07 February 2007

The Paradox of False Goodwill: Disbelieving the Victim

Nearly all of us have heard the term "blaming the victim". It's the attitude that, when a crime is committed [or subcriminal abuse occurs] - the person against whom the crime was committed somehow deserved or wanted to experience that harm.

The notion that they 'asked for it'.

This can be as blatant and harsh as siding with a child molester because the child who was molested is almost unbelievably beautiful [one can see envy at work in this case as well] --

it can be as subtle as blaming the pedestrian victim of a hit-and-run for trying to cross a busy street.

In cases of emotional and physical abuse, there's another reaction besides 'blaming the victim' that can do as much damage, if not more: disbelieving the victim.

Anyone who refuses to believe that an abuser is abusing you, or, more subtly, refuses to agree that it is abusive,

when you have described what is going on -

and justifies their disbelief with the claim that they "don't want to believe 'something bad' about someone" -

is, by definition, right there and right then choosing to believe something awful about you.

Think about it. If you've told them what some third party has done to you, and they're invalidating it - disbelieving you - then they are telling you that they believe you are not only lying, but are fabricating malicious allegations against this person.

They are also telling you that they would rather believe that you are malicious and a slanderer - or insane and hallucinating - than believe that a third party is abusing you.

Again, think about it. In life there are very few genuine either-ors, but this really is one of them. There is no neutral ground when you are honestly describing abuse you have experienced and asking for support.

This response can be just as abusive, psychologically, as the initial abuse you're attempting to discuss.

I do not understand, for the life of me, why more people don't
(a) recognize this
(b) jump all over their 'friends' and 'family' about it

when they see it happening.

Yes, it would probably mean the end of some relationships. But, in the long run, that means more room for decent new relationships with non-abusive people. Or, failing that, it means more peace and quiet.

Now, I'm not saying that an abuser can't be helped to become nonabusive. Some can. Nor am I saying that a good therapist or other intervening professional can't facilitate that by working with both the abuser and the target. Some can... but in order to do so, they absolutely must believe that the abuse is occurring. They must believe the target.

They can believe that the abuser can reform, but they must believe that the abuse is real.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just reading your archives, felt to comment on this post.

I have been thinking alot about why people blame the victim.

I wonder if it isn't that most human beings in this world have so much pain to deal with on a daily basis that hearing about more pain is just more than they can deal with, and so they act in a defensive/aggressive way to make it all go away?

You know....'Oh no, not another story of pain and suffering, I just can't deal with this today, there are so many stupid-heads out there, maybe you are just another one of them, go tell somebody who cares'. People go from reeling from more pain, to becoming angry and turning on the person who asks them to care.

I have seen this in my own kids. My teenage daughter can sometimes get so burdened down with her (quite normal) issues about growing up, that she snarls and snaps at her brother who asks her some perfectly normal question. In reality we need to deal with her issues, so she can calm down and know that she is OK, and safe. Then she will have the resources to deal with further stress, and not react like a cornered animal.

I have been theorizing about the effect of the various crises of the twentieth century on our generation. It is probably the first century of human existence which has ever produced so much shared trauma on a world-wide scale. The cumulative effect of 2 wars, a great depression, the genocide of both Hitler, and successive regimes such as Stalin and various other dictatorships in Europe, the knowledge as humans that other human beings are starving and dying in third world countries, the availability of drugs as a recreational tool and the subsequent trauma of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, etc, have created a massive shift in our collective ability to deal with pain. We are not only living with the sins of our fathers, and their fathers, we are reaping the effects of it in ourselves and visiting it upon our own children. The cycle is not only continuing, it has grown more complex and has an ever widening influence.

As you know, I am not excusing villifying the victim, but it interests me greatly that so many of our generation are experiencing abuse and trauma on a global scale.

Surely the effect of this upon all of us, while producing more of the same with no genuine solution on the horizon, is to create an 'angst' which is almost impossible to bear.

We shop, play computer games, numb ourselves, drink, do drugs, do sex, and generally drop down a few steps in our conscious awareness of both ourselves and our fellow men.

I don't know what the answer is, other than that good men need to do something. It needs more than just speculating over the internet, but as I know, you are one of the warriors out there who are putting your knowledge to use.

Knowledge is the key, taking action is the cure.

10 December, 2008 20:05  

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