Family Scapegoating: Part 2
MeganC ♦ 21st March 2014 ♦ 79 Comments
To read Part 1 of this series click here
It is very challenging for a victim of family scapegoating to escape their position. Nevertheless, it is necessary. Rarely does a victim escape before the age of 30 and, even then, the victim needs tremendous support (if possible) to break free from the clutches of manipulation and blame. Further, the victim then needs a great deal of time and help for healing. All in all, it is a difficult and rocky road but one that must be taken in order for the victim to grow into what he or she is supposed to be in Christ.
The near-impossible goal of becoming “no contact” with the abusive family is, by far, also the most important task (thank you to Light’s Blog for the term “no contact”). By no contact, I mean ignoring emails, ignoring phone calls, ignoring texts messages and emails, deleting things before they are even read, blocking all family members who refuse to respect boundaries and . . . . here is the toughie . . . . disconnecting from all mutual friends connected with the family. It seems rude and unloving but, believe me here, it is absolutely and positively necessary. There are many bystanders who watch the entire process and never once speak up for the victim. These bystanders probably believe they are being peace-makers but they are, in reality, showing the abusive family AND the victim that they (1) do not really care for the victim and (2) are not strong enough to stand up for her. A bystander is a perfect patsy! He or she might truly believe that they are filling in some sort of gap and will, eventually, help lead the family “into reconciliation”. But, as we all know, you cannot reconcile with people who will continue to beat you down and who have proved that for decades. So, bystanders must disappear from the minds, hearts and communications of the former scapegoated individual. A simple letter, email or message to those connected with the family of origin will suffice. Short and kind . . . most people understand and do not object. Going “no contact” is necessary for the sanity of the victim who is trying to break free. There is also no shame in asking those around you to keep any “family news” out of your inbox. A victim needs to be clear of any triggers or panic and, in order to do this, a clean break must be made.
One of the challenges of going no contact is that some of us were conditioned to believe that we HAVE to answer every email or text or phone message received. It is a strange phenomenon and, now, when I look back, I cannot believe I ever thought that! So, right now, I completely release you from that! Friend, you no longer HAVE to answer anything from any abuser. Done. Absolved. Over!
Taking these steps means that there will be a certain amount of loneliness for the victim of family scapegoating — at first. Friend, God brings the Family of God into the lives of those who are doing their best to follow His will. There may be a period of aloneness for a while (which can actually bring about a richer relationship to Jesus) but, eventually, more and more people will be brought into this precious life and joy will fill up the silence once again! Only, this time, healthy boundaries will be in place as the victim has (hopefully) learned how to navigate through healthy relationships.
As I discussed in Part 1, breaking free is further exacerbated by the fact that the scapegoating family does not want to let her go. They may talk about how glad they are for her to be away but they do not stop talking about her, scapegoating her, blaming her and (ironically) trying to contact her. They are afraid of how it will look to outsiders; they wonder what they will tell people about the fact that she is no longer speaking with them or taking part in family functions. Now, in the days of social media, it can certainly be often obvious that one family member is no longer involved in a family life. The dysfunctional family will contrive hateful reasons for why she has left them . . . and will have no problem spreading it around. It becomes a turf war. My advice is to let them have their people. If others are naive enough to believe that one person, in the entire family, has the power to ruin everyone’s lives just by being alive, then they are not worth it, anyway. Do not engage in a turf war or defending yourself. It will only exhaust you. Stick with the people who have the courage to stand up for you! Always! Therein lies a sifting of relationships . . . who is your real family and who is not? Sadly, many of our blood-relatives turn out to be the most vicious. These vicious folks have lost their right to be your family. Period.
Once a victim is free from the family of origin, real work must be done. Most former scapegoats still act like scapegoats. A former victim must learn to stand up straight, look people in the eye and be able to say “no”. They must learn what healthy boundaries are so they can set them up and also practice them. They must resist the urge to take responsibility every single time something goes wrong around them. They need to stop saying “sorry” all the time and only actually apologize if they have true moral guilt in their lives (if they actually sinned). They must learn how to express their opinion without fear. They need to know that they are smart (probably smarter than the average person and formerly seen as a threat to their family of origin). They need to actually learn to not play dumb because they are afraid that those around them will act out in jealousy. These kind of changes, and more, will actually protect the scapegoated individual from further victimization in every day life. If people see that we respect ourselves, they will respect us much more than if we are just “too nice” and bend over backwards for everyone out of a misguided sense of servant-hood (servant-hood does not equal doormat).
I hope that this helps those who have had to deal with family scapegoating in the home or in the ‘c’hurch. It can be a horrible horrible experience but, if one is willing to break free and take steps toward healing, these former victims turn into some of the strongest people known to man! And they grow into advocates for others who are hurting. There is so much hope for the former scapegoated individual. And each step will lead to more and more wholeness.
(Go to Part 1 of this series)
- Posted in: Children & extended family
- Tagged: abuser's allies, Megan C, recovery, safety, scapegoating, social abuse
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I actually moved from one country to another, thinking that perhaps being at a distance would help. It didn’t. At my dad’s funeral (him and I were close), I had to deal with being shunned from individuals who believed the lies that my mother and sister told and for others, they didn’t even know I existed.
I am so sorry, Chris. My heart near-broke when I read your comment. Your very-real pain is almost too great for words. My sisters act like I do not exist. 😦 People have told me that they talk about how thankful they are for their “two sisters”, as though they do not have three. Thankfully, “they” do not have the power to decide whether or not you or I exist. God has created us and He delights in us . . . our existence to Him is very, very real. Big hugs.
Wow MeganC, how cruel of your sisters to act like you never existed. I suppose in a way they’ve done the majority of the “no contact” work for you, but I’m sure that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
I guess so, K. I don’t know if they wanted me to beg myself back into their good graces or if they wanted to destroy me. I don’t know. But, it is over. And I am so much healthier now. Healthier than I have ever ever been. Thanks for your sympathies. xo
You sound just like me Chris. Both parents died in March 2014. Family was same way. Oh how it hurt!
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So sorry you had to go through this. It is so painful.
Now it’s 2019. Did things improve for you? Are you still living NC with your family of origin?
For your safety and protection, I changed your screen name to AnonMA. The name you supplied appeared close enough to your email address to cause concern that you might be recognized. If you would prefer a different screen name, please email me at email@example.com
Just want to affirm this post – my mom was the scapegoat in her family of 8 – her mother used her as the whipping post and blamed her for every imaginary wrong. My mom went “no contact” with my grandmother when I was born, moving several states away and refusing to visit.
I remember when I was a teenager my mom was still working through the after-effects of that child abuse.
Dear MeganC, thank you so much for writing this series! I was literally asking God to give me a word to describe what I’m witnessing in my family. The very next day, you posted part 1! I have recently separated from my husband, and took my children (with much dread) back to my family of origin. However, I started noticing the same behaviors that I see in my husband (and my former best friend, with whom I have cut off most contact.) It was shocking to me to understand all the narcissistic behavior, and how I am playing into it. But now I feel backed into a corner..not sure if it is better living with one abuser, rather than with three, including abusive behavior I see my nephew picking up. Ugh. I am trying to make one right decision at a time…so just asking God what the next step is, as I know staying here will not bring me safety and sanity. Blessings ❤
Emily — I know you have some tough decisions and a tough road ahead of you. I will pray for you. Big hugs.
Dear Emily, I’m so so sorry to hear that this has been your experience, but I want to tell you just how brave and strong you are. I can so relate to becoming more aware of those around who are also abusive or unhealthy, after leaving my abusive home. It can be so isolating at times, but I have begun to remember that it’s not our fault we have such a number of abusive people in our world. My counsellor pointed out that in fact it was my origin family who groomed me to put out a soothing, backbreaking love into the world, which sadly they used, and also that attracted the attention and friendship of similar unhealthy people who had a similar need to them. But we are stronger. I know how it can feel to look around in the crowd and see no one to help. But I just know, much like this beautiful article says, that what we are doing is clearing away the weeds from our field so that when the seeds of wildflowers and oaks come, we have somewhere strong and healthy to plant them. Praying for you, we are not alone. And I know we can do this.
I really wouldn’t like to live with either of my divorced parents and step parents because of abusive tendencies. I also changed my email recently just because I am also trying to go low contact though we are on peaceful terms. Anytime I’ve called someone out on sin I have ended up practically having to apologize. Also, everyone on my husband’s side is an abuser and so I’m doing what I can to maintain boundaries. I think I will end up feeling scapegoated within the next 5 years. I have before but was too weak. I am glad I found this blog and started learning about abuse because their were gaps in my faith that are finally being understood.
GF Mom, I like your expression ‘low contact’. So now we have ‘low contact’ and ‘no contact’.
That’s good. It’s very helpful to have both terms, as some people can’t go no contact, but they can go low contact.
You’re welcome, Barb. I’m happy to help. 🙂
This is so much for me!!!
I am the scapegoat in my husband’s family. My husband though is the one who is the peacemaking bystander, always trying to get reconciliation (which just means giving them another opportunity to heap fake guilt on me). I have spent 15 years being controlled by my in-laws–told what to do, and punished when I don’t do it wholeheartedly enough or good enough. It has never been enough. The only thing I ever stood up to was a family member who is dangerous around children. I didn’t let him around my kids. That was my downfall in the family (and my greatest achievement in life). This family member had repeatedly touched me (and others) sexually, and acted like it was an accident. And even though I told the family they still “made me” be around him. They even said that “if” it happened I must have “liked it” or else I would have stopped it. This person is obsessed with my children, and he even has fake facebook accounts with children in diapers; he wears diapers for fettish, and he is into all kinds of strange/dangerous sexual fetishes. They even admit that he is probably a pedophile. But they say that I am the problem in the family. They have called me “paranoid” and told me to “just relax”–it has been horrible. I mean I am sure you all have been through much worse. So I apologize. But I have been gaslighted, minimized, scapegoated, screamed at by them as I sat at the dining room table (I am new to all these words and my eyes are opening up!). And when I finally had enough, after being harassed in public by the sexually abusive family member who was growling at me and running around me in public for half an hour (acting scary and demon possessed). And the rest of the family told me that I was just making too big of a deal out of it, I snapped. I ended up yelling Shut Up to my FIL, and leaving. To which I was promptly told that I would never be forgiven–which is fine. It has been almost a year of no contact with me and my kids. My hubby though is still talking to them. Not much, but still weekly texts from his mom that say I love you and I miss you. All while she tells the rest of the family how evil I am and they unfriend or block me, and spread the news.
I am venting here.
But what do you do when your hubby is still returning “I love you I miss you” texts, that come in between mean texts about me???
I don’t want to control him, or tell him what to do with his family, but I feel like this gives them the idea that he is okay with their behavior.
The family has a history of doing this to the wives. I am the 3rd one that has been “disowned” by the family. But they vilify the wife and then keep the son around and act all sweet to him.
I am no contact with them, and I want to stay that way. Even though the texts to my hubby and the drama is still continuing. They still cause drama before every holiday, and try to give gifts which I don’t want, and try to call and cry and threaten suicide, and show up making a scene at hubby’s work. It won’t end, I’m sure.
I am still learning too how to stop being a push over in every area of my life too. That is why this blog was so powerful to me. I am thankful that my eyes are open. Even though this is not my family, and this “abuse” is not as serious as what many other precious women go through, I still feel like the Lord wants to teach me to establish healthy boundaries, and say not to control, manipulation, and getting hurt all the time.
Sorry I wrote so much!!!
I’m so glad our blog is helping you, Boots. 🙂
I am so thankful for this blog. Whenever I have the time or energy, I re-read old posts and the comments, and get so much help and understanding.
I really relate to this reply and the conversation about how to deal with a spouse that will not cut contact with family members on his side that have harmed you or are emotionally or physically abusive.
I am in this situation, but sadly because my spouse is also my abuser, I am in a double bind. He refuses to protect me from or stop contact with unrepentant family members who in one last grand show, revealed they literally did not care if I lived or died. (Quite literally). At first I ended up leaving, as this on top of his abuse was the final straw, but I got begged back with promises of change. Now he literally abuses me (as if I am the bad one) over the whole situation because I refuse to have anything to do with them since there is no repentance. Instead I have to listen to him talk to and see emails to them as if they have done nothing wrong.
It’s untenable really. If your spouse of all people can’t back you up, and keep fellowshipping with those who have treated you so bad, what hope is there? He is just sending a message that they mean much more to him than me and I don’t have that much worth. He said there is literally nothing they can ever say or do that will make him turn away from them, and they have already hit the bottom of the barrel in their behavior as far as I’m concerned.
I know it’s a lot to expect that an abuser himself would do the right thing and stand up for his wife. I guess its kind of insane to hope he would. The more I work through this the more I think it is one more way of God lovingly backing me into a corner, to make me face the whole reality of my situation with him.
How often do we hear married men being reprimanded for cleaving more to their family of origin than to their wives? I don’t think I have ever heard that preached from a pulpit! And yet it’s the inspired word of God.
(Genesis 2:24 ESV)
That sounds like truth to me.
Boots . . . We are so glad you are here! I understand so much of your story. My ex husband’s family had a LOT of these same dynamics. They have four boys. The first boy’s wife left him (she is painted as a villain but he married her when she was 17 or so and she could not handle his domination, I’m sure of it).. From what I understand, the first, second and fourth boy are deeply into pornography. When we lived in Europe, it was confided to me that there was “strange activity” among the children in my ex-family. Not my children — but my little nieces and nephews. There was strong evidence that they were either being sexually abused or that they were exposed to the porn their father/grandfather was looking at. I protected my children fiercely and tried, with all my might, to explain to my then-husband that things were dysfunctional and that we needed to move. His mother told him that their activity and inappropriate sexuality (for children under 10) was “normal” and that they were “just experimenting”. I could not get him to see the unhealth. We finally moved to a different part of Europe but my then-husband could not let go of his parents. They could say awful, horrible things about me . . . . and sneak in these little sicko comment, “You know, Dan, your mother loves you more than ANY PERSON in this world . . . . ” Dan would blame me and tell me that I just didn’t want him to have parents. They ridiculed me. His father called me “whiny” all the time in German and would not even speak directly to me.
Boots, I don’t know that I have much advice for you. It seems like your husband needs to make a choice but he isn’t. So, you are in limbo. And, for that, I am sorry. Your story is not any less painful than any of the other stories here, on this blog. It sounds pretty horrendous, to me. 😦 And, abuse is abuse. The level of intensity does not matter because it is ALL dysfunctional. I ended up leaving my first husband and taking the children with me but it was more due to the abuse of the children and me and his unending porn addiction . . . . mood swings and neglect. So . . . I am free from that now. But, everyone has to make their own decisions with God. I am praying for you and wish we could help more.
Boots, I have experienced something similar with my inlaws to a smaller degree than you but my BIL is a little perverted too I suspect. He has tried “grooming” for one of my daughters and would “accidentally” behave questionably with me as well. My husband has been sort of the passive bystander letting me defend myself but minimizing his behaviors overall. I had delt with MIL and SIL abuse as well. I called the police on my SIL because she threatened to beat me up just a few days after giving birth to my first daughter because my MIL was overworking me and I would not have it. We lived with MIL for about 10 years and my husband would cleave to me but still try to peace-keep, borrowing from the empathy he should have felt for me and talking to them less than outraged. It doesn’t make me feel safe or that our children are safe without me. I was just talking to my husband about this this morning because my BIL through a fit saying I kicked him out when I didn’t. I only told him some of what he needed to hear. He didn’t like it and then left. But I suspect I’m being ridiculed by my inlaws behind my back and have been for years. I have more of a backbone now than I used to. You kind of get forced after being a doormat for too long.
That is indeed a tricky situation. I can only suggest that you explain to your husband that you feel that the way he is responding to their text messages, he is signaling to his family that he thinks their behavior is okay. He is also not supporting you and is hurting you, because he is not denouncing their meanness towards you. You want him to stop going along with their mean words about you. You want him to show that he fully respects you and defends you against their bullying and slander. A man who does not protect his wife from bullies is a man who does not love his wife. That’s the bottom line.
You could also tell him that since you think his family’s behavior is NOT okay amnd is in fact very wrong and in some instances very dangerous, you don’t want to condone or comply with their way of thinking in any respect. And you would like your husband to see eye to eye with you on this. You would like him to not comply with or go along with their nastiness. You want him to show them that they cannot and must not treat you that way, and if they persist in doing so, he will have to cut them off (except perhaps for weddings and funerals). And you want to know that he is really going to stand with you and protect you, not straddle the fence.
If you can put this to him clearly, eschewing high emotion but with an appropriate degree of firmness and clarity (the firmness and clarity that stands up for righteousness and protection of the vulnerable) then you will have done your part. The way he responds depends on him. You may have other decisions to make then, according to how he responds to your requests.
You may also find it helpful to make an anonymous phone call to Child Protection, to tell them what you have witnessed and experienced of that man’s abberant sexual behavior and your husband’s apparent complicity with the dysfunctions in his family of origin. They may also have some suggestions about how you could deal with your husband. Likewise, a sexual abuse counselor may be able to give you some helpful input as well.
Thank you all for your replies. My husband has sat down with his family since we have gone no contact and tried to explain that they are being hurtful, and he stood up for me. But it gave them another opportunity to complain to him about every tiny thing that they perceived as a slight against them. It is crazy the things that they hold against me. Things I never did wrong. But anyways, I can’t change that.
But when she wants to make him feel bad, or come back over to talk things over (again) she will send him mean texts about me. I tell him that if he goes over to talk to her, he is just reinforcing her behavior–that if she is nasty he will come over to talk. It rewards her. But the fact that he wants to go defend me is good I guess.
But the fact that they do not speak to me, and they talk bad about me–but still act sweet to him–and he is sweet back, just feels weird.
I think he is very confused. And since this is HIS family, and he grew up with this dysfunction his whole life, I think he is very much trapped and confused by it. They try to make him feel guilty for choosing me. They say things like, “After all we have done for you” and “I guess we know how important we are to you.” His whole life he has had to earn their conditional love, and be punished and controlled by them. But our whole marriage he also seemed to almost worship them. They have told him that they are these amazing people, and he would tell everyone all the time how wonderful they are.
The truth is, he wants reconciliation. He wants us to sit down and work it out. But he hasn’t forced me to do that, as I have told him that I am not interested in sitting down and letting them hurt me more. And they are showing NO SIGNS of repentance–they want to punish me. Go over a list of perceived hurts, and then after I “apologize to them and tell them how wonderful and generous they have always been . . . they MIGHT, MAYBE forgive me, but it will take them a lot of time, and we’ll just have to see.”
As far as the sexual abuser, I have already called CPS on him when he was living in a home with a child that he was bathing and changing diapers for. They investigated but there wasn’t enough to do anything. He was later kicked out of the house to live homeless, “because he was messy.” Yeah right.
He lives in my area, and spends his time trying to freak me out if we run into him in public. Then he will cry to the family and say that I embarrassed him in public, by avoiding him and trying to get away from the loud harassment as quickly as possible. Poor guy.
If that’s the case, I wonder whether he would read something to help him untangle his confusion. If he is motivated, you might like to suggest he read a book or an article. Here are some titles that might be appropriate, not given in any particular order: [Note, the three books are affiliate links under the Amazon Affiliates program; check our sidebar if you don’t know what that means.]
Patrick Carnes, The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships [*Affiliate link].
Dr George Simon Jr, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People [Affiliate link].
Bill Eddy, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns [*Affiliate link].
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
You know, I’m reading these comments and I really wish the church would start paying attention. How is it they can hear accounts such as these and say “take these 2 verses with prayer and call me in the morning”? (And for many add on “and if it doesn’t work, it’s your fault.”)
How could anyone spend any kind of time on any thread at ACFJ and not go away with their heart breaking and a strong sense that something is not right in Christendom? It boggles the mind.
To any pastors or any believers out there who are reading here, if you find you are still more concerned about protecting an institution (marriage) than you are about these people who are hurting, check your heart beat. You should be outraged at abuse. If you aren’t, why not?
Unfortunately, they just don’t care and that speaks volumes.
That is such a good point Barnabasintraining! I tried to share with the Catholic priest (during confession – which today they make you sit in front of the priest not in a private confessional, ugghh) anyway, I tried to share all the pain and stress I have with my husband (after explaining how we lost our home and moved to another state and how lost I felt, etc.). All he said quickly was “Love him like the baby Jesus!” I still can’t get over that. Really, that’s it.
All these years I worked and had medical insurance, and I don’t now, so I thought maybe I could get a little support, but no. I believe in my faith and have raised my children in it, but I have had at least three interactions with priests that have not at all been supportive, one was downright painful!
I can’t afford to pay the high cost of therapy right now. I have degrees and graduate school in several disciplines of the helping professions, but all that has happened in my life is all crashing in on me now and I have no one, other than talking to God or here right now. I have tried to talk to my mother about the abuse, but she just hung up after screaming at me. That was months ago. My siblings never contact me. My father is dead. My parents divorced when I was in my teens … He lived in the same town for years and never reached out to me.
It is so true what you stated about being scapegoated. Since I can remember, four years old, all I have ever wanted to do was to love people, be accepted and be loved back. I was always trying to achieve to get them to pay attention, them being my father, mother, siblings, etc. My father never really paid attention to me. He never hit me or molested me, but he did not show love to me.
One brother I adored. He was quite a few years older than I. I was only a young child when he began molesting me. He did not rape me, so I guess I minimized it all, but he made me engage in sexual acts with him [details of the sexual assaults redacted].
Another brother made inappropriate comments when I was in my teens. He made me feel so afraid and self conscious. When I was in my late teens and he was in his twenties, while we were driving back from a family gathering we stopped and went for a swim during the journey. He tried to coerce me to do something sexual with him [details redacted]. I was frozen. I had no place to run to. I did not comply. I felt him watch me as I got dressed and I had to drive all the way home with him.
My life has become stories I have read. I guess people don’t understand when they say why didn’t you just tell someone? I tried to enlist my mother to help me when another brother was being so mean, and she wouldn’t. She would just pass it off. … He verbally abused and falsely accused me. [These terrible details have also been redacted.]
Over the years my mother has shown a repeated pattern of socialising with my siblings and their families and excluding me and my children. Now she isn’t calling me back. I have always been the one who reached out to reconnect with her.
Then I went on to choose a husband who was not an equal partner. One I did so much for, probably because deep inside I did not feel worthy. He turned into a horrible, verbally abusive man. I have a few children, one with a disability, and I wanted my children to have a father like I never had, so I put up with it. Until I wound up here, no home, no career, no money, in another state, with no family or friends. I need help and I have no one.
I try to take care of my kids who are in high school. One of them has changed in recent times and is now acting out. I have a child who is away at college and whom I never see. I worked so hard my whole life in school and work to achieve and plan. I chased money to pay for all my disabled child’s therapy. Every day I tell myself that other women have it harder and accomplish more.
It’s just so hard to believe that I suffered through this and so much else to wind up this way. I have prayed, prayed so hard, but I am just so lost. All I can say is I could never treat my children the way my mother is treating me. I cannot be intellectual anymore and understand that it is too difficult for her to face and she just wants to keep up the appearances of her sons, etc. I would climb a mountain and ford an ocean to save my children. I could never hurt them like this.
Dear TPQ, welcome to the blog and thank you so much for sharing your story!
What a lot of abuse you have suffered. 😦 😦 We hope you keep reading this blog and commenting whenever you want to.
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You might also find these posts helpful. But beware, some of them may be triggering, so take care of yourself and read them only in doses that you can handle:
A Story of Lifelong Abuse by a Narcissistic Parent — And the Path to Freedom
Do you tell others about the sexual abuse? — by Barbara Roberts
A Story of Abuse and Shame: Setup by the Religion of the Pharisees and How Jesus Set Her Free!
“Tear Down This Wall of Silence” now published with Justice Keepers Publishing! — by Rebecca Davis
JUSTICE: a poem by a woman who was sexually, emotionally, mentally & spiritually abused
Staying for the kids?
I’m reminded of what Jesus said regarding the incident where his mother and brothers tried to drag him away from His ministry. “And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” (Luke 8:21)
So take heart if your blood relatives tear you down!
thanks for that good reminder, Meggan #386 🙂
(btw, did you mean that to be your screen name? we can change it if you want us to)
I want to clarify something here. I think that probably in the majority of scapegoating families the best way for the scapegoat to deal with his or her family of origin is to aim for no contact whatsoever, as that will probably mean the survivor can live in an ongoing way without being so likely to be drawn back into the dysfunctional family. The less abuse we have going on in the present, the more chance we have of recovering from the wounds, grieving, developing discernment, assertiveness, confidence and strength of character, so that other abusers find us not so easy to target.
However, each situation is different. And we need to be careful not to over-generalise our own experience onto others.
This is what I’ve observed. I’m going to talk here about both domestic (spousal) abuse and abuse from a family network that scapegoats one or more of its members. There are similarities but probably differences too, with those situations.
What I’ve observed is that when a victim realizes she needs to separate from her abuser(s), she may feel able to make ‘low contact’ her goal, she may see low contact as something desirable for her to aim towards. But she may feel that going ‘no contact’ would be too much to contemplate.
The difficulties of ‘no contact’ can be various. Sometimes there are kids to share and hand back and forth. Sometimes there are financial and property matters that make no contact impossible (at least for a good long while). Sometimes the victim just believes that going ‘no contact’ would mean — in her own mind, and in the minds of bystanders — that she is hard hearted / un-Christian / mean spirited / unforgiving / etc. A lot of those negative labels that victims put on themselves, which bystanders often endorse and confirm, are due to false guilt and false doctrine. But it’s not easy to dispel and evaporate all that false guilt and false doctrine overnight! It’s a long term project with many bumps in the road and many turns through the revolving door. So for people in that kind of position, ‘low contact’ might be something they are able to choose easier than ‘no contact’.
Some people, perhaps most people who have been scapegoated by an entire family, will find that ‘no contact’ is ultimately the best approach. Meg’s post is coming from that point of view, and Meg’s personal experience is why she wrote the post the way she did.
I don’t want anyone reading this thread to come away thinking that there is only one right way for every survivor. Each of us walk our own particular journeys. When people are in the early stages of waking up from the fog, they may vent, and what they pour out in their venting may be quite hard to follow. I think it’s important to realise that what they are pouring out is not meant as advice for all others. They are simply trying to figure things out for themselves.
So I want to affirm every one who has contributed to this thread. Blessings and hugs to you all. There is so much pain from being scapegoated and abused.
Another thing. I can imagine that in some instances, a survivor might choose to have No Contact with a family which has been highly abusive to her, but may choose to attend certain funerals and weddings in that family. I think that especially in the case of funerals, there may be a need for the survivor to have that ritual (that ‘goodbye’) for his or her own closure. I can easily imagine that being the case.
And then there are weddings. I have no contact with my daughter’s father now, and haven’t for years, but if and when she gets married, if she chooses to invite her dad to the wedding I will not object and I will attend the wedding. I may not make eye contact with him though!
This is a good and healthy reminder. Thank you.
For survival sake the family that preys together needs to be avoided.
(Sorry for the pun, but it seemed fitting)
Twbtc, I love your gravatar image!
I personally enjoy making use of the pray / prey wordplay.
I was a foster child and was eventually adopted right before I turned 18.
I am the family garbage receptacle for whatever abuse they saw fit to pile on. They would gossip about me in the third person with me present like I were invisible. I was something they often hit or kicked around (often physically.)
My pain is not recognized. I was literally physically thrown into a cow manure pile once when I was very little. To this day my family laughs about it like they were in a comedy club. When I dared complain about being hurt, I was told while chuckling, “lighten up, you’re too sensitive.” Even when I’m sick or in physical pain they dismiss that too.
My achievements are always minimized while the accomplishments of the other family members are elevated. No one gave me a birthday party, but all the others had birthday parties and I was expected to help plan their parties. When I got married they were quick to tell me how I would make an ugly bride. When I graduated from nursing school with honors while I was working full-time at the same time, they said, “Why did it take you so long.”
I was as if the family used me as their ‘dodge ball’ in a game of dodge ball. When they would get into a tiff with each other they would then gang up on me and throw the ‘dodge ball’ (me) into the fray and then get great glee out of tossing me (emotionally) back and forth. They will bring up all of my real past mistakes or their ‘perceived mistakes” or will make up a story about me to get my dad mad at me instead of them for whenever they needed to divert negative attention away from themselves, “look what Cathy did!”
Anything I love or hold dear is fair game for criticism. My home is never good enough. They will criticize my house-cat, “looks like he is fat and lazy just like you”. They made nasty comments about my spouse, “Must not be much of a man if he wants you” or “it looks like he’s gained some weight” etc.
When I would attend a family get-together, I always felt as if I were outsider because. If the family members invite other guests and friends I would notice that the guest would look at me strangely. I don’t know them but it’s obvious that they’ve heard a lot about me. Someone would at times pipe up, “soiooo….. this is the one”.
When the scapegoat finally left, they still found a way of tossing things at the me. I was living in another state and my dad had a car accident. Somehow it was still my fault.
I was never on ‘their team ‘but I was something they used like a toilet brush.
I’m glad you now have a fair degree of distance from them, lostchild. It sounds like you have been intensely scapegoated by your family of origin. I hope that Christ has found you, and you Him. He knows about the pain of being scapegoated — he was scapegoated by the Jewish nation and the Jewish leaders. Blessings on you, and hope you find our blog helpful.
I just wrote my own story and then I read yours. My heart breaks for you. I’m so sorry that you were treated so horribly. You are obviously very intelligent and perhaps the object of jealously. All you can do is feel pity for them. God bless you!
lostchild, I am so sorry that you lived through such abuse. You are obviously a very intelligent, kind, and exceptional person who is able to look back at this abuse and see it for what it is, growing stronger through what was intended to hurt you.
You are amazing! I am glad that you have distanced yourself from this and that God has given you peace. Thanks for sharing your story.
I’m going through an awakening period that has been hard but at the same time in-powering. I always knew my family of origin always targeted me as the trouble maker by mainly my two younger sisters. I have a brother who also does the same thing but it’s not as constant. My parents often take my siblings side no matter how lopsided it is.
I would go over each offence wondering what I’ve done wrong and feeling guilty. Most of the time I’m not sure what I’ve done wrong that deserved such horrible treatment.
For anything that has gone wrong I’m blamed whether that is for standing up for myself, or by not being involved at all. I’m gossiped about, left out of the loop of things, ignored, and excluded. They also play passive aggressive mind games like un-friending me on social websites or not showing up for special events like my kids birthdays and graduations because they simply didn’t feel like going.
I also noticed a decade old pattern recently. Sometimes they would give me a very generous gifts when I never asked for a car, money, clothes, etc. after they have had an outing that I was not invited to. That really confuses me. I’m not sure if that’s normal of scapegoating families. I’ve resolved in my heart to never accept another thing from them because I wonder if that is used to show how nice they are to me to others and/or a way to manipulate me. Who knows.
After dealing with this my entire life I naturally began a low contact with my sisters because I was constantly being used and excluded from special things like camping, teas, parties, etc. I was in a constant state of turmoil, heartache and confusion.
I’ve been a Christian for 21 years and I know I need to bear and forgive all things and turn the other cheek, but it seems to fuel their bad behavior. What makes is even more confusing is they are professing Christians.
I’ve been trying to forgive my sisters for years, but every time I feel I can trust them they pull another insensitive stunt and blame me. What really makes me sad that I’m vilified even with their children that I spent so much time babysitting when they were little. They are even snobbish to my own children who have been nothing but kind to all of them. I don’t get it.
All that that to say that I was brought up in very volatile family. My father was physically as well as emotionally abusive. My mother had substance problems and we were neglected. I am the oldest and I became so distressed as a child that I began to pull my hair and eyelashes. I was beaten for that a lot even though I couldn’t stop myself.
I was the one with the “problems”. I was the one, according to my mother, who always “took things so personally” and was “so sensitive”.
The sad thing is that this has poured in to my outside life. I married a man who is emotionally abusive (We are working on that praise God) and I’ve been also been scapegoated by outright lies with my in-laws. That’s a whole other story.
I just figured it must be me since it’s the same everywhere. I’ve been overly introspective and trying so hard to work on my relationships to no avail. Finally my kids are growing up and I noticed something. I have a wonderful and healthy relationship with each one of them. I must not be all that bad.
I’m so sorry this being so long. It’s been heavy on my heart as I prepare to go from low contact to no contact. It won’t be easy. God bless you on this site.
Denise, You have been caught up in a cyclone of emotional abuse and you are doing well to see it for what it is. It is irrational. These people crave power over you and create drama and confusion. You are wise to reduce contact to protect yourself and children as this is not your fault. Well done!
Your children see that you are indeed a wonderful mother and Christian and I am glad that you have positive people around you. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
It sounds to me like you have indeed been abused by your sisters, and abused/neglected by your father and mother. And by your husband and inlaws. I don’t think it is just you. Or just normal. I think the problem is theirs, and you have been sensible in going low- and soon no-contact with your sisters. It is not possible to ‘work’ on a relationship when only one of the parties wants to do the work. The party who wants to work at it can do things, but the relationship does not improve if the other party wants to continue to mistreat, neglect, scapegoat, etc.
Thanks for sharing your story. And I hope you continue to gain strength and empowerment.
PS from what you’ve described about your sisters, their profession of faith is not real. They may think they are believers, but true believers, people who have truly been convicted of sin, trusted in Christ for their salvation, and been born again by the Holy Spirt, would not be treating someone they way they are treating you. When you think about it like that, it’s a no brainer.
Thank you Thepersistentwidow and Barbara,
I’m starting to put the pieces together. What you said Barbara is so true. When I was saved I felt real love for the first time because I was given God’s love. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why so many professing Christians act like they could care less about and even shun you for no apparent reason. Studying the doctrine of regeneration helped me understand what was going on.
By the way, I did a big face palm at “in-powering”. My spelling stinketh. LOL!
I tried and tried to get my family to “see” the pattern I felt as the family scapegoat. Denial and blame (my fault, always) happened EVERY SINGLE TIME. I Googled it and learned my family had abused me my whole life. In a fit of rage I confronted them about it and didn’t let them speak (my Father chose not to speak). To make the abuse real to them, I posted it on my blog, named the abuse, and identified how they abused me. I also cut them off Facebook and other media, blocked them on my phone, and quit replying to emails. As soon as it went public I received a half-hearted apology letter from my Mom who began therapy, and a simple “I’m sorry for your pain” from my little sister (I have two). I haven’t spoken to any of them since October. I don’t know what to do about my daughters who had a relationship with my family, but as their mother, I know my safety and health come first. I’m proud of my strength, courage, and accuracy in knowing I had reason all along. Is there a chance that they will change if they’ve opted to begin therapy?
Oh my goodness gracious, friend. You have been through a LOT in the past year! I, too, am proud of your strength, courage and accuracy! From my understanding, once a scapegoat, always a scapegoat UNLESS Christ intervenes and the family really does repent. I have not seen this happen, myself, but there is always hope in Christ, Barbie. I would not jump up and down over any changes and I would say there are years of unraveling to be done therapy-wise. You would need to see a consistent change for a consistent amount of time (a long amount of time). There would need to be genuine repentance. Like other forms of abuse, repentance has to look like biblical repentance. There are some great articles, on this site, that address real repentance.
I will be whispering prayers for you, Barbie. Please know that you are not alone! And you are very brave!
Thank you. Yes, repentance is impossible to expect. I didn’t mention this, but the truth came to me via prayer. God wants me to write my story-and I intend to. Healing has been infinitely easier for me because the awareness happened as a Godsend. I am blessed. Truly and spiritually blessed.
“I’m sorry for your pain” [your mother’s response to you] does not take any responsibility but puts it squarely as YOUR problem and your problem ONLY. This is just another attempt of tryting to make you accountable and convey that you did this to yourself.
Barbie, I can’t believe your mom has begun therapy. That would never happen in my family.
I’m not sure she continued, but she and Dad are going to church now. I struck a chord with them-they know my pain is real. Life is a mystery.
Thank you! I see it clearly in my family and have been joining the dots for a while without the terminology. Nice to put words to it and have an explanation for the abuser I married AND left! Hope! Thank you.
I’m 60ish, and in the throes of what my husband has turned into a very nasty divorce. Having come from an abusive family of origin, I do not have a clue about how to recognize or have a healthy relationship.
I have no contact with entire family, not because it’s what I choose, but because they have all ostracized me and continue to bad mouth me and feel justified in making my life miserable and totally destroying me. My husband wants to leave me completely destitute after 36 years of marriage, as I face retirement age without any income, job or savings. I have lost everything…..E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! And now I’m to be tossed in the street like a piece of doggy-doo-doo. The worst part is, that’s what I feel like and believe about myself.
How does one recover from a lifetime of such abuse and rejection? I see no hope.
RisingAgain – you have found here at this blog a whole community of people who have experienced what you are going through and who will validate and support you. Christ has a particular eye for the oppressed – widows and orphans. People like yourself. He promises to be with us and sustain us and provide for our needs. I don’t know if you know Him or not, but in the end, Jesus Christ is your answer. If you have not visited your local women’s resource center, that would probably be a very good place for you to go. We have also found that reading the resources listed on our resources page and thereby becoming wiser and wiser to abuse and its tactics is another huge help. Blessings in Christ.
Oh, RisingAgain. I am so sorry and sad to read about this. And I SO understand! It is awful . .. .awful, awful. And you have been kept down by them for SO LONG, I can imagine it feels like your world has fallen completely apart. Please be encouraged . . . you are not who they are; you are not a part of them; you are a separate person who does not need them in order to find yourself and know yourself.
Believe me when I say that there IS hope. You can overcome this, friend. You can. There is a very small voice, within you . . . a small bit of yourself that has been preserved. Your family, your ex husband, NONE of them can take that away from you because it was put there by Christ. That little bit of yourself that is left needs to be nurtured and cared for and grown. It is not too late for that.
I know this is very difficult for you but please know that we in this forum understand what you are going through. I’d like to encourage you to seek help for abused women in your area. They can guide you and give you valuable information. Also, please continue to come into this blog. You will get lots of support and gain valuable insight. Praying for you!
Thank you for your post. Do you feel there is any spiritual reason for abuse / scapegoating? My family of origin, orchestrated by both parents, made me the ’cause’ of all their ills, and there was no one – no teacher, neighbour, other relative or friend – to turn to. I was utterly alone in the experience of being bullied, humiliated, rejected, expelled, threatened etc etc and it has had a deep and lasting effect on my life. Does that experience serve some sort of higher purpose, do you feel or is just my bad luck?
Hi, Kate! Thanks for your comment. My heart just breaks knowing that you have experienced so much pain from your family. I would love to refer you on another recent blog post I wrote on rejection (if this is not OK, Barb, please feel free to remove) —
Rejection [Internet Archive link]
My understanding of why particular children are scapegoated is two-fold. First, I believe that the scapegoated individual is usually smart, outgoing (at first), vulnerable and more open, and a threat. Second, the family members who scapegoat are just completely out of touch with themselves, their emotions and why they do what they do. There is a true disconnect between their actions and reasoning. It is like the person who throws a complete tantrum, hurts other people, screams and throws things . . . and then wonders later about WHY he or she did that. And then never even digs deep or questions. They just assume it was someone else’s fault. And it sounds like you were the convenient scapegoat.
The good news is that, even though it has had a lasting effect on your life, you can recover from [with?] great counseling. You are great, Kate! You just don’t know it, yet. Think about Joseph . . . how he was thrown away. Literally, thrown away. By his own brothers. But, he rose up to become a revered leader. You can rise up, as well. Joseph still felt the scars and bruising of what his family did (he was still crying over it in Genesis 50), but he led a healthy life, despite the scapegoating that he experienced. He was too bright, too shiny, too beloved . . . . and his brothers too insecure. Please take heart and don’t give up. Hugs!
-wonders later about WHY he or she did that.
Yeah well after XH attacked me, the in laws yet again refused to stand up. So the MIL thinks she can call and lay false guilt on me. Well I stood up and I stood up firmly to her fake conversation with me. I asked her why she hadn’t spoken with the abuser about what happen and she circled her way around it laying more guilt trips along the way. But before the circle could be completed I snapped that circle into a straight line. She was furiously equalizing blame and even solely putting the blame on me. I had enough and let her know if you “love” me like you say you do than stand up for the truth now. Don’t talk to me until you do. Good bye.
I am the scapegoat. My mother is using the same manipulative and abusive tactics as the evil x anti h. She’s done this all of my life. Another family member is now blaming me for her depressed actions and laziness and is warning me that I must make things right before she dies. Give me a break. With all due respect I do not have any regrets about standing up to this bully who birthed me. I’ve protected myself and stated that I will not speak with her again until she reads the definition of abuse, the supporter’s resources here, stops with the “I told you so’s” and her selfish and manipulative demands. She truly will not see past herself. She has not respected my request and has used my children as guilt trip tools just as the evil x anti h has. It’s not working the way she hoped. That’s because I know the truth. She has abused me since I was a small child. Disgusting. Things I didn’t know were abuse until coming here. It no wonder I hated her all my life.
No I have boundaries with her but since I was attacked she has been very cruel again. Very self centered, accusatory, minimizing and shaming and blaming! She was so glad she could say “I told you so.” about the abuse. She jumped at the chance. I stopped the conversation by refusing to answer her after I told her my needs clearly and she completely ran right over it. Over and over and over. Sorry- I don’t love people unconditionally. I have conditions- do good, be honest, respect and if not then good bye!
Now the onslaught of guilt trips. Yup. Bad bad daughter here. Same exact pattern as the evil x anti h. How very interesting!
They all just hate to lose a scapegoat!
I’m in my mid-fifties and I’m facing dying alone and unloved, but for the first time I feel understood. Reading your article made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I wanted to jump up and yell at the world “Look I’m not crazy or making it up and I’m not alone.” Thank God. I just wish it wasn’t too late for me, I’ve made the decision to stop treatment, my isolation and loneliness is just too much. I do have this small thing to hold on to. Thank you.
How blessed we are to hear your cry of pain and thankfulness!
I shall alert Megan C, the writer of this post, so she can respond to you. She’s no longer an active member of the A Cry For Justice team, but she is doing good work for victims of abuse at Give Her Wings [Internet Archive link]. 🙂
May the Lord give you many blessings and a sense of His love for you, as you make that transition to eternal life with Him — where:
Shelly — When Barb sent me your comment, my heart broke. I am so thankful that you feel understood. We do understand! We see it! I know what it is like to be scapegoated by my family . .. to be accused of the very things that they have done to me . . . to be rejected and left out, as though they wish I were dead. You are not crazy or making it up. There is so much hope, Shelly. You are a beloved and beautiful daughter of the King. When I forget that, I say out loud, “Jesus, I belong to you.” I say it until I remember all that He has done for me. He did it for you, too. He wanted YOU. You are precious to Him.
I love the Scripture that Barb posted — words of life and words of hope. Let me share one with you, as well:
Precious and beloved child, be at peace.
I just realized that I was my family scapegoat. My sister abused me physically, mentally, sexually and tried to kill me … my mom and dad did nothing to stop her.
They blamed me and started to verbally abuse and hit me then they convinced me that it’s all on my head.
But then they would say to me if you tell anyone they will put you in a worse home that’s when it dawned on me they know they all abused me and feared exposure.
Welcome to the blog dear sister. 🙂
We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.
I changed your screen name to Unacknowledged as a precaution for your safety. If you want us to change it to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) — firstname.lastname@example.org — she will be happy to assist. 🙂
Oh…dear friend, thank you so very much. I was in agony, praying for the Lord’s help and guidance…and I found this. If you only know how ..much.. your words have helped me. God bless you and be with all such as us. Thank you!
Hi Lil, welcome to the blog. 🙂
We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
If your screen name Lil might put you at risk of being identified by your abusers, we can change it for you. Just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) —email@example.com — she will be happy to assist. 🙂
First, a brief bunny trail….in the Scripture Barb quoted from Revelation, I just noticed another verse a “c”hurch I attended twisted to promote their own ministry. (Details omitted for my protection.)
MeganC’s (original post) entire paragraph starting:
….is where I’m at in this particular process.
I have no intention of attending funerals, significant “family” events, or accepting third-party attempts to gather information.
I don’t owe them anything….
I ran away from my narc mom in my latter teens, did run away a few years but the police found me and took me back to her.
My narc mom was a single parent of me and several half-siblings of mine. I ran away in my late teens as childhood was very abusive. I was made the parent of her kids and myself. I was starved, beaten, deliberately burned (I still have the scar), kicked in tender parts of my body while she was wearing her stilettos, had my hair pulled out, punched, drowned to the point of taking my last breath, lied to about who my dad was numerous times, taken to an extremist political march at an age when no child should be exposed to that kind of thing, neglected, had clothes bought from the flea market while everyone else had new stuff, left home alone while she’s taken them on holiday, left in a underground railway while I was in grade school to get me kidnapped and probably murdered, then after all that I get told I’m being selfish by do-gooders who say I should honour my mother, lol, not to mention being overfed as a teenager to make me fat and ugly like her, so when I finally did get away, I had to run away as she’d stopped me getting to know others so I had no supportive friends or family to turn to.
I starved for three months on the run as I didn’t trust anyone, went to [the] Salvation Army as I couldn’t find anywhere to wash or eat so went to Salvation Army who put me in a hostel that is the last I ever saw my ex family, now thirty years on I’m in my fifties only just found out I was a scapegoat, which was [a] very painful and confusing life, but I know I’m much more emotionally intelligent, leaving my siblings was the hardest part as I felt like I was responsible for what happened to them when I left.
Wow, you have been through the mill! What an awful childhood you had!
Here is a link to other posts about abusive parents. What if the abusers were one’s parents?
Welcome to the blog, and thanks for sharing. 🙂
Oh my goodness Survivor 27, your mom was so hateful to you; you were put in such an awful no-win position for a child. Your mom sounds like she hated her own femaleness and took it out on you. My heart breaks for the little girl you were who could not defend herself against a deranged adult. How very, very unfair. Hearing your story makes me wish I could reach back in time and rescue you from her, heal your bruises and comfort you. A little girl is so precious. YOU were and are precious. Shame on those religious nincompoops who laid guilt trips on you and did not do justice and mercy on your behalf. ((((( )))))
You mentioned the dysfunctional family will talk about how happy they are that the person they are scapegoating is not around the family anymore, but they will keep talking about them. Why are they happy they are not around anymore?
I’m guessing about possible reasons they might be happy the person they have scapegoated is not around any more —
They might enjoy talking among themselves about how ‘awful’ the target-person / scapegoat was and they might enjoy that more than they enjoyed mistreating the scapegoat to their face.
They might be relieved that the scapegoat is not around, because if the scapegoat is around there is a chance the scapegoat will express grievances about the wicked things they’ve done.
They might enjoy basking in the attention that the most powerful or wealthy members of the dysfunctional family are giving them….more attention for them, less attention for the scapegoat.
They might enjoy hatching plans to damage the scapegoat’s life even further if the scapegoat ever shows their head above the parapet again.
One thing that stands out to me and is good in a sad way is to know that I am not alone in having warped stuff go on. Both sides of my family have incredibly warped cruelty and perversion in them. I noticed that although my family is clear that [the] main abuser IS an abuser and they cut off contact with that person, they are totally unwilling to recognize, how for people who are against abuse, control, judgement and intolerance, they operate in all of those! They only want to see what they only want to see and they are never wrong.
My parent hit on my husband in my first marriage. She showed up at my door one day and asked me if I would mind her buying sexually related clothing for my husband just as a joke. Since I’d already observed her coming over and asking him for a man’s perspective on her latest screwy relationship with a much younger man, and since I already knew that the clothing item in question she bought for whoever she was sleeping with at the time, and she’d already invited us over to watch movies supposedly for a family evening and then put on a rather raunchy movie – which had some VERY sexual scenes and nudity in it, I wasn’t buying it. She put that movie on well aware that it would offend me because I didn’t care for movies like that, in order to create a problem that would of course, put me in an odd man out position and in her mind, expose me as a sexually uptight person. Of course my husband acted like there was no problem though he professed to be a Christian and so she succeeded in creating division. Even as a teen she once hit on one of my boyfriends. It was very awkward for him and deeply horrifying for me.
She knew as far as the sexually related clothing item went, that there was no way she could give that to him without me finding out about it so the “it’s just a joke” thing was just a way to get it past me in hopes I was that stupid I’d buy it. The thing is, if I had told my family this, they would have defended her and questioned me as having misinterpreted her behaviour. Even though my parent had treated me with utter disrespect right in front of them and even [missing phrase or sentence(s)].
What’s helpful about hearing these stories is knowing that I am not the only one who has gone through this and has a warped family. It’s a lot more common than church people want to believe. One clue that I was experiencing some manner of scapegoating occurred when I was in my late teens. A relative was visiting us from another country and we were all in the kitchen. Most everyone was around the table except me, I was sitting on a little settee off to the side. My relative turned to me in front of everyone and apologized for having his back turned to me. I nearly burst into tears at this respectful treatment and took note of the discomfort and disgusted expressions on the faces of my family members who clearly didn’t like me being treated like I was worthy of respect. I never understood the why of this but it was always there to some degree. When you grow up steeped in such an unspoken but felt attitude it’s just the air you breathe, all around you but invisible.
This is something I have been wrestling with for a long time. God has worked with me and brought me so far from where I was. Yet I still see the scapegoating over and over in my life. Most recently, as I began to grow healthier, my ministry (where my husband and I worked) fired us as I began to stand up for myself more and more. The blame is intense. Our boss even admitted we had been correct over the issue he fired us for and he blamed me for him not getting it right.
The ministry wrote to all of our support network, telling them they were releasing us because I was not healthy, I have spent hours crying. I told my counselor I didn’t want to heal anymore, because it simply makes it harder to bear the scapegoating. When I believed I deserved it, it seemed to hurt less. Our former team keeps writing to us “loving” prayers for my healing. I have told them to stop writing, but they persist. They stood by and watched me be scapegoated and were silent or blamed me.
I am struggling because I had found a community which was embracing me and supporting my growth, but they [the ministry we worked for] have cut me off from that community, even though that community still wants us. Then, so many have blamed me for being unforgiving for wanting justice. A friend suggested I read a book on the sin of taking offense. And my sister-in-law told me no normal, healthy person would think I had been wronged, and that the ministry [which my husband and I had been working for] was right because I was not healthy. Yet my counselor said I was compensating well and could heal with support, but that our ministry was doing the worst possible thing for my wounds.
I could not take the words of my friend or my sister-in-law, so I Googled “crying out for justice” and found you. Does breaking free of scapegoating always have to be so painful? I am reading a book I found when Googling forgiveness and justice, “Forgiveness and Justice” by Maier. It advocates meditating on the justice / vengeance of God, that He is the God who declares “woe” to abusers. I am struggling to rewire my brain from expecting those around (including God) to watch me be molested and do nothing, to expecting God to act on my behalf.
We had support who had said we were so effective in ministry that they would do anything to keep us there, yet when we appealed to them for help in our struggle with our ministry, they said “We would need to hear the other side.” I had told them both sides. I had admitted my struggles. The ministry was heaping punishment on us. They saw the punishment and in essence said, “We need to know whether you deserved it.”
I finally believed I deserved grace because of Christ. I was asking for grace. I was also asking for the ministry to deal with its abuses. I know that is the real reason we were fired, but the hopelessness is huge. I finally believed I had worth, and I thought that would change things for the better. Instead, it shattered everything. I am thankful that it has shattered in such a way that my husband is finally hearing me and considering the emotional health of our family.
Dear sister — dear DaughterIAm — thank you so much for your comment. And allow me to welcome you to the blog. 🙂
It’s obvious to me that the ministry which you and your husband were working for has at least one (and probably more than one) person in senior leadership who are any or all of the following:
—ignorant about how to respond to the long-lasting effects of abuse & trauma
—callous towards victims of abuse and trauma
—pridefully unwilling to learn, especially from their ‘subordinates’
—tacitly condoning abuse because they don’t have the courage to expose and expel the perpetrators
—actively enabling abuse because they know the perpetrators are doing it and are enabling the perps to keep doing it
—perpetrators of abuse themselves
I commend and honour you for standing up for justice and calling out the abuses you have seen. You have done the right thing.
And your experience is not unusual: when a victim-survivor of abuse starts to stand up and speak out about the abuse she (or he) has suffered or has witnessed, the push-back they get is tremendous. Many people don’t want to hear the raw hard truth.
The people who give the most push back are (1) the perpetrators of abuse, (2) those who have been abused themselves but they don’t want to face the pain of their memories, and (3) those who have been brainwashed by the widespread teachings in the visible church which minimise and discount the experiences of victims of abuse and which give terrible advice to victims of abuse.
I urge you to look at our FAQ page. It shows the common mis-teachings which are prevalent in the visible church.
And you might also like to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
I hope you keep commenting on the blog. I think you will find a lot of support here.
By the way, for your safety I removed the URL which was attached to your comment because it was a link to your former ministry. I realise you have been on the mission field. I honour you and your husband and family for the work you have done for the Lord. May the Lord give you work in another field, now that the ministry you were working for has unfairly and unjustly dismissed you.
I’ve had some therapy here & there. Never committed, never married. I’ve been treated for depression but all meds I tried quit working after a couple of weeks so I decided the doctor who delivered my son had accurately diagnosed me to begin with. I was lonely rather than depressed.
I’m happy overall, but not like before I became a mother when I began to need my family. My lifelong group of friends drifted apart. We were already trying to heal from losing one of our group to breast cancer at 36. As a true single mom I couldn’t ‘go out’ due to lack of alternate weekends, sitter funds & ‘going out’ is never a baby friendly event.
My son’s dad was born & raised in [redacted by Eds]. His parents were of mixed-ethnic origin. My family only had to hear his last name. My mom & sister never gave me a peaceful moment during my pregnancy, forcing their views on me claiming family disgrace & that they would make sure I had all their support. The fact that I didn’t marry him was much more about his extremely abusive narcissistic nature, but they DID beat me down a great deal. My mom went off during labor & left.
I haven’t been out in….well I can count how many times since 2006 and only once since 2013. This is because I became the family punching bag once I needed them. Going out meant allowing them to tell me how to raise my child. I couldn’t leave him to spend the night. I had to report back that night “because she wasn’t in good health to keep him all night” but it was actually to smell my breath to see if I had drank.
I will be 50 years old soon. I turned [age redacted] after my son was born. I’m old enough to have a cocktail once every couple of years without a breath check. I stopped trying. I do not date. In fact I only interact with others now at work. I got a job just so I could.
There’s SO much more & I know this isn’t therapy but your article confirmed my suspicion and that IS therapeutic! Thank you so much. For years I’ve been dismissing my suspicion because my group therapist said I was being petty. I will certainly find someone to get to the underlying issue & learn to set boundaries.
Just today I told someone that I don’t like that I no longer defend myself or say what is truly on my mind. I used to. Now I don’t look people in the eye & it comes out as nervous chatter. Therefore I’m treated like garbage at work. I’m a very hard working loyal employee. I say nothing when my boss talks down to me for things he would laugh with other people for & he does it in a way that my co-workers can hear. I say nothing when he favours other workers by giving them more hours than he gives me. He knows I have a child and a mortgage to pay on my own, and he knows those other workers have no kids and they were hired AFTER me. I realize the personal aspects shouldn’t matter. All because I wear my self-worth like my uniform to work.
Thanks for opening my eyes and for giving me desperately needed validation!
Dear Sunshine?, please forgive me for leaving your comment in moderation for a little while. I have edited it to airbrush out details that might have identified you.
Welcome to blog 🙂 and I’m glad you are finding it helpful. I think if you keep commenting here, you will find a lot of support.
I am sorry that you are so lonely. It is hard, being a single mother. And it is much harder if you get no break from parental responsibilities.
We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
Dear DaughterIam, I only know too well what it is like to be scapegoated and have the ministry you put your all into, to have [it] suddenly ripped from you. In my case I was given no chance to speak in my defence and if you read my comments here throughout the blog you will get how difficult this was also for me. I am still trying to recover the spiritual things in my life that being suddenly “floored” and completely numb and lost (limbo like) for years has wrought.
My heart goes out to you for I too still have people of that church wanting me back not knowing what happened or why I left. My heart wrenches too when I know for many it was as if I just walked away from them in betrayal. That is something that deeply saddens me as I am sure it does for you too.
It’s so tough having to return for occasional funerals and have to face people again. Even people asking “where are you worshipping now” and their strange look when you say “nowhere” almost cripples me on the spot. Others wanting you back and asking would I not come back. Many wanted me to be the next pastor, something I most certainly was never going to do. It was hard enough with being a leader in worship and youth ministries etc. I knew not all would support me in such a venture and I had my enemies within who fought much before I was put away quietly.
Much of what you write resonates with me. I know for me the secondary abuse and most certainly that spiritual abuse has brought as much pain in my life as the persistent abuse from my ex.
The betrayal and feeling of letting others down is immense. No one knows the true story for it was never told. They all operate on hearsay.
My family still are leaders there and it makes even harder for me to say anything. I walk on eggshells whenever church is mentioned and it pains me to hear things regarding church life, including much of which still in a sense has my “stamp” upon it.
The pain you feel will at times feel so crushing. As my dad said to the pastor in rage “you have crushed that fella’s spirit”. You, I have no doubt [will] be feeling this along with deep betrayal.
I was reminded last night as I worshipped and had communion with a dear friend for the first time in [approximately a decade] that:
I just said to God I don’t understand it at all. I have my own ideas why but I know there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Slowly I have pieced more of that together with the Holy Spirit’s leading.
What I will say is ACFJ has given me a voice in many ways.
I can’t describe how many facets of my (hate that word it’s always GOD’S) ministry has happened here and through ACFJ. Sometimes although it’s agony at times God in His greater wisdom allows things to move us into a new sphere of ministry. I believe God will bring that to pass.
Please keep on commenting for we never stop ministering. I don’t think for God’s children we ever retire or are forced into early retirement. 🙂
I only hope something I’ve written let’s you know you are not as alone as you may feel. Here at ACFJ we are family and we hope and pray we are a blessing to you as you have been to us.
[Time airbrushed a bit further for protection. Editors.]