Blame Bias & Project Unbreakable

Project Unbreakable is a project run by Grace Brown, Kaelyn Siversky, Christina Dunlop, and Kerri Pang. It was created to raise awareness of the common nature of sexual assault and serves to alter the general sociocultural perception of rape. Disproving the regular assumption that rape is an uncommon, unfortunate occurrence that happens only to those who deserve it. The project is a composed of a collection of art submitted by survivors. These submissions are photographs of a survivors holding posters decorated with quotes from their attackers. Submissions also include quotes from others in reaction to survivors seeking help (e.g., “You deserved it,” “I don’t believe you”). This project features male rape survivors and showcases the reality that men can get raped. There is no discrimination as to who can participate in Project Unbreakable (“anyone who has experienced any form of sexual abuse, whether physical or emotional”). However, they do not accept admissions from children.

In my psychology class, we discussed an unfortunate phenomenon colloquially known as blame bias. People tend to think that good things happen to them because they’ve earned it; they think that bad things happen to them for an environmental reason. Paradoxically, people tend to think that good things happen to others because they are lucky, and bad things happen to others because they have done something wrong deserve it. This blame bias is flipped in many persons afflicted with disorders/tendencies such as depression and anxiety.

In essence, blame bias is: __ things happen to __ because __.

Normal Perception Good; me; I deserved it Good; others; of environmental factors Bad; me; of environmental factors Bad; others; they deserved it

Afflicted Perception Bad; me; I deserved it Bad; others; of environmental factors Good; me; of environmental factors Good; others; they deserved it

This flipped paradigm is prevalent in survivors of sexual assault. One of the scars left by assault tends to be a deep feeling of shame: a belief that the incident is somehow the victim’s fault. Project Unbreakable serves as a place to assure survivors that this is not the case. My professor, a clinical psychologist, explained that the correct treatment of rape survivors is incredibly difficult and extensive, for the hole they have been pushed and fallen into is so deep. This hole is dug in the victim’s perception by cultural messages and the reactions of others.

Project Unbreakable serves as a stepping-stone to begin to rise from the hole, it allows for rape survivors to face their memories and deal with them at a distance. It is far easier for rape survivors to look at the stories of others and see that these people are innocent. This triggering experience helps many internalize the objective truth that the incident was not their fault. Additionally, the Project helps lesson the ignorance of others with “blame bias,” showing that rape is a widespread problem, and not the fault of the victim. This education implicitly helps victims of sexual assault. The Project has received thousands of submissions and continues to bring self-awareness to those suffering from the negative effects of blame bias.

Written on October 22, 2013