So many times I have read people ask, ‘HOW do you respond to someone that asks questions about your abusive relationship?’
Goodness knows they have plenty of questions, and some come from a pure heart.
The above comic I choose because it resembles the weird logic people use. They only believe in their own ‘Just World’ reality.
Yes, its frustrating. Yes, Its hurtful. When you understand how they are coming to conclusions over your life’s circumstances? Pray for them, because they need your prayers very badly.
Dealing with being a Victim
If you read enough comments to articles, forums that deal with people in real life? The questioning of the hurting seems puzzling, and hard to answer at first.
There is NOTHING wrong with questions okay? Its how they are framed, and what direction they tend to focus on.
The victim blaming or Just World phenomenon starts with questions more geared towards, ‘what did you do that made this happen?’
If you are still in an abusive relationship, trying to peal yourself away from one, or even recently left? You hear some odd comments that you KNOW isn’t as simple as it sounds. “I would have left!” is a good statement I have said myself!
SURE they make sense on the surface, but not when you look at bit deeper.
There must have been red flags…for another example!
In hindsight SURE you can see them clearly, and you also can see the devastation afterwards. Its hard to go back and be that person at the beginning, because no matter what people say you don’t always have the tools to see things THEY think you should have at the time – or if you had indeed have a hint what it all entailed.
Yes, it’s the start of victim blaming. That is the term some use anyway.
We hear people saying all the time, ‘If I knew how things were then I would have made different decisions' or ‘If I knew then what I know now…’. In these type of general circumstances, for the most part people empathize and leave it alone. Why? We have all been there.
When you speak of abusive relationships people want to dig deeper most of the time. They love to play Monday Morning Quarterback! ( One who criticizes or passes judgment from a position of hindsight)
Victims are constantly on the defensive anyway, because that is how you stay somewhat safe within the abusive relationship. The questions people ask make you feel worse, guilty, and at times stupid.
When you are made to feel guilty or stupid for the relationship, and victims tend to internalize that WAY to much at the beginning. This is something they learned while living with abuse. (ie: Its all your fault)
People claim they realize that victims tend to own the lies the abuser tells them, and they take it to heart much to much. From what I found with abusive personalities it could have a grain of truth, but they will want you to own the own bushel.
What they don’t seem to realize is the counsel is taken much the same way – literally. They may not wish to hint to others they are stupid, but that is the way they come off. No, they don’t understand victims. If they did? They would be much more careful, and they are not.
Your own anger and rage
After a while people tend to get defensive from all the victim blaming questions, and their response seems to justify things to those that question them.
“SEE how ugly they are acting? You have to wonder if they acted like, and THAT is why their partner was abusive in response!”
They are motivated to see a just world because this reduces the perceived threats, gives them a sense of security, helps them find meaning in difficult and unsettling circumstances, and benefits them psychologically.
Yep. Its basically denial of reality of life for many.
Anger is always a stage people deal with when healing from an abusive relationship. Its has cycles similar to the cycles of grief.
Victims have now gone to the opposite side (anger), and are upset with people constantly questioning them – they feel people are always looking for that excuse as to why it happened to begin with. In the end – it will be them somehow – some way.
Sometimes you find victims will lash out at just about anything. They don’t know what to do with that anger inside. They ask themselves at times, if they were indeed the abuser also (not always of course) due to own reactions at times.
I remember being in a DV group session, and speaking of a trip I was going to make to meet some individuals I had known online for years. One woman got madder than an hornet at me, and started to attack me over this trip. She was asking all kinds of odd questions like, ‘Why can’t I go?” She questioned my ability to go, and questioned my relationships with these people. She was stopped, and removed from the group. The people that remained in the room were left spinning because no one knew WHY she was acting like this. It made no sense.
Yes, people could have questioned whether she was the abuser in the relationship ON the surface. She wasn’t. I have seen this type of response from men and women that were terrorized in the past. They are blamed once again.
Not everyone will act like this, but there will always be some sort of anger afterwards. Its anger at the injustice, inhuman treatment, and being constantly questioned about their reality.
The woman from the DV group’s history was awful, and her children had been through hell and back. She was removed from our group, and she got more one to one counseling after that.
That was YEARS ago, and recently a friend that I made in those sessions saw her working recently. She asked about me, and told my friend to apologize for her behavior. My friend could see the true remorse, and also found out about the leaps and bounds she had made in her life.
I never questioned her pain, but the people in her life (at that time) it seemed were constantly on her about the realization of it. The college instructors were on her back about NOT going further with her dreams, and on top of that she was dealing with a husband whom abandon them and took all the finances with him. Her children were young adults at that point, and spiraling out of control. She was on verge of losing everything.
Nah. That would make anyone loopy would it?
Her pain just spilled all over me for some reason. It did make me upset, but I knew it wasn’t me she was mad at. She wasn’t mad at the trip I was making, or my excitement over meeting these people that I had known for years. She was just MAD period! No doubt she didn’t know what to do with all the anger bottled up inside.
Once you pull yourself OUT of that part of the cycle (not everyone deals with this part) you reach a point of your own realization. You come to gripes and at some level peace with what happened.
I posted this video on youtube recently, and I felt the women in the video said things that are very profound. It describes the internalization of opinions, the anger came later, and finally peace.
This clip was taken from a documentary called, ‘Shout! A domestic violence story.’
The Healthy Response
‘Now I understand why people ask those questions. People want to feel safe, and if they can make it your fault? Then they won’t do what you do, and they will be safe!’
Her response now, “If that will make you feel safer to think that then go ahead, but its wrong!”
Her viewpoint can be used in so many different circumstances. If you are victim of sexual abuse, or spiritual abuse for example.
- If you feel that thinking I acted in such a way was to attract the person that raped me…
- If you feel that I didn’t live my life the way our leader said to, and my heart was in such a state….
Yes, they can feel safe. They can’t deal with what happened, but we have to. Big difference.
Think of it is their form of protection from abuse.
Just World hypothesis (or just-world fallacy)
was an interesting concept for me to read about.
To understand this fully let me explain dispositional causes compared to situational causes:
As a simple example, if Alice saw Bob trip over a rock and fall, Alice might consider Bob to be clumsy or careless (dispositional). If Alice later tripped over the same rock herself, she would be more likely to blame the placement of the rock (situational).
The Just-world phenomenon is the belief that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get, which was first theorized by Melvin Lerner (1977). Attributing failures to dispositional causes rather than situational causes, which are unchangeable and uncontrollable, satisfies our need to believe that the world is fair and we have control over our life.
We are motivated to see a just world because this reduces our perceived threats, gives us a sense of security, helps us find meaning in difficult and unsettling circumstances, and benefits us psychologically. Unfortunately, the just-world hypothesis also results in a tendency for people to blame and disparage victims of a tragedy or an accident, such as victims of rape and domestic abuse to reassure themselves of their insusceptibility to such events. People may even go to such extremes as the victim's faults in "past life" to pursue justification for their bad outcome.
When dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse, or spiritual abuse? It is difficult and unsettling. Its hard to wrap your mind around it, and its easier to believe that you would NEVER be a victim because your live your life differently.
‘I prayed very hard for God to find me my spouse for life. Yes, we have our differences but we respect each other very much. It sounds like you jumped the gun, and now you made your bed.’
You see it is easier for them to basically tell you that you made your bed than to deal with the difficult and unsettling circumstances. This victim’s ‘past life’ was blamed, and then the excuse of not asking God to find that ‘spouse for life’ for the reason. It doesn’t matter if they did pray, or you didn’t jump the gun.
Now lets use the response above, “If that will make you feel safer to think that then go ahead, but its wrong!”
Remember you don’t have to justify anything to them, nor explain things in small pieces at time for them. The ‘Just World’ they live in is perfectly comfortable for them, and you would be basically talking to the wall. You see it in the legalistic responses, or the black and white thinking.
For example, if you are start the conversation with ‘I feel’…
It doesn’t always have to do with ‘feelings or emotions’. It can be used to show your view of things from a certain source, or experience, etc.
Then you get some strange response like, ‘Feelings aren’t reliable’. Love is NOT a feeling, etc.
Most of the time you are just wasting your energy, because they like the just world. You aren’t going to get them to see that not everything in this world is JUST! Everything is NOT ‘dispositional’.
Attributing failures to dispositional causes rather than situational causes, which are unchangeable and uncontrollable, satisfies our need to believe that the world is fair and we have control over our life.
Unfortunately, the just-world hypothesis also results in a tendency for people to blame and disparage victims of a tragedy or an accident, such as victims of rape and domestic abuse to reassure themselves of their insusceptibility to such events. People may even go to such extremes as the victim's faults in "past life" to pursue justification for their bad outcome.
Its not about you its about them.
Your reality is too ugly for them to deal with, and they are incapable of comprehending it. You don’t need to be a perfect angel in everyway for your reality to be truth. Spend your energies in more healthy ways.
Those people just want to feel safe in their JUST WORLD!
If that will make you feel safer to think that then go ahead, but its wrong!
What a great response.
There are many resources to help you in your struggles and victories. Yes, there are THOSE that ‘get it’.
Dear Lord, please continue to be with us. Help us learn and heal from our past ugly experiences. Help us find sources of safe people, and help us learn to walk away from those that don’t understand that their help is more hurtful than anyway. We pray that you open their hearts so they may see, and are able to help others in a good and thoughtful way in the future.
Thank you Lord for all our blessings, and those people in our lifes that you have bless us with.
The Just-World Fallacy Interesting article on the Just-World Fallacy.
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