‘Victim-blaming’ exists to a certain degree with all forms of violence. In order not to question the safety of the world around us when we hear of a violent incident, we may examine the behavior of the victim and assure ourselves that if we avoid such risks and behavior (e.g. being out late alone, venturing into certain areas, leaving our door unlocked, dressing in a ‘provocative’ way) we will avoid violence. This natural act of psychological self-defense, however, focuses our attention on the perceived responsibility of the victim, and may neglect to fully question the conduct of the perpetrator. By shifting the blame to the victim in gender-based violence, the focus is on the victim, often a woman, and her behavior, rather than on the structural causes and inequalities underlying the violence perpetrated against her.
Violence against women
Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:
- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, intimate partner violence, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment in public spaces and sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
- Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
Source: Articles 1 and 2 of the United Nations General Assembly. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In: 85th Plenary Meeting. December 20, 1993. Geneva, Switzerland; 1993.