Friday, June 15, 2012

If that will make you feel safer to think that then go ahead, but its wrong!

Posted by Hannah at 2:13 PM



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.


victim-blameWe 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.


Shout! A domestic violence story.


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).


Sound familiar? 


head in the sandBelow is a brief explanation of the Just World Hypothesis:

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’.


Helpful Link List


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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Anonymous said...

What about therapists who try to work with the victim to see what it is in them that causes attraction to the abusive types? Is it true that some, perhaps, do have dynamics in them that pull them to abusive people?

I am constantly battling this because I am indignantly against victim-blaming but will always bump into people who may come around to agree with me, then point to someone they know who "asks" for it by their naivety or issues of self-esteem. I am not a therapist so I don't know if there are some that are like that. I certainly know that in my case, there is nothing I did or could have done to prevent it.

Hannah on 7:04 PM said...

I do believe for myself I had vulnerabilities way back when that were attractive to abusive types.

FOR EXAMPLE: I learned from my past experiences as a child and young adult that you shut up if you can't go along with the status quo. I also learned the consequences if I didn't. I learned to be very afraid of speaking up. That is just one issue of course, but most can see THAT can make me ripe for abusive treatment. I realize I'm generalizing here, but I hope you catch my drift.

Yes, I had to learn that speaking out for myself - and things I disagreed with was okay. I had to fight the fear and anxiety. It was a hard battle!

If I could not find it within myself to work on myself I have no doubt I would have continued to be walked on the rest of my days.

Now, would that trait be a good one to use against me in conversations to show HOW the abuse was my fault? How it was partially my fault? I didn't even see it for years and years. It was drilled into me that THIS was the correct way to deal with things.

To me it would be cruel to be honest. I did the best I could with the tools I had available at the time. Life handed me new tools as time went on, and I'm sure newer tools will be gifted.

If they can't grasp how that can happen to people? Its because they don't want too. I suppose they could learn to be very outspoken, and solid as a hard with their belief system to make sure they didn't go down my path. Does it make it my fault that they did - and I was raised NOT to?

To me that is silly reasoning.

Is a child that was molested at fault due to self esteem or naivety? No way! Where does the ownership of the molesters actions start, and their victim's end? Its telling that no one can answer that. It makes them too uncomfortable.

Abusive personalities look for those vulnerabilities. Its easier to control things if they know the soft spot. You see it in movies, crime stories from newspapers, etc.

People accept that while watching the show or reading the newspaper. If it is up close and personal? Totally different reaction.

I encourage people to find good therapy, but keep in mind there are BAD therapist out there as well. Some don't have clue one about abusive dynamics, yet don't leave it out of their 'specialize' lists in advertisements.

No doubt I still have soft spots - like everyone does - but I also have better tools now. It was up to me once I learned about my soft spot that does me harm. Telling me the ignorance that was banged into me as child makes it my fault?

lol if it makes them feel safer to believe it? Go ahead, but its wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hannah, I get what you mean. I don't mind it so much if it comes from a survivor because she is relaying her experience and not being told what her experience is or should have been.

I guess I am still at a stage where I react to any hint of blaming the victim, and professionals and friends alike who insinuate that there is something flawed in the victim gets up my nose. As true as it is that there are vulnerabilities in traumatized people, sometimes what we witness is not something innate in the person, but reactions or resistance to the abuse, eg not speaking up. I don't really have a problem speaking up but the pastor told me I was at fault for not speaking up. So I did, and the marriage broke up.

Now I realze I had a reason for not speaking up, because I knew it would escalate things and eventually everything would fall apart, and I had no strategy then to deal with it, what with children, and no finances or support.

Keep up the good work!

Hannah on 10:33 AM said...

I'm sorry Anonymous. I know what you mean. The pastor needs to look at himself first, and see if the atmosphere at his church is willing to hear - not go an hunting trip looking for blame/fault. You needed support and to be edified (lifted up) at that point. Not some speech about how you should have....

With most families, you will try to handle things within the family. Its not an oddity.

It's when they attempt to reach out does everything tend to fall apart, unless those parties are willing to help carry the burden? They also need to carry some blame if they feel blame is want is needed at that point. Personally, I don't think blame at that point is going to be fruitful at all. There is a time and place for everything.

That is where the Just World reality is used.

If not speaking up on some timeline you have in mind makes you feel safer? You go ahead and think that but its wrong.

Someone should have mentioned that things do tend to escalate,and the safest thing to do is plan for the worse beforehand. Sometimes you can do this, and other times its just not possible. His timeline would have made no difference, and he needs to own that. He may not. That also is the Just World Reality. How things would have not fallen apart if you picked the best time. Its silly if you think about it. lol I mean can you he give you a guarantee in writing?

The woman in my story above? She reached out time and time again. She reached out to the church, to the police, and agencies. No one helped them. Her husband took advantage of that, and that is what kept her stuck for so long. The man was evil, and I don't think she even knew until much later how evil. (ie: this was happening for more than 25 year span - after many arrests, etc.)

Validation at times comes in some form - even something small. An old neighbor about this time in her life had his wife pass away. She had her husband find her, and apologize for doing nothing KNOWING full well what was happening within that house.

It was her dying wish, and he followed up on that. He also offered his help at that point, but I think she was so afraid to accept help from anyone at that point I don't know if she did or not.

No one was prepared to help you when things feel apart. That is their fault (if fault is needed), but they may never admit it. When you deal with abuse you need to educate yourself first (the person willing to help), or find someone that is educated to help everyone along with this struggle. No doubt it would still be hard, but things would be better.

I guess we could lay blame the pastor for not helping with a strategy to deal with things. It doesn't take a genius to realize people need that. lol that gets up my nose as you put it! Even if it was after the fact!

There is nothing wrong with hinting to the victim that maybe they need help dealing with codependency, enabling behavior, etc. It should be approached in way that is genuine, and not of blame finding. It isn't needed right away, or in a time of true struggle. I find that you hear these things better once a relationship with trust, love, and true concern is present going both ways. lol heck even then you need to make sure its at a time they can hear - and not get defensive! This could take years and years to get to this point.

My LONG winded response to you? That pastor was also in his zone of denial. Speaking up was the best thing, but support during your trials was still needed. Heck - even after the worse parts if they have already passed! His timeline speech is bunk. He needs to own that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Hannah. I really do get what your article and that woman in the documentary is saying, but I don't find a lot of validation for that even among survivors.

What if it is a DV facilitator that is trying to get victims to see what was in them that abusers found so tempting to grasp? I appreciate you pointing out that it isn't something that is needed right away, or in a time of true struggle. Something in me certainly grates when I hear statements that subtly blames the victim, even if it is couched with "I'm not saying you caused the abuse..." then they add "But we are all responsible for ourselves, and what was your 5% in it?"

If it takes years to get to this point, the facilitator will feel like she is not doing her job getting people to see her point that they need to work on their issues.

Hannah on 11:39 AM said...

I can't help but think the facilitator needs to cool her jets personally. The issues didn't cause the abuse - the abuser did. Its not their job to make something that isn't there.

If there are 'issues' than the person needs to see that for themselves. The issues don't cause the abuse. It just doesn't. Its up to them if they wish to work on them - just like anyone else.

What counseling did for me was not even go near that, but showed me (in my example) how to be assertive. How to learn I wouldn't die, or wouldn't be killed, hurt, etc around healthy people. Its okay to own things, and its okay to disagree. How do I handle things in ways to keep myself safe even with 'unhealthy' people.

They never once told me that due to my non assertive ways in some fashion the abuse was my fault.

For myself? Learning to be more assertive helped in more areas of my life than I could have imagined. Now did that cause the abuse? Nope. The abuser did that. I could have learned to be more assertive in different ways. I could have learned under different circumstances. If I never did, and never got abused? Their 'theory' didn't line up very well.

People need to allow the fault to lie where it needs to. If wouldn't matter if I never learned to assert myself in healthy ways, because its the decision of the other person to harm me. I'm not going to own even 5% of that ever!

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