Victims resist abuse in prudent, determined and creative ways
Alongside each history of abuse, there runs a parallel history of prudent, determined and often creative resistance.
This is one of the things I’ve learned from Dr Allan Wade & his colleague Linda Coates. They are Canadian counselors have worked with many survivors of oppression and abuse; they also train other counselors and victim-advocates.
Note: in their article Language and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations, Coates & Wade use the word ‘violence’ to refer to all kinds of interpersonal abuse and oppression. Here is a short excerpt from their article:
Alongside each history of violence there runs a parallel history of prudent, determined, and often creative resistance.
The manner in which victims resist depends on the unique combination of dangers and opportunities present in their particular circumstances. Victims typically take into account that perpetrators will become even more violent for any act of defiance. Consequently, open defiance by victims is the least common form of resistance. In extreme circumstances the only possibility for resistance may be in the privacy afforded by the mind.
Too frequently, victims’ resistance is recognized or treated as significant only when it is successful in stopping or preventing the perpetrators’ violence. We maintain that this is an entirely inappropriate criterion. Victims resist in a myriad of ways that are not successful in stopping the violence but nevertheless are profoundly important as expressions of dignity and self-respect.
Key concepts for working in the field of abuse
The following key concepts are used by Allan Wade and his colleagues when they are training helping professionals.
Dignity is Central to Social Life
Social interaction is organized largely around the preserving of dignity. Even inadvertent slights can be met with intense responses. All forms of violence are affronts to dignity, but not all affronts to dignity involve physical violence.
Fitting Words to Deeds
There are no impartial accounts. Professionals and personal accounts of violence influence the perception and treatment of victims and offenders. Where there is violence, the question of “which words are fitted to which deeds” is crucial.
Social Conduct is Responsive
Individuals respond to social context, the immediate situation, and micro-interactional events and orient to one another as social agents with the capacity to choose.
Violent Acts are Social and Unilateral
Violent acts are social in that they occur in specific interactions and involve at least two people, and unilateral in that they entail actions by one person against the will and well-being of another.
Violence is Deliberate
Perpetrators of violence anticipate resistance from victims and take deliberate steps to conceal and suppress it. Even so-called “explosive” or “out of control” acts of violence involve choice and controlled, deliberate action.
Resistance is Ever-Present
Individuals respond to and resist violence and other forms of oppression. However, open defiance is the least common form of resistance. In extreme circumstances, resistance may be realized solely in the privacy of the mind/spirit.
Further reading and viewing
On Violence, Resistance, and Power in Language — Allan Wade talks about how people who have been abused may be further traumatized by the negative social responses they receive from ‘helping’ professionals, authority figures, family, friends and neighbours.
Honouring Resistance – a video presentation by Allan Wade
Respecting & Listening to Victims of Violence — a handbook from Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter — ACFJ post describing the Respecting & Listening to Victims of Violence handbook from the Calgary Women’s Shelter. The people who wrote this handbook have worked closely with Allan Wade. (PDF of the handbook)
The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse – a synopsis of a video presentation by Allan Wade. The video is embedded in the post.
The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and how it was invented to silence an indignant young woman – Allan Wade interviewed the first woman who was labelled as having “Stockholm Syndrome”.
The website of Allan Wade and his colleagues is Response Based Practice.