Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

A response to Mary-Lou Stephens and her Huffpost article, “The One Big, Not-So-Secret Secret of a Happy Relationship

A response to Mary-Lou Stephens and her Huffpost article, "The One Big, Not-So-Secret Secret of a Happy Relationship"

This article deals with the concept of taking responsibility for your behaviour (or, as the author puts it, your "crap") in your relationship with your significant other. I read it yesterday, with a sense of discomfort building as I read it. When it came to the final paragraph, I knew why.

It reads as follows: "There is one proviso: If he or she ever physical (sic) assaults you, even a "small" hit, that is not your crap. That is not your fault. That is definitely their crap. And grounds for divorce."

Well, yes, but abuse is much more than physical. Verbal and emotional abuse, blaming, gaslighting, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, isolating a person from their support network, or any other form of manipulation or control are unacceptable and are all forms of domestic violence. They certainly aren't the victim's problem, or 'crap' to own.

As a survivor who escaped the control of an abuser two years ago, I felt distinctly uncomfortable reading this article. I also - only for a moment - second guessed my own more recent behaviour in kicking a new boyfriend to the kerb when he showed signs of being controlling and trying to isolate me from my family.

If I, as someone who knows myself and my boundaries and what constitutes abuse and what doesn't, could read the article and doubt my own sound decisions, how would victims - living with their abusers, being lied to, manipulated and blamed at every turn, feeling unsafe, disrespected and vulnerable - react? They might react more strongly, doubting or swallowing their very valid feelings and feeling inclined to 'own their crap' - which is in fact their abuser's crap and nothing whatsoever to do with them - for a little longer, or even much longer.

Victims of abuse are often ashamed to speak to anyone at all about their suffering and could turn to online articles such as these for advice. Posting articles like these with insufficient information about what actually constitutes abuse, or what should and should not be tolerated in a respectful relationship, is dangerous and irresponsible.

If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, or if you are recovering from one, know this: YOU ARE NEVER TO BLAME. Ever.

Domestic violence is a choice on behalf of the abuser. It is THEIR crap and not yours to fix or own. Not now, not ever.

Download this post as PDF? Click here Download PDF

, , , , , , ,

Comments are currently closed.

3 thoughts on “A response to Mary-Lou Stephens and her Huffpost article, “The One Big, Not-So-Secret Secret of a Happy Relationship

  • elisa hill says:

    Years ago i was recomended a book called”women who love too much”, by a Relate counsellor, (author i think was Robin Norwood,) it affected me greatly at the time,it talks about taking responsibility for our own lives almost in the same way as this unpleasant article,it didnt work though as maybe she meant it!!, i just felt encouraged to be independant,and even start to see there was a pattern to these Violent men…really eye opening,and not as he used to say MY “attitude problem” i read it again about ten years ago, and what stood out to me that time was method of separating myself from his behaviour,one phrase i remember,”today i am choosing too” (with yet a different violent man)!!….I had better get another copy of that book, my 10-25 yr memeory is not so good now!

  • The book “Men who Hate Women and the Women who Love Them” by Susan Forward and Joan Torres is an excellent guide to emotional abuse (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Men-Hate-Women-Love-Them/dp/0553381415).

    I haven’t read all of “Women who love Too Much”, and what I did read was a looooong time ago, so I can’t comment directly on Ms Norwood’s work. Susan Faludi expressed scepticism about it in “Backlash”.

    • Elisa hill says:

      Thanks will read it,Germaine Greer is supposed to have said that women have no idea how much men actually hate them,don’t know if she did say it, but any woman who has been subjected to domestic violence or rape maybe will aggree…