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Deconstructing the Myths About Victims

Historical Bias

The oppressive nature of European ideas about civilized societies, acceptable cultural practices and religious beliefs accompanied the colonizers to the “New World” in the 16th century. Native peoples felt the immediate brunt of racial discrimination, which continues today. Those who were not “white” were seen as dirty, savage and unworthy of justice. These biases and misconceptions permeate the legal system and when it comes to evidence of innocence and guilt — prosecutors use a filtration system seemingly dictated by the media.

The Myth of The Perfect Victim

The “perfect or ideal victim” narrative is a widespread phenomenon that not only potentially prevents a victim from reporting assaults, it almost always ensures that a defense attorney will use appearance, behavior and reputation to refute a criminal case in a court of law. Unfortunately, the media often portrays the perfect victim as a Snow White fairytale innocent.

According to Jason B. Whiting, Ph.D., LMFT, whose research delves into deception, communication and abuse in relationships, the “ideal victim” profile consists of five traits in which the victim must be:

  • weak/vulnerable
  • involved in a respectable activity at the time of victimization
  • blameless in all aspects of the interaction
  • victimized by an obvious offender
  • someone who doesn’t know the offender

These socially accepted victim traits may contribute to why male victims are less likely to report an assault; and these assumptions often result in victims and perpetrators being painted with a very narrow brush involving social biases about age, gender, sexual orientation, social class and race.

The Unseen Victim

This “perfect victim” could be a contributing factor as to why the judicial system ignores the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives crisis that has plagued Native communities. We know from years of generational trauma that Native peoples are often ignored because they are not often portrayed as victims of colonization and oppression. In stark contrast, the media often portrays Native Americans as lazy, drunk or looking for a handout. Not only are the stories of Native Americans more likely to be questioned and/or doubted — they are easily forgotten.

The Myth That Only Women Can Be Abused

Media and socialization may lead you to believe that only women can be abused but the truth is anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. National Institute of Justice statistics show that there is an increased rate of violence among intimate partners in Indian Country including;; one in three men has endured physical violence by an intimate partner and nearly three in four men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner and one in four men has experienced sexual violence.

When it comes to domestic, dating and sexual violence, men who reported abuse indicated that were they sexually assaulted both as a child and as an adult and that they continue to struggle with intimate partner violence as victims and/or perpetrators.

StrongHearts Native Helpline Can Help

The reality is that physical abuse is almost always accompanied by other types of abuse. Abuse is not okay and it's not okay to live in fear. If you think you are being abused, StrongHearts can help.

StrongHearts advocates take a Native-centered, empowerment-based approach to every contact. Services are completely free, anonymous and confidential.

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