Sunday, April 27, 2014

Domestic Violence - The crippling effect of victim blaming

Written by: Fenna Vlekke

Sometimes people who want to help domestic violence victims leave an abusive relationship, have the best intentions, but end up hurting them more than actually helping them. Often they want victims to take matters into their own hands, by telling them they're partly to blame for being abused. They may hope that will make them leave the relationship. But instead of empowering them, their remarks are crippling, making victims more trapped in the abusive relationship. A victim living with domestic violence is often stripped from any self worth already, believing they're causing the abuse. This will result in desperate attemps on their end to change the situation by changing their own behaviour. But if they stay in this relationship, these attempts will prove pointless every single time.

A victim's mindset
Someone going through domestic violence often has low self esteem. Some already felt bad about themselves before entering the relationship, making them an easier target. Some became like that because of months or even years of continued abuse, which can be mental, physical and/or sexual abuse. This will result in a victim thinking they're the one to blame. So they'll try to change themselves, so that the abuse will stop. They'll try and try and try every single time, only to come up empty. Which gives them even lower self esteem. It's a vicious cycle that's very hard to break free from, especially on your own. I know people often don't understand why victims stay in a abusive relationships, but just try to imagine being absolutely sure you make him or her hurt you. There's no doubt in your mind. Then why would you leave? Why would another relationship be any different? 

'You're the one letting him abuse you'
You have a victim already blaming themselves for literally everything. They deal with all their hurt in silence, and that's a lot of weight on one person's shoulder. At one point, they may confide in someone, so that they can talk about some of the things they're going through. Maybe because there's this tiny voice inside their head telling them their partner may be at fault for some part. Or maybe because they just need someone to listen. Either way, they're taking an important step towards realising they're in an abusive relationship. The role of the person on the receiving end is very crucial. It can change the life of someone for the better, or make them believe all the lies their abuser is already telling them. A lot of the times, people feel like victims don't want to take ownership of their own lives, and by staying in an abusive relationship, they're partly at fault. Responding to a victim's story with things like: 'Well, you should've been clearer to her', or 'You're the one letting him abuse you', will throw them back into silence and self hatred. And yet people are using victim blaming remarks like that all the time. And believe me when I say this, this person will not confide in someone else for a long time, if ever, again. 

I remember it like it was yersterday; I suddenly heard that tiny voice inside my head telling me something wasn't right. Something awful had happened to me, and I didn't know what to make of it. I couldn't tell anyone I knew because I was so terribly ashamed. So I did the only thing I felt comfortable doing; I went on a messageboard and wrote down what had happened to me the night before, stating that it 'felt like I was raped'. Only one person responded, saying that she hated how girls used the word 'rape', when they just felt bad afterwards. They should've been clearer when it happened and not whine about it afterwards if they hadn't. That was everything I needed to hear, it was confirmed, I was to blame. So I stayed.

This is a very good article explaining why victim blaming remarks prevent victims from leaving abusive relationships. 

Are you unsure if you, or someone you know, is in an abusive relationship? The National Domestic Violence Hotline might be able to help you. They provide a lot of information and examples on the subject.

Written by: Fenna Vlekke

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