“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. We can’t base our own worthiness on others’ approval (and this is coming from someone who spent years trying to please everyone!). Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say ‘Enough!’”
Dr. Brene Brown
Sadly, victims of trauma are often blamed for others’ violent actions against them–actions they did not choose, actions to which they did not consent, actions for which they were objectified and dehumanized. If anyone has ever devalued in this way, take heart in knowing you–yes, you–are a precious pearl. A valuable pearl. No person can lower your price.
Irrational Rationalizing & Maximum Minimizing
Logically, no upstanding, good, and principled human advocates blaming, shaming, marginalizing, or minimizing a person for acts he endured but did not commit. No one would blame a hostage victim for being taken hostage. No one would shame a robbery victim for another’s stealing.
No decent, reasonable person would minimize or marginalize the sleeping woman in this video for a stranger’s preying on and sexually assaulting her during her sleep. Yet, shift the variables. Substitute “stranger” with “acquaintance” or “friend.” Replace “subway” with “car” or “couch.” Set the crime on a college campus, on a school field trip, or on a church youth group trip. Suddenly, these tiny changes illogically shift focus away from the perpetrator’s real actions to false perceptions of the victim. Suddenly, otherwise reasonable, decent people stop acting with reason or decency. Their indecent, irrational, emotional responses unjustly prejudice them against victims so that they imagine nonexistent mitigating factors to explain away acts of violence.
‘Survivalists’ v. ‘Survivors’: Cultural & Community Dystopias
For what reasons would otherwise good, moral people lash out at victims? Here are two common reasons.
Latent gender stereotypes lead to unfair bias towards victims of trauma. Examples include stereotypes holding males should be “tough,” so that no male can be a victim of domestic violence. And teenage girls are held as naturally promiscuous, so any sexual violence they suffer is punishment for a provocative nature (they “wanted” or “were asking” to be assaulted). Another common generalization holds males are biologically more aggressive, and thus, their acts of sexual violence are “normal,” not criminal.
These are archaic stereotypes. Besides being completely offensive to most reasonable persons, they suggest criminal sexual violence is not actually criminal. Broad generalizations unfairly bias responses against victims. There is no inherent inferiority or superiority within one’s gender that either creates culpability for or excuses violence.
Accepting a truth in conflict with a survivalist’s perceptions destabilizes the survivalist’s world view. Truth is the perceived threat to their Utopias, and they are blind to their communities’ dystopian underbellies. For these people, truth is chaos. Facades represent stability. Facades allows the survivalist to feel safe, though there’s nothing safe nor stable in these people’s alternate realities.
The survivalist will incredibly ignore direct evidence in favor of her charade. She will blame truth bearers–victims and victim’s advocates–when her distorted mirrors come crashing down instead of putting responsibility where it belongs, squarely on the shoulders of violent actors.
Survivalist operations are dangerous to society, and damaging to trauma victims. Often, survivalist tactics re-traumatize victims. Many say the abuse they endured was painful, but what truly crushed them was their being abandoned by those they trusted and loved most. For those on the receiving end, remember, survivalists’ defamatory, dismissive, degrading acts are not about you. All attempts to minimize, distort, marginalize, rationalize, or otherwise overwrite the truth are acts of desperation to keep up absurd pretenses.
Pearl of Great Price
You can have compassion for others if you understand where they’re coming from. You can love and pray for them. However, having compassion does not mean having to accept your being degraded or debased. It does not mean remaining passive while others re-traumatize (or while others silently allow you to be re-traumatized). Require others to treat you with the dignity you deserve. Keep in mind, survivalists would sacrifice your well-being to keep their farces. Distancing oneself from survivalists may be necessary for self-preservation.
You are a Pearl. A pearl of great price: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matthew 13:46. Saltwater pearls are considered rare and precious gems. They grow in mollusk shells along beds formed from extinct, eroded volcanos. One single pearl grows for years, facing threatening predators, crabs, and parasites. The few that survive emerge as beautiful smooth, translucent round layers reflecting light.
Your Father in Heaven has seen what you’ve endured. He knows the truth, and He knows your worth. He paid for you with His son’s blood. Who is any other to discount, discredit, or devalue you? Your existence is part of His plan, and you matter. Standing up for yourself isn’t saying you’re better than anyone else. It’s recognizing you are worthy, too.