The Trouble with Blame: Victims, Perpetrators, and Responsibility

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Blame society. Blame a bad upbringing. Blame the circumstances. Blame the victim—she may even blame herself. But what about the perpetrator? When the blame is all assigned, will anyone be left to take responsibility?

This powerful book takes up the disturbing topic of victimization and blame as a pathology of our time and its consequences for personal responsibility. By probing the psychological dynamics of victims and perpetrators of rape, ...

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Overview

Blame society. Blame a bad upbringing. Blame the circumstances. Blame the victim—she may even blame herself. But what about the perpetrator? When the blame is all assigned, will anyone be left to take responsibility?

This powerful book takes up the disturbing topic of victimization and blame as a pathology of our time and its consequences for personal responsibility. By probing the psychological dynamics of victims and perpetrators of rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, Sharon Lamb seeks to answer some crucial questions: How do victims become victims and sometimes perpetrators? How can we break the psychological circle of perpetrators blaming others and victims blaming themselves? How do victims and perpetrators view their actions and reactions? And how does our social response to them facilitate patterns of excuse?

With clarity and compassion, Lamb examines the theories, excuses, and psychotherapies that strip both victims of their power and perpetrators of their agency—and thus deprive them of the means to human dignity, healing, and reparation. She shows how the current practice of painting victims as pure innocents may actually help perpetrators of abuse to shirk responsibility for their actions; they too can claim to be victims in their own right, passive and will-less in their wrongdoing.

The Trouble with Blame clarifies the social cost (quickly becoming so apparent) of letting perpetrators off too easily, and points out the dangers of over-emphasizing victimization, two problems which eclipse our dire need for accountability and recovery.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Lamb (psychology, Bryn Mawr College) questions the cultural definitions of victim, perpetrator, blame, and responsibility in a compassionate but objective study of the issue of violence in contemporary society. She discusses theories, excuses, and psychotherapies which strip victims of their power, perpetrators of volition, and contribute to a cycle of victimization which hinders accountability and recovery. Her discussions struggle with difficult gray areas through a timely study of current psychological practice and theory. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674910102
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Lamb is Professor of Psychology at St. Michael's College.

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Table of Contents

Note on Terminology
Prologue 1
1 Who Is to Blame? 5
2 Victims 22
3 Perpetrators 56
4 Onlookers 88
5 The Making of Perpetrators and Victims 128
6 Forgiveness and Punishment 160
Epilogue 179
Notes 189
Acknowledgments 233
Index 235
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