A very interesting read.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
This week finds me well and truly back on my soapbox. Because I am feeling suitably goaded to address the somewhat emotive subject of the lack of support and comprehension offered to victims of abuse. The fact that too many people in various circles (friends and family, law and order and other professionals) simply don’t ‘get’ what it means to be held captive in a manipulative relationship.
I know many of us here in the Lovefraud community have already experienced the indignity of having to convince people of the validity of what we know to be true. I’m of course familiar with the remarks from well-intentioned friends and relatives that go along the lines of “he/she always seemed such a nice person!” “Surely, if what you’re saying is true, you’d have noticed something beforehand?” “You must have got it wrong, all relationships have their ups and downs you know!” “You’re saying he/she is a what…? A psychopath…? Have you completely lost your mind…?”
With the space and wisdom that hindsight offers, I guess those kind of comments are to be understood and even expected from people around us who care, but who simply can’t comprehend that psychopathic individuals live and breathe among us. Caring people who most certainly also struggle with the idea that it was happening so close to home and that, by association, they were duped as well!
To Understand We Must First Un-Learn
To put it in to context, the phrase “we don’t see things as they are, we can only see things as we are” is never so true when explaining a new concept to people. In order to take new ideas on board, the person doing the learning must find ways to understand what they are being taught. Puzzlement, questions and sometimes bewilderment are all perfectly natural responses in the learning cycle. Often, particularly in adulthood, this process involves shifting existing beliefs or long-held opinions – turning the previously ‘unbelievable’ in to something that is appreciated and recognized. That’s all well and good, and it’s perfectly understandable too – goodness knows I’ve been there myself, both as student and teacher. The jury’s out on which role is the most taxing…
The thing is, though, this natural learning process becomes so very much more difficult to accept when the “unbelievable” relates to experiences that are being shared by somebody who has suffered from abuse and manipulation. At that moment in time, all that the ‘victim’ needs is support and understanding. But when the subject in hand involves accounts of deception, gas-lighting, control, loss of self-esteem, and that feared word “psychopathic”… well, then it simply serves to make explaining the horrors that much more galling. That much more painful.
Because it’s hard enough for us to realize the truth ourselves. And even harder to come to terms with the fact we’ve been duped and manipulated. Harder still to then reach out and ask for help! When that request typically comes at our most vulnerable time, and is met by (understandable) disbelief, then those well-intentioned people we’ve chosen to share with end up creating further pain, deeper shame and more excruciating guilt within us – in short, the re-clarifying of what happened become a repeated process of public tarring and feathering.
You know what? I can live with that. I can accept that it’s merely ‘not knowing’ on the part of friends and family who, at the time, caused me to turn the emotional knife once again on myself. At the time I knew no better myself than to respond in that way. Now, with distance, I can understand and empathise – and I’m grateful as well, because it’s highlighted the need to educate more people about the intricacies of this subject. So no, there is no axe for me to grind there. But then, this is only one small part of recovery. This is a part where we can feel confident that any hurts caused are unintentional.