Erin Andrews highlights the wrongs of victim blaming

Andrew Chuang, Sports Editor

Before 2008, Erin Andrews was a successful and talented sportscaster. However, after stalker Michael David Barrett posted naked videos of her online, her star-studded reputation shattered in an instant. Although many people at the time sympathized with the struggles she faced, others blamed her for such unwanted and abusive acts. During the weeks after the incident, numerous online rumors stated that the entire  incident was a publicity stunt, while news sites treated the whole situation as a publicity stunt. Even during a trial regarding this incident last month, the defense attorney justified the negative response by stating that she made more money after the video was published, according to Sports Analyst Exavier Pope. Although Andrews later won her  trial against Barrett and Marriott (Marriott was sued due to the fact that it released information to allow Barrett to record the video), shaming Andrews immediately after the incident for actions she did not commit is just another example of victim blaming, an action that is wrong and should be stopped.

Although victim blaming is commonly associated with sexual assault and rape cases, it is wrong, regardless of whether it was done “unintentionally” or intentionally. Not only does it devalue victims mentally but also degrades them physically, impacting them in two ways. While many claim the defense of  “they asked for it”, the facts regarding that statement do not add up — no one asks for something as mentally and physically degrading as this. According to a Federal Commission of Crime and Violence Study, only 4.4 percent of all rape cases are caused by a victim’s provocative actions, hence suggesting that such actions are not the victim’s fault.

In addition, victim blaming causes the victim to be silenced while the perpetrator is not held accountable for their actions. By shifting the attention from the perpetrator’s actions to the victim’s, the victim is mentally harmed and is morally degraded. This may not seem like much, but when one out of every six women is a victim of rape in the United States, it does matter (Daily Kos). With this many cases, imagine how many voices are silenced and how many perpetrators are not brought to justice.

Even today, as shown in Andrews’ example, we resort to victim blaming in horrible situations like hers. This occurs due to the environmental and societal norms that shape our values and perspective regarding these issues. In a landmark study produced by Social Psychologist Dr. Melvin Lerner in the 1960’s, he concluded that the more severe and unfair one’s suffering is, the greater the humiliation. Following the study, Dr. Ronnie Janoff-Bulman concluded that victims also disparage themselves in such situations such as rape, car accidents, illness and poverty. Societal beliefs, including karma, causes the decrease the empathy we have for horrible situations, thus causing us to possess that perspective when are in and witness a horrible situation (Psychology Today).   

Since the basis of victim blaming is rooted deep into our beliefs, countering the notion of victim blaming may be a difficult but it is an accomplishable task. Simple actions, such as challenging victim-blaming statements and avoiding victim blaming, can challenge victim blaming and even societal norms in the long run. However, more research needs to be done in order to prevent victim blaming altogether.

No matter how much society tries to challenge the wrongs to victim blaming, victim blaming still mentally and physically degrades one’s reputation in society. Even today, after numerous trials, Andrews is still seen in the public eye as a stunt artist who is thirsty for attention. However she is clearly a victim; a victim to the horrendous acts committed by Barrett and, as seen with the events that followed the incident, a victim of victim blaming.