Stop the “Victim Blaming”

This morning I read Prego and the Loon’s post, TOP 10 Reasons People Stay in and Abusive Relationship.

The first reason Prego lists is low self-esteem.  The very first comment on her entry was that claiming low self-esteem is really just a form of victim blaming (gross paraphrasing here, please read the post and the comments for the whole picture).  All in all, I was a little upset by this and I started commenting on the post.  I decided to turn my comment into my own post because it was getting a little long and my emotions started running high…

I completely agree with Prego that low self-esteem is the number one reason why people stay in abusive relationships. And, I completely disagree that it is a form of victim blaming. I would say that the majority of the time (if not ALL the time), people know they are in an abusive relationship, and they know they should get out. But they don’t.

My own experience, which I blogged about here, was not an initial incident. Albeit, it was the first legitimate “rape” that took place. I knew before that moment that he was not good for me and that what he did to me was wrong. We weren’t married, we weren’t financially tied to each other, we had no kids together, I’m not even sure if I still loved him… but I didn’t think I could do any better than him. I stayed with him because it was better than being alone, and at least someone loved me, right? It’ all about self-esteem, if you ask me.

Does that mean I deserved what happened to me? Because I didn’t believe enough in myself and that I deserved someone better, was I asking to be treated that way? No.  Because I made excuses for him and didn’t stand up for myself, is it my own fault that it happened again? No.

And even after that incident, I didn’t leave right away and it happened again.  It becomes a cycle: self-esteem gets worse and it gets harder to make the decision to leave. I was in that relationship for 4 years and I didn’t really understand how awful it was until I was out.   Throughout the relationship, I knew what was happening was wrong, but I always went back to that idea: I probably can’t do better than this anyway.  Plus, I’ve already been violated and broken, so does it matter if it happens again?  See, low self-esteem.  Lower than ever.

I would even argue that my self-esteem got worse after it ended, before it started getting better…  One day, I finally told my husband (we were either seriously dating, or engaged when I finally told him) about the abuse and even he looked at me differently for a while:  He even told me that he can’t believe I “let that happen.”  This comment was not in the context of victim blaming, but more in the context of, you are so strong and beautiful and I love you, and i can’t imagine you ever being in such a situation.  I was so afraid and I thought he was going to leave me because I told him.

The abusive relationship ended 7 years ago, and there is a reason that I’ve never told anyone else about it until now… on this blog… where no one knows me. It’s because of self-esteem. What would people think of me if I told them that I “let myself” stay in an abusive relationship?

Me, a med student, a mother of two beautiful boys, with a loving, *non-abusive* husband, and that “perfect life” that most people think I have… Well, guess what, I was stupid enough to let a man rape me, in my own house, and I didn’t stop it.  And, to make it even worse, I let it happen again, and again, and again.  I’m sure my image would change fast… And it’s all because of low self-esteem. Low self-worth. So I keep it to myself.  And, every time I hear someone claim “victim blaming,” I am thankful I keep it to myself.  I was a victim, yes.  And no, I didn’t put a stop to it.  I regret it almost every day, but only because you remind me that maybe I should… even though I *know* I shouldn’t.

In this situation, A+B DOES NOT =C.  And it’s ironic, I know, that the whole reason we talk about victim blaming is because we want to stop it from happening.  But the reality is, even mentioning the term causes it to happen.  Stop talking about victim blaming.  We blame ourselves enough for it, every day.  If we’ve managed to get far enough away from it to know, to really know, that it’s not our fault, we don’t need some “victim blaming” advocates to remind us that there are still people pointing fingers at us.

Take the victim out of it.  Abuse is wrong.  Physical abuse is wrong, Emotional abuse is wrong.  Sexual abuse is wrong.  Child abuse is wrong.  That’s all you have to say.

About crankygiraffe

I'm a woman... a wife, a mother, a daughter, a medical resident. I spend all my time doing the right thing... I can be cynical, grumpy, and emotional, but I keep it to myself most of the time. I need a place to let my insides out - anonymously. No judgement here!
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13 Responses to Stop the “Victim Blaming”

  1. Amanda says:

    But, now you are a survivor … not a victim anymore.

    I agree, self-esteem is the biggest reason people stay – or tolerate it, minimize it and justify it – from the beginning. Yes, it may be normal for them because their upbringing was awful. But it’s likely that their upbringing affected their self-esteem. A lot of the reasons are tied together. I don’t think it’s victim blaming to say that it is a self-esteem issue. It doesn’t mean it was the victim’s fault, just because it’s related to “self.”

    For a while after I was raped, I blamed myself so much. My mentality was “If you walk into a hornet’s nest, you deserve to get stung.” And I think I internalized that mentality from society. I know what people in general would think or would say. Most people don’t get it.

    I am impressed that you talk about it, because it’s something I will not talk about with almost anyone. Because I’m embarrassed that I “let” it happen to me and I’m embarrassed about how people will look at me. I’ve written about it, I’ve talked to a counselor about it, and I’d love to share it, because it would be a weight off my shoulder, but I fear that other people would judge me as harshly as I first judged myself.

  2. Amanda says:

    And…. sorry if that response was totally incoherent. I’m on painkillers and am severely under-caffeinated today.

  3. Amanda, that makes PERFECT sense. I understand it completely. In fact, writing down the word “rape” in this post is the first time I have even allowed myself to utter (or type) that word as it relates to my experience. And as I said, the only reason I even mention it on here is because I’m not “me.” I’m crankygiraffe.

    • Amanda says:

      I know exactly how you feel. A lot of times when I type it (to a close friend), I write “that thing… that happened to me, like rape.” It’s so disturbing that I feel so ashamed to call it that. I was not even conscious when it happened (for the most part) and still I blame myself. Is that the reason you hesitate to write “rape”? :( I should start a blog as “not me” and write it. How do you feel after sharing your story?

      • I actually feel quite liberated, like I can let that part of me go, at least a little bit. As for calling it “rape,” I don’t think we like to call it that because other people get raped… people in movies get raped. It has become dirty, a violation, something horrible, and instead of admitting that it happened, it’s easier to not name it. I think, anyway.

  4. Rose Chimera says:

    I read that post earlier, before I saw yours but didn’t comment as it would have been a novella.

    I worked with lots and lots of women and even a few men that were abused. They came to us to get restraining orders, kick out orders, etc. Every one of them behaved as if it was their fault. They obviously had very low self-esteem and seemed incapable of making the decision to flee to safety unless the courts stepped in and arrested the abuser thereby forcing the issue.

    However, the low self esteem is, IMHO only the beginning. That’s what drives on into a relationship that could potentially be unhealthy if not down right dangerous. It isn’t what keeps them there though. Its the insideous nature of the abuse. As a victim you are put down, criticised, beaten and maybe even alienated from your circle of friends and famiy until there is no one but you and the abuser. You grow dependant in ways you never would have in a perfect world. Its a slow and subtle, devious and evil process that the victim gets enmeshed in to the point where if it wasn’t for the abuser you’d be alone. This is often drilled into the victim constantly. In the absence of anything positive one must hear, absorb and believe the negative.

    That is not the victim’s fault. The fault belongs soley on the shoulders of the abuser. Then the family and friends need to not turn a blind eye to what they see happening. Then society needs to say ENOUGH! and mean it. Its a collective group that allows the abuse to continue. Likewise it takes a collective group to get it to stop. But the victim, once victimized simply does not have the strength, the ability (whether financial and/or emotional) and wherewithall to see that the light at the end of the tunnel is freedom, not another train.

    I am sorry for your experience, but as someone replied before me, you are a SURVIVOR! That counts!

  5. Our experiences create the beautiful people we are today. Never regret a moment in time, but rather learn from the lesson and build strength! I LOVE how you poured your heart into this post. After reading it I have personally nominated you for the Reader Appreciation Award, and below I have provided you with the link… http://pregoandtheloon.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/reader-appreciation-award/

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