“There appears to be a societal impulse to blame traumatized individuals for their suffering…we sacrifice those who suffer so we can maintain our illusions of autonomy and safety.” -J & L Holcomb
It took me over a decade to tell anyone other than my very closest friends that I’d been abused. Part of it was, of course, that it’s a very private and painful experience. But if I’m being honest, the biggest reason I didn’t want anyone to know was because of the reality that I’d be shamed. Me. Not my abusers. I knew I’d carry the weight of what had been done to me. Not just the pain, but the blame. People rarely admit to blaming the victim but their cold comments, the looks on their faces, their body language, or their overall lack of response speaks volumes to those brave enough to break the silence.
I get it…we as humans want to believe that, at the core, everyone is good; that society is good. It’s just too scary and disturbing to look at the possibility that many of us, maybe even those we know and love, are capable of detestable things. So, we buy into the lie that, somehow, those who have suffered abuse must have done something to deserve it or something to welcome it; some major lack of judgement or some sin they’re being condemned for. So much goes unsaid and so much is assumed, rather than asked about, all because the topic of abuse makes most people uncomfortable. If there’s one thing our society is determined to be, it’s comfortable.
Here’s the truth, whether it makes you comfortable or not:
A victim of abuse is NEVER to blame for the actions of his or her abuser.
To abuse is a choice. To be abused is not.
It’s that simple.
If someone comes to you with their story, be conscious of your words and actions. Be aware, and in control of, your responses. Craft them with compassion. Understand that the greatest gifts you can offer are your belief in them, your ability to listen to them without judgment, and your presence. To be in an abusive situation is horrible but, to feel alone in the midst of it is an unspeakable burden to bear.
We need to place blame where it belongs, solely on the abuser; to help victims of abuse move forward towards healing by giving the life-changing gifts of love and acceptance. Whether through sitting down to listen, sending a card, dropping off coffee and a hug on the hard days, or taking an active (but safe and appropriate) stand…you have the power to be a light in the darkness.