Family Scapegoating: Part 2
To read Part 1 of this series click here
It is very challenging for a victim of family scapegoating to escape their position. Nevertheless, it is necessary. Rarely does a victim escape before the age of 30 and, even then, the victim needs tremendous support (if possible) to break free from the clutches of manipulation and blame. Further, the victim then needs a great deal of time and help for healing. All in all, it is a difficult and rocky road but one that must be taken in order for the victim to grow into what he or she is supposed to be in Christ.
The near-impossible goal of becoming “no contact” with the abusive family is, by far, also the most important task (thank you to Light’s Blog for the term “no contact”). By no contact, I mean ignoring emails, ignoring phone calls, ignoring texts messages and emails, deleting things before they are even read, blocking all family members who refuse to respect boundaries and . . . . here is the toughie . . . . disconnecting from all mutual friends connected with the family. It seems rude and unloving but, believe me here, it is absolutely and positively necessary. There are many bystanders who watch the entire process and never once speak up for the victim. These bystanders probably believe they are being peace-makers but they are, in reality, showing the abusive family AND the victim that they (1) do not really care for the victim and (2) are not strong enough to stand up for her. A bystander is a perfect patsy! He or she might truly believe that they are filling in some sort of gap and will, eventually, help lead the family “into reconciliation”. But, as we all know, you cannot reconcile with people who will continue to beat you down and who have proved that for decades. So, bystanders must disappear from the minds, hearts and communications of the former scapegoated individual. A simple letter, email or message to those connected with the family of origin will suffice. Short and kind . . . most people understand and do not object. Going “no contact” is necessary for the sanity of the victim who is trying to break free. There is also no shame in asking those around you to keep any “family news” out of your inbox. A victim needs to be clear of any triggers or panic and, in order to do this, a clean break must be made.
One of the challenges of going no contact is that some of us were conditioned to believe that we HAVE to answer every email or text or phone message received. It is a strange phenomenon and, now, when I look back, I cannot believe I ever thought that! So, right now, I completely release you from that! Friend, you no longer HAVE to answer anything from any abuser. Done. Absolved. Over!
Taking these steps means that there will be a certain amount of loneliness for the victim of family scapegoating — at first. Friend, God brings the Family of God into the lives of those who are doing their best to follow His will. There may be a period of aloneness for a while (which can actually bring about a richer relationship to Jesus) but, eventually, more and more people will be brought into this precious life and joy will fill up the silence once again! Only, this time, healthy boundaries will be in place as the victim has (hopefully) learned how to navigate through healthy relationships.
As I discussed in Part 1, breaking free is further exacerbated by the fact that the scapegoating family does not want to let her go. They may talk about how glad they are for her to be away but they do not stop talking about her, scapegoating her, blaming her and (ironically) trying to contact her. They are afraid of how it will look to outsiders; they wonder what they will tell people about the fact that she is no longer speaking with them or taking part in family functions. Now, in the days of social media, it can certainly be often obvious that one family member is no longer involved in a family life. The dysfunctional family will contrive hateful reasons for why she has left them . . . and will have no problem spreading it around. It becomes a turf war. My advice is to let them have their people. If others are naive enough to believe that one person, in the entire family, has the power to ruin everyone’s lives just by being alive, then they are not worth it, anyway. Do not engage in a turf war or defending yourself. It will only exhaust you. Stick with the people who have the courage to stand up for you! Always! Therein lies a sifting of relationships . . . who is your real family and who is not? Sadly, many of our blood-relatives turn out to be the most vicious. These vicious folks have lost their right to be your family. Period.
Once a victim is free from the family of origin, real work must be done. Most former scapegoats still act like scapegoats. A former victim must learn to stand up straight, look people in the eye and be able to say “no”. They must learn what healthy boundaries are so they can set them up and also practice them. They must resist the urge to take responsibility every single time something goes wrong around them. They need to stop saying “sorry” all the time and only actually apologize if they have true moral guilt in their lives (if they actually sinned). They must learn how to express their opinion without fear. They need to know that they are smart (probably smarter than the average person and formerly seen as a threat to their family of origin). They need to actually learn to not play dumb because they are afraid that those around them will act out in jealousy. These kind of changes, and more, will actually protect the scapegoated individual from further victimization in every day life. If people see that we respect ourselves, they will respect us much more than if we are just “too nice” and bend over backwards for everyone out of a misguided sense of servant-hood (servant-hood does not equal doormat).
I hope that this helps those who have had to deal with family scapegoating in the home or in the ‘c’hurch. It can be a horrible horrible experience but, if one is willing to break free and take steps toward healing, these former victims turn into some of the strongest people known to man! And they grow into advocates for others who are hurting. There is so much hope for the former scapegoated individual. And each step will lead to more and more wholeness.
(Go to Part 1 of this series)