There appears to be some confusion about the intent of my recent post, Victims Wanted, and I would like to try and clarify a few things.
First I would like to call your attention to the opening paragraph:
[…] in pondering the unrelenting claim by Feministe bloggers and readers that asking why victims and survivors of domestic violence stay is always victim-blaming, a few other why? questions occurred to me and I had to get them out of my head and on the page:
You see, Victims Wanted is really just a brainstorm that I wrote in a state of bewilderment over the unwillingness of certain feminists to even consider a perspective that doesn’t line up with most everyone else’s. But it seems the questions that were spinning around in my head that day have been mistaken for assertions and/or conclusions. So I would like to try and make a few clarifications:
I have never said or intentionally implied that victims and survivors don’t really feel blamed in response the question, “Why did she stay?” In fact, I have said repeatedly that I know they do, because I did too at one time.
I have never said or intentionally implied that feminists are the ones who made them feel that way. I said that feminists want to control the language we use when we discuss it (and they do) which I think might create barriers to finding new potential ways of dealing with it. That is not the same thing as saying that feminists made them feel that way.
I have never said or intentionally implied that feelings of being blamed in response to the offensive question are wrong, unhelpful or illogical. I have said and implied that it’s an unpleasant and unhappy feeling (and that’s an understatement) and that I wish we could find a way to help women heal from it and not feel that way anymore. That is not the same thing as saying that it’s a wrong, unhelpful or illogical way of feeling.
Since we can’t control other people and stop them from asking the hurtful question, I just wonder if there might be ways for us to learn new responses (in fact I know there are and will blog about that another time) through therapy or counseling or whatever so that other people’s words (which we can’t control) don’t hurt so much. And this does not imply that the feelings are their fault or that it means something is wrong with them. Please consider the following analogy:
If I see someone who has been severely beaten and suggest that she go to the hospital to have her injuries checked out, am I blaming her for the injuries? Am I saying they’re her fault, or that having them means something is wrong with her? Not at all! And I don’t think that any rational person would perceive it that way. So why all the resistance to delving a little deeper into this; to getting it checked out, so to speak, to see if something can be done about it?
Well, they’re doing something about it, they say. They’re educating the public; teaching everyone the correct language.
So how’s that working?
I wonder if we could guide victims and survivors toward ways of managing the problem that put them in control of it, rather than waiting around for the rest of the world to get the message and stop saying it wrong while, in the mean time, these women are suffering over something that is completely beyond their control – what other people say and think.
And this only accounts for those who really don’t blame the victims, but just haven’t learned the language yet. What about those idiots who do? Yes, I’m aware that they exist. And I’m also aware that they have no interest in changing their language to accommodate these wounded women. They have no sympathy for them to begin with.
So do we just leave these women defenseless to that bullshit? Are they doomed to a life of feeling assaulted again and again every time someone they don’t even know gets the language wrong, regardless of intent? That seems a rather helpless way of being, and I think these women deserve a lot better than that, especially from people who advocate for them.
I will close with a comment I posted yesterday in response to a comment by Anna under the above linked post. Her words are in blockquotes; my responses are in bold:
Your answer to this question seems to be (at least in part) ‘they feel that way because feminists told them they should’,
Many of the women I’ve been discussing this with admit to knowing that the intent to blame them is not always there. They say they don’t care. They feel blamed anyway. That being the case, I wonder if that feeling might be a direct result of the trauma that was inflicted on them – not that they’re flawed, but perhaps injured.
I think that many feminists reinforce those feelings when perhaps we should be teaching victims and survivors different coping skills, rather than nodding along with their feelings of being blamed, even when they admit to knowing that it’s not always the case.
When what I feel battles against what I know, I want to try and understand why; to find where the conflict lies so I can work on correcting it. I don’t enjoy feeling like shit and I don’t believe anyone does. That’s why I would like to work on realistic solutions (expecting the rest of the world to conform to what makes us comfortable is not realistic) with the goal being to help these women find relief from the very real burden of this question.
and you draw further conclusions that the feminist movement somehow needs to create victims to survive or have something to rally around.
I have drawn no such conclusion. I was asking questions, trying to understand why there seems to be so much of this “nodding along”. People who work with DV victims and survivors admit to knowing that the intent to blame isn’t always there, as do victims and survivors themselves. So I wonder why they keep acting as if that always is the intent.
Is there some vested interest in not trying to help women overcome the feelings that many acknowledge as conflicting with reality? That is not a conclusion. It is a genuine (and I believe legitimate) question, and it concerns me very much.
Basically, I was thinking out loud. It’s part of what I do on this blog. This is where I brainstorm and write about ideas as they occur to me. Sometimes they’re in the rough phase, but I believe it’s part of the learning process.
Another interesting point that just occurred to me is that, although I have said repeatedly throughout all this that I used to feel the same way but no longer do, not one single person has asked how I managed to overcome it. I would think that people who advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence would be interested in this. So why aren’t they?
And I will continue asking the difficult questions. If even one person reads this and takes from it something which she can use to improve her life and general well-being, then it will have been worthwhile. And I do believe that will happen. Perhaps it already has.