A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Stockholm Syndrome, codependency and other labels used to pathologize, blame and discredit victims.

There are many labels used to pathologise, blame and discredit victims:

  • Stockholm Syndrome
  • battered women’s syndrome
  • learned helplessness
  • codependency
  • traumatic bonding
  • re-enactment of trauma
  • repetition compulsion
  • women choose abusive men
  • women unconsciously attract abusive men

The concept of “Stockholm Syndrome” has become a ‘received truth’ in the mental health field. It shifts the focus away from actual events in context to invented pathologies in the minds of victims (particularly women).

“Stockholm syndrome” is one of many concepts that can be used to silence individuals who, as victims of violence, speak out publicly about negative social (i.e., institutional) responses.

Terms like Stockholm Syndrome and codepent need to be contested over and over again, as they are deeply embedded in the mind of many people who ‘helping’ victims of abuse.

I encourage you to dig deeper by reading the following three posts. Each link will open in a different tab. The first two are from this blog; the last one is from Confusion To Clarity.

The term “Stockholm Syndrome” was invented to silence an indignant young woman

The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse

Am I Co-dependent? Did I Choose an Abuser?

***

Note: I do not necessarily endorse every resource that Confusion to Clarity recommends on their website, but it’s heartening that they are passing on the wisdom of people like Dr George Simon Jr and Dr Allan Wade.

Related post:  How victim’s responses to abuse are mis-labelled, and how abusers’ tactics of abuse are mis-labelled.

 

18 Comments

  1. Gany T.

    Another pathologizing label: Doormat

    As if any person ever wants and likes to be walked on.

    Passive wording: a person is being a doormat
    Active (accurate) wording: an abuser is wiping his/her dirty feet on their victim

    • ^ Like

    • Helovesme

      Extremely well said and thank you for wording it so well.

      I fear this is a SLIGHT bit off topic, but it goes along with her thoughts, I think.

      I read a wonderful quote on Facebook about how a perpetrator of sexual assault is fully to blame, and the victim is NOT.

      Here was my response:

      “fault lies solely with the perpetrator.” (this is the original quote)

      If you don’t know what that does and doesn’t entail, please educate yourself. And I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence by insinuating that you might not already know such an obvious fact. Search your heart in this. Ask yourself if you really believe this.

      For example, a woman who chose to hitchhike and is sexually assaulted is NOT to blame for the actions of the driver! Do NOT insert in any way, shape or form—that her choosing to get into the car of a total stranger means she is somehow at fault.

      Sometimes I drop off food at the houses of total strangers. If anything ever happened to me, would you blame me for “recklessly trying to serve and bless?”

      What if that house was in a not-so-safe neighborhood? Would it be my fault because I chose to take that risk? I should have known better than to dare to bless someone in one of “those” neighborhoods?

      Would it change your view if you knew that that fictional young woman was running for her life and needed help? Or she was pregnant and had to get to the hospital? Or her car had broken down and someone stopped to help, but ended up harming her?

      Let’s say NONE of those things were true about that fictional young woman. She just took a risk that in hindsight, she wishes she had never taken. What is your response?

      If you had known better to NOT take that risk, you wouldn’t be in this position.

      Go back to my delivering food narrative. I took a risk that I did not have to take. Is that what you will say to me? I should not have taken any risk, in any way, for any reason—-because you might get hurt.

      What you’re telling me AND her—-is that we should live in a bubble or a cave or a prison cell. That is the only way we’ll never get hurt.

      No, the persons that hurt US belong in those cells!!! Not us! THEY took the opportunity to hurt, not help. They took the risk to kill, not save. They made the choice to hate, not love.

      To bring this full circle to Gany T.’s wonderful words

      No victim of abuse or assault is in any way, shape or form—-actively laying down and asking to be walked upon (“As if any person ever wants and likes to be walked on”)

      The perpetrator chose to walk all over them, “wiping his/her dirty feet on their victim.”

  2. Krikit

    “…the reality is that character-impaired, abusive individual is habitually exploiting his partner’s vulnerabilities. ”
    — Dr. George Simon, PhD

    These very same vulnerabilities are what the so-called leadership within churchianity exploit. And it is the same churchianity that actually creates these vulnerabilities by teaching falsely and erroneously about spiritual concepts such as forgiveness, humility, praying for thy enemy, turning the other cheek, reconciliation, etc… The “church” as a whole is vastly responsible for creating targets— most especially marital/domestic targets!

    • Spot on, Krikit 🙂

      • Krikit

        Thank you for the affirmation.

    • Sarah

      THIS

    • Helovesme

      “The “church” as a whole is vastly responsible for creating targets— most especially marital/domestic targets!”

      I love that. I believe you posted this on Facebook as well.

      The fruits of the Spirit are not only the evidence that we are His, they are beautiful and precious. They honor Him, they bless others, and it blesses us to watch the Lord work in us and through us.

      Abiding in Him, and He in us—-brings His fruit to fruition. Every single of those fruits reflects who He is. And as we are changed from glory to glory, as we behold His face in that mirror, we see Him more and more clearly.

      There is everything right and nothing wrong with this. I would not have it any other way.

      Pursuing and having the heart of His servant has absolutely opened me and others up to being taken advantage of.

      You can’t necessarily “hide” His fruits in your life (does that make sense?). We can do our best to do our giving in secret as He commands, but truly—when His light shines through you, it can and will be seen.

      So this can (again) expose you to those who (again) are not interested in honoring His power. They are interested in HAVING power.

      God obviously never, ever intended for His fruits to be seen and treated as vulnerabilities. That is 100% (as Krikit) said so well—on the “churchianity.”

      If you’re like me and have been targeted and taken advantage of and treated like trash—it is 100% not your fault. Keep letting Him shine through you. And keep pursuing Him.

      I know it’s tempting to want to build a shell around you. Or, you regret being gracious or generous because it all went so terribly wrong.

      Remember that God’s grace was seen as “dangerous” because it was feared that that gave permission for people to sin. You can’t be so kind! People will think you’re weak and spineless with no backbone, and no real disdain for sin.

      Never! Grace reigns through righteousness! Romans 5:21

      I used to blame myself for getting hurt. I thought that while I meant to be His servant, my faith must have been tainted. Maybe His light started out right in me, but I cast “shadows” from my own sinful nature that contributed to the whole mess.

      That was not entirely untrue. I had a LOT to learn then and now. Everyone does. No one’s faith is 100% perfected on this side of eternity.

      So that is not a problem for me to admit. I did NOT make myself a target, and I am not to blame for being targeted. Whether anyone targeted me or not, the fact still stands that I am a work in progress.

      But ask yourself as well, what kind of faith do those that targeted you have, choosing to hurt or exploit persons who were simply pursuing the Lord and looking to honor Him?

  3. Finding Answers

    From the original post “……..passing on the wisdom of people like Dr George Simon Jr and Dr Allan Wade.”

    ^That.

    I would also add Don Hennessy, especially his explanations on WHY women are targeted.

    A digest / list of Barb’s ACFJ posts on Don Hennessy is found at the link listed below:

    https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2018/02/06/don-hennessy-digest/

    • Finding Answers

      Ticking the notifications box – I haven’t forgotten to do that in a VERY long time. Sigh.

    • Thanks for giving the link to Don Hennessy’s work, Finding Answers. 🙂

  4. Kind of Anonymous

    I am still musing on this Stockholm thing and trauma bonding. It seems to me that these are all complicated explanations for what the bible calls habituation. It’s a form of habituation. Much of the abusive person’s behaviour is intended to teach us not to resist, challenge, disagree or do anything but go along with the abusive person’s agenda and not threaten them.

    As a kid my dad would do things that were just inside the border of what was legit normal parenting but that seemed to have an element of set up to them. Since I was aware of this sometimes I attempted to defy it as a way of reacting against injustice. Of course I would get punished for any display of independence or resistance under the banner of the righteous requirement that children submit to their parent’s legit authority. That taught me a kind of powerlessness. I learned not to go too far from home, not to challenge or resist and that thinking for myself was bad. Later when I started going to church the emphasis on submission to authority seemed to reinforce this idea that we are never to rebel or resist or we are actually rebelling against God.

    Dad sent me to the store for a specific amount of milk once. I discovered that the portion size that equalled half of that was on sale and if I got two of them it was the same amount of milk but a savings of a buck and a half. I went home proud of myself for figuring this out. I was about 13. Instead of being praised I was soundly rebuked for my “disobedience” and chewed out for my lack of brains. Dad saw my having gotten two smaller cartons as defying him. His girlfriend at the time was incredulous; “_____ she said, She got a BARGAIN”, in an attempt to get him to see that he was being arbitrary and punishing me for something ridiculous when he should be affirming me.

    Numerous little punitive set ups like this occurred. Over time I was trained not to do anything but flatten freeze and submit. I became fearful of going far from home but even more so, of thinking for myself and making choices that weren’t authorized. It reminds me very much of that experiment where animals were shocked if they went the wrong way in a lab test. Later the circumstances of the test were changed so that going that direction was now positive instead of harmful but the animals wouldn’t go past their conditioning.

    Through the use of fear, the hostages in Sweden were conditioned to submit to their captors and to see them as having the power of life and death. If that displays anything, it shows how weak and vulnerable we are, something most of us resist seeing. Firing guns into the air, shooting a policeman in front of everyone and then making a hostage sing out loud are all examples of crazy behaviour that is designed to create fear and intimidation. You better submit because he’s crazy and you don’t know what he will do.

    My dad used to do a variation of this sans guns. I believe it evolved as his own reaction to being terrorized when he was powerless but now he was transferring it onto us. He would begin to display signs of anger. We knew the signs and knew right away to become compliant. One day I had had enough of the whole buildup of fear thing and so I figured out that the only way to beat him was to be crazier than him. I ran out into the yard shouting “He’s gonna kill us, he’s gonna kill us”. I wasn’t really THAT afraid but at the same time, sick enough of the whole cycle of intimidation, fear and anxiety that I had to do something to interrupt it. It shocked him out of his routine. I am sure that the fear of what was going on being exposed helped. I wound up being sent back to my mother a few months later, probably in part because he realized I was not totally under control anymore.

    I don’t think that there is anything pathological about someone responding to such conditioning except perhaps in the sense that perhaps our flesh reacts this way because of the fall. But to say that someone is at fault because their humanity was used against them this way is absurd. Perhaps we ought to say, “Yes, she does have trauma bonding and guess whose fault it is for intentionally using fear to create slavery”! Even if one got trauma bonding early in childhood, if one’s spouse or relative is intentionally making use of that fear conditioning to successfully dominate someone in regular interactions that is still sinful.

    • Helovesme

      “That taught me a kind of powerlessness.”

      “Later the circumstances of the test were changed so that going that direction was now positive instead of harmful but the animals wouldn’t go past their conditioning.”

      “You better submit because he’s crazy and you don’t know what he will do.”

      “One day I had had enough of the whole buildup of fear thing and so I figured out that the only way to beat him was to be crazier than him.”

      “But to say that someone is at fault because their humanity was used against them this way is absurd. Perhaps we ought to say, “Yes, she does have trauma bonding and guess whose fault it is for intentionally using fear to create slavery”!”

      “putting on the new man and taking off the old”

      I almost always get a lot out of your comments, Kind Of Anonymous. These were the ones that stood out to me the most.

      I related to all of them. Many times, myself included, we don’t understand or validate what abuse does to a person. The duration AND aftermath of abuse reflects that the abuse truly changed them. It changes people in different ways, depending on a wide variety of factors, but make no mistake—-the abuse HAS altered you.

      Feeling powerless is applicable to all of humanity, not just victims of abuse. However, it is a terrible affliction. The experience of it and the memories of it—-leave a person feeling as though they are beyond hope. A dreaded feeling of hopelessness sticks to you like Velcro.

      The second one—yes! Even when I felt fairly certain that taking a certain risk would result in positive results—-I would constantly balk. Being bold is a Biblical attribute. It is not always a sign of rebellion against Him. It is a sign of obedience to Him!

      But if your mind cannot put aside the ingrained trauma of what happened when you DID try to be bold, and that it was labeled and treated as disobedience—-you can see how the power of God is desperately needed to undo all the faulty thinking that abuse has done to you.

      I did not want to comment on your story about the milk. It rang so true with me—-independent thinking and living as an individual are often one of the many “casualties” of abuse. I do believe the Lord can restore, but I have to admit that many times, I wonder if some of the damage (not all of it!) is permanent.

      I didn’t necessarily act crazy with my abuser. But I did get just as angry as him, maybe even more so, in order to “fight fire with fire.” It never ended well with me. To this day, I am determined to completely separate myself from the bad influences and bad habits that abuse taught me. They really did rub off on me. I want nothing to do with their ways, even if they are unfortunately, very familiar and many times—-they are all I know.

      Which brings me to the last and BEST one: in Christ, we put off the old and put on the new. Shed what has been done to us, and learn in Him how to do what He does.

      Kind Of Anonymous put it excellently about the insanity of using our humanity against us. Tell me, when soldiers go to war and then come home—do you really expect them to be the exact same persons as they were when they left to fight?

      Do you really think they will not be altered in some way: no marks on their bodies (if they’ve been wounded), or marks on their souls (PTSD, for example)?

      Why would you put such impossible expectations on them? Their eyes perhaps saw the reality of how badly human beings can and do hurt each other, up close and personal. They may have seen blood, sweat and tears. They potentially lost friends and comrades. War is a terrible and awful reality in which the depths of human depravity are on full display.

      Being in an abusive home or relationship is a lot like being in a war zone. You fight or freeze or find ways to stay alive. Your number one goal AND instinct is to survive, usually by any means necessary. You have to think of others as well, not just yourself (your kids for example). You have to take care of them AND yourself in fighting a common enemy: your own loved one.

      Your mind works in “unusual” ways to get this done. Kind of Anonymous suggested that IF “trauma bonding” is a reality with a victim, bear in mind how that came about. The abuser put her in a situation where she applied this method in order to cope. It is his fault, not hers.

      If you have ever been bullied in school, you will understand this. If you are being picked on because you are seen as weak, a possible reaction would be for THAT weak person to find someone even WEAKER than them—and start picking on them. It might quell the bullying against you, and unearth a potential target for the primary bullies to start in on.

      This is not the kind of person I want to be like. But I can understand how one who is being bullied might learn to cope, or survive the unthinkable. Shift focus from you, engage in those same behaviors you despise for the goal of self-protection, and dehumanize that new target in order to preserve your own humanity. Problem is, that may help in the short term, but your actions will have consequences. Choosing to devalue humanity is a big deal.

      A wonderful comment at the very top of this post involved how NO ONE wants to be a doormat. I became one myself, but that is not something I ever, ever wanted. First of all, standing up usually meant I was going to get pushed down. I learned to cope by staying on that ground, laying down and finding ways to deal with all that mud and dirt as I was walked upon. It took less effort than constantly trying to get up only to be knocked down again. I was also fairly outnumbered. Twelve people pushing one person down only added to that helplessness.

      The churches I’ve been around and the Christians I was around were not much help in discouraging a doormat mentality, and actively encouraging anything but. Too many times we equate humility with being a doormat. You simply learn to “take it,” but now you “take it for the cause of Christ.”

      There are no words to express how wrong and evil and sinful that is.

    • Thanks for sharing the milk anecdote! I like your phrase “punitive setup”. Yeah, that’s how abusers behave. They set it up so the target cannot succeed. The abuser’s illogic goes like this [Trigger warning]——

      “I am God and you MUST obey my orders. Some of my orders I speak to you out loud, some of them I just expect you to know because as my minion your duty is to read my mind and discern my every wish. I am God and I can change my orders at any time. I am God and you are not allowed to use your own rationality or common sense against me. If you attempt to defy me I will punish you. I will deliver the punishment whenever and however I feel like it. I may deliver it straight after you infraction, or weeks, months or years later. I will keep you on tenterhooks always afraid of me. And since I am God I can and will masquerade as a nice guy. Don’t you dare blow my cover or you’ll pay for it big time.”

  5. Kind of Anonymous

    PS, the bible doesn’t actually call it habituation I worded that wrong, but it speaks of how the flesh works and discusses putting on the new man and taking off the old. Said that incorrectly.

  6. Helovesme

    I read one of the links provided—the other one is about HOW the term came to being. It was briefly explained in the one I read.

    “It reveals a style of theorizing the oppressed, as submissive and deficient, as in need of instruction, correction, as participants in their own oppression.”

    I’m shocked that the person who coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome” never interviewed the woman in question.

    But then I was not so shocked. I once read a post admonishing victims and those around them to let the victims tell their stories. And of course, they are the ones to decide if they even want to talk about it.

    Do not speak for them (unless they specifically allow you to). It is empowering for them to use their own voices and words to tell something only they can truly describe. And again, it is their story to tell, not yours.

    One of the biggest and hardest hurdles of pain for me is when my side of a situation is not only discredited, it is dismissed before I can even open my mouth. My point of view is not asked about, because it is not considered relevant.

    And once a certain narrative is put there, very slanted, often inaccurate and even out and out false—-it gains traction and speed like a freight train. It’s out of control and out of your hands.

    I would hear things trickle back to me and I would feel more and more helpless.

    The “threads” of fabric Barbara described are often attributed to people without even hearing them speak for themselves. Do you really want to know what happened, or have you already made up your mind even before I speak?

    I was abused as a child. Okay, fine—if you want to “suggest” that I was “predisposed” to be abused or drawn to toxic persons as an adult—-take that and run with it if you must.

    I’ll be honest and say I would not know exactly how to respond to that “suggestion.” I don’t believe that is true, but I will admit that my mind was and still is pretty messed up from abuse.

    What I WILL admit is that I emerged from that abuse a very scared and lonely individual. That CAN lead others to take advantage of that, and in my frail state I can imagine that I did not how know to recognize the difference between sincerity and insincerity.

    But never forget this. I did not actively choose to be hurt by my abuser OR by anyone else. They chose to hurt me. For example, if I placed myself in a dark alley (for whatever reason) and someone came along and hurt me—I am not to blame because I was in a dark place. What was that person DOING, using that cover of darkness to inflict pain on me?

    It is the same thing with my inner self. I had and have a lot of darkness in me. It was seen as a “cover” for even more people who chose to see that darkness as a way to hide their OWN evil deeds.

    A person who is in a dark place is NOT an open invitation for others to hurt you. Did it ever occur to anyone that choosing to have compassion was an equally potential response? Why is that not asked?

    I did not “position” myself to get hurt, either as a child or an adult.

    Imagine a piece of china, expensive and beautiful and very old. It is masterfully made by a talented artist. You can see how much time and effort was put into it because the details and the quality are visible to all.

    But it is full of cracks as well. At one point it was whole, but over time and over a lot of use, there is wear and tear. It does not necessarily diminish the beauty of that piece of art, but one can see it is quite damaged.

    Now imagine that piece of china is a person who has been abused or has undergone other forms of trauma.

    Do you throw it to the ground, shattering it because it’s “no good” anymore?
    Do you salvage it for parts to be used in other endeavors, so nothing is wasted?
    Do you blame that piece of china for being used, possibly improperly? The cracks are your fault. You should not have let anyone “handle” you if they were doing it all wrong.
    Do you mock the imperfections, and encourage others to do the same?
    Do you laugh at the artist: he or she must have done a lousy job if it cracked so easily, and so many of them. You would have known and done better.

    Do you gently take it in your hands and attempt to find someone who can repair it?
    Let’s say you know it can’t be repaired. Do you put it in a safe place so that it can be as preserved as well as possible? You do not want to add any more cracks to it.

    Stop putting labels on us. Stop assuming that you know what we’ve been through, and why we made certain choices, or why we did NOT make certain choices.

    I told someone the other day that if people would just get off their high horses, they might actually learn something. Sitting up there, you get to look down on us. And of course, you have the “power” since you are sitting on a very strong beast. Also, you are nice and protected as you sit well above the ground.

    Coming down to our level, you might see us in a far different light.

    • Finding Answers

      Helovesme commented (24TH JULY 2019 – 12:13 PM) “What I WILL admit is that I emerged from that abuse a very scared and lonely individual. That CAN lead others to take advantage of that, and in my frail state I can imagine that I did not how know to recognize the difference between sincerity and insincerity.”

      ^That.

      Helovesme also commented “A person who is in a dark place is NOT an open invitation for others to hurt you……”

      And ^That does not always mean a physically dark place, but can also refer to deep depression (also known by me as the pit).

      Helovesme also commented “……Stop assuming that you know what we’ve been through, and why we made certain choices, or why we did NOT make certain choices.”

      ^That.

      Helovesme also commented “Imagine a piece of china, expensive and beautiful and very old. It is masterfully made by a talented artist. You can see how much time and effort was put into it because the details and the quality are visible to all.”

      A beautiful analogy of God as the Master Artist.

      Helovesme also commented “Coming down to our level, you might see us in a far different light.”

      ^THAT might help you realize you are NOT God.

      • Helovesme

        “And ^That does not always mean a physically dark place, but can also refer to deep depression (also known by me as the pit).”

        Yes, absolutely! You picked up on that even though I do not think I said it so precisely. But that is exactly what I meant, far more than being in a literal dark alley.

        You also very much picked up on the artist I refer to is none other than the Lord Himself, the most amazing Potter of priceless art—-His own children made in His own image.

        Artists will often say that they put a bit of themselves into whatever they are creating. Cooks will say that they put “love” into their food. They want the product to be a reflection of them, of who they are and what they are like.

        They want the public to be very aware and connected to that fact, so that they will appreciate their work as it should be.

        For people to mock or minimize or make a mess out of an artist’s work is probably one of the worst things you can do to them. You are mocking the very love you worked so hard to put into what they are now carelessly tearing down.

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