Thursday Thought — Abuse Victims Always Resist
Whenever people are badly treated, they always resist. In our experience working with victims of violence, none of them complied with violence, disrespect, or oppression. They always tried to reduce, prevent or stop the abuse in some way. Because they are in such danger, victims usually do not resist the perpetrator’s abuse openly (although some victims do resist openly anyway). Often the only way victims can resist the abuse is in their thoughts, or through small acts that are sometimes not even noticed by others. A victim’s resistance may not stop the abuse, because the perpetrator is making his own decisions about how he wants to behave. A perpetrator’s abusive behavior is totally his responsibility, and he is the only one who can stop the abuse. However, the victim’s thoughts or actions indicate that in no way does she “go along with” the abuse, or “let it happen.” The victim’s resistance shows her desire to escape the abuse, to keep her dignity, and to make a better life for herself. Unfortunately, in many cases, the ways that victims have resisted abuse have been labelled as “sick” or “dysfunctional” by others. Some examples of negative labels . . . are:
A victim may resist abuse by not sharing her emotions in relationships.
- This could be labelled as “emotional detachment,” as in the “inability to express emotions,” or as “avoidance”.
A victim may resist abuse by not doing what the abuser wants her to do.
- This could be labelled as “passive-aggressive behaviour,” or “difficult/uncooperative behaviour.”
A victim may resist abuse by refusing to stoop to his level of behavior and by doing nice things for him.
- This could be labelled as “co-dependency.”
A victim may resist abuse by numbing her feelings.
- This could be labelled as “dissociation.”
One problem with the use of these ‘labels’ is that they may be hurtful and offensive to victims. Another problem is that they tend to suggest that both parties are responsible for ending the abuse. . . . Although people may agree with the common belief that “perpetrators are responsible for their violence”, to be consistent with this belief we suggest avoiding any labels that imply that both parties are responsible for the violence.
[excerpt from “Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships,” a PDF by the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. A link to the complete PDF can be found at our post Honouring Resistance — a wonderful resource for understanding abuse.]