Vilifying the Victim

Have you ever noticed people often have the tendency to attempt to vilify someone they have wronged? Think about it – how many people do you know that have cheated in a relationship, only to explain away their behavior by making their Ex out to be a bitch or an asshole or frigid or whatever? It’s almost as if they need to depict this person in the worst possible light in order to justify their own behaviors.  There seems to be a need to vilify the person who they have hurt in order to alleviate their own guilt about the wrongdoing.

It’s like they have to decide between two choices:

  1. I did a horrible thing which makes me a bad person.


  1. I did a horrible thing, but he/she is a bitch/asshole so I am justified.

When I was in college (many moons ago when the dinosaurs still roamed the Earth), I had a brief “thing” for/with a college friend. This “relationship” was never going to go anywhere (he was wholly unsuitable for a long term partnership and he, honestly, never thought of me that way anyway), but there were feelings involved. One night while we were all at a party, he drifted away with one of my good friends (not my best friend, but the one with whom I spent most of my time – an important distinction). I didn’t realize it until the next day, but he had never gone home and had spent the night with her. At the time, I was temporarily “devastated” – upset, perhaps more so, by the perceived betrayal of her friendship than by the loss of any “relationship” with him. Now, everyone could have gone their separate ways quite easily, but I quickly learned through the grapevine that she was angry with me. She was telling anyone and everyone she was going to kick my ass” (not the most mature way to express her anger, I know).

At the time I was flummoxed (I really like that word – flummoxed). But now, eons later, I can recognize what was going on. She wasn’t comfortable being the person who had slept with her friend’s crush – this was not consistent with her vision of herself, so she needed to distance herself from our friendship. I needed to be a horrid bitch in her eyes, so she wouldn’t have to be one instead. I have no idea what happened to her after college, but, hopefully, she no longer wishes me ill.

Consider this the next time you feel someone who has done you wrong has unfairly turned the tables on you with regard to blame/responsibility. Chances are – it’s not about you. It’s what they need to do to live with themselves. It doesn’t make it fair, but maybe it, at least, explains it. Maybe you can pity them rather than fear them and you can gain comfort in knowing you probably didn’t do anything to deserve it.

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