Victims on Trial: Revictimization of Abuse Survivors

victims on trial

When was the last time you felt truly accepted, just as you are? You might think, “Well, my friends and family accept me no matter what.” But is this truly the case? What if you became addicted to drugs? What if you committed a crime? What if you found yourself in an abusive relationship?

If your family and friends have or if you believe they would fully support you through any of these situations, you’re truly fortunate. Many people find themselves in situations in which they have lost control and need considerable help yet, not all of them find the help they need. Instead, they are met with comments like, “Why don’t you just do xyz?” or, “You’re on your own with this one,” or “I’ll only help you if you do as I say.

Those who have experienced abuse in relationships, romantic and otherwise, know what it feels like to lose control and to feel completely powerless to help themselves. Often, they have been convinced from the start that they do not know how to make decisions and that they’re not capable of forging a life of their own. This belief is reinforced when supposed “helpers” put the blame back on the victim for staying in an abusive relationship or for even being in the relationship in the first place. “Why would you stay with someone like that?” translates to, “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just choose something better?

Helpers often forget that one of the main problems in these relationships is that the victim has lost their agency and has been controlled emotionally and/or physically. Reminding a victim that their decision-making abilities are faulty not only disempowers them, it revictimizes them. They are further revictimized through controlling helpers who will only give support if certain contingencies are met. Again, the victim is under the control of another person albeit one with an attitude of beneficence.

Those who have been abused are often traumatized as well and suffer from panic attacks, flash backs, hypervigilance and nightmares. Upon entering a treatment program, they are often forced to relive their trauma by recounting their story multiple times to multiple people.

I have written this post in a passive voice up to this point but I must state that this was exactly my situation the last time I was hospitalized. I was forced to retell my story multiple times as I cried uncontrollably and pleaded for the doctors to let me stop. I was reminded that the information was necessary and that it would be “good for me to get it out.” Needless to say, this was not the case. I relived every horrible moment again and again as my interviewers took copious notes.

During my time in the hospital and after I was released into an outpatient program, I was reminded that I was an active participant in all of my pain and that it fell upon me to stop it. If I just learned the right coping methods and told my partner what I wanted in the right way or if I just chose to leave, everything would be okay.

Sure! No problem!

Our attitude towards those who have been victimized is often one of supreme judgment. We look upon them as weak, stupid and culpable for getting into their situation and not being able to get out. It never crosses our minds that what these people might need most is compassion, acceptance and trust in their ability to make good decisions for themselves.

Survivors of abuse often develop extremely judgmental internal voices that continue to “batter” them even after they’ve left the relationship. They have feelings of longing for the person who hurt them and they hear, “What is the matter with you? You’re so stupid!” They return to the relationship — “You’re in for it now! You can’t do anything right, can you?

Let’s just stop. What gives anybody the right to pass judgement on anybody else? You know what happens when we do that? The one being victimized loses their humanity. They stop being a person like everybody else and start being a lower creature, undeserving of kindness, healing and respect. They continue to inhabit the position of less-than, just as they did when they were abused. The responsibility for getting help falls upon them just as the responsibility for being abused was theirs all along??? No.

We need to get off our high-horses and show some f***ing compassion. We do not have the right to put anybody on trial for being abused any more than we have the right to blame people for getting cancer. That’s inhuman and cruel. All people deserve kindness and respect no matter their situation. People who have been abused shouldn’t have to explain themselves or do anything special to receive support. In fact, respect and acceptance would go a long way in these people’s lives.

We are not weak and we are not stupid. We have dreams, hopes and aspirations just like anybody else. We desire love and companionship, healing and peace. We are precious and worthy of respect even if we have not been treated that way.We are deserving of lives lived with dignity, even when we feel worthless. It is not anybody’s job to save or condemn anybody else, only to treat them just as they are — human.

Thank you for reading.

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