Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

“Go From Victim to Survivor”

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We have a number of concerns about this poster.

Firstly, the idea of moving from a victim to a survivor implies there is a correct, linear path that women must travel down before they are 'fixed' and that this must happen within a specific time frame. The implication is that a woman who does not travel down this route remains 'broken'. This is simply not a helpful way of discussing domestic violence and abuse and  this is without acknowledging the fact that some women do not like the label survivor.

Some women do want to change the behaviour of the abuser, but many others know that their abusive current or former partner will not change. Instead, they concentrate on trying to manage the person in order to decrease the abuse directed at themselves or their children. Others remain in a relationship because they have nowhere to go and others because they know the abuser will kill them if they try to end the relationship. Women are the best judge of what makes a situation safe for them. We need to listen to individual women and not assume that, as professionals, we know best.

Secondly, reaching out to others is an important step to take but we must recognise that women are not always believed when they reach out. Women need to be able to access specialist support from people trained within the field. Reaching out to "couples counselling" or "anger management" programs will not help. We need to be clear on the importance of specialist services and the fact that they are disappearing across the UK.

Thirdly, "educate yourself" is a rather patronising catchphrase. It implies that women living with domestic violence and abuse are not smart. Women who live with domestic violence and abuse come from all walks of life: some live in poverty and others live in mansion houses. There is no correlation between "education" and experience. If we are going to use the phrase education, then we need to acknowledge the myriad of reasons why women are not in a position to "educate themselves" starting with language barriers, literacy skills, and ending with a controlling partner who will not give them the space to access information to "educate themselves".

Fourthly, women do not experience domestic violence and abuse because they lack "firm boundaries". They experience domestic violence because a male partner makes a choice to engage in a pattern of coercive controlling behaviour that may also involve physical, financial or sexual violence. Suggesting that women lack firm boundaries is both unkind and inaccurate.

Ending domestic violence and abuse requires focusing on the behaviour of the perpetrator and giving women the specialist support they need to live their lives. We need to be clear in the language we use to help women. This is why we are equally concerned about the catchphrase "cocoon, protect, serve". Women who are living with domestic violence and abuse need access to non-judgmental specialist services who will support them. They do not need to be 'cocooned'. They need space to make decisions for themselves. One of the defining characteristics of domestic violence is control, which decreases the ability of women to make decisions about their own lives. An important first step for services working with women is to give them the space to think and to act - not to 'cocoon' them.

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2 thoughts on ““Go From Victim to Survivor”

  • laura says:

    I have a huge issue with the boundary thing.What if the victim is alone with her abuser,she sets boundaries and he becomes violent? What about the victim’s safety? Is it worth putting her in danger for the sake of boundaries?Yet,many victims feel that they are coward and fail themselves if they can’t put into practice such absurd advice.Unfortunately,almost all blogs dedicated to survivors push them to set boundaries,while the consequences are not discussed.Victims who don’t set boundaries are blamed for not stepping out of victim mentality.I’m writing this from my own experience.

    Many victims all around the globe die abused.In some countries,there’s no law to protect them.Sometimes,friends refuse to offer them a place in their home,to host them in a safe environment,to give practical help.Words of encouragement are often not enough.What’s the use if you tell the victim that you’re sorry for her pain or that she’s strong? What good will that do?How does that save her life? I brought up this topic on a blog for the abused and i got attacked from all sides by SURVIVORS who escaped and are now free.I was blamed for not saving myself.They told me that i wanted a free ride on my friends back,that i’m waiting to be rescued and that nobody will do it for me.

    All this,coming from people who were abused themselves and knew what it’s like living in fear in detail.Why them?

  • Hecuba says:

    As always it is women’s responsibility to remove themselves from violent men and it is always womens’ responsibility to ‘move on and get over it’ within the shortest possible time frame!

    I’m still waiting for the men to tell those ex military male soldiers (oops I mean all those numerous wonderful male heroes!) who are suffering from post traumatic stress to ‘get over it and move on!’ But that won’t happen because PTSD is real for men whereas women who suffer from PTSD due to mens’ choice and agency in subjecting them to male violence in all its forms, are expected to ‘get over it’ and not demand expert help and support!

    This is why once upon a time long, long ago real Radical Feminists created Rape Crisis Centres and Refuges specifically so that women could access these support centres and know they would not be pathologised by the so-called ‘male professional experts’ who always knew/know exactly what women want rather than listening to the women and respecting them.

    Now of course the powerful political men have almost erased these real Radical Feminist Rape Crisis Centres and Refuges because ‘we can’t have Feminists operating these centres since they don’t have those essential male-centric qualifications and hence aren’t the professional experts!’

    So we are back once more to situation wherein it is men who are the ‘real professional experts’ and it is men who are teaching female professionals how to pathologise and control those disruptive women (sic) who claim they suffered intimate male violence. This is why those worthless Anger Management Programmes and Couples Counselling are viewed as the only method because this maintains male domination/male oppression over all women!