• Dara Kountz

Abuse Victims - Mentally Ill, Not Stupid

Awhile back, I as sitting in a writer's critique group listening to another author's chapter. In the chapter, the protagonist finds out her friend has returned to a physically abusive boyfriend. The protagonist yells at her friend and walks away from her friend. During the critique, one of the other authors made the comment about the friend, "I've known a lot of women like that, too stupid to live." Now, what this group did not know was that I was in an abusive marriage for 16 years. I have healed from it and done research on why it happened and I know one thing for a fact - it didn't happen because I was stupid. Now, part of me (being the newest member to the group) wanted to stay silent so as not to rock the boat. But, another part of me looked at this comment and thought, "That, that attitude right there is part of the reason abusers get away with it. That lack of understanding, of blaming the victim and, since I know this, if I remain silent, I'm part of the problem not the solution." So, I spoke up. I stated, "Abuse victims are not stupid. They are mentally ill. The abuser messes with their mind until they will accept the unacceptable." That put a halt to the conversation for several uncomfortable minutes until someone changed the subject. Still, this is not the only time I have run into this misconception or talked about it. I am very open about having been in an abusive relationship and have healed to the point that it does not bother me to talk about it. I have found that many people have questions about why a victim remains with an abuser, especially when they are close to the victim. They want to understand but don't know where on the internet to look for an answer and are afraid to ask the victim because they do not want to hurt the victim. They want to know but they don't how or who to ask. So, when I tell them that it doesn't bother me to talk about it, they ask me - why? Why does he/she stay? How can he/she put up with it? How can anyone in their right mind stay in that situation? Well, there is your answer. The victim is not in their right mind. When I left my ex-husband, I did a lot of soul searching and spent time doing research to understand how I had become a victim so it would never happen again. Researchers have found that victims of abuse are actually suffering from Stockholm's syndrome. The symptoms and situations are pretty much the same. I got caught by my abuser because I had poor self esteem, which he worked on. When an abuser wants to be sweet, there is no one more romantic. He made me feel special and needed. He made me feel valued even as he slowly and subtly stripped away what little self esteem I had. "Sweetie, you're so close to perfect except for this one thing." "Love, I'm only trying to help you by telling you about this habit of yours that bugs everyone around you." He always developed a reason why we had to separate from friends...usually my fault somehow. I was pushy. I was antagonistic. I had hurt feelings. No one said anything to me, of course, other than him telling me that they had mentioned things to him and they didn't want to see me or talk to me anymore. If the person was closer to me than him, then he found reasons to accuse them of hating him, of trying to turn me against him, of how they treated him badly when I wasn't looking. He was an expert at being the innocent victim. And, of course, I became afraid of angering him. When he got angry, he yelled, he pushed me, then he got really sick because the high blood pressure aggravated an illness he actually had and he lay in the bed 'close to death' for at least a day. So, I became afraid of him even being upset. I had to control everything to make each day perfect so he wouldn't get upset and sick and yell at me because, of course, it was all my fault. It's very exhausting to try to make everything perfect for someone and everything look perfect to the outside world. When you're exhausted and stressed, you can't think straight. Once I got out of the situation and was able to think - I realized it wasn't my fault. He blamed me for everything but it wasn't MY fault. All I tried to do was take care of a man I loved and I got my mind screwed up and my health wrecked. I wasn't stupid, I was manipulated and mentally ill with low self-esteem, Stockholm's syndrome, depression, self-hate and self-harm. I hated myself so much I couldn't believe anyone else would ever like me other than the man telling me how much he needed me and adored me and how I was his whole life which was why he put up with all my issues. I wasn't stupid. I was victimized - same as the victim of a thief, a mugger, a terrorist, a murderer. The only difference is the victim of a mugging, theft or murder is not blamed for it. No one asks, "Well, how could you let yourself be mugged?" "How could you let someone just break into your house?" No, those victims get sympathy for their position of victim. Well, abuse victims need the same sympathy, not judgement. Instead of asking, "How could you let yourself be abused?", we need to focus on the actual source of the issue. "How could anyone abuse a person they profess to love?" "How could anyone wreck the person they're supposed to love?" I'm speaking up because I really want to see the blame placed where it belongs: on the abuser. By blaming the victim, we're telling them that the abuser is correct, that it's all the victim's fault. Which, of course, makes it harder for the victim to leave. They're already being blamed by one person, why trade that in for even more judgement? If you're blaming the victim, you're part of the problem. Until the abusers are held responsible by society rather than the victims, then society is helping the abusers to keep a victim caged in the relationship. Image usage rights set to "available for reuse" found at https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2016/04/05/06/27/dream-1308791_960_720.jpg

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