No Perfect Victims

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Is it just me, or do some people seem to think true victims don’t exist?

In their mind, there are people theoretically more or less at fault, but the person less at fault is held to an even higher standard than the person more at fault: “Sure, you got raped, but hey, calm down. Respond with love and forgiveness. Right now.”

If you don’t respond with the patience of a saint, legitimate hurt and even abuse gets swept under the rug.

And if you do respond with uncommon grace, well, then, don’t forget you’re no better than anyone else. Share any complaints about the abuse or injustice, any fears, sorrows, or angry outbursts — any negative emotion, period — and the conversation gets turned around to the real issue at hand: “You’re too bitter. You’re too angry. You’re too emotional. You’re not a perfect person, either, so show some grace.”

I’m all for empowering victims to control their own behavior, thoughts, and emotions. You don’t get away with murdering white police officers in response to racism, for instance. It’s not emotionally healthy to stew in hate for the rest of your life. But it’s false, patently false, to think that just because somebody responds in a poor or even heinous way doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced real abuse, or that their abuse isn’t important to address.

I’ve been wondering why people don’t understand this, because to me, your favorite whiny millennial SJW, victimization seems so obviously a thing that happens far more often than I ever thought possible. Why isn’t it obvious to everyone?

I think there are two reasons why.

One, there’s an understanding that it takes two to tango — if you got sexually assaulted, you must have done something come hither; if someone picked a fight with you, you must have provoked them. There are two sides of the story. The victim is the cause, the abuse is the effect. There is some sort of fault on both sides. This is because…

…two, abusers don’t always look like abusers, and/or victims don’t always look like victims. Abusers can be charming, lovable, pitiable, even decent, while their victims can be moody, problematic, frustrating, and guilty of other offenses. Even victims have a hard time labeling themselves as such, because they feel to some degree that they deserved the abuse.

Many people are looking for a victim that doesn’t exist — a lovable victim with an unblemished personality and few moral flaws to speak of. They don’t see victimhood, because they’re looking for a black-and-white case between an evil person and a good person.

This seems to drive the conversation — or lack thereof — on every justice issue. Who wants to believe that racism’s a problem when some black people, in the name of their lives mattering, torch Milwaukee? Who wants to validate a petulant teenager’s feelings and dramas that seem too much like a ploy for attention? Who wants to listen to the mean kid’s sob story after she just punched her classmate in line? Who believes the prostitute when she files charges for rape?

It seems unthinkable to us that imperfect and even repulsive people could ever be victims.

But they are. And we need to see them.

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18 thoughts on “No Perfect Victims

  1. Shaun Jex

    I think it keeps people from having to confront the issue. If you can find a way to blame the victim, you aren’t forced to deal with what might be systemic racism/sexism/etc. Confronting major wounds is uncomfortable, it takes time and hard work. Easier just to say that the victim did something to deserve it, or that they aren’t really a victim. Then there’s no reckoning.

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  2. handtothyplough

    I believe the reason that people don’t see victims as much as they should is multi-layered. Desensitization to anything and everything that would normally be looked at as bad or evil and the glorification of such. Karma, as in what comes around goes around, and if something bad happens to you then you probably deserved it. Selfishness – everyone is so focused on self that they don’t have time to really care about what doesn’t affect them. Trust – it is hard to trust that anyone is telling the truth these days as people are constantly being exposed as liars and/or the belief that everyone is out to get something or to bring down someone. Beliefs – without the belief that others are important or that we are here for a purpose it is far to easy to say “it is not my problem”. As far as an example you mentioned, it is hard to get a good discussion going on racism due to the direction folks steer the conversation. There are so many “race cards” being played that Peter no longer looks like the one crying “wolf”. People get sick of hearing it which mutes and renders useless the actual racism that should be called out and discussed. On top of that the rioting and destruction of neighborhoods and the retaliation against those that have done nothing further puts a divide between those who claim injustice and those they claim are causing it. No dialogue can then take place. Martin Luther King did it the right way, with peaceful protesting which brings in all those that can see the injustice. Violence and separation will never do so.

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    • Bailey Steger

      I agree with your observations. I was thinking, mostly, of many conservative Christians who turn a blind eye to victims — people who don’t celebrate the glorification of evil, or believe in karma, who find their purpose in Christ and seek to love others. It seems that many “of this world” are sometimes more attuned to injustice than many Christians, and I think your last point is the most accurate for the conservative Christians in response to racism — the issue has become convoluted, violent, and fictional. For many Christians and/or decent, loving conservatives, it’s hard to take it seriously.

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  3. handtothyplough

    Maybe Christians, Conservative and Liberal, tend to turn a blind eye to injustice is that they forget why we are here. We are not here to judge why a person is where they are. We should not decide who is worthy of our help based on their status in this world. We should not judge who is a worthy victim or a rightful victim. We are not the final authority on injustice either, God would hold that title. We are here to serve, love and let Jesus’ light shine throughout the world in all we do, friend and foe alike. This doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to sin either. Jesus served and pointed out sin to those who he came in contact with and to everyone else through His word.

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  4. ChrisW

    I think there are two other factors at play:

    First, there is a lack of understanding of the nature of mercy — that it isn’t deserved. Yes, it *can* be a precursor to grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, but it doesn’t always and it stands in its own right even when it doesn’t. I think this ties into the (false) “worthy victim” narrative discussed above.

    Second, I think forgiveness and reconciliation of the kind seen in the NT are as rare as the physical healings also recorded. Not saying they don’t exist, nor am I saying they are unhelpful things to hope for (though they can be). The point is, these are concentrated *foretastes* of our future redemption. And yes, the Kingdom of Heaven is now, but it’s also not yet. But for some reason (because it’s neater? Because emotions are intangible?) Christians push for reconciliation and/or forgiveness like it’s a daily prayer discipline and when it’s something more extraordinary and rarer. I wouldn’t want this to be used as an excuse for complacency, but we all have our own healing journeys and I think we need to be OK with God doing some works in slow time, or leaving them incomplete until he comes.

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  5. Justine

    Yes yes yes yes yes. Because, number one, no matter what I do, I am not responsible for your actions. If I walk naked in front of you, you still don’t get to rape me because rape is wrong. Same if you call me names, I don’t get to name-call back, and I can’t say, “You made me call you names”
    And number 2, to expect a victim to be “perfect” is to deny the science about the lasting effects of trauma. Trauma, especially when experienced at a young age, imprints itself on the brain and body. It then effects the person’s beliefs and behaviour.

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      • Justine

        I was thinking today, and I came up with this:
        I think I’ve come up with another thing that’s behind victim blaming/shaming in Patriarchy circles.
        Kids who have been raised in the Steve Maxwell/Geoff Botkin/Doug Phillips way have been protected from worldly people even within their own churches. For a lot of families this translates to being protected from anything their parents didn’t agree with. The parents had good intentions; after all, he who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Prov 13:20). They were trying to raise up wise children in the way they thought was best.
        People who have experienced trauma, whether emotional, physical, sexual, or whatever, tend to experience the effects of it. This often manifests in behavioural issues such as anger, resistance to authority, and reckless behaviour.
        Because of this, kids who are raised in Patriarchy families are “protected” from kids who have experienced trauma. Often these kids are also shielded from the news and other media for the same purpose of protecting them from worldliness.
        These kids become adults who sub-consciously look down on anyone who is different. In addition to this they are largely unaware of what the lives of those outside their circles are like. This results in a group of people who have been conditioned to a)trust authority always, b) judge people based on their behaviour, not what is behind the behaviour, and c) not even know much, if anything, about the existence of harmful or negative life experience, or the effects of it.
        Thus, the victim blaming is am automatic response that many people make unconsciously. It also means that patriarchy families put a lot of emphasis on blood lines and have no place in their hearts or homes for foster kids.
        I think we, the next generation, need to raise our kids to see people as people, to listen to their stories, and to see justice as more than following all the right rules. That way we and our kids will learn to care about and for others, bringing Jesus’s love to the world.
        *Sorry I don’t have references for those points… I read about protecting your kids from other kids in their own church and about protecting our families from the news on Steve Maxwell’s site Titus2.com, but I can’t remember which articles I read it in.

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      • Bailey Steger

        This sounds spot on. Another variant of that is patriarchy people who do go through trauma and develop behavioral or mental issues because of it feel HORRIBLE, because they’re unaware of how trauma affects normal people. The victims then blame themselves and have a scarily unhealthy view of themselves and the adult/authority they’re trying to please. That’s where so much of the victim blaming comes from, I think — the victim feels lesser-than because they can’t control themselves, while the godly authority sets them an example of how “easy” it is to just let go and forgive and be a good little Christian, giving them, in the victim’s mind, more control and respect.

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  6. Laura Jinkins

    I have kept this page open in a tab since you first posted it because I wanted to throw my two cents’ worth in, but didn’t have time when I first read it. A couple of thoughts:

    Yes, victims are completely entitled to their feelings regarding what has happened to them. There’s absolutely no doubt of that. However, I think the mistake many victims make is in broadcasting to the world what happened to them in hopes of garnering sympathy and perhaps vengeance of some sort on their aggressor. I can’t help but think (and some of this is rooted in personal experience, so I’m not shooting from the hip here) that the wiser road would be to seek the counsel of one or two trusted friends and/or professionals to work through whatever it is that happened to them. When a person has been wronged (whether it be emotionally, physically, spiritually), shouting it from the rooftops does little to facilitate the healing process. Namely because people jump on the band wagon with words that do little to help — “That bastard! How dare he treat you like that!” rather than words that do help — “Listen, this is not a healthy relationship. Can I give you the name and number of a counselor who can help you make some decisions? And maybe this number to a safe house?” The mob mentality that arises from the nationwide broadcast of offenses is more like gasoline on a fire, than salve to a wound.

    On a different note – and this has nothing to do with criminal offenses like rape or battery, but just relationships in general: There are not two sides to every story. There are three. Your side, my side, and what really happened. When you tell your side, it’s influenced by your interpretation, however unintentional, of what happened. Likewise, when I tell my side, I’m going to skew things to my side, even if I don’t realize it. The third side is what actually happened.

    My parents gave me some advice when I first got married. They told me that when my husband and I argued about anything, to keep it between ourselves. If I ran home to “mom and dad” or he complained to his sister … he and I would forgive each other much more quickly than our respective relatives ever would. And it’s true. I’ve even experienced this with my daughter. When another teenager in our homeschool group years ago wounded my daughter deeply, within a week all was forgiven and they were hanging out again. I could not forget the hurt on my daughter’s face, however, and I was never really able to view that person without remembering that again. It could be said my daughter was a victim of the “mean girls” phenomena (nowhere nearly as serious as rape or physical abuse, but still hurtful) — she could have broadcast it from the rooftops, but eventually these two young girls grew up, matured, and eventually became very good friends. I try to respect that, but it is challenging.

    I’m rambling now (it’s 1:21 am on New Year’s Day). I hope this made sense. Thoughts, comments are welcome.

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    • Bailey Steger

      I guess it depends on the situation, wouldn’t it? I know that many victims heal by sharing their stories of abuse publicly. I know how important it is for victims to hear other people say, “You’re right — you should never be treated like that” — because so often they’ve been gaslighted into thinking the way their abuser treated them was normal. Speaking out is a form of bringing darkness to light, I think, of understanding it terms of justice. None of this is a substitute for professional counselor, but I’ve seen it rescue people from dark places. Plus, some victims are forced to speak out and seek justice because the abuse they faced was a crime.

      I have mixed feelings about keeping arguments between the two initial people. I am a verbal processor; I gain clarity from talking it out to myself and to my trusted friends. Oftentimes I need advice on how to handle something, or a third perspective on what really happened and what’s the middle ground. I would drown without good advice from trusted friends who know *both* of us well, flaws and all. So for me, in my marriage and with my specific friends, the advice to keep things to myself would not often be a good one. But I completely know what you mean — my sister tells me some of the things her friends do to her, and I will never look at them the same unless they recognize what they did wrong and apologize. In her case, unlike your daughter’s, these “friends” never acknowledged their offenses or apologized, but I would hope I would be able to view them in the light of their changed lives should that ever happen.

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      • Laura Jinkins

        I think the key here is to be certain your confident knows how to keep a confidence, and to limit the number of confidents you share your struggle with. If you have that one or two people that you know you can trust and who you can count on for good counsel, there’s really no need to share your struggle with anyone else. At some point the “sharing” of the struggle becomes gossip and a subconscious effort to garner sympathy and more people “to my side” — I am not talking about true criminal activity — in that case, you should be talking to the authorities and considering how your conversation may affect any legal proceedings that may ensue. (Kind of a prosecutorial version of “loose lips sink ships” — )

        I am so sorry that your sister’s friends never acknowledged how they’d hurt her. It is difficult to forgive and move forward when someone DOES ask forgiveness. Even harder when they don’t. :(

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