I’ve had enough
Which way is up
Tears on the ground”
– “Topsy Turvy” by Family Force 5
Child abuse victims are often scapegoated for the disharmony within their families.
The narrative fabricated is that child victims are troublemakers, “bad seeds”. According to this distorted view, victims are by nature disobedient and rebellious, trying the patience of their loving families. They deliberately prompt family arguments, and “deserve” to be punished for the hurt they cause.
Outrageous as it may seem, the needs of child victims – for food, shelter, and comfort – are seen as an unreasonable burden in dysfunctional families. Victims are viewed as provoking the abuser to act as s/he does. In the case of sexual abuse, child victims are seen as “tempting” the adult, therefore, responsible for the abuse.
This is all a fiction – a false explanation for the dysfunction which allowed the abuse to occur, in the first place. It is, in effect, the rationalization of the abuser.
Any negative emotions the abuser may experience, in connection with his/her moral transgression, are projected onto the victim. The Bible story of the rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon illustrates this.
“But she [Tamar] answered him, ‘No, my brother, do not force me…Do not do this disgraceful thing!’…However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly…” (2 Samuel 13: 12, 14-15).
Other members of the family may buy into the narrative, in self-defense. That does not, however, give it validity.
In a topsy turvy way, the very opposite of the distorted family narrative is true.
Child victims were never the cause of their families’ unhappiness. Contrary to the image dysfunctional families try to project, they are far from loving in their harsh treatment of the children under their care. Whatever discipline problems victims do develop result from the harm done to them, not the reverse.
In a normal family, a child’s basic needs are not considered a burden. It is for the adults to protect and support their children, not for children to keep the family secret and shield those adults from inquiry at all costs. No child is responsible for the neglect to which s/he is subjected or the abuse inflicted on him/her – emotional, physical, or sexual.
Much of this dynamic applies to abused women, as well. No woman deserves to be abused.
The emotional pull of a family narrative can be extremely powerful. By dint of endless repetition, the deception starts to “feel” true. We take on the persona attributed to us, and come to believe revealing the family secret (and seeking help) would only cause more harm.
But the evil at the root of our pain did not originate with us. It was to disguise that fact the narrative used to torment us was created. We have the right to cast off the lies, and leave that deception behind.
The world should be experienced right-side up.
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