One of the ways abusers exert power over those they abuse is by twisting the truth and blaming their victim for the abuse. From the outside, victim blaming it is hard to understand why anyone would possibly believe they were responsible for somebody else abusing them.

Why do people put up with it?

I commonly hear people say ‘If anybody treated me like that I would tell them exactly what I think of the behaviour, I would not put up with it. I have too much respect for myself’

When I hear comments like this it makes me sad at the lack of understanding that still exists around the dynamics of abuse.

I certainly wasn’t asking for it.

When I was in my late teens my brother (who was by then an adult) used to beat me, sometimes because I had annoyed him and other times because life had annoyed him. The outcome for me was the same.

The beatings were brutal.

I remember after a particularly brutal beating I was told it would be best if I stayed at home so nobody saw my injuries. The following conversation is how it was turned on me and how it was my fault he became violent.

Me ‘Why should I stay home to cover your back, it is not me who beat you up’

Him ‘Look I get that beating women is wrong, even my sister. But I have talked to all my friends and they agree if they had you as a sister they would beat the crap out of you too. They feel bad you pushed me into hitting you. Actually, they are really angry at you’

Me ‘But, why would they be angry at me’

Him ‘Because you’re not a nice person. You push people to breaking point. And now I feel like shit, I suppose you are feeling superior now?

Me ‘No, I didn’t mean to upset and I don’t want you to hate yourself’

Him ‘Yes you did, but it backfired because now everyone hates you’

Violence becomes normalised.

This is an extreme but pretty normal exchange where it became my fault. The blame is squarely put on my shoulders. As if I could have somehow done something to control his anger and I should feel guilty because I didn’t. In my feeling ashamed to face people as if I really am somehow defective.

Getting to this stage takes time and grooming, but to me that conversation made sense. I felt bad for pushing my brother into doing something he hated himself for.

I began to believe it was my fault.

I even felt selfish for being so anxious to see our friends, when I had made him do something so dreadful. Now I realised how much they must’ve hated me. (my perception then, not now)

Anyone who has ever been bullied will understand how your perception of reality changes. As the bullies blame you for the abuse it becomes the new normal. It is common to hear those bullied say:

‘I must have done something to deserve this, or they wouldn’t pick on me’

Add to this the trauma of others then victim blaming. I see it all the time, a victim defends their partner after the most despicable abuse and people get annoyed with the abused not the abuser. Perpetuating over and over that the victim is to blame.

Victim blaming has to stop.

If you read a post of hear somebody victim blaming and feel tempted to react in agreement because you do not understand why someone would put up with, go back to, defend their aggressor or whatever it is.

Remember YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND and seek to understand rather than stand in judgment.

How can we expect employees to disclose domestic violence or for that matter sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace if we continue to lay the blame on them? We need to come from a place of compassion and understanding because it leads to empathy and from a place of empathy we can start to show victims we do not blame them and neither should they.

Lisa McAdams

About Lisa: Lisa is a survivor of domestic violence who shares her story openly; along with knowledge and understanding of abuse and her experience from her time in corporate to help companies develop an organisational culture of empathy and understanding.

She helps by bringing insights on this complex and emotional subject, ensuring managers understand the issue, the signs and how to communicate with those impacted by domestic violence.

Lisa is passionate about educating workplaces so they can ensure women in abusive relationships remain in the workplace. Because employment improves outcomes and can ultimately save lives.

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