasant events like stroke are not random events, but rather very predictable events. It is an attitude that helps people feel that there is some control and order in the world when it comes to terrible events. 

The truth about the blaming mentality, however, is that it only looks at one angle of a bad event.

Undoubtedly, when it comes to something like a stroke there are risk factors. It is true that some risk factors can be proactively controlled. But not all risk factors are well understood. Not everyone knows about risk factors. And even people who know they are taking a risk and willingly continue risky behavior are not truly anticipating a stroke. Statistics always point to increased or decreased cause and effect - but statistics never show a 100% linkage between risk factors and stroke. In fact, some people partake in risky behavior and never suffer from consequences!

When a stroke attacks- the priority is to get better and to try to decrease known risk factors as much as possible for the future. Unhealthy habits from the past can stay in the past. People are never too old to learn healthy habits.

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