Blaming the victim is an aspect of stigma that should hardly be new to those who experience stigma. “If the mentally ill did not act so odd, they wouldn’t be harassed.” “If they took their meds, nobody would pick on them.” (I have heard it said of people who do take their meds!) You can sum this up as “it is all their fault, not those who harass them or bully them.” You can class this as nothing more than an attempt to evade responsibility. You hear it in rape trials a lot. You hear it when people beat up gays and lesbians. You hear it when they talk about people like us.
I’ve often heard that the homeless are homeless because they won’t get a job or take their meds. This dismisses realities such as the lack of community mental health clinics, the fact that you need a stable address before you can get many jobs, and medications are just too damned expensive for many people. What happens when someone doesn’t respond well to lithium but needs a more expensive medication such as Abilify? There are all kinds of excuses for not feeling compassion for this person, but that is all they are — excuses.
Denying the victim is similar. “The mentally ill aren’t the ones who are in trouble, it is the people that they kill” is one refrain. Or they might seek to deflect attention away from familial abuse by claiming that the patient has become a problem for his parents. Again the main motive is to excuse lack of compassion and care for those of us who live with mental illness.
Like misleading vividness and the other logical fallacies I have discussed recently, these are maneuvers. In the case of logical fallacies, they are meant to avoid addressing an argument; blaming and denying the victim are calculated to avoid responsibility. The best response to these is to call them out for what they are and not waste too much time. You can’t argue with an idiot, but you can educate onlookers.