You go to a doctor, and she or he treats you like you’re a disgusting waste of time because you should’ve known that rash you have that looks exactly like eczema was actually some obscure parasite from the Bolivian jungle (where you’ve never been). Your car’s broken into, and even though you locked it and parked it in a secured, lit garage, people chastise you for not having an alarm (even though 1987 was the last time anyone actually responded to a car alarm, except perhaps to yell “Shut the fuck up!”). You get dumped and your friends tell you they have no sympathy because if you’d really been serious about keeping him, you’d have lost that last 10 pounds (upon which your entire value as a human apparently rests). You get raped and people ask what you did to make that happen to you. You get tried for a crime you didn’t commit, and the jury assumes if you were really innocent, you wouldn’t be here at all.
It comes in a lot of flavors, but one thing victim blaming relies on is a privilege distinction between the blamer and the victim. As illogical as it is for a doctor to spend six figures on her education and then act like patients who don’t know all she knows are lacking in intelligence, really we’re barely sentient enough to realize how stupid we are, and therefore it’s a very human logic: “I can do this; why can’t you?”
As specious as it is for someone to look at a break-in that happened despite every reasonable precaution and invent a whole new precaution lapse to explain the event away, it’s what humans do: we invent rules by which we imagine ourselves safe. When someone sails a plane into a building anyway, we invent a bunch more rules until eventually we’re all hunkered in cellars wearing gas masks and thinking, “I’m sure we’re safe now. Yep.”
As ignorant as it is to blame crime victims for getting themselves into this position, we do this because it’s convenient. They’re at hand, whereas the perpetrator might not be, and we want to separate ourselves from them (“Oh! So if I never wear a whorish skirt like she did, I’ll never be raped! Yay!”). And even when the perpetrator is at hand, we’re more scared of him or her than we are of the victim. Safer to blame the victim, and after all, it’s all about whatever makes us feel better, right?
As common sense defying as it is to assume no one could be really falsely accused of a crime, we do it because otherwise we’d be able to picture ourselves in the defendant’s position.
The one thing all these examples have in common is a power imbalance between the blamed victim and the blamer. Ironically, the less powerful the victim is, the less likely they are to have had any real influence over their situation, the easier they are to blame. It makes no sense, but it’s not about sense. It’s about comfort. And privilege is a great comfort.