Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Psychoanalyst victim blames – It Takes Two To Gaslight

Last month Red magazine carried an article. "Is there a sociopath in your
life".  Written by Louise Chunn who used to be the editor of Psychologies it is quite a good article and i did tweet them to tell them so.

However there was one paragraph within which is a quote from a psychoanalyst called Dr Robin Stern.

This is what Dr Stern says about gaslighting.

Stern believes that such situations take two to gaslight. "One person who needs to be in control to maintain a sense of self,and you,the other person,who needs the relationship to maintain YOUR sense of self and is WILLING to acquiesce. You find yourself second guessing your own reality,confused and uncertain of what you think, because you have ALLOWED another to define your reality and tell you what you think and who you are"

I find this attitude from this profession extremely worrying and its not the first time ive seen it. Ive been on discussion threads on other sites where abuse victims have discussed victim blaming that they have experienced from counsellors and there is at least one other post on this very site (EVB) from another contributor who has experienced this first hand.

It demonstrastes how ingrained victim blaming in our society really is. This is a problem that badly needs addressing as soon as possible. Blaming someone and making them responsible for what happened to them is not only heartless it is dangerous. You wouldnt blame someone for being mugged on the street so why blame someone who has experienced an abusive relationship.

Something else Dr Stern has not taken into account is the societal and cultural pressure that there is on couples to stay together no matter what.

Ive seen abuse victims pressured by their OWN families into staying with the abuser. Would Dr Stern blame the victim for that too instead of the family members who have their own agenda?!

Anyone who is considering counselling who has read this article could now be put off from going. But perhaps after some of the experiences ive read that might not be a bad thing.

Im sure there are some very good counsellors out there. I know there is. I saw a very good one in 2004 and another good one in 2007.

But as a whole there really needs to be better training so that it is recognized that the fault is with the abuser, never the victim.

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2 thoughts on “Psychoanalyst victim blames – It Takes Two To Gaslight

  • Emma Stone says:

    As someone who was gaslighted I find that paragraph deeply disturbing. May I point out that the topics I was gaslighted on, topics revolving around sex and proper relationship etiquette, are topics that are taboo to discuss in public. How often do you sit down with your friends and say, “Is sex suppose to hurt? because my boyfriend doesn’t seem bothered” or “How many snipes at my physical appearance should a boyfriend make? Is an average of one a day too much?” or even “Does your boyfriend pester you for sex everyday? Does he wear you down until you submit?”

    These are things you learn be accident as I did 6 months after we broke up or things you learn from other relationships. While I had a gut feeling, that was not enough to use in an argument. The man I loved told me I was wrong and he supposedly had proof. He’d tell me our relationship was normal, that I was lucky to have him. How can I be blamed for staying with him at that point? I mean hell, if he’s good I don’t want to find bad!

    Thank you so very much for writing a response to that paragraph, its nice to know I am not alone since I did feel alone for so long.

  • Elizabeth @LizJ73. says:

    Hi Emma Sorry its taken so long for me to respond to you I havent checked this post for a while Im so sorry to hear about your experience.
    I see time and time again posts on relationship forums from women who have gone to counselling with an abusive partner where a counsellor has not recognised that an abuser is sitting in front of them and the counsellor also ends up being manipulated by the abuser and blaming the victim. More training and awareness is needed. Thankyou for posting Emma.