After a new law attempted to force women in Cambodia to wear more conservative clothing, the issue and culture of victim blaming should be revisited again.
In mid-July, gender activists and civil society organizations took to social media to react to an article in the new draft Public Order Law, that introduced new restrictions on clothing in the public place – looking to regulate items of clothing in ‘the name of tradition and modesty’.
Opponents to the law say that it restricts the freedom of dress and strengthens the culture of impunity around sexual violence, including blaming victims themselves, rather than the perputators.
But what exactly is the victim blaming?
Victim blaming is also one of the main reasons that stop women from disclosing sexual assault in Cambodia. The majority of Cambodians frown upon losing your virginity – as it is viewed as being more precious than individual humanity – and judgemental opinions regarding a woman’s choice of clothing and behaviour are still common in the Kingdom.
A patriarchal mindset still prevails that sees that man is gold and woman is white linen, nourishing an imbalance of power between men and women, that only grows stronger, triggering the practise of physical and sexual abuse in the country.
Victim blaming can originate from ignorance, hatred or a smug sense of superiority.
The tendency of putting blame on the victim is human nature, a piece of programming by the brain called ‘positive assumptive worldview’, Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, a psychologist and researcher from University of Massachusetts, explained.
The study shows that people are born and hold the belief that the world is basically good and fair. When you see something bad happen to someone, you consider it as an unfortunate event, one that will never happen to you.
This is why we have sayings like – you reap what you sow. This makes us think that the victim might have done something wrong or contributed to the problem, rather than the problem having befallen them.
So is victim blaming acceptable?
Victim blaming must be stopped immediately, it is a chronic disease that keeps hurting the victim mentally and physically, devaluing humanity, silencing the victim, minimizing the crime act and allowing the perpetrator to get away with their crimes.
However, the fallacy of victim blaming, hardwired into our brain, is actually evitable – and with work, we can attempt to put a stop to the tendency. Psychologists recommend using empathy, imagine how you would feel if you were in the same situation, to eliminate self-protective thought and the culture of victim blaming.
If you blame the rape victim because her clothes were provocative, what about the perpetrator who cannot control his own desires, then who is the real culprit? It is not the fault of the victim, but that of the perpetrator, the attacker.