Victim Shaming Myths About Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

“Ignorance is the key reason people outside the relationship shame the victim,” says Margaret Bayston, CEO and executive director of Laura’s House, a nonprofit that has offered shelter and services to domestic violence survivors in Orange County, Calif., for the past two decades.

She says the horrible part about victim shaming is that many victims are afraid no one will believe them, which is why they don’t come forward in the first place. “That’s why they wait … and then get blamed for waiting.”

Victim shaming can come masked as seemingly innocent questions—

What was she wearing? Was she drinking?

These comments assume the victim had a choice in this situation or even chose to participate.

Even with it come to healing from narcissist abuse or any type of abuse there are victim shaming myths that are perpetuated throughout the professional community.

The fact is, victim shaming makes it harder for the next victim to come forward.

The first step in stopping the shame? Raising the bar for what’s acceptable, says Bayston. Sexist jokes, demeaning women in the locker room, reinforcing the stereotype that men should be macho and dominant—all of these things set up a harmful rhetoric.

We need to encourage survivors and let them know it’s not their fault and they’ve been mentally manipulated by their abuser.

We need to let survivors know what options are available to them and that they’re going to be taken seriously.

We’ve all got to speak out against domestic violence.

victim shaming

Common Victim Shaming Myths About Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

MYTH #1. Emotional healing is a process that’s needed only occasionally, when one has been deeply hurt. 

NO! Healing is a constant on-going part of daily living.

For everyone! It is required whenever we face a change or crisis. Much of it takes place without us being consciously aware that it is going on.

Survivors often feel “different” or permanently “damaged” when, in reality, they are waging an internal war because of cognitive distortions that constitute unwelcome changes in the way things are perceived.

Healing requires the adjustment to new understandings, new ideas, new skills, new behaviors, and a new self-concept that, in time, has the potential to produce a healthier person than ever before.

MYTH #2. Forgiving your abuser is essential to heal.

It is so common to hear that in order to move forward and let go of the bitterness and anger we must forgive our abuses and this is absolutely false. Forgiveness is an individual journey that we each have go on and pushing premature forgiveness can cause additional trauma.

When a person is forced to forgive by mental health professionals, loved ones or their perpetrators,it only leads to what experts call “hollow forgiveness”  (Baumeister et al. 1998). It is neither genuine nor helpful for the victim.

You don’t have to forgive in order to move on. Emotions are important and automatic. When we can acknowledge and appreciate even the darkest, most negative-feeling emotions, they often soften and release.

As soon as I say, “You don’t have to forgive,” the person usually breathes a sigh of relief.”

MYTH #3. There is a magic formula that I have to find if I’m going to recover. 

Sorry, there are no magic formulas! When I worked with children, I frequently sang a little song to them: “Look all the world over. There’s no one like me.”

It’s true for adults, just as much as children. In fact, life’s circumstances can make adult processes even more complex. The way you heal and how fast you do it can depend on your personality, past experiences with trauma, how you perceive your present situation, your support system, and many other factors.

There is absolutely no right or wrong way to heal. 

There is no normal timetable, no measuring stick. You are not in competition with anyone else.

MYTH #4. Professionals are the most important people on the healthcare team. 

NO! You are! Professionals have a lot of knowledge, but they are not God.

They alone cannot bring healing, no matter how much they try. Their work, and yours, can be undermined by circumstances beyond their control.

All of us have our limitations. The most important thing a professional can do for you is to provide a listening ear and an accepting, empathetic spirit.

MYTH #5. You must understand your abuser and be compassionate with them.

I think that most of us have come to realize that not everyone is capable of true and sustaining change, this is just reality.

Encouraging victims of abusers to love their abusers into changing does not work – in fact, it just continues the abuse cycle.

It is a victim shaming practice which gets us to refocus on how we can serve (or FIX) the abuser rather than obtain justice and healing for the actual victim.

MYTH #6. Healing is an event with a definite beginning and ending. 

Unfortunately, problems tend to recycle periodically, requiring one to face new issues related to the trauma, years after saying: “I think I’m over that.”

This can be scary, especially if one is not warned of the possibility. The stages of grieving may have to be repeated when reminders or other traumatic events trigger old garbage.

This is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of normality. Our losses often involve sub-losses that may not be recognized until years after the initial trauma.

MYTH #7. You must help your abuser heal from whatever trauma caused them to act this way.

“They had a bad childhood, so we should try to overlook what they have done and help them….”

NO!

As much as you can empathise with them, do not justify their actions because of some past childhood truaum.

We have to understand that abusers on the malignant end of the narcissistic spectrum often stage pity ploys to keep us trapped in the abuse cycle and are usually unwilling to get help or be responsive to treatment. Dr. Martha Stout (2012), an expert on sociopathic behavior, asserts that pity ploys along with continued mistreatment are a surefire sign of the conscienceless. Love and more compassion cannot change hardwired behavioral patterns which have been present since a young age, nor can they cure a lack of empathy in another person.

Regardless of someone’s childhood upbringing, abuse is never justified. 

There are many victims who have also had rough childhoods, past traumas, and self-esteem issues, but never used that as an excuse to abuse another person.

MYTH #8. Time heals all things. 

No, again! Ignoring pneumonia usually brings a slow, painful death. So does ignoring emotional or spiritual pain.

While healing is an individual process, finding well-informed professionals, friends and other survivors who are able to support you can go a long ways. So can reading material.

You DO need time, but time alone isn’t the answer. Healing involves a lot of grieving over changes and losses.

And grieving is very hard work. 

It’s exhausting. So set realistic goals. Take vacations away from the active process, from time to time. Be kind to yourself. Expect things to get better slowly as you are able to take time for the pain.

MYTH #9. You are not a victim. 

This is the myth that makes my stomach turn the worst. Surviviors of emotional and physical abuse are encouraged to adopt the mindset that they are not a victim. When it comes to having endured horrific violations like chronic emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual assault or other traumas, there is no such thing as a “victim mindset.” You have been a victim, and that is a fact, not a manufactured identity.

The trauma is real and has real effects on us. including but not limited to depression, anxiety, a diminished sense of self-worth, difficulties with relationships, addiction issues, self-harm, and even suicidal ideation (Herman 1992, Walker, 2013).

You can certainly choose to identify as a survivor or a thriver as well, but that does not take away the fact that you were a victim of a crime – whether it was an emotional, physical, or financial crime.

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