Victim shaming, again.

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I like having conversations with people about life. It hits me all the time how differently people think, react or relate to certain pertinent issues. Sometimes the conversations run smoothly and it ends with a lot of laughs over drinks, music and food. Other times I’m just left in shock at how ignorant people can be. The feeling never gets old. Someone I know was talking about how his aunt was stuck in an abusive relationship for fifteen years before being able to leave. Fifteen?  “Wow, she probably doesn’t recognize herself anymore” was what I said to myself. I was sad. I felt her pain. Another friend of ours was like “Tweaaa! I don’t feel sorry for her. She deserves it if she’s stupid enough to stay that long.”  Needless to say, I look at that person a little sideways these days lol. I try not to judge him though because I realize that many people also probably share the same opinions.  Which is why I decided to write the following, so you can educate yourselves and help others too.

Let’s break this down..

Domestic Abuse is a situation where a person in an intimate relationship is dominated and controlled by the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is what is termed domestic violence. (Helpguide.org) it is a pattern that is prevalent in many relationships and can occur at ANY TIME.  The signs of an abusive relationship are evident or clear when a person more often than not preys on the emotional inadequacies of the other person. This is when the abuser uses shame, fear guilt and physical strength to subdue or manipulate the other person for one reason or the other. Most abusers typically exhibit feelings of shame and extreme remorse after having hurt their partners which makes it difficult for them to leave or recognize the gravity of the situation.

This creates a false sense of sympathy towards their abusers. The victims begin to experience psychological trauma where incidences of self-neglect becomes a pattern. They begin to neglect their own feelings in lieu of their partners and cling to a false sense of ‘hope’. They begin to believe that the abuse may have been their fault, or that their partners abuse them because they love them. Sometimes they simply give up on themselves and succumb to depression because they feel that there is no way out of the toxicity. They often lie to their loved ones about their ordeals and cover up in order to protect their lovers because they are very ashamed and have not yet mentally accepted that they are being abused.  Most victims recoil and keep to themselves because they are usually shunned by their close family and friends who may think that their inability to disentangle themselves from their partners is a sign of weakness, stupidity or cowardice.

This is termed Victim shaming/blaming. This occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them. The negative responses from loved ones, social workers, family members and friends affect the victims of domestic violence in more ways than one. The physical and emotional trauma that they endure does not always have them in the right frame of mind. Hence being told that they are stupid or foolish for staying with their partners DOES NOT ENCOURAGE THEM to make constructive decisions. This is because, abuse typically happens over time.  Many abusers present themselves as perfect, responsible individuals in the onset of the relationship.  That being said, victim shaming has the opposite effect on the victims. They typically begin to hide from their friends and loved ones, keep secrets, lie to protect their partners and usually pretend that the abuse does not occur or that everything is okay. They pretend to be happy mainly because they feel alone. They know they are loved by others but they don’t really believe it.

The most obvious sign of an abusive relationship is FEAR of your partner.  Most abusers escalate from verbal to physical abuse and some of the telltale signs are:

  • Bad and unpredictable tempers on the part of the abuser.
  • Threats of violence and death, emotional manipulation where the abuser threatens also to commit suicide if the victim decides to leave.
  • Overly jealous or possessive, preventing the victim from spending time with friends and family.
  • Yelling, name-calling and embarrassing the victim with put-downs.
  • Physical violence and isolation.
  • Forcing the victim to have sex or indulge in things they are not comfortable with.
  • Stalking the victim or heavily monitoring their moves e.g. On Social media, Checking text messages, GPS tracking their phones, etc.
  • Controlling the decisions and finances of the victim as well as who they see, who they befriend, where they go etc.
  • Intimidating the victim by acting in ways that scare them or threatening to kill them when they go wrong/attempt to leave.
  • Harassing the victim at their school or workplace, preventing them from going, or keeping them up all night with arguments so they perform badly.

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At this point, after having gone through all this usually for no reason, the victims have had their independence and self-worth completely destroyed. They rarely go out on social occasions without their partners and may seem nervous and subdued and anxious to please him. This is as a result of physical and emotional dependence of the abuser, for that reason Victim shaming is a problem that must be addressed in the avenue to treating domestic violence, because it goes a long way to affect the decision making process of the victim.

Victims need to feel loved and supported by their immediate family and friends unconditionally!  Unconditionally because this is the only way that they may begin to know that their abusers certainly do not love them more, as they have been brainwashed to believe. You have to love them even when you think they are being stupid. She will not be able to leave him if she is constantly blamed for being abused. It creates a place of despair for them because they live in a world where there are no perpetrators, where their abusers are hailed rather than punished.

Bringing an end to abuse is not a matter of the victim choosing to leave, but being able to safely escape the abuser.  In fact, the victim is often in the most danger directly following her escape or when she seeks help. this is because the abuser feels a loss of control over the victim. 1/5 of homicide victims are murdered within two days of obtaining restraining orders, 1/3 are murdered within the first month. (ncadv.org)  This entire situation is more scary than a lot of people think it is.    Kindly do help when you are in the position to.

Domestic violence and victim support unit,  CONTACT : 0302 666 285.

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