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The Types and Harms of Victim-Blaming

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I have recently been reading up about the ethics of victim-blaming. Victim-blaming is a prevalent phenomenon. It crops up most controversially in cases of sexual assault, and also features in hot-button debates about poverty and police shootings. These controversial cases are not, however, the only ones in which the phenomenon arises. Victim-blaming, of a sort, features prominently in private law, particularly in personal injuries litigation where people who suffer harm as a result of the negligence of others have their compensation reduced (or eliminated) as a result of their own perceived negligence. It also crops up frequently in our day-to-day lives. I suspect many of us have criticised or have been tempted to criticise our friends and colleagues for failing to take adequate precautions to ensure the safety and security of themselves or their families or their possessions. In certain circumstances, this kind of criticism can amount to victim-blaming.From an intellectual perspective, victim-blaming is interesting because it implicates many important philosophical concepts. These include responsibility, blame, innocence, power, oppression, and distributive justice/injustice. This means that it is not only a practically important topic, but also one that raises many fascinating and complex intellectual questions. The common intuition among people I have talked to is that victim-blaming is always a bad thing, but if you read the literature you find a slightly more ambivalent perspective emerging, with some people accepting that certain forms of victim-blaming can be acceptable (for an excellent exploration of these ambivalent attitudes to the phenomenon, see Susan Wendell’s article on responsibility and oppression)I haven’t fully developed my own thoughts on the issue (are thoughts ever fully developed?) but I have learned quite a bit from my reading thus far. In the remainder of this article, I want to share two important ideas about victim-blaming. Both come from. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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