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Invulnerability Theory

victim blame or self blame

Rape Crisis Research

 

 

The main theories behind victim blame are the Just World Hypothesis and the Invulnerability Theory.

"The tendency to blame rape victims has resulted in competing theories to explain those conclusions reached by fault-finding observers. Observers' motivational needs have been broached by the "just world" theory (Lerner & Miller, 1978) and the need to protect one's own sense of invulnerability." (Schneider et. al., 1994)

This page lists resources that discuss the need for perceived invulnerability in potential rape victims, victim blame and self blame in survivors.

Rape victims are a glaring reminder of our own vulnerability. No one likes to think they could loose control over their own body or life. By deciding a rape victim did something concrete to deserve the assault the observer creates a false sense of safety. If they can avoid doing that particular thing or action then they create the illusion of invulnerability for themselves. Creating a firm boundary between ourselves and accussers or rape victims (us v/s them) also creates the illusion of invulnerability.

 

Control over your life

 

According to Psychology research wanting to think you were in control during the assault (negative results) is associated with self blame in victims:

Self blame is thought by some to be a way to feel one had never lost control over the situation. If it is your fault- then you always had control over things and you feel less vulnerable. This type of thinking is called past control or behavioral self-blame. Feeling this way is associated with more distress partly because it is associated with greater social withdrawal.

 

Thinking you are in control NOW (positive results):

Present control (control over the recovery process) is associated with less distress partly because it was associated with less social withdrawal and more cognitive restructuring. If you have control NOW (in the present) then there are actually productive things you can do to improve the situation (Frazier, 2005).

 

 

Online resources

 

Three Levels of Victimization

"Secondary wounding occurs because people who have never been hurt sometimes have difficulty understanding and being patient with people who have been hurt. It also occurs because people who have never confronted human tragedy are sometimes unable to comprehend the lives of those in occupations that involve dealing with human suffering or mass casualties on a daily basis.

Some people simply are not strong enough to accept the negatives in life. When such individuals confront a trauma survivor, they may reject or disparage the survivor because that individual represents the parts of life they have chosen to deny.

Trauma survivors may also be rejected or disparaged by other survivors-those who have chosen to deny or repress their own trauma(s) and have not yet dealt with their losses and anger. When trauma survivors who are not dealing with their traumatic pasts see someone who is obviously suffering emotionally or physically, they may need to block out that person in order to leave their own denial system intact."

 

Social Avoidance And PTSD: The Role Of Comorbid Social Phobia

http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/publications/cq/v7/n3/orsillo.html

"Victims are perceived as responsible for their own fate, a cognitive strategy that allows nonvictims to maintain their own sense of invulnerability, safety and justice (11). Examples of how this victim blaming stance can lead to socially traumatic experiences are plentiful in the area of trauma and PTSD (e.g., denial of acquaintance rape, labeling and discrimination toward Vietnam veterans)."

Victim blame and invulnerability

http://www.thn.org/bpm/victims2.htm

"Blaming the victim is a way of distancing oneself from an unpleasant occurrence and thereby confirming one's own invulnerability. By labeling or accusing the victim, she can be seen as different from oneself. We reassure ourselves by thinking, "because I am not like her, that would never happen to me." Of course, that is not rational. Anyone can be victimized. Victim blaming is disrespectful and harmful."


Dignity- self blame and invulnerability

http://library.findlaw.com/1999/Nov/1/129405.html

"Forcing the victim to examine himself or herself for the fatal flaw that allowed the injury to happen is a sinister victimization often more damaging than the original injury. The only conclusion possible is the admission of some fault for the harm. These victims are forced to build a prison of fault in their minds from which there is no escape. Other people who have had their own aura of invulnerability shattered, are a class of people who are supportive and understanding. No victim will climb out of this pit of blame by themselves. We all need help and the tools to use the help."

Invulnerability and victim blame in patients


http://www.humanitariandemining.org/demining/archive/lmeffects.asp

"by blaming the patient, we maintain our feeling of invulnerability, the victim is blamed and left isolated at a time when he/she most needs social support (14). Do not blame the patient and also advise relatives and family members to restrain from stigmatizing the patient."

 

Journal articles

 

Crome, Sarah A., McCabe, Marita P. (2001). Adult rape scripting within a victimological perspective. Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol 6(4), Jul-Aug 2001. pp. 395-413.

Abstract:

This review of the adult rape experience draws from theoretical conceptualizations in both psychology and victimology. It is an integrative discussion of M. J. Lerner's (1980) victimological theory of the "just world" and J. H. Gagnon and W. Simon's (1973) conceptualization of cognitive sex scripting. The "just world" is one in which an individual gets what he/she deserves. People will construe events and interpret the character of people to maintain this ideology. As theorized by L. S. Perloff (1983), this promotes a feeling of "unique invulnerability" in the absence of victimization. However, should victimization, such as rape, occur, this ideology can implicate detrimental effects of adjustment. This includes the "secondary victimization" from others, as theorized by J. E. Williams (1984). These victimological perspectives are cognitive scripts. They develop over time from exposure to family dynamics, sociocultural tenets describing gender roles and sexual conduct, and from an individual's parameters and dimensions of sexual individuality and disposition. How these victimological scripts may impact on the adjustment of adult raped men and women is discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)

 

Feldman, Pamela J., Ullman, Jodie B., Dunkel-Schetter, Christine (1998). Women's Reactions to Rape Victims: Motivational Processes Associated With Blame and Social Support. Journal of Applied Social Psychology; 03/16/98, Vol. 28 Issue 6, p469-503, 35p link

Abstract:

A study was conducted with 128 female college students to test the hypothesis that when observers feel vulnerable to rape, they are more likely to blame a rape victim and are less willing to offer social support. Similarity and empathy were expected to moderate the effects of perceived vulnerability on blame and predict greater social support. Assumptions about the world were predicted to be associated with greater blame. A multivariate model was tested with structural equation modeling techniques. Perceived vulnerability did not directly or indirectly predict blame. However, similarity directly predicted less blame and indirectly predicted greater social support through associations with blame, perceived vulnerability, and empathy. World assumptions directly predicted greater blame and indirectly predicted less social support through blame. These findings suggest that blame and social support are interrelated processes which are associated with social observers' perceptions of the victim and their basic assumptions about the world.

 

 

Frazier, Patricia A.; Mortensen, Heather; Steward, Jason. (2005). Coping Strategies as Mediators of the Relations Among Perceived Control and Distress in Sexual Assault Survivors. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 52 (3). p267-278.

Abstract

Two studies assessed whether coping strategies mediate the relations among 2 forms of perceived control (past and present control) and postassault distress among female sexual assault survivors. In Study 1, longitudinal data were gathered from 2 weeks to 1 year postassault (N = 171). Past control (behavioral self-blame) was associated with more distress partly because it was associated with greater social withdrawal. Present control (control over the recovery process) was associated with less distress partly because it was associated with less social withdrawal and more cognitive restructuring. In Study 2, cross-sectional data were gathered from a community sample of nonrecent survivors of sexual assault (N = 131). Coping strategies again mediated the relations among the measures of past and present control and distress.

 

Perloff, Linda S.,(1983). Perceptions of vulnerability to victimization. Journal of Social Issues, 39(2), Sum .U Illinois; Chicago. pp. 41-61. link

Abstract:

Individuals who have not been victimized by negative life events, such as serious illness, accidents, or crime, tend to perceive themselves as "uniquely invulnerable," as less vulnerable to victimization then others. The actual experience of victimization, however, appears to shatter this illusion of invulnerability, creating in victims a new and unfamiliar sense of vulnerability often accompanied by psychological distress. The present author reviews literature documenting nonvictims' perceptions of unique invulnerability and victims' heightened perceptions of vulnerability and addresses the potentially adaptive vs maladaptive consequences of these perceptions. It is argued that victims who have the most difficulty coping with their misfortune may be precisely those individuals who initially felt least vulnerable prior to being victimized. Therefore, how victims cope may depend in part on their prior beliefs about risk. In addition, a distinction is made between victims who feel "uniquely vulnerable" (more vulnerable than others) and those who feel "universally vulnerable" (equally vulnerable as others) to future misfortune. It is proposed that perceptions of universal vulnerability may be a more adaptive reaction to victimization than are perceptions of unique vulnerability. (76 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)

 

 

Janoff-Bulman, R. (1982). Esteem and control bases of blame: "Adaptive" strategies for victims versus observers. Journal of Personality, 50, 180-192 link

Abstract:

Investigates the esteem and control correlates of blames for victims and observers. Correlates of behavioral and characterological blame; Perceptions of avoidability of the victimization; Use of a role-playing/observer methodology within the study; Results.

Further resources prior to 1981:


Aderman, D., Breham, S. S., & Katz, L. B. Empathic observation of an innocent victim: The just world revisted. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1974, 29, 342-347.

Bard, M., & Sangrey, D. The crime victim's book. New York: Basic Books, 1979.

Beck, A. T. Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

Brownmiller, S. Against our will: Men, women, and rape. New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1975.

Bryant, C, & Cirel, P. A community response to rape: An exemplary project (Polk County Rape/Sexual Assault Care Center). Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, 1977.

Bulman, R. J., & Wortman, C. B. Attributions of blame and coping in the "real
world": Severe accident victims react to their lot. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 1977, 35, 351-363.

Chodoff, P., Friedman, S. B., & Hamburg, D. A. Stress, defenses, and coping behavior: Observations in parents of children with malignant diseases. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1964, 120, 743-749.

Eagly, A. H. Involvement as a determinant of response to favorable and unfavorable information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Monographs, 1967, 7, (Whole No. 643), 1-15.

Elig, T., & Frieze, I. A. A multidimensional scheme for coding and interpreting perceived causality for success and failure events: The coding scheme of perceived causality (CSPC). JSAS: Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 1975, 5, 313 (Ms. No. 1069).

Janoff-Bulman, R. Characterological versus behavioral self-blame: Inquiries into depression and rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1979, 37, 1798-1809.

Janoff-Bulman, R., & Lang-Gunn, L. Coping with disease and accidents: The role of self-blame attributions. In L. Y. Abramson (Ed.), Social-personal influence in clinical psychology. N.Y.: Guilford, in press.

Jones, C, & Aronson, E. Attribution of fault to a rape victim as a function of respectability of the victim. Journal of Persemality and Social Psychology, 1973, 26, 415-419.

Jones, E. E., & Nisbett, R. E. The actor and the observer: Divergent perceptions of the causes of behavior. Morristown, N.J.: General Learning Press, 1971.

Lerner, M. J. The belief in a just world: A fundamental delusion. New York: Plenum, 1980.

Lerner, M. J., & Matthews, P. Reactions to suffering of others under conditions of indirect responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1967, 5, 319-325.

Lerner, M. J., & Miller, D. T. Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 1978, 85, 1030-1051.

Lerner, M. J., & Simmons, C. H. The observer's reaction to the "innocent victim": Compassion or rejection? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1966, 4, 203-210.

Regan, D. T., & Totten, J. Empathy and attribution: Turning observers into actors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1975, 32, 850-856.

Rotter, J. B. Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 1966, 80, (1, Whole No. 609).


Russell, D. E. H. The politics of rape: The victim's perspective. New York: Stein & Day, 1975.

Ryan, W. Blaming the victim. New York: Pantheon, 1971.

Storms, M. D. Videotape and the attribution process: Reversing the actors' and observers' points of view. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1973, 27, 165-175.

Taylor, S. E., & Fiske, S. T. Salience, attention, and attribution: Top of the head 192 Janoff-Bulman phenomena. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. Vol. 11. New York: Academic Press, 1978.

Wolfenstein, M. Disaster: A psychological essay. Glencoe, 111.: The Free Press, 1957. Manuscript received May 15, 1981; revised December 3, 1981.

 

Books

 

Social cognition and clinical psychology: A synthesis. Abramson, Lyn Y. (Ed); pp. 116-147.
New York, NY, US: Guilford Press, 1988. xi, 372 pp.

Synopsis:

(from the chapter) victims' attributions for disease, crime, and accidents represent cognitive attempts to understand and explain these highly stressful, undesirable events
self-blame attributions are common reactions to disease, crime, and accidents
document the extent of self-blame attributions and analyze why such seemingly negative attributions occur
not all self-blame is maladaptive
"why me" / problem of selective incidence
review of descriptive studies of self-blame / criminal victimizations / survivor guilt
perception of personal invulnerability
studies on depression and rape

 

 

Bibliographies

Victim blame

 

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Search terms: vulnerab* and rape, adult rape victimization; experiences; justice; theoretical interpretation; ideological scripting; victimology, *Coping Behavior; *Literature Review; *Self Perception; *Victimization, victimization, perception of personal vulnerability, literature review, *Rape; *Schema; *Theoretical Interpretation; *Victimization; Attitudes; Justice

Related links: Victim blame

References:

 

Macdonalds, John (2004). World Book Encyclopedia. United States of America: World Book Inc.

Smith, M. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of Rape. USA: Greenwood Press.

Sedney, Mary Anne, "rape (crime)." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 <http://gme.grolier.com> (February 1, 2006).

Frazier, Patricia A.; Mortensen, Heather; Steward, Jason. (2005). Coping Strategies as Mediators of the Relations Among Perceived Control and Distress in Sexual Assault Survivors. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 52 (3). p267-278.

Abstract

Two studies assessed whether coping strategies mediate the relations among 2 forms of perceived control (past and present control) and postassault distress among female sexual assault survivors. In Study 1, longitudinal data were gathered from 2 weeks to 1 year postassault (N = 171). Past control (behavioral self-blame) was associated with more distress partly because it was associated with greater social withdrawal. Present control (control over the recovery process) was associated with less distress partly because it was associated with less social withdrawal and more cognitive restructuring. In Study 2, cross-sectional data were gathered from a community sample of nonrecent survivors of sexual assault (N = 131). Coping strategies again mediated the relations among the measures of past and present control and distress.

 

 

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