What is the Abuse Victim’s Responsibility? —
The following comment was made by James at the article we posted as a critique of Lou Priolo’s booklet, Divorce. You can read that post at Lou Priolo on Divorce. I wanted to put James’ comment in its own post for better visibility because he makes a commonly believed statement about the abuse victim’s own responsibility. I think it would be helpful for all of our readers to hear what he has to say and then provide him with some input. I think that James is making his statements with good intent, so we should all respond to him in kind, even if we strongly disagree with what he says. Here then is his comment, and we all await your ideas in response:
I know Lou Priolo personally, but I have not read his book so I can’t speak about it, now. However, I know the subject of abuse better than most. I was the object of child abuse and molestation as a child and that was at a time when there was no intervention or help. I know from the Study of the Scriptures and from experience that the abused person must be held responsible for his own actions, choices and behaviors. Without the principle of personal responsibility, there’s not much help or the hope of change in the abused one’s life. The question that I would be curious to know is did Lou at any time stress the intervention of the church? Were the elders called to intervene and to get the woman to a place of safety?
If James is thinking that, as Sandra Wilson puts it — Hurt People Hurt People — then yes, it is true that victims of abuse cannot hurt others by being abusive themselves and somehow excuse their actions because they were victimized. Absolutely true. And yet, in my opinion, there is something amiss in the way James puts this. Should we deal with abuse victims in this manner? I mean, by telling them that they are responsible for their own actions? Does that mean they are responsible for the effects of PTSD? Or for the sexual impairments they suffer from? Is it really true that a woman, for example, who was abused by her first husband and then she goes on to a second relationship with still another abuser, is it really true that she is totally responsible for her own actions? It seems to me that James is missing the point that abuse has actual, real, long-lasting effects that really are not the victim’s fault. No, this doesn’t justify a victim in abusing someone else. But can we say that she is totally responsible? And even more, what damage would we be doing to her if we tell her “you are responsible for your own actions, choices and behaviors”? Isn’t there a more accurate and kinder way to help such people?
As to James’ last two questions, I don’t recall that Priolo did stress church intervention. I would have to go back and re-read his booklet to be sure. But I do remember that he told both husband and wife in any marriage that they are both sinners and both need to take responsibility for their marriage problems. Which, in the case of abuse, is just absolutely wrong.