The Error of Seeing the Abuser as Victim
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
Proverbs 30:20 “This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.””
When there is a crime, there is a victim and a criminal. It is just that simple. If your house was burglarized, would you believe for a second that the burglar is a victim too? Well, many people actually buy into that kind of thinking. It happens all the time when dealing with abusers. This is a serious error that adds much additional suffering to the real victims: the victims of the abusers.
What we are considering in this article is not the subject of how abusers play the role of victim. They do, and they do it very often. They claim that it is their victim is who really abusing them. Many people fall for that tactic. But that is not our subject here.
What we are concerned with now is the very wrong notion that abusers are abusers because they themselves were abused. That they are victims too. The theory goes this way: abusers came to be what they are because they were victims of some trauma earlier in their lives. Therefore, if we are to deal with them properly and help them, we must feel their pain and help them see the origin of their anger and abusive mentality. Abusers are quite happy when we embrace this theory. They love to play the victim. They know that victims are not confronted and held accountable, but rather are shown sympathy and provided with excuses for their behavior.
There are experts in the field of abuse who reject seeing the abuser as a victim. Lundy Bancroft and George Simon, Jr. are examples. Also, Robert Hare (Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us [*Affiliate link]). These experts understand that many people who have had very abusive and traumatic childhoods nevertheless grow up to become kind, empathetic, responsible people.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter. An abuser is an abuser. What he does is evil and wicked and he needs to be held accountable for it, not given excuses so he can keep on abusing. Many abusers are sociopaths. They have no conscience. Therefore, efforts to “reach” such people by engaging them in some kind of “group hug” approach which is supposed to result in them coming to feel and see how wounded they were in earlier life – is doomed to failure. Grief over such things requires a conscience and empathy. And those are things that classic abusers do not possess.
We close with this point from Scripture. Can you think of anyplace in the entire Bible where God confronts sinners who are in rebellion against Him, and gives them any hint of opportunity to blame the circumstances of their past? Let’s consider a typical example:
Isaiah 1:2-5 “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. (3) The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (4) Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. (5) Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.”
Of course we could quote such Scriptures endlessly. God does not confront us with our sin and “cut us slack” because of our past history. What He does do is offer to heal us and set us right with Him through His Son Jesus Christ if we will acknowledge our sin, repent of it, and put our trust for righteousness with God in Jesus Christ alone. That is the message the abuser needs to hear.