Why we blame the victim

When you hear a terrible story or news event, does it bother you to your core? It could be a tragic murder, a rape, a marriage falling apart or a child who has drifted. We desperately try to make sense of how and why the event transpired.

“She was dressed immodestly”; “He was bullied at school”; “He worked late hours and she was lonely”; ”Why are they still living in that place?”

We clutch at straws to try to explain the event – and to justify it.

When we are frightened, our defence mechanisms, both physiological as well as psychological, act to protect us. Our mind searches for reasons and justifications to explain why these things could not happen to us. Feeling vulnerable and helpless against potential calamities provokes enormous anxiety within, so we try to ‘take control’ of the world in order to insulate ourselves from those tragedies. When we believe ‘human error’ is responsible for a tragedy, we can relax in the knowledge that we are immune because ‘the victims brought the tragedy upon themselves’.

This is a flawed way of thinking.

Firstly, it blames the victim, rather than the criminal. Secondly, bad things happen and often there is little one could have done to prevent it.

The uncertainty of life is often what makes it great. We hope for assurances, but they cannot be guaranteed. We plan for the future, but our plans rarely materialise. We yearn for stability, but life is seldom static.

In this week’s parsha, Avraham travels to Israel on Hashem’s command only to find a deserted wasteland. He did everything right, precisely as Hashem had commanded, but he found no tranquillity, only heartache and insecurity. Avraham accepted the challenge of living a life of uncertainty, the only guarantee being that Hashem rules the world.

We cannot predict the future, nor can we accurately plan for it, but we can learn to accept it.

About the Author
Rabbi Krebs was born to a traditional family in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1997 he and his entire family moved to Sydney where he studied a BCom -Finance and Information Systems- at the University of New South Wales. It was during this time that he decided to explore his Jewish roots and spent time at Yeshiva in the old city of Jerusalem. Upon completing his degree Rabbi Krebs made Aliya to Israel where he has served in the Israeli defence force. He initially studied in the famed Yeshivat Har Etzion under the tutelage of Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein. His subsequently began studying for his semicha under Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Chaim Brovender at Yeshivat Hamivtar, Efrat. In 2007 Rabbi Krebs was appointed as the fulltime Rabbi of Kehillat Masada. He is a qualified Psychotherapist and Professional mediator.