A Cry For Justice

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

Is ACFJ Guilty of Promoting a “Victim Mentality”

Recently at our ACFJ Facebook page a critic claimed that we are guilty of encouraging abuse victims to remain paralyzed in the role of “victim.”  I went to a dictionary and checked out the definition. Just what is a “victim”?

  1. a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency: a victim of an automobile accident.
  2. a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion.

Abuse targets are indeed victims. They have suffered injury. They have been deceived and cheated. The abuser is dishonest and does capitalize on our ignorance of the nature and tactics of evil. Abusers are swindlers and those who marry them are victims of a cheat.

So what is a “victim mentality”? Those who make that charge and claim we are promoting it are largely people who either through ignorance or through willfulness do not understand the trauma abuse effects on its targets. They don’t understand it and therefore they want victims to “just get over it and move on.” But you don’t “just get over” trauma and PTSD in a moment of time. First, you have to come to understand what has happened to you. Then you have to talk about what happened to you and talk about it with someone who understands what happened to you. Someone who validates you. Often this recovery talk needs to go on for quite a long time. Most people do not understand it and so they grow tired of hearing about it. “Why do you keep talking about these things? Why do you dwell on what he did to you? Let’s just not talk about it today and have a good time.” That’s the kind of thing people who don’t understand abuse say. Helping abuse victims isn’t for everyone, even if they have “certified counselor” nailed on a shingle outside their door.

So these critics who claim we promote a “victim mentality” are really saying that we need to be pushing harder for victims to “just get over it.” To tell them to quit dwelling on the past and move on with their lives. I suppose they would say, if pressed, that we should just shut down this blog or at least change the entire nature of the posts we write. “Stop talking all the time about this negative stuff. Write mostly about positive things so that these people can give what happened to them closure.” You see this attitude in the roll of the eyes – “Oh yeah, here we go again. He’s going to talk about abuse.”

But recovery from trauma does not take place in such a moment of time. It is a long process. In fact I suppose it is accurate to say that in some ways the effects of abuse will never go away in this life – not entirely. And you know what? I don’t think that is a bad thing. Why? Because a person who has been an abuse victim and who has come to understand what it is and who has moved ahead in recovering from the effects of this evil, is a wiser and better person than they used to be. Think of the people who are the very best counselors and helpers of victims. Who are they? They are people who have been abused themselves and thereby have come to understand this wicked thing and its effects. They will never “get over” what happened to them and if they did, they would lose their ability to minister to other victims.

Now, I propose that there is a more proper name for “abuse/victim mentality.” I agree that there is indeed a condition or state that is negative and harmful to which some people who have been abused run to and remain stuck in – to their own harm. I have only come across about three such cases in these past five years of ministry to victims. The name I assign to these people is “martyr syndrome.” Somehow in the experience of being abused, and often through some wrong twisting of God’s Word in their thinking, they choose to remain in “suffering.” And they talk about it and write about it. They are characterized by an ascetic (self-abuse as a route to supposed holiness) attitude and talk quite a lot about their suffering. They see themselves as martyrs for the faith, as people who are pleasing to God because they are suffering these evils. Just as a classic ascetic whips his back as a supposed means of “overcoming the flesh,” these martyr syndrome people intentionally continue to make themselves targets of abuse (and eventually in some cases that abuse becomes exaggerated or even imagined).

Now, we must take great care here. Remember, leaving an abuser is no easy thing. Just because a victim has been with her abuser for a long time and still hasn’t left does not mean she is guilty of this martyr mentality. It takes a long, long time in most cases to even recognize you are being abused. And then there are the children, and the finances, and the fear and…..on the list goes. Oh, and don’t forget the churches who forbid divorce for abuse.

So let me make a suggestion. It is not WE at ACFJ who are promoting a martyr syndrome. Who is? It is the typical professing Christian of our day, the pastor, the church member, the seminary professor, the “biblical” counselor, who is telling abuse victims that God’s will is that they remain with their abuser. They say that remaining in the abuse and patiently enduring it is pleasing to God. They say….well, they say….”here is a whip. Keep lashing yourself and even if you die your martyrdom for the Lord will bring you great reward.”

There are the culprits.

***

For further reading:

Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim

What do you say when a friend tells you you have a victim mentality?

Unhelful comment by well-meaning people — a coaching clinic

How to spot an abuser who claims to be the victim

52 Comments

  1. Victim mentality or not, until some other sources consistently step up and be an advocate for victims in a “more godly, biblical way”, then the voices of victims will do just fine.

    People who have a problem with how victims are going about telling their stories/getting justice should show a better way. In the meantime, they ought not silence us or they’re part of the problem.

  2. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  3. Brenda R

    ACFJ guilty of promoting a victim mentality—nonsense. ACFJ provides healing, direction from God’s Word and a place to interact with others when you thought there was no one who understood. I only wish I had found ACFJ sooner and both Barb and Jeff’s books. I may have cut back on a few more wasted years.

  4. Sarah

    my lawyer told me flat out to stop acting like a victim…. as I was continually being victimized… nice

    • healingInHim

      Sarah, so sad. Stand strong … I’m going through the same … ‘get over it’ mentality. The more I’m told this only causes the scar(s) to never heal. The infection of sin and apathy just won’t allow it. 😦

    • A snappy comeback to that might be: “Stop acting like a lawyer! Oh, that was silly thing to say — you are a lawyer! And I am a victim — so stop telling me I’m acting like one!”

      • That’s excellent!

  5. Anonymous

    Just as those in the churches do not want to deal with ABUSE because it’s “messy” and takes courage to uncover and confront, and as a result therefore become enablers themselves, so are those in their ignorance who accuse ACFJ for promoting an abuser / victim mentality.

    I am months separated from my abuser and I am moving forward living my life. I spend quality time with family and friends along with lots of laughter – I get up every day and go to work – I’m serving my church and community and I’m living a rich full life. But make NO mistake I have deep wounds and scars from being on the battlefield.

    Domestic abuse is not something that you just get over; how I wish that were true! It now becomes a part of who you are. I don’t think anyone would dare tell a POW once returned home, “Just get over it. ” No, it was real to him/her. They experienced it. It really did happen. They suffered the long, hellish days and nights never knowing if they could escape or be rescued. They suffered the torment, anguish and sense of loneliness. They come home “shellshocked.” I don’t believe I can add any more to what has already been stated here in this article, which is all heart-pin-to-the-heart accurate.

    I am thankful to ACFJ and the personal support I have received since my own “escape.” Yes, indeed I am a victim of the most heinous crimes of domestic abuse. But at the same time I am also an overcomer by the grace of God and the tender mercies of those strategically placed by our Lord to pilgrimage with me through this dark season of my life; and all have choosen to understand and bring forth all the healing balm needed enabling me to be whole again in spite of the horrific and savage abuses heaped upon me. Those in their ignorance and / or those choosing not to understand and those whom have never walked such a road as that of an abuse victim, perhaps should remain silent. ACFJ and those who do care enough to understand and walk with us help us regain our dignity and sense of worth. God bless you Jeff Crippen and your courage to face head on the ongoing battle of domestic abuse!

    • Seeing Clearly

      Anonymous, I walk daily, beside a POW. We accept each other, unconditionally. The POW has verbalized experiences never shared before, perhaps intuitvely knowng I believe the stories. I will never abandon the POW. There are parallels between the governments denial and ignorance of PTSD and the (c)hurches denial and ignorance of abuse in the church.

      You speak for me, wholeheartedly, in your comments.

      • NoMoreTears

        So often do I think of POW. I wonder if there is are local organizations were one can peronally help one of them.

      • Anonymous

        God bless you, Carol, and your POW. And thank you for serving our country. Your POW is greatly blessed to have you to walk beside! People like You are the healing balm of which I speak.

  6. rhonda

    As always, thank you for speaking out for so many of us and for doing so with courage & Grace.

  7. joepote01

    Well stated, Jeff!

    Yes, we can all become ‘stuck’ at times in our grieving process. And, yes, we sometimes have to intentionally take positive action to counter our own negative emotions.

    However, PTSD is a real disorder caused by trauma and grief is a process. Nothing is gained by ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist. And the first step in healing is reocgnizing them for what they are.

    Victims are not made through acquiring ‘victim mentality.’ Victims become victims through being victimized by perpetrators of abuse.

    • NoMoreTears

      The same applies to animals. I found that PTSD is very real in their lives and it affects them deeply. It takes compasion, empathy, understanding and patience … human or not …

  8. Still Reforming

    Yes! Yes! Yes! And thank you.

    I have questioned myself time and again about this very issue, not wanting to feel sorry for myself or in any way portray myself a victim, even though I was and to some extent still am, but I don’t want to wear it on my sleeve for all to see.

    And yet – I find that as I walk through more experiences post-divorce (only a few months now), meeting and engaging with others, I am far more sensitive to people’s taking advantage of me or hoodwinking me. I pick up on it a lot sooner than I would have even a few years ago.

    I don’t extend the benefit of the doubt for as long as I used to, and that’s a very good thing. I give others leeway when they “forget” something promised or make charges or suggestions against me, but after one or two times of it, I’m done with them. And I don’t carry around guilt for someone not being in my life for it. Other Christians’ impressions of me or how I deal with matters now doesn’t have the hold on me that it used to. Even my not attending church in a local assembly doesn’t phase me as it would have even a year ago.

    So there’s a LOT of good from having this so-called “victim mentality,” which I daresay is a slam in and of itself to victims. It’s not a “martyr syndrome,” although that does exist. I like your recasting the mold on that one. Far, far fewer real victims suffer the latter, and having the former – the victim mentality – is helpful to me. I haven’t forgotten what happened (and still happens) to me, and I shouldn’t. It helps establish healthy Biblical boundaries and maintain them. The gates of grace aren’t there just to let folks in; They’re also to keep people out.

    That term “victim mentality” is just one more way to heap blame on the targets and take the focus off of the abuser. Thank you for standing watch to not let that happen.

    • StrongerNow

      ****That term “victim mentality” is just one more way to heap blame on the targets and take the focus off of the abuser. Thank you for standing watch to not let that happen.***

      THIS!! YES!!

    • HeLives

      I’ve had a similar response to. The “nice Christian” me has learned (through great pain and abuse) to be sensitive to lies, abuse and just plain laziness. Life is short.

      I’ve already “wasted” years waiting for someone else to change and to keep his word. I find myself impatient with those who are lolling away their lives with no direction. A great deal of this impatience comes from a sense of freedom and direction that I am enjoying for the first time in a long time. I have clarity. I see through excuses. I am bolder. All of this is the result of those “wasted” years that I have given to God and He is redeeming them.

      I also call sin what it is…”sin.” The old me would be surprised and taken aback by the “new” me because I am much more forthright but I am also deeply compassionate. My pride in my works has been cleansed away by the abuse I have suffered.

      I look at the homeless woman talking to herself by the side of the busy road and I wonder what life sorrows have brought her to that place.

      God’s grace has redeemed my pain and made me more like Him. It’s a good place to be.

      And I’m not afraid to call what happened to me and my children by the right name….ABUSE.

  9. Reaching for the prize

    I have PTSD. It was because of my a-h that this came about. Even after I no longer live with him, he would show up, or know things, or mail would not appear, or I would see his name on my electronic account, or he would text me…the slow drip. I couldn’t extract myself from him/this battlefield. So now I don’t know where the enemy will show up. Where the snipper will hit next. Am I safe? Where can I go to be safe?

    The soldier can leave the battlefield. He can come home. And yet he relives the horrors of what he has been through. Sounds activate his memory senses and he is there again.

    My desire is to find a good church. My a-h is a minister. SO MANY things in church are triggers. I had a friend tell me once that if I want to form relationships at church, I can’t talk about what has happened. They need to know me for me. If I talk about what has happened, they won’t want me there. But wait, my PTSD is triggered at church. What if he texts or sends an email while I’m there? What if he shows up???

    Is there any hope for me? I must have a victim mentality since it so much defines who I am right now and I was not in Afghanistan. I need to pull myself up by my bootstraps and pull myself together and pretend I was not a victim just to be incorporated back into society?

    I just want to live a day without my bulletproof vest and pretend I was never a soldier in this battle of abuse. But it isn’t allowed on the battlefield, it isn’t safe. Hunker down and be prepared for the next assault.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Reaching – That line, “if you want relationships at church you can’t talk about what has happened” identifies “church” as a non-church. Christ tells us to bear one another’s burdens. That is an expression of the real love that identifies us as true Christians. The fact is that we are surrounded today by counterfeits, and their leaven influences many true Christians, just as the false teaching and behavior of the Jews from Jerusalem carried Peter and Barnabas away until Paul stepped in and called them out. How in the world can any group call itself the body of Christ when it refuses to hear about the sufferings of the oppressed?

      Truth and time as the Lord works to heal you are the only things that are going to help you recover from the trauma. And since your a-h is a “minister,” you may simply not be able to handle being in a traditional local church for awhile. There is nothing wrong with that.

      • NoMoreTears

        Maybe, sometimes, God allows us to suffer so we can help and understand others? All of what has been said on this website is so true. I am glad that what I have experienced in my life helps me to help others.

      • NoMoreTears

        I had to leave my church beause they did not have the values I have … Now, I feel guilt because I am not going to church. Will God redeem me? It was more important for me to help a woman who’s need had to be validated.

      • Dear NMT, I encourage you to cast off that guilt you feel for not attending church. It is false guilt, and it’s just another form of victim-blaming.

        You have actually decided to not attend a NON-church. That is a decision you made because you love God and His truth and justice and mercy. You are repelled by non-churches because they are phoney, because they are rejecting God’s ways.

      • Thank you Barbara. Now, I can cast my guilt into the garbage. One thing I learned, especially if one serves in a church, one sees all that is going on behind the curtain. It seems easier to just be a visitor because the truth can be discouraging. One just has to find the right church.

    • HeLives

      Of course there is hope for you Reaching for the Prize! I changed my legal separation to a divorce because my ex was constantly texting me Bible verses and “sermonizing” on emails and it made me realize that a legal separation was, to him, an open door.Bible verses from him were traumatizing.

      Filing for Divorce has not magically stopped it all but I’ve done everything I can to not communicate with him except when necessary.

      Hugs.

      • NoMoreTears

        It is the legal boundaries of the divorce that set me free!

  10. Babylove

    Just because someone can not see my scars, do not mean they do not exist. Whomever made that post lacks empathy, compassion and understanding and should never make judgments on another human beings pain, hurt and trauma.

  11. Herjourney

    Did you block the mocker?
    I blocked a FB lady for her incedious comments about her life.
    I tried to reach out to her. Even sending her a book. She had many people on her side. Even a pastor or two.
    She would rant how awful her life was.
    Her friends would purchase her household items.
    Talk about a martyr.
    This gal was famous for her gift of self pity.
    Which reminds me what my abuser did.
    Afer leaving
    He had friends and family give him stuff for his rental house. Gag.

    He set the day with the court to haul his belongings out.
    It happened to be the day of our daughters bd.
    How special.
    Revenge is ugly.
    The more I travel in the light.
    The more I see the evil.
    Great post!

  12. Herjourney

    How fitting with this post.
    Charles Spurgeon wrote

    Did not your worldy friends begin to annoy you? Did they not give you the cold shoulder because they saw something about you so strange and foreign to their tastes? Did they not impute your conduct to fanaticism, pride, obstinacy, bigotry, and the like?
    Ah, the persecution is the serpent’s seed beginning to discover the woman’s seed and to carry on the old war. Gal 4:29
    True godliness is an unnatural and strange thing to them, and they cannot do away with it.
    Though there are no stakes for them to burn us on, nor racks for them to stretch us on, yet the emnity of the human heart toward Christ and His seed is just the same, and it very often shows itself in a trial of cruel mockings.
    Heb 11:36
    Which to a tender heart is very hard to bear.
    Well, this is your heel being bruised in sympathy with the bruising of the glorious Seed of the woman.
    Spurgeon

  13. a prodigal daughter returns

    The term “victim mentality” is truly a denigration and insult insured to prolong the healing process rather than help it. I found when I had to keep my experience with abuse quiet, and stay in denial about it for the sake of the people around me the wound became gangrenous in the dark. I got sick, mentally and physically in order to keep peace with those that call speaking the truth being a victim.

    People here that tell their story in all its gory details have rarely been allowed to tell it anywhere and be believed or responded to according to the depth of their suffering. I’m finding the more I wasn’t allowed to tell, the more desperate and optionless I felt. It is in freely speaking my experience that after a good many years I feel like my life is coming back.

    To the critics I say “You want people to move on? Than let them tell their whole story as often as they need to with an empathetic response and the bodies own natural healing ability will take over.” We were created to heal. Our bodies instinctively do so, provided the elements for healing are in place. Antiseptic, cleansing, wound dressing, attention to the wound is what happens here at ACFJ. As a result I am for the first time envisioning a life free of the toxic repercussions of abuse

    The abuse was one thing to recover from, the mishandling of the wound and the years that if festered underground and got infected are the harder things to heal from. People that call it victim mentality to try to take care of a wound are victimizers themselves. I’d rather have a so called “victim mentality” than victimize those trying to recover from their losses. One of the great loses from an abusive relationship is the sense of being lovable. An abuser takes that away, and those that make the wounds worse reinforce “you are unlovable because you have a victim mentality” Shame to those that would try to take away the thin blanket of acceptance at a place like this from those that are freezing from the churches cold shoulder.

    • I agree!
      And here the post Wound Healing written by one of our readers, which confirms everything you said.

    • bright sunshinin' day

      This:
      People that call it victim mentality to try to take care of a wound are victimizers themselves.

  14. Megan

    No, “victim mentality” is when the abuser acts like he’s the victim and gains sympathizers, so that he can hide behind his so-called “pain” as an excuse for his evil.

    THAT is victim mentality. Real victims don’t make excuses for evil. We don’t need to, because we didn’t commit the evil in the first place. We don’t use our very real pain as a cloak for wickedness.

    • anonymous

      Megan, profound!!

    • a prodigal daughter returns

      They can be so convincing too. I remember mentioning to a relative that I’d heard of the horrible lie she spread about me. Rather than apologize for the slander and the real damage it did she stated “you are the biggest martyr in America.” She then proceeded to heap on guilt on me for mentioning it as if she was the victim. She then slipped into her martyr role and before I knew what had happened I was feeling guilt and shame as if I had victimized her. Another relative demanded empathy from me about this because “aren’t Christians supposed to be merciful”. They expect mercy, a blind eye to their wrong doing yet give none

    • bright sunshinin' day

      Megan, you nailed it:
      No, “victim mentality” is when the abuser acts like he’s the victim and gains sympathizers, so that he can hide behind his so-called “pain” as an excuse for his evil.

      THAT is victim mentality. Real victims don’t make excuses for evil.

  15. Anonymous

    Great post! Another way of looking at victimhood, Jeff, is to define the “victim mentality” as one that accepts what the perpetrator/oppressor/bully bestows upon you. If you resist it, then you are refusing to accept their thinking.

    The other thing that casual readers may not realize is that different members of this community are at different stages. We don’t stand still in our healing! I’m not in the same place as I was before. Sites like ACFJ assist me in my journey, but I am not reading every article like it is the first one I have read on that topic, and these articles are not all I am reading!

    That abuse has been perpetrated makes me a victim, and that won’t go away – no matter how much the average ignorant churchgoer wants to deny or dismiss it. Reading these posts doesn’t confer the victim mentality to me, and neither does it encourage me to stay longer in the victim status. Chronic and ongoing abuse does. Keep the abuser accountable, and victimhood may stop.

  16. A bit off topic, but this is breaking news in Australia and I just have to share it here it is so good!

    Our new Prime Minister says we need to see it as ‘unAustralian’ for men to disrespect women. And he is putting money where his mouth is!

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-24/make-it-unaustralian-to-disrespect-women-turnbull-100-million-dv/6800330

    • healingInHim

      Wow!

      • Brenda R

        2 of ACFJ post went into Spam box. GRRRRRR!!!! Yahoo is going to get an ear full.

    • Anotheranon

      This is certainly good news! Very encouraging.

    • KayE

      That’s strong condemnation- is there anything lower than being ‘unAustralian’! Good news.

      • Yeah. Being called “unAustralian” is a big insult for Aussies!

      • and KayE, I want to tell you how often I get a boost from your commments. While the Yankee readers are mostly asleep, you put little comments on this blog and they often give me great encouragement! 🙂
        Bless you!

    • Brenda R

      Barb, RE: the article on Prime Minister and DV in Australia:

      WooHoo and Amen. I want to shake this man’s hand and possibly give him a big kiss!!!

  17. Video of Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister and Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, announcing the new $100 million domestic violence package:
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-24/government-unveils-100-million-domestic-violence-package/6801120

    • This video is inspiring. Watching a man speak from the heart about this . . . it makes me weep with joy!

      • bright sunshinin' day

        Made me weep for joy, too!

  18. Oh Amen! The wife of the pastor at the church I was attending when ex abandoned us, flat out said that I should wait indefinitely for him to repent and reconcile, that I should never marry — and my soul cried out against it. Why would God heap an undeserved punishment on me? Answer: it was not God doing that, it was a person ignorant of God’s heart for His broken ones.

    That woman with her “good intentions” pushed me back in the direction of despair, not the direction of God.

    The quest to determine what God wanted for me and how he viewed me is what led me to ACFJ and shone a light on the merciful heart of God. It was with the help of this blog that the Word loosed the ropes of bondage in my life.

    So, I would like to ask the person making the victim mentality comment to examine themselves and determine if their current attitude points people to or away from God.

  19. standsfortruth

    Crying out for justice gives voice to the oppressed, and abused since much of the professing church, wants to silence their voices, and invalidate their claims.
    Whether in fear of having their image tarnished, or some other less than valid reason, they prefer the whitewashed tomb look, to the restoration and healing of the afflicted ones.
    If they only knew that giving a voice to these victims of abuse, and validating their claims in seeking justice, the church at large would not only expidite the healing process of Gods people, but would be in a position to purge the evil from their churches.

  20. Valerie

    Some of those scoffers are the ones who seem to only want to talk about positive things…all the time. I’ve known a few of those. Let’s only talk about what is lovely…never mind what is true. Just the truly lovely stuff. Let’s talk about that. If anyone went and scanned the replies to posts here over the last few years you would see account after account of people sharing how this page has encouraged them, comforted them. “The lovely” people aren’t often the ones who get told they are actually encouraging…only alienating.

    Those who have not experienced abuse have no clue as to what is best for those who have been abused. I have often journaled how I feel somewhat like an amputee. I feel deformed, different from most people, in pain and having numerous obstacles trying to reintegrate into life. This blog is physical therapy in that sense. It is a place to connect with others who have this esoteric knowledge – both the nature of the condition and strategies to heal. Its a springboard to living more effectively for Christ through our unique circumstances. Like the post Jeff wrote recently about being stuck in the mud, ACFJ isn’t just putting a hose on the mud…that’s what the scoffers do. No, ACFJ is the rope to get OUT of that mud! Keep on keepin’ on ACFJ!!

    • Yes. And, unlinke the cults and secret societies, we do not charge money for imparting our esoteric knowledge! We give it out for free on this blog, to anyone who wants to learn about abuse.

      How we long for more pastors and ‘non-amputee’ Christians to read this blog and learn, so they can better respond to cases of domestic abuse when they come across them! But most of those people don’t read this blog. . . they just don’t bother.

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