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Measuring Victimhood: Developing a Victim Self-Ascription Scale
Unformatted Document Text:  DRAFT – For permission to cite contact Andy Davies on ## email not listed ## of harm and injustice weighed in favor of the importance of harm where feelings of anger were concerned, injustice where victim self-ascription was concerned, and was relatively equal in the case of secondary rights. Discussion Of all the expected effects in the study, one variable was conspicuous by its unimportance: external attribution. The measure of external attribution was not a significant predictor in any model. Neither feelings of anger, nor the self-ascription of secondary rights, nor the willingness to describe oneself as a victim were related to external attributions of responsibility for the event in question. Such a finding appears to fly in the face of the many theoretical statements that suggest the absence of self-blame (or, as it has been characterized here, the presence of external attribution) is a necessary precondition for the experience of victimization. What could be going on? In fact, empirical work on attributions and their importance for responses to victimization presents a more nuanced picture than the discussion heretofore has suggested. In her classic formulation, Janoff- Bulman (1979) argued that self-blame could assist in victim coping, but only when it took specific forms. The key consideration in Janoff-Bulman’s theory was not the location of the attribution, but rather whether, on the basis of that attribution, the victim felt they could control future victimization. A victim’s sense of control was enhanced when they attributed their suffering to some behavior they had engaged in voluntarily – the choice to go out drinking, say, or to associate with certain types of people. Such an attribution gave the victim information he or she could use: they simply had to avoid these situations in the future and make different choices. Their sense of control was reduced, on the other hand, by attributions to facets of their character or personality that they could not change, as when a Page 21

Authors: Davies, Andrew.
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DRAFT – For permission to cite contact Andy Davies on ## email not listed ##
of harm and injustice weighed in favor of the importance of harm where feelings of anger were 
concerned, injustice where victim self-ascription was concerned, and was relatively equal in the case of 
secondary rights.
Of all the expected effects in the study, one variable was conspicuous by its unimportance: external 
attribution.  The measure of external attribution was not a significant predictor in any model.  Neither 
feelings of anger, nor the self-ascription of secondary rights, nor the willingness to describe oneself as a 
victim were related to external attributions of responsibility for the event in question.  Such a finding 
appears to fly in the face of the many theoretical statements that suggest the absence of self-blame (or, 
as it has been characterized here, the presence of external attribution) is a necessary precondition for 
the experience of victimization.  What could be going on?
In fact, empirical work on attributions and their importance for responses to victimization presents a 
more nuanced picture than the discussion heretofore has suggested.  In her classic formulation, Janoff-
Bulman (1979) argued that self-blame could assist in victim coping, but only when it took specific 
forms.  The key consideration in Janoff-Bulman’s theory was not the location of the attribution, but 
rather whether, on the basis of that attribution, the victim felt they could control future victimization.  A 
victim’s sense of control was enhanced when they attributed their suffering to some behavior they had 
engaged in voluntarily – the choice to go out drinking, say, or to associate with certain types of people. 
Such an attribution gave the victim information he or she could use: they simply had to avoid these 
situations in the future and make different choices.  Their sense of control was reduced, on the other 
hand, by attributions to facets of their character or personality that they could not change, as when a 
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