Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Where Does the Shame Come From?

It’s not brave to talk about it. It’s not obscene disclosure or a cry for help. Could it be possible, plausible even, can we knock our minds to and fro to look at an issue from a different angle and create new dialogue?

Women and children who’ve endured men’s violence carry with them an internal shame that permeates their self definition and labels us needing. Make no mistake that incest is men’s violence against women and children, and labeling the abused as brave, or recovering, or in need of help continues the social dialogue of victims at fault or powerless. Have you ever considered, even for a moment, that the shame of the abused is not only because of the acts they’ve endured, but because as a society, when we hear another story, embrace another woman’s truth, often our first socially-mandated response is to begin the process of telling the abused she needs help.

Have you gone to therapy? Have you learned to forgive your abuser? How has the abuse affected your life and left you lacking? If these questions are the majority focus of our conversations with victims of men’s violence against women—if we’re constantly trying to fix victims—the loud and clear message we’re sending is that the abused person herself certainly does have something to be ashamed of—after all, why would she need fixing if there wasn’t something wrong with her?

Why is the first stop the therapist’s office instead of the police station?

Could the seedling of shame grow from our prescribed community response to the abused instead of the outrage and legal recourse we should have toward the male abuser?

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17 comments to Where Does the Shame Come From?

  • You bring up a good point. Everyone expects that we forgive the abuser. I still haven’t and I won’t. Don’t get me wrong, I am not carrying around a ton of hate. But, I don’t feel that it is right to tell someone that abusing anyone is forgiven.

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..Random Tuesday Thoughts: Where is everyone?

  • AMEN SISTER! I always hate hearing that the only way to truly “recover” is to forgive your abuser…and then you can move on. B.S. I say. I don’t think abuse toward a child, especially one that you were suppose to protect, is any way, shape, or form, forgivable.

    Mrs. Schmittys last blog post..Justin Timberlake & Andy Samberg Do It Again!

  • Jan

    I forgive zilch unless the person who’s done the abusing has earned it. Nothing. Zip. Nada. The abuser is the asshole – the one who apparently needs the help (I’ll help him…with a damn cattle prod).

    My ex-husband wants us all to just “get along” and “have a fresh start” while doing nothing to EARN that fresh start. My uncle and cousin have apparently “found God” who has already forgiven them, so why do I need to? (You have NO idea how much I HATE that cop-out.)

    Jans last blog post..RTT: Gardening, Baby

    • Tricia

      Jan: I’ll join you with a cattle prod and I wish more people expected accountability and realized fresh starts are earned. The cop out about finding God is below the belt, that’s for sure.

  • Tricia

    I think it was part of the 80s psychological community’s dialogue that forgiveness was the path to happiness, and I have no idea if that’s accurate. I hope we’re moving more toward accountability, but I don’t think so. My issue is that we continue to treat victims of abuse as if there’s something wrong with them instead of demanding criminalization of the acts…of the people who commit violence…of people who are sexual predators.

  • donna

    I don’t think that you can ever forgive your assailant. I for one have not nor do I ever intend to. However I am going to thearpy for myself to learn how to deal with the abuse at the hands of my father. Shoulda,coulda,woulda,
    I would love to put the B—–d in jail, but he up and died.
    A very slow and cruel death, so you see god has his own ways of working things out.
    We are all afraid to take our attackers to task because we have been told if you tell then something bad will happen to you. To forgive them only makes them feel better about what they did and tells them that it is ok. Well guess what I will never give that satisfaction to any one.
    Great post.

    • Tricia

      Donna: All great points and I for one wouldn’t argue with anything you’ve said here. I wonder though if as a society there’s a way to eradicate the shame that seems to go hand in hand with abuse.

  • we go to the therpists office before the police because we actually believe we are the “problem ” and we are the ones trying to control the situation…when we aren’t. (in my past experiences, that is)

    movin’ down the roads last blog post..Mama’s Day

  • I’m with Jan. My abuser (x husband) pretends he’s done nothing wrong and therefore can’t figure out why I despise him. I truly believe he’s convinced himself that he didn’t do anything and that’s the only way he can live with himself. He’s 54 years old and his own family won’t invite him to family reunions. One of his sons just recently got married and didn’t invite him to the wedding but invited me and I’m not his mother. He has no friends and he’s disowned 3 of his 4 sons because they “don’t respect him enough” which translates to….they won’t let him crap on them anymore. Can you feel the apathy I have for this man?? I’ll never forget and it would take a lot for me to forgive. In other words, I could give a sh*t if that man lives or dies because he doesn’t matter to me anymore.

    Now, I’ve got to go take blood pressure meds before I explode.

    Midlife Slicess last blog post..Check Please

  • As always, a thought provoking post, Tricia. I have to admit my first impulse would be to offer help to the victim first and shoot the bastard later. While I would NEVER suggest that the assailant be forgiven, I do think that my first concern would be the mental and emotional health of the abused. I can see where offering help instead of pursuing the abuser first would give a mixed message to the abused. ACK! I have no answers.

    Smart Mouth Broads last blog post..WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO IN THE FIRST PLACE

  • I think maybe some suggest a therapist because they want to help the victim…but have no clue how to do so?
    I would never encourage the victim to forgive their abuser. I would be more likely be on the attack of the abuser. Grab a cattle prod…or a brander or a pair of garden snips.

    But seriously…you are right it is society that has made victims feel shame. Especially in the past…when people just didn’t talk about it publicly. The victim is sent off to therapy and treated like damaged goods… and the abuser gets a slap on the wrist and probation…and is out victimizing someone else.

    The abuser is the one who should have his/or her head examined!

    Monicas last blog post..Rest In Peace Kayleigh Freeman

  • I don’t think forgiveness equals permission. I think it just frees the harmed person from carrying the burden of all the hate and anger around – which can become a poison all it’s own to the ones you love and cherish. It is incredibly rare for me to share my own story of abuse for exactly the reasons you discuss. I do not want to be defined by my abuse, to be perceived as a victim and to have to defend my own life with regard to the things done to me by someone in a position of authority. I do not want to field questions about him, his own abuse, his addictions – as if any of it might justify his behavior. Nothing is justified and I did nothing wrong. More than 20 years later, I am still learning this lesson. While it is worthy of consideration, why others choose to perceive a victim of abuse in a certain way, another thing to consider is why do we see ourselves like that? Why do we spend so much time trying to figure out “what is wrong with me”? It’s all connected – societal ignorance about family violence, parental authority taken to extremes, that we allow people to live in extreme poverty, and abuse of power all the way up the chain in every walk of life. Where is the value for humanity? It’s a circular question where one leads to another and another but ultimately, they are all connected and all play a role in how we each view and treat those who most deserve our unwavering support.

    Danielles last blog post..Boys

    • Tricia

      Danielle: you nailed this squarely on the head, admirably. The circle is endless and I hope we keep asking the questions, and perhaps we’ll also come up with some answers. I hope.

  • A-men is right Tricia. I applaud you for your courage and discussion.

    MamaGeeks last blog post..No Really, He IS My Child.

  • Where does the shame come from? A very good question and you have given me much to think about after reading this. I am a proponant of forgiveness because without it I wouldn’t be alive. I have been on both ends of forgiveness and I know from both sides, the healing that it can bring if we allow it to. So often people assume that forgiveness is releasing the person from responsibility for what they did but it’s not. It’s much deeper than that and unless you seek this out to it’s deepest level it may be hard for some to understand. I know many people think it’s a cop out or an easy out for the wrong doer. It’s not about them.

    I know that when I say I have forgiven my father, or other people that violated me, I am not saying that it’s “okay” or that they are “off the hook” or that I’m good with them…what I am saying is that I am not hanging on to the hate or bitterness from the violation…that I’m letting go so it can stop having power over me…forgiveness for me is releasing it over to someone bigger than me to handle. Forgiveness is about me.

    I know for me, I needed help in getting over being violated but deep down I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I needed fixing so that this didn’t happen again. I thought some how I caused it to happen. It took me many years to learn the truth.

    I don’t know what the answers are but I do know that talking about them is key. Breaking the silence and talking about these uncomfortable things is key to finding answers.

    Loris last blog post..On Becoming A Mommy

    • Tricia

      Lori: I agree and would second what Danielle wrote, that forgiveness doesn’t equal permission. The method to figuring out there isn’t anything wrong with us is often so deeply rooted in personal paths and each person finds his or her truth. Thanks so much for engaging with this. I went to my grandfather’s death bed so I too could find my own peace by letting go of bitterness and hate…monkeys I didn’t want riding on my back. I want to scream loudly and talk softly so that anyone, anywhere who has become prey to a sexual predator will hear us shout…we are not damaged goods…the acts of violence are criminal. Simply criminal.

  • Man, Tricia. I’ve read your posts out of order. The comment I left two blogs up is more fitting for here.

    You are right about the damaged goods part. It’s like if we managed to emerge from the experience without feeling eternally broken, society is going to help us to see just how much we truly are.

    Lisa Ps last blog post..The Present Game – Beautiful Like Me Project

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