Patriarchy and the Courts: A Systemic Issue

Exploring Victim-Blaming, Abuse Myths, Gender Bias & the Need for Judicial Reform

Sacha | The Justice Lark

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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

Historically, legal systems worldwide evolved from societies where men held power in almost every sphere.

This foundation has unintentionally conditioned legal structures to reflect and sustain male-centred perspectives, often sidelining concerns and experiences unique to women and marginalised groups.

When abuse victims (which social science researchers have long since demonstrated are primarily women), step into courtrooms, they carry not just their trauma but also the burden of fighting against entrenched prejudices.

It’s an unsettling and painful truth that victims of abuse are regularly subjected to scrutiny about their role in the incident in contention.

The roots of victim-blaming can be traced back to patriarchal norms where a woman’s ‘honour’ or ‘purity’ was paramount.

If a woman faced any form of abuse, it was assumed that she had done something to ‘deserve’ it, or had failed in some way to protect her honour.

When victims are confronted with questions such as “What were you wearing?” or “Why did you stay?”, it adds another layer of emotional and psychological strain to their already traumatised state.

These questions not only invade their privacy but also carry implicit judgements that they could have prevented their own victimisation.

By asking such questions, society or legal systems subtly shift the blame from the perpetrator to the victim. It insinuates that the victim’s decisions, rather than the abuser’s actions, led to the abuse.

This blame-shift can of course severely undermine the victim’s self-worth and confidence.

Victims are as a consequence of such processes, often hesitant to report abuse due to the fear of not being believed or being subjected to further scrutiny.

Encountering victim-blaming attitudes only solidifies these fears, making many victims prefer silence over seeking justice.

This not only isolates them further but also allows abusers to continue their behaviour unchecked.

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Sacha | The Justice Lark

Passionate writer and researcher focused on promoting justice and equity, with emphasis on issues related to gender-based violence, trauma & mental health.