How to respond to the claim that victims of serious crimes are experiencing the results of their own Karma

Salutations fellow sādhu-jana

What would your answer be and and sutta references to the question ‘are rape victims experiencing kamma-vipāka’

Venerable, I changed the title, as the original one is likely highly triggering and traumatizing for people who have been subject to one of the most vicious and horrible crimes imaginable.

The karma that is committed by a rapist belongs 100%, without exception, to the perpetrator, not the victim.

The clearest example of this is in the extensive discussions on involuntary sexual intercourse under parajika one for both monks and nuns. There it is accepted without question that there is no guilt or responsibility on the head of the victim. On the contrary, the rape of nuns is held to be one of the most heinous crimes possible. There is nowhere in any early Buddhist text where a victim of rape is in any way held responsible.


Greetings Bhante!
A few points to ponder…

Bhikkhus, there are these three causes for the origination of kamma. What three? Greed is a cause for the origination of kamma; hatred is a cause for the origination of kamma; delusion is a cause for the origination of kamma.

Whose Greed? Whose Hatred? Whose Delusion generated the crime?

And what, bhikkhus, is old kamma? The eye is old kamma, to be seen as generated and fashioned by volition, as something to be felt. The ear is old kamma … The mind is old kamma, to be seen as generated and fashioned by volition, as something to be felt. This is called old kamma.

“And what, bhikkhus is new kamma? Whatever action one does now by body, speech, or mind. This is called new kamma.

By way of whose body, speech and mind has the crime been done?

Bhikkhus, beings are the owners of their kamma, the heirs of their kamma; they have kamma as their origin, kamma as their relative, kamma as their resort; whatever kamma they do, good or bad, they are its heirs.

“Here, someone destroys life; he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. He creeps along by body, speech, and mind. His bodily kamma is crooked; his verbal kamma is crooked; his mental kamma is crooked. His destination is crooked; his rebirth is crooked. But for one with a crooked destination and rebirth, I say, there is one of two destinations: either the exclusively painful hells or a species of creeping animal.

Is it the fault of the living being that it was slaughtered (ie. was it due to its kamma of having this form, in this particular place and time); or is the killing a spontaneous volitional action on the part of the killer? If there was no spontaneous volition on the part of the killer, could killing have occurred? And if there is no spontaneous volition at all and everything is just the result of past kamma generating results, how can there ever be an escape from Samsara?
:pray: :pray: :pray:


Scope of karma refers to past present and future . If the discussion is merely present life probably the wrongdoer simply is guilty as charge but in any circumstances we do not know for sure how it involves the victims karma . Eg . Do we accept Monggalana being beaten to death was paying off debts due to previous life karma ? Do we accept Angulimala being beaten to death was due to undergoing karma cleansing process in this very life ? So all those peoples whom done the “killing” on arahants were without karma ?

Perhaps this sutta will help :

Mendicants, these four things are unthinkable. They should not be thought about, and anyone who tries to think about them will go mad or get frustrated. What four?
The scope of the Buddhas …
The scope of one in absorption …
The results of deeds
Speculation about the world …

(Highlighted words are mine)

I feel that any attempt to trace the karmic background of a victim of crime will only result in vexation and might make it more traumatic for the victim , since people might rationalise or justify their suffering ("Ohh…that was bound to happen! …Ohh…he/she deserves that!) which is often the case.
Unless one is a Buddha or an arahant with the divine eye faculty, it seems improbable that one could map out an individual’s kamma and vipaka extending across countless lives and can exactly pinpoint the results with accuracy.
As Ven @sujato rightly said, the perpetrator of crime is solely responsible for his/her actions , at least in Buddhism, where the free will of present intention and kamma is so much stressed.
The victim needs not a karmic scrutiny but compassion and moral support and a way to help them out of their suffering.


The question, to me, sounds of the kind of false allegation that is sometimes made that victims of violent crime, or tsunami, or car crashes, are somehow experiencing, in part, the ripening of their kamma. This also resonates in the way that, in a perverse and unethical way, a rape victim in a criminal trial is often wrongly criticized for “being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” or dressing in a way that attracts men. Rape is a crime of violence. As has been pointed out, it is a serious and damaging crime, wherein the innocent victim bears zero kammic responsibility for the actions of the violent offender.

Kamma, as the Buddha distinguished, is rooted in intention. The intention of the criminal is to harm egregiously, to exert pathological control and domination, to humiliate. The intention of the victim has no role in this crime, nor does his or her past or present behavior/kamma factor into this crime of violence.


Saying that it is in no way the result of past kamma contradicts the teaching that we cannot know what is and isn’t the result of kamma (unless we develop psychic powers). I think from a Buddhist point of view there are occasions where people have terrible experiences and indeed a terrible life because of past kamma, but as we do not know for sure it’s best not to judge when people do go through intense suffering. Besides, even if we do know we should still treat the victim with compassion and, from a secular point of view, prosecute the perpetrator.

In terms of the Abhidhamma I’m aware that it states that when one experiences an unpleasant sight, touch, smell etc then that is the result of past kamma however that vipaka can be a flash followed by many different dhammas that aren’t the result of past kamma. Of course even here the victim isn’t to blame for what the rapist did via their own volition.

That being said, I think we can make a strong claim when it comes to someone’s birth. Our birth is determined by kamma, so there is some argument that being born into X family or Y level of wealth was due to one’s intentional deeds in a past life.