When talking about human trafficking unfortunately there is a victim and there is a perpetrator. Human trafficking is a crime; therefore, it is dealt with in a criminal manner where ideally a victim should see some punishment towards their perpetrator. However, there is one big problem in this and that is the idea of victim blaming.
Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them. The study of victimology seeks to mitigate the perception of victims as responsible. As a result the wrongdoers, the criminals, the offenders, are often seen as being part of something that was inevitable. As if being sold, bought, used, enslaved, raped, abused, and more is a self-fulled prophecy.
This is often seen in cases of sex trafficking. As I have discussed in prior blogs, many prostitutes are found as runaway children. The average age of entry into prostitution is 12 or 13 for girls and boys. This is not something that people chose for themselves; however, there is a strong stigma attached with prostitution that allows people to victim blame. When you watch movies, read the news, read a book, prostitutes are portrayed as grown women choosing a life of a sex worker in order to earn money.
Although this may be the case for a few people, many are approached, forced, or coerced into it (trafficked). Once someone is forced into this sex slavery, many are forced into drug addictions. Many are forced to take drugs or drink alcohol, to have sex or to perform sexual acts without consent as well (DARA). “Drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are commonly used to make a person become an addict and force them to do the work the traffickers want them to do” (DARA). If a person if forced into prostitution and drug abuse, many need to stay involved in prostitution as a way to sustain their newly created drug dependency.
As you can see these men, women, and children are not willing choosing this life. However, the courts and juries continue to place the blame on the victim. Why is this the case?
Well according to Dr. Juliana Breines, victim blaming can occur in array of misfortunes such as; bullying, rape, sexual assault, hazing, poverty, and cases of mental/physical illness. Her theory is that the reason victim blaming occurs is due to vulnerability. She claims that “Victims threaten our sense that the world is a safe and moral place, where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. When bad things happen to good people, it implies that no one is safe, that no matter how good we are, we too could be vulnerable.” I think that this holds a lot of truth in it.
She further comments on the theory of Dr. Melvin Lener. He points out “that these victim blaming tendencies are rooted in the belief in a just world, a world where actions have predictable consequences and people can control what happens to them.” He syas that people want to believe that justice will come to wrongdoers and good people will be rewarded for doing the right things in life.
I think that many of us can agree that this is flawed thinking, but it’s also common thinking. Victims are very often blamed for the misfortunes that happen to them and this not only hurts them, but our whole societal thinking. What kind of world do we live in where the person who is put through unspeakable pain is to be at fault to what was inflicted upon them?