Sociological Images, a blog which focuses on examining current events through a sociological perspective, recently wrote a post about a survey conducted by a Christian website on conservative Christian men’s thoughts on modesty. The survey had some interesting results, however the most interesting facet of the study lies in the asymmetry of the project, as the article puts it: “the lust is men’s; the bodies are women’s”. In order to “act modest”, women must do a great deal of self monitoring, not only with the outfits that they wear, but also with the way they present themselves in action and attitude. Women thus become inherently (and unfairly) responsible for men’s feelings, emotions and actions against their bodies.
The similarity between domestic violence situations is striking. Many abusers mimic this mentality of excusing their behavior by using their victim’s actions as the reason for their abusive behaviors. We hear this from our clients regularly. Clients will come in and say, “he told me that he hit me because I talked back to him” or “I didn’t pick up my phone when he called and so he started calling me names and accusing me of being unfaithful.” Because of how much control abusers have over victims, it can become difficult for victims to see the flawed logic in statements like this.
When someone comes to you to discuss a personal situation-whether or not it is one of abuse- it’s important to actively listen without passing judgment. If you don’t feel like you can do this for someone, tell them and suggest an alternate option such as calling a local crisis center or their therapist. One of the most damaging things for a victim is to reveal an incident of abuse and then be questioned about the accuracy of their story or to insinuate that they prompted the abuse. When we judge someone on their story or wonder aloud if they are to blame, we are then doing to the speaker what the abuser has done to them: shift responsibility to them and take away their power. The choice to abuse is a purposeful and calculated decision by the abuser. A victim’s actions never warrant abusive behavior from a partner. We are all responsible for our own individual choices. When we look to others actions to excuse our behavior, we unfairly shift responsibility for our decisions to them.
How would you respond to someone who blames another person’s actions for their own behavior? Leave us your thoughts!