We May Need to Talk About What Victimhood Means
Every time there is a domestic violence case in the media of some sort, onlookers oftentimes have the same types of questions. These questions include:
- Why won’t she leave, then?
- What did she do to him to make him react the way he did?
- She hasn’t left, so she must like it.
- Doesn’t she think of her kids?! Why would she stay in an abusive relationship when she’s got kids? Why won’t she get out?
- Why hasn’t she gone to the police?
Every last one of these questions are extremely common and fuel the minds and mouths of many people that are seemingly hell-bent on victim-blaming and judging the abused, instead of pointing the onus directly where it belongs: onto the abuser and asking why the abuser abuses, instead of twisting and turning the narrative to make the victim as unreal and unvictimed as she is.
We don’t talk much about male victims of domestic violence and it is not because it never happens. Male victims of domestic violence are especially common in homosexual relationships. However, time and time again, it is women – most especially black women that are not only the most vulnerable to victimhood in heteronormative relationships, but because whenever a woman says she is being abused/molested/or raped, she is usually not believed, discredited, and accused of somehow being the cause of the very abuse she is experiencing.
The world does not respect black women and it is damning and sad. Click To Tweet
Because these are the harsh realities we are faced with, it is imperative that we talk about what victimhood actually means and in an attempt to answer those questions that onlookers, including the family, friends, and foes of victims continue to ask, I am making a bulleted list (of course), for ease.
The Top Three Components of the Victim experiencing Domestic Violence/Sexual Abuse/Rape:
It is commonly assumed that because a victim is still with her boyfriend/husband with or without kids, that she must “like it” and that “all she’s gotta do is leave” and on and on. In many cases, this is simply NOT so cut and dry. For a lot of victims of domestic violence, they are in complete and utter fear, which keeps them from leaving. Their abuser may very well be threatening them and their children with harm or even death if they leave them or tell someone what is going on. Because of their fear, they stay and endure the pain in solitude.
For people that have never endured domestic violence at all, either as the child or primary victim, this fear is incredibly hard for them to grasp. For many, it doesn’t make sense to stay in an abusive relationship, especially if there are children involved. “Don’t they have someone that can come and handle the (abuser)?” “Can’t they plan their escape?” and on and on are very common things said. I ask, “Have you ever seen the movie “Enough”?
This brings me to my next point…
(lack of) SUPPORT
Just as I mentioned how many people will ask, “Why don’t they tell their brother/cousin/friend, etc. and get them to rough up the (abuser)” and that is extremely simplistic thinking. While it totally makes sense to get others involved for your help and benefit if you are abused, for many abusers it is not that simple. It’s just not.
What people fail to realize is that everyone has their own breaking point when they are in an unhealthy relationship. That said – if a woman is in a relationship with a crummy guy, nine times out of ten, her friends and family can tell he is a terrible person almost immediately. And when they can tell, they oftentimes tell her to leave him alone and give supporting reasons. Many times, they even see the beginnings of the abuse themselves in the form of verbal abuse and other tell-tale signs (he may always ask her for money, may not work, may not be taking care of his children, etc.) and the family and friends dislike him immediately. He is not good for their friend/family member and they want better for her. When the first signs spark up, a lot of women will completely ignore them and come quick with excuses to the people that dislike their new guy. Over time and as the situation does not improve, the family and friends can start to distance themselves from the abused woman, leaving her unsupported when she is ready to leave and needs resources and help to assist her in completing her desire to leave for good.
Feeling unsupported is a huge reason why many victims do not come forward about their abusive situations. And not only do they feel unsupported but they can also feel unintelligent, unworthy, and very very alone. The lack of support does not help them in their current feelings of self-doubt and lowered self-esteem either. It takes a lot of patience to cope with having a friend/family member that is being abused but hasn’t taken the plunge to leaving yet, even if she knows she needs to. The fear alone can cripple her plans. However, if she knows she has a solid support system, even with one friend, that is enough to make her feel validated and supported.
Not being BELIEVED
Victims are CONSTANTLY not believed for their abuse. “What did she do to make him react that way” is terribly common. What do you mean what did she do? Remember Tina and Ike Turner? Many times, all she did was breathe. Or wear something she wanted. Or say she didn’t want to sing a song she was requested to sing. Or she didn’t feel well. And those instances resulted in black eyes, bruises, and broken ribs.
Victims are not the reason for their abuse. They are victims because abusers abuse. No other reason.
We need to get out of this constant habit of saying stupid things about victims though. We need to stop with the “the only time someone is going to hit like that is if they are provoked”. First of all, if you are capable of doing that type of damage just because someone made you mad, you may need to check into a psychiatric facility or an anger management support group. And that is super real. If you can justify the beating of a woman because she may have said something you didn’t like, you are the problem, not her. Every.single.time.
We need to believe the abused. They should not have to take photos of their bites, bruises, and broken bones in order to be believed. She does not need to make a video recording the blow by blow in order to be believed. She does not need to have gone to the police first in order to be believed (in fact, in cases of domestic violence and rape, law enforcement have proven to not believe the abuse time and time again, which is exactly why coming forward and reporting said abuse is difficult and in many cases, a non-existent option for the victim.
Every single time there is a domestic violence issue that happens, I find myself really saddened that so many people REMAIN uneducated on victims and abusers. It is upsetting and it makes me have a serious headache and lack of hope for any real change on the part of domestic violence rates lessening in the first place. Hopefully, this blog has helped to educate someone.