Today I was told by another victim of domestic violence that I “allowed” what happened to me. In another domestic violence group of mine, some members discussed how our lack of boundaries may have caused the abuse. A former therapist of mine told me that I needed to learn to “close my legs” and act less submissive.
I remember our “first date” and how hard he pushed me to engage in some sexual behavior. I remember all of the other boundaries he stomped on, all the other red flags I ignored. Can I really be partially responsible for being abused? Was the abuse my fault because I didn’t see it coming?
The short answer is: no.
I am not responsible for being abused. I am not responsible for his constant, persistent attacks to my boundaries. The blame of the abuse is solely on his shoulders.
When you tell me that what happened to me was (even partially) my fault, you force me to relive the helplessness that I felt while I was with him. You force me to remember all of the times he disregarded the limits I set. For someone with PTSD, these memories are not only psychological, they’re emotional and physical.
Abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault. You’d have to really understand the psychological and emotional grips an abuser has on his victim to know that it’s not as easy as just leaving. It’s not as black and white as noticing the abuse and saying, “yeah, I don’t like this, so I’m gonna go”.
Abusers don’t start by abusing. They methodically test boundaries to see where the weak spots are. They start by doling out copious amounts of attention and compliments so that the victim is hooked. They push a little on a boundary to see how much the victim will allow. As the relationship continues, the attention and compliments start to diminish and the abuser can then push harder on the boundaries because the victim wants that attention back. Those tests are often explained away as “jokes” so the victim will just shrug them off.
After awhile, it gets exhausting trying to protect ourselves from the constant onslaught of attempts to destroy our boundaries. Even when the abuse isn’t overtly physical, the threat is always there because we’ve all heard of stories about abuse that has escalated to physical violence. So, while I may have stayed in a marriage with an abusive man, the abuse was never my fault.
Instead of allowing abusers to shift the blame onto their victims (as they all do), let’s keep the focus on them and their behaviors. Let’s keep the focus off of victims and how they might potentially cause their own abuse.