“Everything, it was everything”: victim blame, victimism, and responsibilisation

Beddows, Amy (2022) “Everything, it was everything”: victim blame, victimism, and responsibilisation. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Victim blame is a common and damaging process, which has far-reaching impacts on individuals who have experienced sexual violence and is a key driver of society’s acceptance of violence against women. Despite the knowledge base, there is little consensus as to how victim blame is communicated to and experienced by victim-survivors from agencies and services. To explore this topic, I ran ten focus groups with women at Rape Crisis Centres to discuss their experience of professional responses. To make the process as participatory as possible, I ran follow-up focus groups and requested feedback from the women to ‘sense check’ my findings.

The focus group data were analysed through thematic analysis and NVivo software. The initial findings showed that direct experiences of feeling blamed by professionals were rare and that women were dismissed and disrespected in other ways, through various elements of agency practices: the words and actions of individual staff; processes and procedures; physical environments; and general expectations of services. Analysis showed that women felt devalued and responsibilised by professionals more than blamed and were blamed for things other than their abuse. Women also linked negative responses to gender, age, race and ethnicity, more so than their experiences of violence. Agency responses which were supportive and helpful for women expanded and created their space for action, space to speak, and space to be.

This thesis argues that victim blame is insufficient as a concept on several counts and that victimism, responsibilisation and space are more useful framings for understanding the experiences of victim-survivors and working towards social change.

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