“In my experience, having worked with a lot of victims and people around them, people blame victims so that they can continue to feel safe themselves” – Barbara Gilin (professor of social work at Widener University)
Every single victim of abuse including myself has experienced victim blaming/shaming. Either from society or the judiciary system. It is something that as a society we need to address as it is incredibly harmful to survivor’s, re-traumatising them and can stop victims coming forward, giving more power to the abuser.
Victims are often judged on how the behave as a victim. Weather they cry or don’t cry. If the go to the police or don’t, when they leave the relationship or if they don’t. They are judged on everything and there is no wrong or right way to behave when you’ve been abused, no one gives you a handbook on it. We should really be asking why she/he was abused, why did the abuser feel they could do this, how can we support the victim. And above anything we should listen and give victims a voice.
Often those who have escaped their abuser would have been controlled in many ways to a point where they question their own decision making. You’ve spent months or years living in an environment that keeps you in a constant survival mode having to think ahead to avoid consequence or conflict from your perpetrator.
Then there are other factors to take into consideration like trauma bonding. A psychological response to abuse, where the victim can develop sympathy for their abuser due to the cycle of abuse being repeated over and over.
When victims are asked why they didn’t leave or call the police etc we need to ask why they couldn’t. What if you have a child or children with that person? What if you are finically tided to that person?
I had a very young baby when I left my ex-husband. It was so hard. I wanted to leave sooner but I had nowhere to go, I had no money, I had no job and couldn’t get one with such a young baby to care for. He didn’t pay any child maintenance for a long time properly, so financially I was crippled. When I left and since then I have been asked by a lot of people I must have known? What did I do to upset him? I shouldn’t ever stop him seeing the baby! I should have pressed charges. Why did I not call the police more?
In the early days I would feel that shame that others put on me. I was a new mum with a young baby, had endured a lot of abuse in many forms some of which I didn’t fully understand myself at the time. The police were involved, and I desperately wanted protection. The first attack I didn’t press charges because my ex’s sister called me at 3am intimidating me. I knew I had to protect myself and my baby and I had to find a way of staying in that rented property or I would potentially have to go into refuge or worse. The second time I called the police they took 3 weeks to make arrest despite threats on my life and more physical attacks. Unfortunately the judiciary let victims down quite often we aren’t given the automatic protection and help you’d think.
Please see information on DA and convictions below: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/domesticabuseandthecriminaljusticesystemenglandandwales/november2020
I have been asked so many times if I knew or saw red flags etc. It’s taken time and a lot of education to understand what happened and I’m still learning. When I look back, I can see the red flags but at the time no, of course I didn’t. Again, this is to do with the cycle of abuse and how manipulative the perpetrator is. But it is incredibly offensive to ask this. What message does this send? So, if I or any other victim did miss reg flags or knew they were suffering abuse but stayed did we deserve it? Does the abuse we suffered become lesser or justified? I have felt guilt for not leaving quicker I wished I had done many things differently I’m sure many survivors can relate to that. But it takes a lot to leave under any circumstance, and to rebuild your life takes courage and strength.
During the court process so many victims are told if they cry, they are too emotional and unstable, if they don’t cry, they are not showing emotion. They are asked why didn’t they disclose more to others, their GP or the police? But as I have detailed above when victims do, they are often faced with victim blaming that automatically shuts them down and makes them feel insecure about speaking up and the police don’t always protect you. If you don’t have enough evidence, you’re a liar if you do then you’ve been manipulative. If you defend yourself, then your just as bad. If you leave then you must just over it, if you stay it can’t be that bad. There are so many factors to abuse and leaving and victims are vulnerable.There’s no right or wrong way to behave but we are expected to be perfect in an already traumatic situation. It’s a loose, loose situation for victims.
Any type of blaming impacts the victim and their decisions in coming forward and getting help. If we are to help put an end to abuse, then as a society we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and support victims. We must try to change the narrative that is used when speaking about victims or to them. The onus should be put on the perpetrator not the victim.
Always remember to listen to someone who is disclosing abuse, be careful of the word that are used when talking about or to a victim and always be kind.