According to the coalition against violence, incidents of intimate partner abuse and murder are rising. In 2015 about 25% of females report they have experienced abuse at some point in their lives. If all the rules we are taught to follow actually worked then why is domestic violence still such a problem? For one, the rules place all of the blame square on the shoulders of the victim. We often hear phrases like "that wouldn't happen to me because I'm strong", but what is hinted at is the unspoken statement "if YOU allow someone to abuse YOU then YOU ARE WEAK". It is this hinted at judgement that creates an atmosphere where people who are abused do not want to talk about it.
One of abusers largest allies is silence. Abusers isolate victims so that they don't have a trusted friend or family member to talk to. Why? Well, most of our friends and family see the strong parts of us and understand that even if we do have some general weaknesses that we are not 'weak' people. They love us and see the strength in us, and if a victim has ANYONE in their lives that could possibly help them see their own strength then the control that an abuser has to convince their victim that they are weak begins to encounter resistance.
Did you catch that? The abuser thinks a victim is weak, and society makes assumptions and statements that suggest they also believe victims are weak. So why would a victim who is getting a similar message from society as they get from their abuser be quick to disclose abuse going on behind closed doors? Chances are high that the minute the victim realized they were feeling abused, they began to judge themselves harshly for allowing it to happen because society taught us that abusers are strong but victims are weaklings.
At this point victims shift into survival mode. Over time the victim accepts blame for what happened when they find themselves unable to make it stop and begins to identify with societies assumption that this experience means that they are weak. Since they believe that they are weak, they also believe they are powerless to do anything more than survive what happened (or is happening). They begin to bury what happened under a deep layer of denial, personal shame or disgust so that the emotional pain of feeling weak and unwanted by society stops.
If you are worried about a friend or family member then the FIRST thing you need to do is create a safe atmosphere where they can speak. If they do disclose abuse and you begin to list out things they must do to fix the problem then you are simply suggesting they are too stupid or weak to know these things without you to rescue them. Creating this kind of environment where a victim is able to trust you is going to take time. So, if you are reading this article and are confused about why someone isn't talking about abuse then you can start helping by creating a relationship that is safe enough to trust that you won't think they are weak if they did choose to disclose that abuse is happening. Then together the two of you can do some research to come up with some solutions about solving the problem that will empower the victim.
The truth is that victims only need their power back, they don't really need someone to rescue them. The minute you are able to change your mind about how you to treat victims of abuse, you will become a powerful ally in ending the cycle of abuse in the lives of your colleagues, family and friends.