A significant obstacle for those who say they “are opposed to abuse” and “want to stand up for victims” is that many, yes, even many trained professionals don’t recognize abuse when it is happening right in front of them. It is hidden in plain sight. You must know what to look for.
The hidden dynamic is the inappropriate assignment of responsibility.
A. The abuser makes the victim responsible to carry the weight of their impulses (anger, sex, power…)
B. The abuser then blames the victim for the abuser’s behavior
C. The abuser makes the victim responsible to protect them (Threats, manipulations…etc.)
Imagine in a church setting, a man walks up to you and says, “will you pray with me for the restoration of my marriage? My wife left me without any warning at all. I had no idea she was unhappy and now she refuses to even talk about it”
Your instincts tell you to join this man in his quest for marital help.
My instincts tell me I may be talking to an abusive spouse.
Abusive people are skilled in recruiting others to join the “responsibility placing” dynamic.
If you feel sorry for the person above, and a bit of frustration with the “non-communicative spouse” you have just experienced grooming. The abuser uses your best qualities for their purposes.
The abuser does not just want the victim to feel responsible for the abusers deficits, they also want others to feel that the victim is responsible to fix the problem. This is why the common Christian advice for the spouse to go back and “submit more” or “try harder” is so destructive. That is actually recommending that you fuel the abuse dynamic.
For the abuse to actually change, one of two things must happen:
A. The abuser must take responsibility for their own life, emotions, choices and behavior, and do so over time, not just in a one time manipulation.
B. The Victim must cease taking responsibility for the abuser’s life, emotions, choices and behavior.
When the abuser appears to change (whether they do or not) they are usually celebrated for behavior change, whether they have addressed the issue of responsibility or not.
When the victim ceases to take responsibility for the abuser, they are accused of all manner of things. Bitterness, Unforgiveness, Control, being Unsubmissive etc.
If you or your organization wants to really take a stand against abuse, you must first learn to recognize it. And second you must learn that assigning the victim responsibility and comforting the abuser actually IS abuse and must be reversed if abuse is going to be truly addressed.