Why is there a dearth of research on the psychology of female victimhood?
A high school friend took decades to learn how to not be abused.
I’m not sure she’s yet worked it all out, but her Facebook posts are a helluva lot more take-no-shit than I remember her at seventeen.
She was a year younger than I, and I saw her life laid out after my first semester in college. We shared an invisible coat of Boy Repellent. Neither of us had dates, fantasizing about guys who’d never notice us.
What I didn’t share was her firmly entrenched low self-esteem. She married it. I never understood where it came from. She appeared to come from a genuinely Christian household — the good, decent kind, not what passes for it today. Of course, you never know what goes on behind closed doors.
I graduated high school, then stepped onto a college campus in the fall. Total reset! I made new friends, stat. I turned out to be attractive to guys (who knew?). My life turned around in one semester. It was a new world. With dates!
It’ll be different for Caroline too, I realized.
Way, way different. With lots more abuse.
Caroline wouldn’t go to college. She would likely stay in our insular, socially constipated small town, meet new people who didn’t know or remember her from high school. She’d discover she, too, was attractive to guys.
But — the wrong ones.
There’s a wall in many feminist brains when it comes to taking the next step toward eliminating Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): The holy mantra Don’t Blame The Victim.
It served its purpose years ago when we began truly addressing IPV. Women possessed a lot less personal and political power, less money, less education. It was easier to fall into and get stuck in a bad relationship with nowhere to go, surrounded by people who didn’t understand what it was like. A woman was especially vulnerable to IPV if she suffered from, as many women did back then, the pre-feminist hangover solution to all her problems, I want to marry a rich man.
Many asked, Why did it take you so long to leave? It was an unconsciously cruel question at the time.
A lot of women didn’t know any better. I might have been one, but I was blessed with a mother who was feminist before it was cool. She taught me at a young age never to tolerate an abusive man.
I get a lot of flak for scaling the Feminist Wall. I know why. What most women really mean when they recite the mantra Don’t blame the victim is don’t unintentionally cause the victim to blame herself.
When women learn from their mistakes, many engage in a common but unhealthy side response — intentional, avoidable, or otherwise. They start blaming and beating themselves up.
Why didn’t I do/leave/learn this sooner?
Why did I put up with this for so long?
What if I’d learned this when I was [earlier age]?
Why did I let him treat me like that?
Idiot! Moron! Shit-For-Brains!
I get it. I do it too. Not regarding abusive relationships, since I’ve never walked down that staircase. I do it as I review my life and ask myself why I never went farther than I did professionally.
Woulda-shoulda-coulda destroys one’s spirit.
This is why women stubbornly resist re-examining Don’t Blame The Victim. I acknowledge the dirty little secret they’d rather not.
Women have more power than they admit, or even know. Including the ability to Just Say No to abusive men.
Nicole Chardenet focuses more on women’s contribution to patriarchy. She’s got some truly blistering pieces. She could grow more into pieces from a problem solving perspective too, maybe she will rather than only screaming into the void that women need to grow some labia. — SC on Medium
SC made a killer point, although I’d been questioning it myself for several months. When will I stop shouting, “Grow some labia!” and offer solutions?
There’s a dearth of knowledge of the female sense of victimhood and in particular the role of victims in abusive relationships.
This particular field of research appears lacking.
I investigate female resistance to personal power. I’ve explored it for awhile already on Medium, a motherlode of information on abusive men, but fairly anorexic on the subject of female victimhood psychology. Not surprisingly, it seems fairly scant off Medium, too.
Public domain photo from Piqsels
Feminism has gone as far as it can go dissecting and blaming men and ‘patriarchy’ for its ills. I watch too many women hold themselves back, yet blame it on ‘the patriarchy’.
We don’t speak up; we’re afraid of what others will think. We don’t push ourselves. We don’t try harder. We don’t challenge ‘patriarchy’ so much as complain about it.
I’m more curious about the dense patriarchy between our ears than I am about the Big P in the world at large.
My interest in preventing IPV, despite never being a victim myself, is wondering, as my forward-thinking mother wondered many decades ago, Why doesn’t she leave?
It was an uncompassionate view grounded in an era of ignorance about the female experience, but it’s a question we need to ask our sisters as well as ourselves, and a helluva lot sooner.
Why do I (or you) put up with it?
Because 2021, sisters.
I’ve searched Amazon, the library, and the Internet for research on female IPV psychology. The only real source of information I’ve found is this article by Dr. Ofer Zur, writer and psychotherapist at the Zur Institute:
Psychology of Victimhood, Don't Blame the Victim, Article by Ofer Zur, Ph.D. By Ofer Zur, Ph.D. Victimhood psychology, on the individual and collective group level, are one of his multiple fields of study.
He breaks down the stages of victim complicity in negative experiences spanning zero to 100% accountability, measured by the power to control, prevent, or affect situations:
Non-guilty/innocent victim — There’s no way they could have foreseen or stopped the abuse — children, the mentally disabled, surprise attacks by complete strangers (rape, rampage shootings, corporate greed, etc.)
Victims with minor guilt — Those who ‘could or should have known better’ with a little forethought, planning and consideration of their actions. Like getting raped after passing out in a drunken stupor at a party or repeated domestic violence after a few incidents.
Sharing equal responsibility with the perpetrator — A man who gets an STD from a prostitute or instigates a fight in a bar. Playing chicken or Russian roulette.