Is there ever a time you should not believe the victim?
You know those stories that just don’t add up?
I get a lot of those stories at the hospital. I have become cynical. People lie.
Lies and stories that don’t quite jibe (yes, I thought it was jive too), often riddle the abusive relationship as well. These lies and incongruencies do not just come from the perpetrator, however. The victim is often just as guilty.
Now, before you get all up in arms, because I know that self-doubt and being doubted by others are way too common in these situations, let me expound on the victim’s dishonesty.
A victim frequently hides, diminishes and downplays the situation she is going through. This is dishonest, but trust me, I understand. I did it. Most do.
For various and sundry reasons, the victim feels the need to protect her abuser, protect his reputation and protect her dignity. This is far from covering all the reasons that victims have for hiding their situation. Safety, love, duty, submission, protecting her family, there are many reasons she uses to justify the behavior thus allowing it to continue.
I think this is one of the hardest things for those who have not experienced this to understand. Many people ask why the victim did not tell anyone, seek help, or why they allowed it to happen or continue. Much of the time she cannot verbalize it herself. She just knows that at the time her reasons were logical and made sense, just as they did to me at the time. When I was asked these same questions, I was unable to answer them. Not initially.
I understand my reasons now, but that does not mean I agree with them. I just see them for what they are: efforts to make life seem normal and ok. The longer I have been out of my situation, the more clearly I see my efforts as ineffective at best but definitely making the situation worse. This does not mean I have mastered those tendencies, however. It takes a long time to develop a new modus operandi. You have to change your thinking. That is not always easy, especially when you do not always recognize your default.
Default is what we do on autopilot. It is all the things we have done for so long to manage the relationship, maintain our sanity and make our lives, well, livable. It is all the ways we change to manage our situation. The walking on eggshells, taking the insults and guilt, excusing inexcusable behavior and letting a myriad of things slide, unchallenged. Default is what allows the behavior to progress unchecked.
I have a friend who is going through a similar situation, but with her mother, not a husband. She recently said something that I completely get, but it is the wrong way to think. She said if she had to choose her broken relationship or no relationship at all, she would pick the broken relationship. The problem is, this relationship interferes with her marriage and undermines the parenting of their children. Her mother wants unfettered access to my friend and thinks she has rights in her life that she really doesn’t. The relationship with her mom is important to my friend and I get that. I get the willingness to deal with the toxicity in order to salvage the relationship. I understand it, but understanding it doesn’t make that behavior ok.
Sometimes it is for the kids, sometimes it is because you don’t want to be alone, sometimes it is because you have no other options, sometimes it is because there are good times too and you just try to hold on to those. Whatever the reasons are, I get it. I had reasons too. Children can be the most compelling of reasons for a mom.
While I had been trying to hold my family together, it was eventually the kid’s well-being that helped me make the decision to end my toxic relationship. Besides constant exposure to the behavior, their model for marriage was being played out in front of them. Like it or not, our environment has a strong influence on how we turn out. Can we rise above it? Of course. My own mother, despite her upbringing, is living proof of that, but I could not hang my hope on the fact that the kids may eventually be able to see that that is not how marriage is supposed to be. Also, just recognizing it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t fall into the same pattern of behavior.
I discuss the tip of the iceberg in another article (https://songsfromthecage.com/2017/03/22/the-tip-of-the-iceberg/). It is a concept we are all familiar with. What you see is only a small portion of what really exists. This concept coincides here because the tip of the iceberg are those small glimpses of reality, of truth, that either slip out or you, in weakness, let another person see, then in a moment of regret quickly attempt to downplay the truth.
I don’t watch the show (maybe it doesn’t even air anymore), but I have caught moments of it here and there. Grey’s Anatomy. Apparently, at the end of every episode, the main character has a soliloquy that can be insightful at times. I caught one once.
Here is the truth about the truth. It hurts, so we lie.
No, it’s not earth shattering or even biblical, but sometimes we do lie about the truth. We try to lie to ourselves and often succeed. We lie to others and convince them everything is ok. We lie because in some bizarre twisted way the lie is easier than the truth.
But here is the take home. This is what I would like for you to get from this. The lies, the downplaying, the hiding is what allows it to go on. When I was asked how I contributed to the problem, I was advised to say this: “I allowed his behavior to continue unchecked and actually promoted his behavior by hiding it.” I was an unwitting “partner in crime.”
Think hiding, lying and downplaying is making your situation more manageable? I assure you, it is not. You are becoming more manageable. That is all. You are becoming easier to control because you are doing whatever it takes to hide the truth.
Don’t. This is being used against you. You are responsible for your actions and yours alone. Those are the only ones you should be taking ownership of.