A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Victim blaming — what should we do about it?

I’ve been considering why people are hesitant to believe reports of abuse. Not just that. I’m considering the responses even when they DO believe it. There is a tendency to blame the targets/victims and I have wondered why that is.

And here’s something that’s been a slight comfort to me. It’s not just us. Targets of abuse aren’t the only ones blamed for the things they’ve suffered. People want to blame victims, all victims of everything! And I am starting to think it’s innate. My friend’s child saw an abuse prevention video about child abuse. This 5 year old told her mom that she would tell if someone tried to hurt her, but she didn’t think that would happen because she wouldn’t be in the situation depicted in the video. No one taught her that. She did it to protect herself from having to believe that bad people can get to her. The mom corrected her and told her to never EVER blame the victim and so on.

Here’s another example. I have observed in a couple of fb neighborhood groups where I read that if someone reports a theft from a car, the next post or two rails on the victim of the crime for having left ___ in a car. This is consoling to me because I see that it’s not JUST targets of abuse that are blamed, it’s anyone who suffers.

I’ve seen people mourning the loss of children and thoughtless commenters asking if the child had been vaccinated or questions about the kid’s diet and so on. That’s not to comfort the mourners. It’s to comfort the ones who don’t want their kids to die from the same thing that took my friend’s child. They try to discover what could have been done to prevent that suffering so that they can avoid their own suffering. And in doing so, they blame the bereaved.

I could go on and on. It seems to boil down to this. People want to believe that bad things, all bad things, are preventable; that the victims of these bad things made some mistake and if they can just avoid those same mistakes, they will be just fine. Blamers seem to NEED to believe this. And when they are confronted with a horrible thing, they look for ways to believe that that thing could NEVER happen to them, that they can live and behave in such a way to avoid that particular suffering.

And so blamers ask heartless questions of grieving parents, of victims of crimes, of us. It’s not just us. It’s anyone who’s experienced suffering. Consider Job’s friends interrogating him and insisting that he had to have sinned. This has been going on since the beginning of time. But we don’t have to participate in this cycle. We can advocate for others and for ourselves. Now that I know what victim blaming is, I confront it. When I see it on Facebook, I call a fb foul and leave a comment like “fb foul. Criminals steal because they are criminals not because of the location of the things they stole. NEVER BLAME THE VICTIM.” I noticed a friend advocating for a child who had been bullied because he liked some character on his school supplies. The fb crowd was criticizing the child’s parents for buying him those school supplies. The school supplies didn’t beat him up. Bullies did. My friend entered the fray and educated those who were willing to listen and ranted to me about the ones who wouldn’t. I’m proud of her for trying!

These days people seek me out to tell me stories about how they noticed victim blaming and how they took the opportunity to advocate and educate. They will find me or call me and tell me about conversations with people to let me know that they are making a difference. I give them imaginary gold stars on our imaginary advocacy chart. I have my imaginary gold stars handy if you’d like to tell some advocacy stories.

Ready. Go!

 For further reading, see Persis’s post on The Just-World Phenomena and Victim Blaming.

Also [this link was added after publication] Enabling? Sins of the Victim? Tetchy topics indeed! 

69 Comments

  1. Annie

    I think you’re right about people using denial as a way to protect themselves.

    It goes even deeper than that in my family. We’re can’t even have negative feelings! Negative feelings mean everything isn’t rosy! Recently, when my child was feeling down about a friend moving from the neighborhood my mother got on her for being sad!

    As for family members or close friends I think blaming the victim is a way to avoid blame themselves though. They’re afraid they might share some responsibility in letting the abuser treat you that way.

    • Suzanne

      All too frequently within families victimized by an abuser one person may clearly see the reality of the abuse and the abuser while the other family members are blind to it, either willfully (often because they believe erroneous church dogma that tells them it’s wrong to complain or leave) or because they are still in the fog of denial.

      It’s as though they were all in an automobile accident and injured but only one will say that they should get out of the car and get help for their injuries. The one who does get out is then blamed for seeing and saying the truth, thus perpetuating the abuse.

      • It’s as though they were all in an automobile accident and injured but only one will say that they should get out of the car and get help for their injuries. The one who does get out is then blamed for seeing and saying the truth, thus perpetuating the abuse.

        TWBTC, can you add this to our ‘analogies/allegories’ page you are going to create? Thanks.

    • Lisa

      They also don’t want to confront the abuser or tangibly help the victim.

    • Hi Annie, welcome to the blog! 🙂

  2. Suzanne

    A friend, a 62 year old lady with serious mobility problems, was traveling alone on a train. She called me from the train in a panic to say that an obviously drunk/high man was harassing her and several other female passengers. She was unable to move from her seat to avoid him and the conductor flat out refused to help her, claiming that the man was “harmless”. This went on for 3 hours until a more sympathetic conductor helped her to move to another car. When I related this to a relative who knew the lady she smiled and said,” Oh, ___ always has some drama happening to her.” I was astounded at the flippant insensitivity and completely false assessment of my friends experience. It rankles to this day.

  3. Still Reforming

    “Advocating” is the appropriate word here, as you so aptly stated. This is a terrific post, Ellie. I am now advocating for myself and my child to…. would you believe…. my advocates (lawyers)! I have been told by them since I retained them five months ago in different ways that it’s not my husband’s fault, these kinds of things happen (like when he spun the car around with us in it out of anger over nothing), he’s not a bully or an abuser, it’s just an aberration, we need to keep him happy and appease him to settle therefore we’ll pitch for the lowest possible child support, and on and on and on.

    I agree that we need to stand up for real victims and targets – no matter the situation.

    “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” – Proverbs 3:27

    I believe this proverb applies to knowledge as well as material goods. If we come by knowledge of a crime or tragedy and we see misappropriated blame, it is in our power to do good by defending the true victim(s). What was that saying I read here in the past few months? Ah yes: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

    (Eds. note: Comment edited for identity safety)

    • Alaina

      I had a lawyer like that when I went through my divorce years ago! Every time I spoke with him I left feeling even worse about myself, because he clearly blamed me for my abuse and he was bending over backwards to be “fair” to my “poor husband.”

      I was too emotionally broken at that time to stand up for myself to him, and there was no way I could afford to start all over again with another lawyer. Apparently I wasn’t the only woman that misogynist lawyer treated badly — at my divorce hearing the judge asked me, point blank, right out of the blue, if I was happy with my lawyer! And my lawyer, who was sitting beside me, turned bright red and squirmed in his seat, waiting for my answer.

      It still bothers me that I did not have the ability to tell the judge how badly that lawyer had treated me. I was extremely nervous, my estranged husband — who had been living in our house with another woman for the past year and a half — was sitting there listening to everything I said, and I just wanted the whole thing to be over with so badly at that point, that all I could manage to say was “yes,” meaning I was happy with the lawyer.

      It bothers me to this day because I was under oath and saying that I was happy with that lawyer was a lie — and I am so not a liar! But I really did not mean to lie to the judge, he just caught me totally off guard and I had not yet gotten the good Christian therapy I so desperately needed that would allow me to even know for sure that I deserve to be treated way better than that lawyer treated me!!

      I had just enough money from my divorce settlement to pay cash for a modest but nice little house, and I had my house all picked out. I lost my monthly support and my health insurance in that divorce, so I did not know how I would pay the utility bills or the property taxes or put food on the table or ever see a doctor again — but I was going to have my nice little house down by the river where I loved to take long walks, so I hoped I would be all right.

      But… my heart and mind and spirit were so broken by all the trauma and abuse I have gone through that, right after I got my money, I took it and drove over a thousand miles away and checked myself in to a psychiatric clinic, where I had to pay cash, and lots of it, for everything because, like I said, I had no health insurance anymore — and I had lot of health problems. When I left that clinic I was almost broke, but they saved my life and my sanity AND, being a Christian clinic they also brought me back to the Lord. So it was worth it all and so much more.

      • Still Reforming

        I am so sorry for all you suffered, Alaina. You have really been through a lot, but it sounds like the Lord has been there with you all along. It sounds like you made a LOT of good decisions in spite of the abuser-imposed confusion. You really did well getting the house and to a clinic where you could receive the treatment you needed. I’m glad for you. (And astonished that a judge even asked that question! S/he must have seen the abuse, but if so, I would think the wise way to have handled that would have been to pull you aside or into chambers to ask the question – obviously not in front of your attorney! That was a rather abusive way to even ask the question – putting you on the spot in front of your attorney. )

        We have a few things in common. I am wholly dependent on the Lord’s provision now, but I know that He hasn’t ever forsaken His children, so I need to wake up with praise on my lips no matter how uncertain the day ahead. It doesn’t always “feel” comfortable, but I am still grateful to Him.

      • Wow! What a story! How marvellous that under our Lord’s hand you drove to that Christian clinic and spent all that precious money on treatment that helped and that brought you back to the Lord!

        It bothers me to this day because I was under oath and saying that I was happy with that lawyer was a lie — and I am so not a liar!

        Hey, remember how David made a dishonest presentation of himself when he was very afraid? (1 Samuel 21:10-13)
        I don’t think you did anything wrong, or anything that God would condemn or judge. In fact, I think God honours you for your creative response to a very difficult and frightening circumstance.

    • This was said by Lieutenant-General David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army, on 13 June 2013.

      See his speech on YouTube

      Here is a transcript of his speech (link):

      Earlier today I addressed the media and through them and the Australian public about ongoing investigations in to a group of officers and NCO’s whose conduct, if proven, has not only brought the Australia Army into disrepute, but has let down everyone of you, and all of those who’s past service has won them the respect of our nation.

      There are limits to how much I can tell you because the investigations in to this network by both the New South Wales police and the Australian Defence Forces investigative service are ongoing. But evidence collected to date has identified a group of men, within our ranks, who have allegedly produced highly inappropriate material, demeaning women and distributed it on the internet and defences email networks. If this is true, then the actions of these members are in direct contravention to every value that the Australian Army stands for.

      By now I assume you know my attitude to this type of conduct. I have stated categorically, many times, that the Army has to be a inclusive organisation, in which every soldier, man and woman, is able to reach their full potential and is encouraged to do so. Those who think that it is okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues, have no place in this army. Our service has been engaged in continuous operations since 1999, and in it’s longest war ever in Afghanistan. On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the BEST traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us, maintaining our capability now, and in to the future.
      If that does not suit you….then get out!!
      You may find another employer where your attitude and behaviour is acceptable, but I doubt it. The same goes to those who think toughness is built on humiliating others.

      Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work. If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has EVER explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others, enhances capability, or honours the traditions of the Australian Army.
      I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values. And I need everyone of you to support me in achieving this. The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, but especially those, who by their rank, have a leadership role.

      If we are a great national institution, if we care about the legacy left to us by those who have served before us, if we care about the legacy we leave to those who, in turn will protect and secure Australia, then it is up to us to make a difference. If you’re not up to it, find something else to do with your life. There is no place for you amongst this band of brothers and sisters.

      • Still Reforming

        Oh, thank you for sharing that transcript, Barb. How rare to hear a man speak this way anymore. I particularly enjoyed reading this: “If that does not suit you….then get out!!” Very few individuals seem to have the backbone to say that these days.

  4. virginia

    I have a blog in which I reflect on my experiences with being in a abusive relationship with a narcissist. May I report this excellent post of yours on it?

    • Ellie

      Yes. Please include a link back to us.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Certainly virginia. Go for it:) Thank you.

    • Hi Virginia, like others said, you’re welcome to republish our posts. You may like to read our About page as it spells out our policy in this regard. 🙂

  5. marriedtohyde

    The fact that bad things just happen was a lesson I finally learned as my Savior caught me as my anti-husband tried to throw me away. I had the wrong belief up until that time that I had control over getting into situations where I would be victimized. After rape and assault, I thought I knew how to prevent that. Wrong.

    Part of the discard was anti’s denying me our having a child together. According to the false doctrine of having control, I had done everything right — three times before we married I frankly broached the subject of children to ensure we were on the same page. Ha! A lot of good that did! He represented himself falsely while I was honest.

    Even still I struggle with accepting that control is an illusion, but, oh, the freedom I feel when I can accept it.

    Bad things happen beyond our control, but we can always trust that God will use it to refine us if we turn to Him and trust His guidance. So happy to be a daughter of the King. 🙂

    • marriedtohyde

      Sorry…in my long-winded way I am saying I see my own tendency to victim-blame…especially to myself.

    • Jeff Crippen

      marriedtohyde – Well said. Victim blaming and we are the victim! That of course is what the abuser loves to see, playing our conscience falsely against ourselves.

      • marriedtohyde

        Oh, it is so clear that my anti loved this. I would approach him calmly with a hurt, he would stonewall and i would end up apologizing because, surely I did something to hurt him and trigger his stonewalling. Phooey to that!

        As far as the ilusion of control goes, I’m finding that the more I develop my relationship with God, the more I am able to accept life’s detours. The more I acknowlege my lack of control, the more space I give Him to work things out.

        Thanks for the post (was it ellie writing?). It really pointed out that I have to be careful to avoid victim-blaming myself.

  6. Sarah

    Very insightful and well-written, Ellie! I am sharing this far and wide..

    I have found God not nearly as mean-spirited as His followers… well the people who boast they are his followers. Of course, anger and judgmental attitudes, as we all know, are negative coping mechanisms of folks with unresolved trauma. Keep advocating – the very folks who victim-blame need our help and ministry the most.

    Why does Evil target Innocent? Because the wicked are bitter and the innocent are sweet.

  7. Sunflower

    Most of us were raised to believe that tattling was a worse crime than the crime that we were tattling on.

  8. Alaina

    My abusive mother — I’m talking extreme abuse, told me that I “bring out the worst in people” when my first husband beat me

    • Alaina

      I don’t understand why you thought you needed to delete the part of my last comment about my mother trying to gas us all to death when I was a child. My heart is pounding right now. For most of my 62 years, no one wanted to hear about what my mother did. No one wanted to believe me, until I went to the Meier clinic in 2003. I will not be back here again. And yes, I know, you won’t miss me.

      • Hi Alaina, I was the one who edited out that part of your comment, and please forgive me for not explaining why. I did it because I was concerned for your safety: sometimes commenters write things in their comments that are very identifying of who they are, and if one of their adversaries (their abuser, or the abuser’s allies) were reading it they would realise exactly who the commenter was, and might in vengeance escalate their abuse. I am so sorry I didn’t explain this to you. I have been exceedlingly busy with family matters and instead of explaining what I’d done in editing your comment, and my reasons for doing it, I simply hoped for the best that you would read the New Users Info page and join the dots yourself — but that was unfair of me.

        I most certainly believe your mother did that horrific thing to you, and that she was immensely cruel to you in doing what she did. I am really sorry for what you have suffered, and for my having inadvertently been a cause of secondary pain to you. Please forgive me.

      • and after you’ve read my response Alaina, would you please let us know whether you still want us to remove all your comments.

      • Also Alaina, I’ve had a look from the back of the blog to see if I can reinstate that part of your initial comment where you wrote about your mother trying to gas you to death as a child (the part I edited out), but I don’t think WordPress enables me to do that.

        So if you wish to write about that part of your life again, and you’re confident that writing about it on a public blog will not increase your risk of danger from abusers and their allies, by all means write about it here again.

      • Alaina

        Thank you, Barbara. I’m very sorry that my sensitivity on this matter is so extreme. I did not mean to make you feel bad. I do understand and appreciate your desire to keep this blog and all commentors safe, by maintaining their identity. I apologize for misconstruing your reason for removing that part of my comment. Please forgive me for jumping to the wrong conclusion.

        You have been so gracious and kind in your responses to me… so no, please don’t remove my comments from your blog.

        A dear supportive friend told me awhiie back that I am the emotional equivalent of someone who has been severely burned over most of her body, and the least little touch in the “wrong” spot can send me into agony. She was exactly right, I am embarrassed to say. Although I have come very far in my healing journey compared to where I was years ago… I am still a long ways from being fully healed.

        By the way, I was wrong when I said that I have been dealing with this issue for 62 years. My mother trying to gas us all to death did not happen until I was 12, so I have only been dealing with this for a little over 49 years.

        For many years I did not speak about what my mother had done, not to anyone. And I felt during those years like I had a huge blood-curdling scream frozen deep inside me. When I finally began to speak about it… the response I get from people, more often than not, was… cold? That’s not quite the right word. It was just very clear that the people I tried to talk about this with did not want to hear it, did not want to think about it, did not want to believe it, and wished I would just shut up about it. And then I end up feeling more alone than I did before, and mad at myself because I think I have done something really wrong, like… “belching” very loudly in church.

      • Thanks Alaina, bless you and (((hugs))).
        It’s okay. I realise you were triggered.

        And I understand a little what you say about feeling you have a blood-curdling scream frozen deep inside you. For many years after my first husband’s abuse and the secondary abuse from the church which came on the heels of leaving him, I felt like I had a cry deep inside me . . .
        I haven’t had that sense for some years now; and I’m even not sure what made it leave, or fade. I can’t remember crying it out in one big cry, but maybe I did and I can’t remember now. Isn’t that weird? But I think it’s probably more likely that the cry gradually diminished and faded away. I think that having vindication and validation from other survivors and becoming a writer and an activist and getting connected with other writers and activists probably helped the frozen cry to fade away. But that’s just my best guess. . .

        Other things probably helped it fade too. One thing that helped was when God gave me revelation of how much He honours the suffering of victims of abuse. That revelation was given to me when He showed me, in a microsecond, why in the Mosaic Law He instructed the people of Israel that when they were carrying out capital punishment on a convicted criminal by stoning the criminal to death, the first people to cast stones were to be the actual victims of the crime. What a validation of the anger and the pain of the victims! The whole community were behind the stoning and participated in throwing stones to execute the criminal, but the victims were required to throw the first stones — and thereby were given rooom to express their anger at being hurt, and to express their anger in a socially acceptable, socially condoned, socially HONOURED way.

      • Still Reforming

        Barb, Thank you. Your comment is helping me to see our God as one of justice and tenderness toward those who have suffered abuse. Having lived for so long (two decades, including one believing this is what God wanted for me) thinking that God wanted me to suffer for some reason and then having that notion supported by the church, well, your comment is like inserting a key into a cage to unlock my captivity in wrong-thinking with respect to the character of God. The church by and large today has lost this sense of justice and tenderness toward those who are wronged. The church has become a place where the captivity is protected and hushed up and the key pocketed by the leaders, who keep the sufferers trapped. When so many people tell you for so long that you’re the cause of the problem – even if only in part – and that you need to love and forgive more, you start to believe the lies about yourself and about God. So thank you. I so desire to love God as a father who protects and loves His children and not as One who relishes the suffering of His children because He has some ultimate plan that will work if only we submit to pointless evil without standing up for ourselves. Christ didn’t tolerate fools and abusive people, but the mainstream church today sure does.

      • Still Reforming

        Dear sweet Alaina,

        I had only read and not replied yet because I didn’t quite know what to say or how to help. I can see that you are a gracious and warm individual and strong enough to come back and read, even though you initially weren’t sure about that reasons for Barb’s deletions. I’m glad you know now that she and the other admins here only seek the protection of those of us commenting here – precisely because of the pain we have suffered.

        I am so, so, so very sorry to read about the horrible suffering you have experienced. One of the many blessings of this site is the very fact that we can share our testimonies and be believed. That alone is a tremendous balm to my soul. I hope it will be a balm for your much-burned skin too. That is a very good analogy. It’s okay that you’re sensitive. To me, that just speaks to the great depth of your suffering and how remarkably you have managed to stay sane in spite of it.

        You will be treated with respect and dignity here. Misunderstandings are no more than that here. You aren’t judged for being sensitive, but understood all the more because of it, knowing the causes of it, as we too have suffered abuse here – in different ways, forms, and intensities, but we all “get it.”

        Welcome back. I’m so very, very glad that you are here, where you will be safe and loved.

      • Lisa

        Dear Alaina
        I have read your blog and I felt shell shocked reading it so I can’t even begin to imagine the trauma you have suffered from it and the double whammy of not being believed!!! Please stay, you are valued here.

        Love, Lisa

      • Alaina

        Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate your words very much.

        I’m sorry, though, that reading my story made you feel shell shocked. Oh my goodness… I’m not just saying that, I mean, I am Really Sorry! I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’m doing the wrong thing by blogging, and commenting on other people’s blogs, about my trauma history. The main reason I started blogging in the first place was because I hoped that others who have been through similar things might be helped and encouraged through reading my story – helped by knowing they aren’t alone, and encouraged by my story of healing and survival (imperfect and unfinished though my healing still is).

        Before I met my best-friend-husband a little over 11 years ago, I felt terribly alone. Feeling so alone for most of my life was more painful to me than all the trauma I have gone through. My husband has PTSD from combat in Vietnam, plus he went through some really bad stuff as a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York, so he and I understand each other on a very deep level. We both felt alone most of our lives, until we finally met when we were in our early 50s.

        I am grateful beyond measure that I have my husband and he has me… but, beyond that, I still feel very alone sometimes, because there don’t seem to be any other people, either in the blogging world or in the physical world, who can relate to my story. I don’t think that’s because my type of trauma is unique, however. I suspect it’s mostly because not too many people survive the things I’ve lived through. I came very close to not surviving my traumas. I don’t really know why I survived, unless it’s because I gave my heart to Christ when I was a little girl, and I was very sincere about it at the time. Although I lost my faith for many years as a result of my traumas, the Lord in His grace and mercy never did let go of me.

        Anyway, that’s enough of my babbling… I came close to deleting my blog recently (the one where I went into so much detail about my traumas). I ended up not deleting it, but hiding it online, making it private so that no one besides me can read it. Now I intend to keep it hidden while I PRAY and try to figure out whether I should continue with that blog or not. I don’t feel like I NEED to share my stories online, not if there aren’t any other people who can relate and be encouraged by my story, so… I think I will probably stop writing about this stuff.

        Please, if you will, say a prayer for the Lord to guide me in this. I really do want His will, whatever that may be.

      • Still Reforming

        Alaina,

        I will pray for God’s wisdom for you with respect to your blog. I certainly don’t know the answer, but I will pray for you – for wisdom and peace. ((((hugs))))

      • Lisa

        Alaina,
        My reason for sharing it shell shocked me was not to worry you about me, but to say if I could feel even an atom’s worth of it, you precious Alaina, have endured an avalanche!!! and need our love and support. I feel for you and your husband—neither of your suffering is your fault–you both have braved much!!!

        Hugs
        Lisa

      • Alaina

        Thank you, Lisa. Wow has it really been 5 days since you left this comment? I have been hiding from the world longer than I realized. It’s what I tend to do when I feel vulnerable.

        My vulnerability isn’t just because of what happened here on this blog, it’s mainly because, on the morning of March 10, our precious sweet dog, Lady, who had lived in our home with us for over 8 years, died unexpectedly in my arms. OH I miss her so much! But I keep focusing on how grateful and blessed we are, for the years we had with her. I never knew, until we adopted Lady, how very loving and almost human dogs can be. She had become like our child.

        God bless you, Lisa. I really appreciate what your comments, very much.

      • Jeff Crippen

        So sorry about your dog, Alaina. My wife and I had our first dog, Buster, for 15 years. Our second one, Brandy, we had for 16 years. Both of them died and it was very, very difficult. We now have two labs, Sasha and Sadie. They are spoiled. They sleep in the utility room, both have their own beds. Sadie wakes me up at 5AM banging her tail against the washing machine to let me know she expects breakfast. They spend the evenings with us in the family room on their blankets, until Sasha decides she wants her blanket moved to the couch, which is hers. They are 5 and 6 years old. It is very possible, and nothing in the Bible precludes it, that we will meet up with Buster and Brandy and these two if we outlive them, in the new heavens and new earth at the resurrection. Why not? God is incredibly good and full of surprises.

      • Still Reforming

        Jeff,

        Re: ” It is very possible, and nothing in the Bible precludes it, that we will meet up with Buster and Brandy and these two if we outlive them, in the new heavens and new earth at the resurrection. Why not? God is incredibly good and full of surprises.”

        When my dachshund died following two years of nerve-related issues having ingested rat poison that my stbx left where the dog could get it, the following verse came to mind: “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21). That caused me to ponder if animals, particularly our pets, have some kind of soul – not the kind created in the image of God as we, of course, and not souls that sin. Not like that – but …. something, since the verse clearly states “spirit of the beast (animal).”

        That, added to the fact that Adam was able to name the animals and had all of them right there in the Garden of Eden with him as well as other indications of God’s tender care over all of His creatures gave me pause to consider that God may well cause our dear pets to have new life in heaven. (Jesus said God knows when the sparrow falls, God gave instruction about not boiling a kid in its mothers milk, from whence hails the Jewish instruction to not eat milk with meat. God’s laws include not taking a mother bird along with the chicks if you find a nest on the side of the road. Animals weren’t allowed to work on the Sabbath. Proverbs 12:10 states, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” And on and on it goes….)

        And so, shortly after my dachshund died, I mentioned the verse in Ecclesiastes to the pastor of the church I just left and asked what he thought about the possibility that God may resurrect our pets into heaven. He looked me square in the eye and said, “I don’t know about that, but I do know that I’m always surprised by people who think they’re going to reach heaven’s gates to be in the very presence of Jesus Himself and then think they’re going to run around looking for Rover.”

        My jaw dropped, and he turned on his heel to walk away from me to go say a prayer with everyone who was in attendance there for the Wednesday night supper before teaching. While he was walking away from me, I blurted out, “I didn’t mean that!” To which he replied, “Oh, I didn’t say you!”

        When I recounted this incident to his wife over dinner, she nearly spit out her beverage she started laughing so hard.

      • hmmm
        to me, that pastor’s two statements you were an ‘ouch’!

        Did he mean it to you but just denied he meant it? Did he say it uncaringly without thinking of how it would hurt you? I guess it’s not possible to know, but at the least it was thoughtless of him.

      • Still Reforming

        Barbara,

        I believe when the pastor said, “Oh, I didn’t mean YOU,” he most certainly meant me. I was asking him – as he knew my dog had just died – if he thought that God might resurrect or recreate our own pets in heaven, based on the verse in Ecclesiastes and the other Scriptural support for God’s tender care over even the animal kingdom, and how animals really were given both for God’s own pleasure as well as man’s. I also mentioned that since God created animals in this earth, perhaps there would be animals in the new earth – also given the verses like the wolf lying down with the lamb, a child sticking his hand in a nest of vipers, and so on….

        The fact that my pastor didn’t even acknowledge the possibility or idea of what I was asking or suggesting, but instead turned my notion into one of standing in the very presence of Jesus Himself but being too distracted by one’s own pet to recognize the Lord or honor Him, well, it turned my honest query into a matter of disrespecting the Lord.

        The fact that immediately after his thought he turned and walked away, leaving me to essentially yell across the room full of people (who weren’t necessarily focused on either me or him, but milling about on their own), “I didn’t mean THAT!” (emphasizing the last word, as if to suggest that it wasn’t like he said). It’s like he just walked away from me when we weren’t finished with the thought I had just asked. So he kind of yelled back almost as an afterthought, “Oh, I didn’t mean YOU!” (When I told the story to my husband, he laughed – much as did the pastor’s wife – and said in a voice imitating the pastor’s, “Yeah, I meant some OTHER (insert my name here, only there’s only one of my name at the church).”

        The pastor had a way of doing that – turning things around, much as my husband did in our marriage – but… I always wanted to give the pastor the benefit of the doubt, hmmm, much as I did my husband. But I don’t want to see a narcissist under every stone, so I tend to presume the best, although hindsight is 20-20, as they say.

      • How well you’ve explained this, SR, and I think your interpretation of the pastor’s words is spot on. 🙂

      • Dear Alaina, I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s death.

        You may find Jenny’s story poignant. It’s written by a survivor of severe domestic violence, and it is an account of domestic abuse from a dog’s perspective.

        I (via cyberspace) know the woman who wrote this story. What a lot she’s been through. And to write the story from her dog’s persective was a beautiful idea.

    • standsfortruth

      I am sorry to hear that your own mother was so abusive, Alaina
      It really hurts when the people that are suppose to love and protect us are the very ones we end up needing protection from.
      I beleve you too Alaina as I know how evil people can be. (and I think Barb was only trying to protect you from further abuse.)
      But if you feel safe to share your story i also would like to hear it.
      I have close family members (more than one- that like to see me suffer in numerous ways.)
      This is a problem with them, as I dont let my reality be trumped by theirs.
      And i dont offer my affirmation to them “either in word or eye contact”, unless I am confronting their lies.
      They are still lying in wait for me, but I have noticed they “steer clear”of me much of the time because I know how to deal with them, and their evil ways.

      • Alaina

        Thank you for this, StandsforTruth. We really are in a spiritual battle, aren’t we? It seems too fantastic to my logical mind, like a fairy tale. But the reality is that evil does exist, and evil wants to destroy everything that is good. Thank the Lord for the TRUTH: Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world!!!!! I forget that sometimes… your comment was the reminder I need right now.

    • joepote01

      Barbara and Alaina –

      I just want to say how much I appreciate both of you for continuing to communicate while working through the miscommunications.

      Reading through this comment thread I found myself alternately grieved by Alaina’s sense of loss in believing her words were disregarded and horrified in identifying with Barbara’s unintentional miscommunication.

      Too many times, I’ve found myself hurting the very people I most wanted to help…all due to miscommunication. Too many times it didn’t end nearly as well as yours did, here.

      You are both very strong and courageous women. In this comment thread you have modeled a godly persistence in loving communication.

      Thank you!

      • Alaina

        Thank you, Joe. Sorry I did not reply sooner, I’ve been “bunkering down,” as my combat veteran husband calls it.

        God bless you and everyone here. Life can be very difficult in this fallen world. I truly believe that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can with what they have. Beyond that, I try to leave the “judging of the heart” to the only One who is able to know what is in our hearts. The Lord knows that my best is pretty bad at times. I take great comfort in believing that He knows me and loves me, just as I am.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Alaina – Thanks for your comment. I would just note that we want to be sure to realize that abusers are not doing the best with what they have – they are doing the worst to others. Further, we want to note that we must indeed judge someone’s heart by their actions. Jesus said so. The good tree brings forth good fruit, the bad tree bad fruit. “You will know them by their fruits” as He put it. Abusers do not have good hearts. They have evil wicked hearts and that is why they do what they do. There is nothing wrong with, and everything right about, making that judgment. It is the path to freedom.

      • Alaina

        “1There are also Bible verses that tell us, in so many words, to leave the judging of another person’s heart up to God, because only He can know the heart. Christ prayed on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I believe He prayed that way because He could read their hearts and He knew that, although their actions were extremely evil, they truly believed they were doing the right thing.

        When I was 12, my mother confessed to me that the reason the pilot light on the gas furnace had been going out late at night, with the thermostat being turned up as high as it could go, was because she had been trying to gas us all to death while we slept in our beds. She said the furnace apparently had a safety shut-off valve that she had not been able to override, so now she was trying to find a cliff that was high enough to drive the car off of, with all of us in it. When my mother confessed this to me, she also said that she had the “right” to kill us, because she had brought all of us kids into the world. Furthermore, she said she would be doing us a favor by killing us, since life is so hard. When I did not agree that my mother had the right to kill us all, she became furious at me. She had apparently expected me to agree with her! She expected me to “honor” her in what she was trying to do, the way the Bible commands us to honor our father and mother!

        Was my mother really insane enough to believe that she was “right” in trying to kill me and my little sisters and brothers along with herself? I honestly don’t know! I believe that only God can really know. However, I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my mother was WRONG in what she did. My mother is either insane, or she is evil, in my opinion – and she may be both. She claims to be a Christian, she goes to church, sings in the choir, and is forever “witnessing” to people about their need to be born again. During my agnostic years, she used to send me letters that were nothing but handwritten Bible verses – one such letter was 12 pages long, and with the exception of the salutation at the beginning and “Love, Mother” at the end, all of those pages were nothing but Bible verses, most of the book of John, I believe.

        And yet, to my knowledge, my mother has never repented of her most evil acts. Right up until I finally went no contact with her when I was in my 50s and she was in her 70s, my mother was still lying and still verbally abusing me.

        I am not going to lose any more sleep over wondering if my mother is evil, or insane, or both. I have no way of knowing. I do know that her “fruit” is extremely evil. I went No Contact with her, after I finally came to the conclusion that I do not have to “honor” my mother’s very dishonorable, abusive, evil, insane behavior. But it took me decades to finally figure that out!

        I love my mother, and I hate her abusive behavior. I pray for her healing and for her genuine salvation. Beyond that, I am leaving the judging of my mother’s heart up to God.

        I have not survived what many doctors have told me was an unsurvivable childhood, by allowing anyone to dictate to me how I should think and what I should believe… or how to interpret the Bible. Especially not after growing up with two abusive parents who liked to beat me over the head with the Bible. So we are going to have to agree to disagree.

      • Dear Alaina,
        I underderstand and honour your determination not to allow anyone to dictate to you how you should think or how you should interpret the Bible, given the way your parents beat you over the head with the Bible.

        At the same time, I don’t think that Jeff C was dictating to you how to interpret the Bible. My sense is that he was only saying what he said in order to help other readers who may be following this thread. Many of our readers have been so scared to label their spouses’ behaviours as ABUSE — to judge and label their spouses as abusers — that they need to be reminded and reassurred that the Bible does tell us to judge the behaviour of others, “to know them by their fruit”.

        This kind of judging is not the same thing as making a pronouncement about an individual person’s eternal destiny. We none of us know whether Mr X or Ms Y will repent and be born again before they pass away from this earthly vale of tears. But it is not only permissible for us as Christians to judge, is is wise and godly for us to judge — that is, to DISCERN — whether someone is producing good fruit or bad fruit, whether their deeds are evil or good, whether they are living holy lives or lives of corruption and enslavement to sin. Jeff C was, I believe, only reminding our readers of this, so that they need not stab themselves with false guilt when they dare to call their abusers Abusers, when they call liars Liars, when they call hypocrites in the church Pharisees.

        I want to affirm that we are not demanding or directing you to call your mother evil. How you describe her, how you think about (or don’t think about) her is your choice. But we do want to avoid giving the impression that other readers have to stay on the fence and are not allowed to ‘make a judgement’ about whether their own abuser is evil. That’s all. I hope you understand. 🙂

      • Suzanne

        I find this post to be an incredibly moving testament to the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer. How else could Alaina or anyone else still love and pray for a person who had tried to murder them? An abuser or one who enables abuse might miss this while emphasizing that she went NC, as though she had no right to remove herself from a self-proclaimed attempted murderess. But one who is wise in the Word of God rejoices in both her ability to do good to one who has caused her so much pain AND her decision to leave her abuser.

      • Alaina

        THANK YOU, Suzanne!!! Your kind words fell into my heart like rain in a parched desert.

        I have received notifications that there are several other replies to my comments here… however, I have not yet read most of them, which is why I haven’t replied to them. The reason I haven’t read most of the other comments here is because I am feeling extremely fragile right now. A verse from Proverbs keeps coming to my mind, Proverbs 4:23: “Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.” (Amplified Bible)

        Sometimes when I want to hide from the world and “bunker down,” like my Marine Corp Vietnam Veteran chaplain husband calls it, I worry that I am behaving like a wimp. A big old chicken. But when that verse comes to my mind, I am gratefully reminded that, not only is it OK for us to protect ourselves when we are vulnerable, our loving heavenly Father commands it.

        The key, I think, is balance: either too much self-protection or too little self-protection is not healthy. I know there is a verse in the Bible somewhere about the importance of being well-balanced, too. (The word I learned in nursing school for the marvelous way our bodies maintain healthy physical balance is “homeostasis.” I believe that spiritual homeostasis is even more important than the physical.)

        God bless everyone here. Most of all, I pray for His perfect will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven, as He molds us into the Christ-glorifying vessels He wants us to be.

      • Hi Alaina, I got that other bit at the end of your comment, and at your request deleted it before publishing your comment above. Understood. 🙂

  9. healingInHim

    This is so well written and now it is all making so much sense …

    People want to blame victims, all victims of everything! And I am starting to think it’s innate.

    Slowly over the years as I have ventured to be truthful I would then clam up because I felt “blamed” for allowing my life to progress the way it had. If others would just really stop and listen to a victim and hear how they tried to “stop or take action” within a situation. Quite often the perpetrators whether it was siblings, spouses or others knew the victim’s compliant nature would keep them quiet in order to survive.

  10. Still Reforming

    Katherine,

    If it helps you to know, I’ve heard similar things because I ended up getting the state involved. It was very difficult to do and it took quite a lot of time and trying any other way first to resolve issues, but in the end, it was the right thing to do and by the time I did it I was sure that what I was doing was necessary.

    And yet…. I heard all these naysayers in the background. Didn’t they know me for ages and know that it wouldn’t have just been on a whim? By the time I took the measures I did, I was emotionally ready to let go of anyone who wasn’t willing to listen to my testimony and support me. My own mother said I should return to that church because otherwise “you’re letting him control you.” I didn’t respond to that because I know she doesn’t have the intense long-term experience with the likes of a covert aggressive narcissist. She meant well, but she doesn’t fully get it.

    I thank the administrators and all who work on this blog as well as my brothers and sisters in Christ here who share their own testimonies for that strength. Without them, I would likely not have the deliverance I do today. I couldn’t have done it by myself.

    And the naysayers? What’s that? I can’t hear them anymore they’re so far away.

  11. Natalia

    Yes! It’s called (by some) the Just World Fallacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis. We came across it when our son died at birth and have been more aware of it since (though I didn’t hear it called that until just a couple of days ago.)

    • Hi Natalia, welcome to our little blog.
      I cannot imagine how awful it would be to have a child die at birth.

  12. There is so much food for thought here! I sure noticed this dynamic when I was (very slowly) getting a divorce from my first husband. My pastor was a rare gem and supportive, and there were other kind souls in my church also, but there were also plenty of people who would either politely question my motives and intentions or would shun me for being a divorcee hussy.

    I never thought of the whole safe world idea, that helps me understand it a little. My own private opinion is that people try to control their world by leaning on the more reasonable party in a dispute. If my ex was unstable, unpredictable and liable to go off, they preferred to tell me what to do. I was more likely to cooperate. It’s tidier to go after the gentle soul. I was easy to keep quiet. I would even smile at people while they were saying ridiculous things to me.

    Even after all these years, I can feel anger rising a little as I talk about it. It’s good to let it out a little. I feel like I am understood here and even when I don’t comment, I’m drawn back here again and again to read and learn.

    • … people try to control their world by leaning on the more reasonable party in a dispute. If my ex was unstable, unpredictable and liable to go off, they preferred to tell me what to do. I was more likely to cooperate. It’s tidier to go after the gentle soul.

      Well put — that is so often what happens! When mess and evil break through to the surface, those who can’t tolerate the discomfort of mess and evil want to tidy up their world. They don’t necessarily think it through consciously but in the penumbra of their minds they make the judgement that it’s easier (and SAFER) for them to confront the party who is more reasonable, less self-assured, more courteous, more amenable; and it’s less safe for them to confront the party who is self-assured and who potentially might bite back.

      So they confront the victim, rather than the perpetrator. And the victim, desiring to ‘as far as possible, be at peace with all men’, listens attentively, smiles, tries to adapt, and courteously tries to please the confronter.

      This is all part of how we lose ourselves . . . ‘we’ meaning us victims, those of us who have been the direct targets of entitlement-driven perpetrators of abuse.)

      And our confronters walk away from the conversation preening their feathers for the splendid *** Christian advice and guidance*** they gave to a struggling fellow Christian. . . .

      aarrrgghhh! [ squelched scream ]

      [*** is my sign for fairy dust]

  13. emmellkaycee

    I am gonna step in the hot water end here, I think…….

    It is being agreed upon here in both the post and the comments that we are not responsible *for* an abusers actions against us — they have choices. It is also being agreed upon that “the standard you walk past is the standard you allow” — we have choices. If both are true (and I agree they are), when we fail to be responsible *to* God, ourselves, the situation, and even the abuser, are we not being complicit — ‘walking past’ — with the sin by allowing it?

    Each of us comes to the awareness of our own personal responsibility differently, and I understand that it takes time and wisdom to extricate oneself from the abusive situation. Yet, we do have responsibiliy to do just that.

    As Christians we have a responsibilty to stand up to sin; in ourselves first, and in others who would sin against us. We have responsibility to learn to trust God, to not live in fear, but to live boldly in His Spirit. We have responsibility to learn wisdom, to live in knowledge of the Lord, ourselves, and those we choose to associate with; to be ‘clever as doves.’ We have responsibility to learn Grace and live it out as compassion and as justice, for grace is both. The grace to understand when staying is beneficial, and when leaving is righteous; to be ‘gentle as doves.’

    We have responsibility. And where we have it, we are called by God to face it in His strength and power, to accept it, and to live it out as He teaches us and enables us to.

    • Still Reforming

      Hi emmellkaycee,

      I think your question is a valid one and that you presented it so graciously that you’re not really “stepping in it,” but I can certainly see where you might be concerned about so doing.

      I don’t really see our having enabled our abusers to abuse us by allowing it, because I know that in my own case, for many years I was deceived by him – due to the “mean followed by nice followed by mean followed by nice,” and I didn’t really follow or understand that it was intentional. I thought that I must surely have been misunderstanding or doing something wrong or that it was an aberration or that there were any number of reasons for the things that went wrong, but I *never* in my wildest dreams imagined that it was intentional, so I wasn’t really “allowing” his behavior. I just thought we had differences, we needed to learn to communicate better, we needed counseling, etc etc etc.

      By the time I realized that his behavior was intentional, I still thought that “God hates divorce,” and so therefore I just read more about what I was living with at home (initially studying passive-aggression, then reading about narcissism, etc), and developed strategies to limit my contact with him, detach emotionally, and keep some kind of grip on truth-telling and raising our child to understand the importance of honoring Christ in our home. I thought that staying married was a part of that. Since that was the position of my church, well, it all just fit, so it wasn’t enabling so much as it was trying to honor God in the home while balancing this dysfunctional dynamic.

      By the time things really heated up – for a variety of reasons – I was past trying to understand why my church thought was right or even pondering “God hates divorce.” I was just trying to stay safe and understand what was the right thing for our child. It was reaching a breaking point, and when I was counseled to go seek professional help (various kinds of professionals), well, he ended up leaving us anyway, but never did I feel like I was responsible for his behavior. Not even in the sense of enabling it. I think it takes a lot of us a great amount of time to figure things out as far as what’s going on with the abuser and his deceit – as well as trying to honor the Lord as best we’ve been taught to do (and usually that means no divorce, wrong as I’m learning that doctrine to be) – so I don’t think that the targets are complicit – at least not voluntarily or knowingly so, Most of us have been greatly duped.

    • joepote01

      Emmellkaycee –

      I think you make a very valid point.

      Yes, as we learn to understand God’s truth…as we learn to recognize the abuser’s deception…as we begin to understand the only way to stop the abuse is to leave the relationship…as we learn to reject all the poor advice and false doctrines telling us that the only solution is to try harder, believe more deeply, and pray more fervently…as God gives us wisdom and strength in regard to dealing with the abuse we become responsible for also walking in that strength and truth.

      Yes, we are each responsible for taking action against abuse…usually by leaving the abusive relationship.

      Unfortunately, most of us have taken years learning to perceive the correct action, because it runs contrary to what we were taught was appropriate.

      Perhaps a better way of stating it would be that the abuse is completely and solely the fault of the abuser. Nobody else can be responsible for the abuser’s evil actions. At the same time, the abuse target must take responsibility for stopping the abuse. Since the abuser will not stop it, only the abuse target can stop it…usually by leaving the abusive relationship.

      Thank you for ‘going there’… 😉

  14. Diagrégoreó

    Thank you for this post. Years ago I read an article about a woman who’s husband had died of a heart attack. At the funeral, she was chastised by all the people who attended because she hadn’t saved him through CPR. She was devastated because she HAD performed CPR on him, but he still died. Because we so often only hear about the success stories of CPR or the happy endings of people who’ve overcome abuse, we childishly think that this is the NORM and that if the people who weren’t successful had only tried harder, they too would have overcome. The cold hard truth about CPR is that even when professionals perform CPR on people who should be good candidates for success, the patient still dies. And the cold hard truth about abuse is that even people who try their hardest to avoid or protect themselves, still find themselves in abusive situations.

    In her honesty, Marriedtohyde helped remind me of the battle that was constantly going on in my life until I finally reconciled that God has plans for me that will take me by surprise. When we lie to others and tell them that they are the captains of their lives and that there’s no one to blame but themselves when things don’t go as planned, we set them up to be blamed and to be victims constantly on edge, trying to control everything.

    Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is how God works in our lives. He has beautiful plans for us and they will be NEW, not the convoluted versions told to us by people who want to keep us in little boxes created by them so that we’re available to them at their convenience. Knowing that this is how God works in his children’s lives, we can expect to see unique situations that will arise that require prayerful consideration, as well as ways the evil one will try to deceive us and keep us abusing the victim, as he’s trying to keep up.

  15. Annie

    Even when a victim is believed she gets accused of seeing it everywhere*. So she has no credibility even though she has the experience! Another way of blaming her I guess.

    * as in “you’re too sensitive”; “you think everything is like what happened to you”,etc

    • Still Reforming

      Annie,

      I confess that I thought that about my attorneys at a certain point (and still wonder, truth be told). I mean, so many comments they’ve made had me scratching my head wondering, “Are they narcissists too? How can they accept these transgressions and violations of court orders so easily from my stbx and his attorney? Why aren’t they advocating for me? Why did he say when hearing that my stbx spun the car around in anger that ‘It happens sometimes.’?”

      Perhaps coming out of these situations causes the sensitivity radar to be lifted a bit higher, and perhaps rightly so.

  16. joepote01

    Ellie – I do think you’re right about this dynamic of victim blaming. I’m sure there are many reasons but fear of lack of control is a big one.

    We seem to have a deep need to believe most horrors are preventable…that if proper measures are taken we can keep bad things from happening to ourselves and those we love most.

    There is some level of truth involved. By wearing a seatbelt and practicing safe driving, we can significantly reduce our risk of death by automobile accident. The same goes for many other things in life…through awareness and safe practices we can reduce our risk. However, we can never eliminate risk…risk is an inherent part of this life. As humans, we seem to have trouble accepting this…as parents we find it even harder to accept…

    Thank you for the insightful post.

  17. Ellie

    Barbara is very particular about the way we apply the enabler idea. She will likely weigh in here when it is day time on her side of the planet. There is only so much we can do safely. There are ways we resist and Barbara often mentions honoring resistance. I think she will articulate that.

    Never ever blame the victim/target. Never. The abuser is the one who is responsible for the abuse.

    • Yeah, I’ll get to this later. I”m very busy this afternoon but hopefully in about five hour’s time I’ll have a chance to wrap my head around this thread in full.

  18. joepote01

    Katherine –

    I’m no expert…just speaking from personal experience…

    Your question hits home, because I asked myself that question so many times…many times I cried out to God asking Him to please never let me be an enabler of her abuse.

    By definition, an abusive relationship is a dysfunctional relationship…and learning to cope and survive in a dysfunctional relationship almost always includes some level of personal dysfunctionality…the learning to tiptoe around the abuser’s emotions hoping not to set them off, etc. is not ‘normal’ and I suppose to some extent ‘enables’…in fact at some fundamental level it could even be seen as controlling or at least trying to find some measure of control in a situation that is out of control…

    And, yes, it is certainly true that in most instances the abuse will not stop until the abuse target makes clear and conscious decisions to not allow the abuse…to reclaim control of their life in a way that does not require the cooperation of the abuser. That usually requires leaving the abusive relationship.

    So, all those years I endured an abusive relationship, was I enabling the abuse by not leaving?

    Yes, I suppose at some level I was. But it’s not that simple. My intent was not to enable, but to love, forgive, help, etc. And the abuser’s deceit played a big role, as did my own inexperience with abuse.

    Back to the original question…in most instances the only way for the abuse target to stop the abuse is to leave the relationship. And the people who are most prone to acuse a victim of enabling are also the people most likely to tell them they should not divorce. So the only means of stopping the abuse is forbidden by the very people telling us we’re responsible for stopping it.

    Was I an enabler? Never intentionally. And I avoided being an enabler with substantial intentionality, refusing to look the other way as I learned to see past the deceit…praying for strength, courage and wisdom.

  19. Does the victim enable the abuse?
    These is indeed a tricky question and I think all of the comments relating to it in this thread have been very respectful and nuanced. 🙂

    Joe said; “most of us have taken years learning to perceive the correct action, because it runs contrary to what we were taught was appropriate.”

    That’s true, and it’s so important to factor in.

    Typcially, the people who accuse the victim of enabling the abuse are unjust, and are blindly/woodenly naive, because they haven’t factored in how much the culture (both secular and Christian) teaches us that the correct way of responding to relational offenses is to be longsuffering, to make allowances for the wrongdoer, to extend patience and forgiveness and many second chances to the offender.

    But what these people blithely or blindly disregard is how much the secular culture and the church teaches and pressures and coerces us to be long-suffering martyrs. And correspondingly, how LITTLE the secular culture and the church teaches us about how to righteously, assertively and nobly defend ourselves: how to wisely confront evil and wrongdoing, how to detect when repentance is phoney or simply shallow, how to deal with wicked people who try to manipulate us in order to obtain and maintain control over us.

    So those who dump blame on us for ‘enabling the abuse’ without recognising the influences and pressures we have been subjected to, are being very unfair: they probably don’t realise it, but they are unfailrly blaming the victims.

    Personally, I like to ascribe more blame to the church and the wider culture (the bystanders and leaders) than to the victims. But if any particular victim wishes to take some blame on him/herself for enabling his/her abuser, I don’t feel it’s my right to countermand that.

    However, when a victim seems to me to be taking too much blame on herself / himself, I try to counteract that by pointing out how much they are NOT to blame.

    Bottom line for me: If a victim says about herself “If I’d stayed after that episode, or after that realisation, or ater that Word from the Lord had struck me like a bolt of lightning, then I would have been enabling the abuse,” — if she says that, who am I to contradict her?

    But I would never tell a victim, ‘You are enabling the abuse!” That would be cruel.

    However, I might sometimes put this question to a victim: “Have you ever considered that by staying with your abuser you are enabling him to further abuse you?”

    So I might pose the question if I think it might help a victim/target to wake up. But I would not pose the question (or put it as a statement) if I felt it would come over to the victim as an accusation.

    Which means, Katherine and others, that if you want to ask that question of yourselves —”Am I, or did I, enable the abuse?” — that’s your prerogative. But without my being very gentle and feeling-my-way in my relationship with you and framing it as a gentle, invitational question for you to ponder, it’s not my right to convey to you that you enabled the abuse.

    Here is a post I wrote a while ago:
    Enabling? Sins of the victim? Tetchy topics indeed!

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