What do you say when a friend tells you, “You have a victim mentality.”
I would reply to that friend, “What do you mean by a ‘victim mentality’?”
Once your friend defines what she means, you can then take it from there. If she means you complain about the injustice with which your abuser has mistreated you, ask her if it is a sin to make such complaint. If she means you keep asking people in authority to render you justice and to require the abuser to be accountable for his actions, put this question to her: “Is it a sin to ask for justice?”
Why does she think it is sinful to complain when being mistreated? Why does she think it’s wrong to repeatedly cry out to God and to people who may be able to influence the situation, asking them for justice and vindication?
The idea is to get your friend to examine her knee-jerk reactions and judgements so she comes to see that they are not logical and are actually inconsistent with the Bible, that they are merely her own prejudices or things she has been mis-taught by people who say they know the Bible but they don’t know it well enough, they have just swallowed the party line.
You could also ask her to think back on her own life to a time when she was given rough justice or no justice. How did she feel? How did she respond to their mistreatment of her? Did she have what she calls a ‘victim mentality’ then? And if so, why is she so quick to judge and label you, when she had those same responses herself?
You could also ask your friend to read my book Not Under Bondage [*Affiliate link], to examine her ideas on divorce. If her ‘party line’ idea on divorce is what is really prompting her unkind responses to you, then nothing will help unless she re-calibrates her doctrine on divorce.
Unhelpful comments by Well Meaning People is an article I wrote years ago to help survivors of abuse deal with these kinds of unhelpful comments from friends and associates.
What do you think? If someone said to you “You have a victim mentality,” how would you respond to them?
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link
- Posted in: Victims
- Tagged: Barbara Roberts, church response to abuse, prejudice
Thank you, Barbara. I just had a niece make this kind of comment to me. And each time it has happened, I have felt as if their hand was on my chest, pushing me back into a corner. Now I will be able to have an appropriate response to such unkindness.
This is good, Barb, thank you. When people say stuff to me I’m often inclined to be quiet and think about it for a couple days and then I either shut them out or believe them. But now I will more likely have something to defend someone in the future with.
I think my first question would be. Say, what? I don’t speak to many people about what happened to me outside of blog land, so I probably will never be asked that particular question. I have heard some of the other ones though.
“You made your bed, now lie in it.” Well, husband #1 was sleeping in a whole lot of beds and bringing home infections and other things that were affecting me. The crap about if he was getting what he wanted at home, blah, blah, blah……is just that, crap. A man who wants to sleep around does so no matter how great it is at home. He was also becoming violent after a time with me and our son. When my son was about a year old he was in his playpen crying while being a witness to his dad raping me. At that time, I heard a lot of people say that there is no such thing as rape if you’re married. I beg to differ.
“You were called to be oppressed like Jesus.” I don’t believe that for one moment. If I were called to the mission field and were oppressed while teaching the gospel, I would probably agree, but I wasn’t. I was in marriage with a man who hid who he really was until the paper was signed.
I have started using the term “target” instead of “victim” as much as possible. A friend mentioned the other day that what we’ve been through was more than abuse; it’s warfare against our souls and we are targets. “Target” doesn’t elicit such knee-jerk reactions as “victim.” I think there’s nothing at all wrong with using the word victim, but “target” seems to convey the idea to people who might be resistant to “victim.”
I like that, Ellie. In my writing I sometimes hesitate about using the word ‘victim’ just because it can carry unnecessarily negative connotations to some people. ‘Target’ may be a better term.
good thoughts, Ellie. I shall mull over this. 🙂
This is an excellent idea! Afterall, we are the target of being victimized. And who would want to be shot at continiously like at a shooting target range …?
Thanks for the artical. That was one of those lines I got at church when I was trying to work through my abuse issues…They just want you to get over it..and put on this appearance that all is well, because if your a mess then it looks bad on their church and leadership. But that didnt help me work through anything…just stuff it and look the part.
I would replay, “and your point?”
Barbara, like you, I would want to know there basis for making such a statement, and what they meant by it.
As I understand ‘victim mentality’ it is someone who chronically blames others for their misfortune or perceived injustices. So my first impression would be that they simply did not believe the abuse to be real…that they believed it to be exagerated and/or the fault of the abuse target.
Now, if they combined the label ‘victim mentality’ with also a ‘divorce prohibition’ mentality, that would be a severe injustice indeed…to blame the victim for their own abuse while also laying a prohibition on the only means of regaining control of their life and escaping the abuse…I would likely cease all contact with such a blind and unjust person.
I haven’t had the victim mentality line, but I have had, “have you tried focusing more on the positives in your life…(e.g.) your lovely children…some people would give anything for kids like them. I don’t mean to downplay what you’re saying but I find being optimistic about life helps outweigh the non-ideals…” from a church leader, someone that I used to consider a close friend. It’s so damaging!
I tried to talk about it, but he wasn’t really listening. He listens a lot to what my husband tells him tho’…
For so many of us it has taken years to get to the point where we can see and then acknowledge that we even were abused! For those raised with and by psychopaths, we’ve been blamed for everything, conditioned to make sure we search ourselves inside and out and do everything in our power to make sure that we acted perfectly in every regard, and by this time the psychopaths are on to the next rape because psychopaths are unappeasable and constantly causing strife. (Romans 1:29 “being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,”–strife–“eris: Definition: contention, strife, wrangling. 2054 éris (a primitive word, NAS dictionary) – literally quarrel, strife; properly, a readiness to quarrel (having a contentious spirit), affection for dispute.)
So by the time we’ve come to the understanding that we’ve been so horrifically treated, it often takes YEARS to go back over our life and insert the truth of the abuse so that we can accurately see evil for what it is. We are to rightly re-frame our past as we’ve been brain-washed to submit to evil and to call it “good.” Jesus never tells us to” fake it till we make” it or to deny the truth of what is taking place or when we see injustice to put a positive spin on it. It’s manipulators and their blind accomplishes who tell us this. When Jesus said to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily he did not say to deny truth or to twist it in a way that makes everybody feel good or puts everybody in a good light or includes everybody in everybody else’s guilt. Nope. It’s the usual; all eyes are to be on Him and He will take care of us. (And we will always have enemies because the second you give your life to Jesus, those who are of the world’s way of thinking are against you. It is real, and Biblical and painful. And those born with the brain-functioning of a psychopath are against everybody although they sometimes use people by pretending to be with them, but when they need new victims, they turn their accomplices into targets.)
Reading many abuse victims websites gives me perspective. I need hard-core truth and answers based on God’s word. All the rest can be chucked in the trash heap. I need a God who can handle ALL of it. I need a God who forewarns me of evil, who loves me so deeply and so permanently that I can never escape his arm and who can handle all my nuisances. A God I can wrestle with, a God I can demand to be blessed by even though I stumble and fail and get heartbreakingly angry at but who all the while teaches me wisdom.
Where is all the “love” we read about in the Bible? Where is the justice, mercy, compassion that we sell to the people to bring them into the church in the first place? It’s a trick really. A ploy used to find the ones with a conscience and a heart that needs a Savior’s love and healing, but instead uses this God-given heart to work it to death. These people want us to shut-up and get over it so it can go back to the status-quo, and we can get on with the business of taking care of everything and everyone with no regard for ourselves. Um, we are precious to God and he loves us deeply. He WANTS us to be discerning in who we hang out with, give our empathy to etc. The Bible is always forewarning and therefore forearming us with the truth and how to find it. And although Jesus was abused verbally over and over, he never got to the point where it didn’t effect him or accepted it as good or normal. No. It took a heavy toll on him and he needed rest, rejuvenating time spent with his Father and his disciples away from the abuse. He even needed help from the angels because it was so hard. And he never blamed himself when other’s were abusive or included himself in the blame, and we are not to do this either.
What we’ve gone through is not to be denied or forgotten. Why do you think it was SO hard? Why it IS so hard? Why? Because it was meant to be! We are not to forget the horror of abuse. We are not to forget how it effected us and damaged and destroyed us. We will come to the point where it’s not a gaping open wound, but the deep scar it’s left on us is there to remind us of the horror of it all. When Jesus came back from the dead he still had the scars from his trial, he did not deny them but rather used them as proof that he had been abused! You do not tell a person who’s head has been split open by an axe to take an aspirin and count his blessings and that he’s being ungrateful for his trauma, but this is exactly the same type of thing that’s being done to people who have been split open emotionally and spiritually by abuse. Jeremiah 8:11 “They have treated superficially the brokenness of My dear people, claiming, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”
If we don’t like to have so many victims around, let’s just end abuse. Let’s just stop abusing. I mean why aren’t we there yet? With all the education, instant information, good medical health and all the rest, why do we still have abuse and therefore victims? Cuz “the Bible tells me so” and that we always will. Accept it and stop denying the victims of the chance to speak about it and therefore “deal” with and then heal from it.
[Note from Barb: I have converted the fully capitalized words in this comment into italics. Bebaioo, did you know you can use simple HTML codes when writing comments? I don’t know what the code is for italics, but I’m sure a quick google search could find it. BIT uses HTML codes often when she submits comments here. A large number of all-caps words can be a bit triggering for our readers; and I know I sometimes do it, so I’m not squeaky clean myself. :(]
I love the part of your testimony when you speak of Jesus and the abuse He took. He felt all of the human emotion that is heaped on all of us during the attacks on Him. He did have to seek refuge and time with the Heavenly Father in order to endure. He is our example and in no way are we to think that we could do better than He.
Blessings to you Sister,
Bebaioó Charis, thank you for writing this. So validating and encouraging. Gives me strength.
When your friend tells you, “You have a victim mentality”, you could say, “And you have a victim-blaming mentality.”
I like that response, very much!!! 😉
Yes, excellent. One could also emphasize the point with a series of questions, such as:
Who have you been talking to that convinced you I have a victim mentality?
Why do you think it’s right to blame the one who has been attacked?
Why are siding with my attacker?
If you were being attacked, would you want me jumping to conclusions before I knew your side of the story?
If your child was being bullied, would you blame your child?
If you were to be raped, God forbid, would you want me to automatically assume it was your fault?
Have you considered that you appear to be joining with Satan, the accuser of the saints?
Where do you get the idea it is O.K. to do that?
Perhaps such questions would be most effective if asked with calm but determined deliberation. It isn’t fair, or even logical, but when we express anger, it just gives people a pretext for dismissing us, or even heaping on further blame. If the accuser becomes angry, more questions may be called for:
Why are you so defensive?
Don’t you think it would be better to come to my aid than to express this hostility toward me.
Once again, the challenge is to remain calm. That’s easier said than done. Maybe it helps to resolve in advance to remain calm. Maybe even recite both sides of such a hypothetical conversation, in private, as practice.
I like your comment, Annie.
Victim simply means one who was done wrong. I think it’s the guilty who have changed these definitions and have everyone parroting their ideas. It’s not a victim mentality to finally get the courage to call abuse what it is. Some really are ti’s [targeted individuals] in addition to abuse. Church woman were easy targets.
Did you make a typo there — ti’s ?
Yes, don’t care for the term but it describes quite a few issues.
One of my siblings does have the “victim mentality”. In later years, I termed it Eeyore, from A. A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh. Y’know, Eeyore saying “I’m going to go out in the garden and eat thistles….”
I called the sibling on it once via email, writing down in point form how a counsellor was encouraging the victim frame of reference. And I suggested the sibling was welcome to show my email to the counsellor.
In the circumstances described to me, there was no victim, though I agreed the sibling faced some difficult decisions. (Difficult decisions do not automatically render one a victim, though victims often face difficult decisions.)
For anyone with awareness of abusers, this sibling’s behaviour displayed many red flags. At the time, I had no concept the behaviours indicated an overall pattern. I did pick up on the discomfort the behaviours caused me.
With the information garnered from the ACFJ community in the last less-than-one-year, I recognize the sibling is an abuser.
There are real victims.
This sibling plays the-abuser-as-victim to the max.