No More Blaming the Victim, Please!


Often in my psychotherapy practice a woman feels shame, self-doubt and is quick to both please and defer to authority figures.  In moving through our therapy experience together we discover that in her past she may have been sexually abused or molested. If she were not so blatantly misused she often was disparaged, controlled and criticized, even punished and restrained because of the passions she aroused in adults.

The New York Times published this article today: Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud.

...once you judge a female human being only through a man’s sexualized imagination, you can turn even a modest 8-year-old girl into a seductress and a prostitute.


At heart, we are talking about a blame-the-victim mentality. It shifts the responsibility of managing a man’s sexual urges from himself to every woman [or child] he may or may not encounter. It is a cousin to the mentality behind the claim, “She was asking for it.”


So the responsibility is now on the women [and children]. To protect men from their sexual thoughts, women [and children] must remove their femininity from their public presence, ridding themselves of even the smallest evidence of their own sexuality.

This article directly parallels a conversation I had with an 80 year old client about her childhood in the United States where her early developing voluptuous body had teachers complain of her "immorality" when she was nine.  A middle-aged woman said her husband called their 10 year old daughter a whore because she wanted to get her ears pierced.

 I'm glad to see this issue on the front page of a prestigious newspaper.  I hope it gets a lot of thoughtful consideration and discussion.

The bottom line is that adults must be responsible for their feelings and actions.  A child needs adult care-takers in her life or she will die. Children cannot survive on their own.  For a child, a little girl, to develop into a healthy adult woman - healthy in mind, body and spirit - she needs to be respected and honored for the natural being she is.

If her skin, her hair, her eyes, if her enthusiastic plunges into dance, somersaults, cartwheels, if her emotionally charged

kissing, hugging and gazing sexually arouse an adult, it's the adult's responsibility to recognize his or her own responses and restrain from any behavior based on those responses. 

Sexual behavior with a child is never the fault of the child, no matter how provocative the child may seem to the adult.  Children experiment with everything - bodies, feelings, responses from others as well as crayons, paint, blocks and clay. They are new beings learning about the world and themselves. Adults need to protect them and allow them to develop as the natural beings they are in order to grow, flourish and mature.

That means adults need to mature and step up to the responsibilities of maturity. 

I wonder if our instant gratification culture fosters sexual explotation of children and women.  If we are taught to believe and expect that our feelings need to be gratified in an instant, we don't give ourselves the time to sit with our feelings and think about what they mean. Without that we can't take considered action or restrain ourselves from inappropriate or harmful action.

We also learn to point an accusing finger at anything or anyone who arouses unwanted feelings in us.  It's the person, the words, the pictures, the objects for sale that must be controlled or censored or forbidden.  This makes the assumption that we adults must act on our feelings because we have no control and can't take responsibility for our actions.  Therefore, whatever arouses us is at fault.  And too often, what arouses adults are children and women. Natural, innocent, healthy children and innocent and naive women are blamed for the behavior their bodies, minds, hearts, souls, words, movement, facial expressions, skin and breathing evoke in adults.

Much to think about in the article and in this situation.  Too many women I know and probably men too, carry guilt, shame and a feeling of being wrong and bad because their naturalness as children stimulated irresponsible and immature adults into harmful action or severe control to squelch the natural child.

What do  you think? Can you tolerate your feelings and think about about them?  Are you a victim of the instant gratification culture that encourages you to blame an object or person rather than live within your own considered boundaries? Where have you been imposed upon?  And where have you been the one who imposes?


Story:  Woman in court accusing a man of rape. Prosecuting attorney says, "She was asking for it. She wore a short red dress with a plunging neckline and walked alone in the dark."

Defense attorney says, "Your Honor, if a bright red Mazzaratti is parked on a dark urban street, with the keys in the car, the windows open and the motor running, does that mean it's not against the law to get in and drive off?  Would the person who took that car not be prosecuted for grand theft?"








0 # First of all, I want to congratulate mysmylifex2 2012-01-20 18:14
First of all, I want to congratulate myself for reading through this whole blog the very first time. It does, of course, stir up certain feelings, but I am sitting better with them at this moment.
Joanna, I have felt sexualized by the male gender since I was a young child. I have a memory of sitting on my gfathers lap and realizing that he was making strange noises as he shifted my weight around on his lap (area). I remember thinking the noises were weird to me, but not until years later when this memory surfaced did I realized what those noises probably were. Due to the years that I was sexually abused, I learned that sex is all I was good for. I could be quite the tease growing up. I enjoyed making men excited. I especially used this to my advantage when I was a bartender in my 20's. I took as much emotional advantage of the men as they did with me. It was fun, yet scary, because, unless I was drunk or high, I was too fearful to actually go through with all of the promises of my teasing. I remember feeling that if they gave me a tip (despite the fact that I was working for it by serving them food and drink), that I owed them something. Really!? But through all of this, I felt it was so natural to me to be doing this, to be acting like a whore, (someone I certainly was not!)
Once I got clean and slowed my drinking way down, I realized what was all around are awful, dirty, insincere, terrible, inhuman creatures. I don't trust that any man has a single pure thought in their brains or hearts.
Growing up, I felt like all adult males had one single agenda for me. I didn't want to upset them. So I even flirted with my adult male relatives. I wanted to see them happy. It was who I was, the little girl who had sex with her grandfather. The little girl who never told her parents, who went back for more each week. The little girl who easily could have climbed into bed with her grandmother instead of getting into her grandfather's bed (they slept in separate rooms). I must have wanted it, right? Of course, now I say NO! But yes, I have voiced guilt.
As an adult, and as a mother of two young girls, I can almost see where the abuse was not my fault and that the adults responsible for these horrid acts were to blame. The only residual guilt I have left is wondering why I didn't tell anyone or why I kept putting myself in that situation. I don't think I asked for it in words, but I think to the sick mind of my abusers, I must have not minded it at all. I hate men. I really do.
0 # Tracy I don't really have time to resshh 2012-01-21 02:24

I don't really have time to respond right now, but I wanted to say that it is very common in cases of child abuse, for the child to co-operate and in some cases even become dependent of the abusive relationship, because that secret they shared made them feel "special" and cared about and wanted, often in situations where the child wasn't able to satisfy their natural urge to feel loved and cared for properly, in any other way.

And that is how the behaviour perpetuates itself into adulthood, with associating sexual attention with feeling wanted & cared for, and why although it seems crazy, we find ourselves getting into sexual situations at the times when we are actually feeling very vulnerable (because it equates in our heads to "care")

I don't know if any of that rings true or makes sense to you? but I think you are a very brave lady! x
0 # thanks shh, yes I do "know" I was not tmylifex2 2012-01-21 06:25
thanks shh,
yes I do "know" I was not to blame. I do see how all of these feelings carried over into adulthood. I want to get rid of the feelings of mistrust I have with men. I know all men can't be bad (?), and I want to be able to settle this huge fear-FEAR!!!- that i have of men and relationships. I am working on this in therapy. I don't seem to be moving along too well, but I am trying. The tape in my head is so loud and so long. It's ok. I feel that I need to stop talking about this so much on here. I feel I need to just close that chapter of my life and move on, stop feeling sorry for myself, grow up, etc. I know right from wrong. I will protect my children. In the end, my primary concern is that they are well-adjusted, happy, and not ever abused.
ps..glad to see you back!
tracy :-)
0 # Thanks Tracy, it's good to be back on heshh 2012-01-21 07:56
Thanks Tracy, it's good to be back on here, I feel like I've missed so much even though I was only away for a few days!

I think part of the answer in terms of relationships, is that when you feel like you love and trust yourself, then you'll be in a position to receive love from someone else, and think about placing your trust in will come to you in good time, as part of your recovery journey xx
0 # Dear Tracy and Shh, I've got to leavepinkjoanna 2012-01-21 08:29
Dear Tracy and Shh,

I've got to leave for a seminar that's taking up my entire week-end so I have to be quick on this moving and sensitive thread.

The key here, I think, is that trust has to be earned. Children give their trust freely and don't understand how to take care of themselves when their trust is betrayed. They may not even recognize betrayal and think that the breach in integrity is normal or that they deserve such treatment or both.

Later, the adult who was the betrayed child still carries some of that bewildered naivetee. Her defense against repetition is to withdraw, or rage, our act out while keeping a section of her mind and feelings numbed out.

In my opinion, a way to work through this in order to allow more full relationships with human beings - and yes, some are untrustworthy - is to know that you don't have to trust anyone until you decide they are trustworthy. Your trust in them has to be earned.

And that goes for yourself too. You have to earn your own trust so you can rely on yourself. Whatever it is that you want and need, you have to step up to the plate and make the effort to find a way to give it to yourself so you know you can rely on you.

This is why self care is so important. Why providing for your basic needs is so important. Why caring for the people, the children, the pets, the garden, the work you care about is so important.

You keep earning more layers of trust in yourself. And that helps you to recognize what is and is not trustworthy in the world.
0 # I never connected the trust in myself wimylifex2 2012-01-21 17:12
I never connected the trust in myself with the trust I have in others.
I thought I trusted myself...or rather, I guess I never thought I didn't. I feel the only person I CAN trust is myself. This being because I can usually anticipate my next move, whether it is healthy or not. I can trust that I won't let anyone hurt me. But this is not what you meant. What do I need? I need to feel safe, to feel happy, to feel authenic. I need to trust that I am not a worthless person and I my life has meaning, that I was not a mistake. I have been so terribly depressed with all of this topic...I am also moving through much of the same content in therapy. I know it is not supposed to be an easy time, but I feel I am just over with trying to deal with it. I won't give up, because I know that's not the answer. i am just so afraid that I will never get "there"...that place where I have dealt with this issue and have worked through it until there is no work to be done. But then I realize the steps I have made in the right direction, such as being able to delve more into this topic without zoning out. I guess I have to be present before I can do any work, so this is a good thing. I need to be more patient with myself. I do want to feel better like "right now"..I think what I need to do- to earn my own trust - is to trust that I can take steps toward healing. To trust in my ability to get through this without giving up, to trust that I am strong enough to do this. To trust that I will find a way to love myself, to trust that I can have the courage to get through this journey. And then, see that because I have taken the leap to trust in myself, things are actually coming together and that the world isn't so scary. It's a daunting task. I need to first learn to slow down and trust that I can "feel" my day without becoming too overwhelmed. I rush, rush ,rush around in an attempt to dodge solitary thoughts and the emotions that down-time brings to me. I will need to trust that I can handle the anxiety that this downtime brings to me, and process what is going on in my head. I would be so glad to work through this as it is so tiring. I think I will work on this starting right this second. hope this makes sense.
0 # I just practiced slowing downmylifex2 2012-01-21 18:08 I just practiced slowing down with the simple act of putting my dishes away. I actually had to talk myself through the action of bending over to get the dishes out of the dishwasher, standing and sorting and placing...and had to be mindful of how I do this so fast...for instance, usually I rush so fast during this act that I drop things, or spill things or bump into things. Why? I don't know. I do this with everything I do. So, I said to myself, slow down today while doing the dishes. there is no rush. you have nowhere to go. nothing will be accomplished by rushing through this except to make you more anxious and panicky. slow down. So, I slowed huge revelations, no earth-shattering epiphanies, BUT, I felt a little proud of myself that I started this process..this process of slowing down. Allowing myself to have split seconds of down-time. I want to do this tomorrow with getting ready for church, with going to the gym with my kids, with that "stress" that I need to hurry so I can get that treadmill I want back by the window, the one that has the best tv picture for NFL network (some of them are blurry)and the one that is under the fan....hahaha...I hope you guys get this...rushing makes me so anxious. I don't think i ever really breath...i really don't. ???
0 # Tracy I suffered with the clumseynessMelanie 2012-01-22 05:41

I suffered with the clumseyness for quite a while. I'm not used to the space my body now takes up. I'm not used to opening up through my shoulders. Now as I practice that, I catch door frames and door jams often. It is ok for me to be the size I am. I refuse to shrink to gain anyone else's approval. This isn't Wonderland. I'm not going to be umpteen different sizes to please all those that are in the rabbit hole.
0 # Slowing down is key in recovery. Think opinkjoanna 2012-01-22 21:31
Slowing down is key in recovery. Think of how much you miss looking out the passenger window of a fast moving car. What you see going 80 mph can't compare with 35 mph and that can't compare with 10 mph.

And what's the difference between those driving experiences and riding a bicycle in those same areas?

And what happens when you walk that path?

And what can you discover if you sit quietly in one spot on that path with your eyes and ears and senses open and aware?

If you feel unsafe you have to be hyper vigilant to keep yourself out of danger. But if you can trust yourself to make a safe place for yourself
or trust yourself to take care of you if trouble arises, you can slow down with putting dishes away, getting dressed, chatting playfully with your children as you help them get ready for an event.....the quality of your life....and those around you....improves when you slow down.


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