Sue Cass is an abuse survivor and Christian author. She blogs at Cyber Support Group https://cybersupportgroup.org, Elah Ministries Inc. http://www.elahministries.com, and Sue’s Pen2PaperBlog https://suespen2paper.com . I recommend her books and blogs to you.
“There’s a difference between still being a victim of abuse and a survivor of abuse.
A person that still carries the shame, guilt, unforgiveness, has not healed the emotional issues from abuse, or is still being abused is continuing to be a victim.
The person that can stand tall, speak out with no shame, no guilt, and has walked the healing path is a survivor of the abuse that was perpetrated in the past. It isn’t just having ‘lived through the abuse.’ It is a matter of having walked the healing path and by God’s grace has over come the emotional issues and is walking in freedom from the past.
Many people want to be helpful and many think that their questions and statements are innocent and do not affect those that have been abused, be it childhood sexual abuse or spousal rape and abuse, or physical and emotional abuse.
Over the years I have heard many testimonies of the added pain inflicted upon victims and survivors of these types of abuse. I have experienced many of them myself and I can tell you from experience the survivor of abuse may steal herself/himself for the onslaught of ‘innocent’ questions and statements but these questions and/or statements are knives deeply imbedding in the heart of the one who has survived the horrors of abuse.
Never, never, never, ever say these things to a victim/survivor of abuse:
- ‘You could have done something to defend yourself.’
Let me ask you how a small child can defend herself against an adult? Or how can a wife defend herself against a husband that is bigger, stronger and wields some object, including his fist, at her? Or a teen girl or boy defend themselves against an angry father or mother? Children are taught to obey! Obey no matter what the parent says to do! Wives are taught to be ‘submissive’ to their husband.
- ‘Why didn’t you just leave?’
In the case of a small child, where would they go? A two-year old cannot support themselves, nor a 5-year-old or 7, 10, or 12-year-old. Teenagers? Some do leave and they end up on the street, homeless, the property of a pimp, or within a gang doing drugs, robbing, stealing, scavenging for food in dumpsters, and the Lord only knows what else. Many do not have relatives that will sympathize and take them in. For the grown woman, some are threatened with death if she ever leaves, she has children to consider, a homeless shelter may be a temporary answer IF they are not full, she may not have ever held a job in her life and has no means of support. The list can go on and on and on. I highly recommend the book, “The Walking Wounded: The Path from Brokenness to Wholeness” by Secret Angel for a better understanding of a wife and mother living with an abusive husband. Available at: www.amazon.com.
- “Why didn’t you tell someone!”
Many have, most won’t. With young children some have been told to “keep the secret no matter what!” Many were accused of lying, blamed for the assaults, beaten for “telling such lies,” ignored, threatened with family members being killed (and many other guilt-ridden consequences) Most have been subject to mind control from an early age, manipulated and controlled, blamed for the abuse by the abuser. One of the things I was told over and over as a young child, “Just stay away from him!” At two and three years old I was told, “If you wouldn’t sit on your dad’s lap…” We are made to feel it is all our fault! For teenagers some have been actually thrown out of the house at fifteen or sixteen years old or have run away because no-one believed them and the abuse continued. Some married the first guy to come along only to be abused now by a husband. Victims are seldom believed! Males are laughed at. “Men can’t be raped!” If that’s your attitude then read, “Unhelpful Myths About the Sexual Assault and Rape of Men.” Posted on this blog, June 10, 2015.
- ‘Well you should have……’ or ‘Why didn’t you…..?’
Unless you have been in our shoes there is no way you can even begin to understand or comprehend the dynamics that are or were going on in an abusive home. To lay this kind of condemnation on a victim is to jab the knife in real deep, smile sweetly, and then twist it!
- ‘Did you call the police?’
Young children don’t know to do that. Some teenagers do and end up in foster care only to be abused again or bounced from one place to another to another to another. Some, when the police arrive the abuser convinces the police the teen “has some mental problems.” Unless there are obvious bruises and cuts the police will file a report and leave. With adults, many do but out of a false sense of “I love him” or “He loves me” they refuse to press charges once the police have come. Many do not get that opportunity for the control is so great there may not even be a phone available in the home.
- ‘Just get over it! It happened a long time ago!’
There is no way that dagger can be shoved any deeper into the heart of the recipient of this remark. It is one of the most devastating, demeaning, accusatory, condemning and hurtful remarks that can be made to a victim of abuse. Particularly sexual abuse or rape. Which by the way, sexual abuse that involves intercourse is rape!
- ‘What’s the big deal? It was just sex!’
This shows total ignorance on the part of the speaker. Sexual abuse encompasses the mind, the will, the emotions, and the spirit of the victim. The ramifications and emotional consequences of childhood sexual abuse can last a life time. In spousal abuse, where the wife is raped by the husband (along with beatings, etc.) the same thing applies. The mind, will, and emotions are all involved and emotional damage can be severe as well as possible permanent physical injuries.
- ‘I’m sure they (parents) did the best they could.’
In my opinion, there is absolutely no excuse that can be given for a parent to turn his or her back on a child that is being abused emotionally, physically, psychologically, or sexually! There is always something that can be done or someone who is willing to help. We have had police and laws for centuries. By ignoring the abuse happening is emotional abandonment and anyone who knows or even highly suspects abuse is taking place and does nothing is a co-conspirator to the crimes that are being committed. That means by doing “nothing” you are doing “something” – agreeing with, condoning the abuse.
- ‘You just need to forgive and move on.’
Oh, this sounds so Christian! And of course this is done in “love.” Again, it shows the ignorance and total disregard for what abuse does to the victim; physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. The emotional pain of the victim is never taken into account with this statement. This statement gives the impression that the horrors the victim has survived are merely minor infractions. “Here’s a band-aid, I’ll kiss it and make it all better.” The knife goes really deep and twisting it hurts even more!
- ‘Are you sure it really happened?’
There’s that knife again! Survivors have questioned themselves until they are blue in the face with this very question even though they KNOW it happened. They do not want to believe that someone they trusted and possibly loved would betray them in such a horrific way. It is very difficult to accept the reality of being hurt, betrayed, and used by a loved one. To have this thrown at them turns the knife at least a full turn deep in their heart. Is essence you are calling them a liar and they’ve heard that from many others.
- ‘Give it to God and let it go.’
Oh such a simplistic and uncaring statement! Just twist the knife a little more for this is a platitude that many Christians will spew forth when they can’t think of anything intelligent to say. Yes, we seek the Lord, if we are not so angry at Him for not stopping the abuse. Some beg, plead, and scream to the heavens. Many victims of abuse carry great anger and through the grace of God we do heal but to tell us to just hand everything; emotional damage, memories, scars, and what we feel to God like we’re handing Him a stick of gum is irrational on many levels. The issues run deep and much emotional damage has been done. Each issue is dealt with in time with God’s help. We can not put an entire childhood or 20 years of an abusive marriage in a box and just cast it off and go about our merry way.
- ‘Maybe it was just a bad dream.’
You have not only stuck the knife in but have slapped the victim hard in the face. In my case, that would have been an 18 year nightmare! When victims of sexual abuse begin therapy, or even before, this thought does come to mind. “Maybe I dreamed it up. It isn’t true.” Again, it is that deep need to not want it to have had it happen. The bruises in spousal abuse prove this was not dream. A night mare in reality but not a dream during sleep. No, we didn’t dream it. We wish we had because we would wake up and it would go away after the 2nd cup of coffee.
- ‘Just don’t think about it!’
Total disregard for the hurt, betrayal, physical and emotional wounding of victim! Absolutely no compassion is being shown. Victims do not have control over what the Lord will bring to mind that He may deem as time to deal with or the memories popping up “out of nowhere.” Walk away from this person! They do not have a heart for your pain and will only cause more.
- ‘Well you must have done something wrong!’
In other words, “It’s all your fault!” We’ve heard this from the first encounter, be it as a child or an adult. Abusers NEVER take the blame! It is ALWAYS placed on someone or something else (usually the victim) and the knife is being twisted around and around as it has been sunk very deep into the heart of the victim. The child victim is NEVER to blame! With adults, there’s no excuse for a man to hit a woman, ever! Or a woman to hit a man unless in self-defense.
Are you ready? Here is the one that tops all that I have heard over the years! Out of the mouth of a youth pastor that had a seventeen year old victim living with he and his wife to escape the sexual abuse at home came these mighty words of wisdom so confidently spoken to me:
- ‘A one time rape is more devastating to the victim than continual sexual molestation, they get used to it.’
I’m still speechless!
Am I saying not to talk to survivors of abuse? NO! I’m saying be sympathetic, compassionate, and caring. If the person brings up the subject, listen before speaking. Think long and hard what questions you may want to ask. If you are sincere in learning more about what we have to face as the results from the atrocities done to us ask if there are any books we might recommend. Don’t give the platitude or outright lie by saying, “I know just how you feel.” NOT IF YOU HAVEN’T WALKED IN OUR SHOES!
Some survivors, like me, are willing to answer even the questions that you never should have asked. But that’s only because I have had years of therapy and by God’s grace and Christ’s healing I can stand up to the intrusive and inconsiderate questions and remarks. Many survivors will wilt, feel condemned, and damage beyond belief can be done. Words hurt! Words can be that knife in the heart!
Many victims of abuse are sensitive, guilt ridden, filled with shame, low self-esteem, angry, hurt, and pain so deep only God can bring it into the light. Many continue to feel isolated, unloved, dirty, and unworthy of anything positive.
Love them to life!”
FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com
52 responses to ““Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse” by Sue Cass”
I have one other thing to add to Sue Cass’ 15 Things…
Well, actually it is two things: the first:
“Aren’t you just feeling sorry for yourself?” Yes, about 8/9 years ago, one very ‘compassionate’ friend sympathetically asked me this question. At the time, I neither had the will or the strength to dignify her question with a suitably brave answer.
“Did you flirt with your father?” In trying to understand how I could have been abused in this way, another friend tried to rationalise it by asking me this. Needless to say, both questions had me in a state of distress.
People can be unintentionally insensitive and I sometimes wonder what it is about abuse that makes those who haven’t suffered in this way (not to say that they might not have suffered in anyway, because who of us on our journey through life, hasn’t?), feel or think that this type of abuse does not require real empathy and compassion. That it can just be dismissed as another of life’s pitfalls along the way.
It is not! Sexual abuse is horrendous and requires the type of care and consideration that someone suffering from a debilitating/terminal illness requires, because it is on par with that. Make no mistake!
Thank you Sue Cass for this brilliant advice, and thank you Anna for bringing it to our attention.
It is disheartening that victims must continue to defend themselves to strangers for having been heinously violated at the most vulnerable time in their lives. I cannot bring myself to wish such violation on even the most ignorant and insensitive. But I do wonder sometimes whether such fools would pose the same questions had they been the victims. Thankfully, there are a great many people less obtuse.
Thank you Anna. Always kind and compassionate. Bless you!
Right back at you, my friend. ❤
Thank you. Exceptionally helpful and insightful. Some of them indeed sound harmless and helpful on the outside, but as you say, deep down they are hurtful and unhelpful. That last one left me speechless too.
The credit goes to Sue Cass. But I agree w/ you. It is a great article.
Sometimes it is best to listen.. and be slow to speak.
Praise God He understands..
Beautifully written. Several of these points are applicable to other kinds of devastation as well. Thank you for this.
Yes, Sue Cass captured something important here. Some of the comments she cautioned those concerned for victims to avoid are not only caustic, they knock the breath out of us. We are at a loss how to respond because the assumptions made line up precisely w/ the lies our abusers told us. That we were worthless. That the abuse was “our” fault. Sue challenges those lies which is empowering for victims.
This is so painful to read–and that’s not a criticism, Anna–I just get very emotional about the whole subject, being a survivor myself. People can be so ignorant, and honestly the “Christian” responses have hurt me more than any other–the Church likes to hide things that are unpleasant, uncomfortable. If I’ve heard the verse about “whatever’s lovely, think on these things” once, I’ve gagged on it 1000 times. And the exhortation to “forgive” makes me crazy–Christian “survivors” have probably been working toward “forgiveness” of their abusers all their lives, we’re not being rebellious! Bless you, Angel Anna–you care so much, and your compassion makes this a wonderfully safe place to come…and continue our healing. ❤
God bless you Stella. I could not have said it any better. The organized church has long been ignorant in dealing w/ abuse. That has turned a great many victims away from Christ, their greatest consolation.
But things are slowly changing. The Mennonite Church has, for instance, adopted a resolution that reads in part:
“When people violate others sexually, the church is called to be a place of healing. Yet we confess that we have
often responded with denial, fear and self-preservation. We have tended to listen to voices who have positional
power, rather than to those who have been violated and those who are most vulnerable. In this way, we have
enabled sexual abuse to continue while silencing and disregarding the testimony of victims.”
The full statement can be found at http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Churchwide_Statement_On_Sexual_Abuse_2015April08.pdf. It includes specific recommendations for the congregation and church hierarchy.
While abuse victims may not all feel called to advocate, we can live the truth. We need not believe these demeaning statements about ourselves. ❤ ❤ ❤
Oh, thank you so much for telling me about the Mennonites, and providing the link–Hallelujah! Yes, it must grieve God’s heart so deeply that the Church bears the blame for many who have turned away from Him, due to hurtful responses to their abuse–or just ignored them, because it’s “easier”. It can take awhile to separate God and our Lord Jesus from some “church people”…sad commentary indeed. ❤ ❤ ❤
Too true, Stella. ❤
Anna this was beyond insightful. I had to make a few key adjustments that I would never have considered. And the principles here overflow into so many other areas of our “reasonable service.” Thank you.
The credit goes to Sue Cass. But I agree. She really hit the nail on the head.
Anna, this is a great article. Thank you for sharing Sue’s wisdom.
I guess we have all been guilty of being insensitive to other people’s hurts at one time or another. Some hurts like that of abuse are especially painful and we should be especially careful. Unfortunately, empathy is not such a common virtue these days. We think we understand… but often we don’t. And a common source of added hurt are misconceptions and stereotypes that we’ve all heard and internalized. Just like people tend to share Facebook chains without even checking facts, they also tend to say things they have heard without really considering if it’s true and if it’s helpful.
I also find the church clichés are the most hurtful. They seem to imply that if you haven’t overcome your traumas, it is because you don’t have enough faith or maturity. They ignore the fact that having had a father who was “unfatherly” (unloving and indifferent, absent, judgmental and severe or abusive) will directly affect the way you relate with God and your image of Him, even at a subconscious level. I, for example, have a constant fear of being rejected by God, because rejection is what I experienced at home where I never seemed to measure up. I am afraid of having heart-to-heart talks with God, because I’ve never been able to share my deep feelings with my dad (he’s never shared his with mine). I tend to be too intellectual and rational (though I’m deeply sensitive too) because that’s what was valued at home. If past abuses lead you to see God negatively, even if you seek Him, those strongholds in your mind (God doesn’t really love me, God is against me, God hates me) need to be pulled down for us to really make progress with healing and that can be a very long process. I find that I tend to avoid God, because of the “Call your husband and come back” moments (like the woman in John 4). I find “Just don’t think about it” can be an attitude we take when the pain is too deep, and it’s not helpful at all! Ignoring a wound, even if it’s a very old wound, can kill you.
Thank you for articulating this so well. A great many abuse victims, I think, feel this way. Our life experience necessarily colors our view of the world and of God. The church should be a place of comfort and healing. Instead, it has at times poured salt into the deep wounds abuse victims bear. God does, however, love us.
Yes, He does! But I always say that, of all truths in the Bible this is the most difficult to grasp. Believing in the miracles in the Old Testament and the miracles of Jesus is not difficult at all when you consider God as all-powerful and omniscient. But believing God loves me individually… that is a leap of faith! People tell you “Jesus loves you” and in our minds, we know it’s true, because the Bible says so and we believe the Bible is inspired. But head knowledge is one thing… Heart knowledge is another.
When all your life you were loved when you succeeded or were obedient and submissive and faced frowns or physical violence when you weren’t a “good girl”, you can think that God’s love is dependent on being spotless perfect. It gets even worse when you join a church where most people have a legalistic mindset, even if they in theory believe in salvation by faith alone. If you’re not perfect according to *their* standards, they’ll make you feel you’re in danger zone when in reality, the problem may be their human traditions, not you!
I agree completely. Legalism continues to be a real challenge for the church. The sin nature of mankind tends to pull human beings in that direction. Many innocent people have been hurt by the prideful attitude of the Pharisees — an attitude Christ condemned.
I was trained as a rape victim advocate some time ago, it’s been awhile, but the lesson I remember most is to simply be there for the person. If they needed a blanket or other item. Listening to them of course, but not about the actual rape part our trainers encouraged us to refocus the conversation so we did not become a witness. Hopefully this is helpful.
Thank you for passing on the information, Sharon.
Anna, I am finding out the hard way that even bringing up former abuses to the victim is too much. We should not speak about these things unless they invite us to do so and then be very prayerful about what we say. I hate learning things at other people’s emotional expense! Too soon old, too late smart.
Abuse leaves such a residue of pain, it is a difficult subject for anyone to address. I know how much you suffered, yourself, Michael. ❤
Anna, to the woman caught in adultery who was condemned to death by the self-righteous Jews, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” But to the woman at the well he said, “Go get your husband.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:17-18, ESV2011)
She went away knowing she had possibly met the Messiah and a revival broke out in that town as she spread the word about “a man who told me everything I ever did.”
Jesus deals differently with each wounded heart. “A smoking flax He will not quench and a bruised reed He will not break.” Oh, to walk in His wisdom and grace with all these precious ones He sends our way!
So true, Michael. The Lord knows our hearts, and meets us where we are. ❤
Excellent post, Anna. I hope it makes a big difference. Bless you. 🙂
Bless you, too, Debbie. ❤
always beautifully written
thank you so much for sharing
❤ ❤ ❤
Thanks for this I just posted a blog on my page of the same sort. As a survivor myself these comments and questions irritate me. There seems to be no empathy for victims at times. Although some comments are harmless to a survivor they come of harsh and very insulting. We are dying to get away and at times cannot … Statistics show that it takes 7 times to attempt to leave before actually doing it so to continue to get tortured by questions accusing us of not trying is harsh at times … thanks for this post!
Thank you for stopping by. ❤
1. From 3 years of age to just over 14 years I was Molested by 5 different Men the last one a Doctor who raped me after tricking me that my baby which was over 4mths gestation was just like a chooks egg so he could Abort it, I realize now I didn’t know how to defend myself. A few years ago I was almost raped again, I prayed for God’s help and He intervened in a very strand but helpful way.
2. Yes as you shared Anna where can a Child go but as a young Teenager I did run away but I got into more trouble, it was when I feel pregnant. As an abused Adult in my first Marriage, how could I run away when I was always pregnant, I tried once but it didn’t work out, I was just used and than ignored.
3. 4. 14. As a young frightened Child I didn’t understand what was happening and my mind repressed some of the details until I was older but when I was 10 after much anxiety I told my Mother who was Adopting me that her father had molested me and I was called a Slut and told not to encourage him.
5. Of course the Police were not an option when I was very young and as an Adult I had compassion for my first husband knowing he had been torched as a Child by his father and had often seen his mother abused too and his father had the same treatment as a Child too. The Police were called by our Neighbors during one of the fights but I was scared and said very little, I also felt that I had let my husband down, I couldn’t give him a Child to make him happy, after loosing 7 babies, 6 were his, I felt like a real failure.
6. 13. We can’t force bad emotions to disappear they have to be resolved, some try to desensitizing them but expressing them and understanding why we are experiencing them gives us more stability and as a Christian Jesus healed me, I still remember my abuse but without the pain now.
7. It was not just sex it was cold blooded abuse that left me very frightened and unhappy both as a Child and as an Adult.
8. My Parents were hurting too much themselves to notice that I was, apart from their fights Dad was dying of Cancer and strange Uncles who molested me looked after me when his wife Edie was visiting him in Hospital and Neighbors also Molested me. My Birth Mother had abandoned me when I was just over 4 years old after she had often abused me too, I suffered Nightmares for years, Jesus my friend helped me with them untill I was deceived He was just made up. I was not an easy Child to care for with being upset a lot of the time and after Dad died Edie abandoned me too.
9. I could not forgive on my own I was very angry but I did when I found Jesus again as an Adult, I asked Him to help me to forgive all those who had hurt me knowing that bitterness and resentment eats away all the good in us like Cancer does.
10. 12. The reality of the abuse that I experienced in my life is indeed very real, for years it crippled me, my fear even caused Psychosomatic illnesses that brought more fear.
11. Being an Atheist for almost 30 years after being deceived I cam from an Ape, meant I never accepted Christian Compassion but I realized they wanted to help me the best way they knew how, even though I thought what they offered was rubbish, so I never resented them doing so but of course it didn’t help because I dismissed it as foolish but when Jesus rescued me and healed me I realized their help was better than any man-made solution, it was better than Gold.
15. Every time I was Molested or Abused there was pain and fear I never got use to it only when Jesus healed me and I forgave with His empowering was I able to let go of all the hurt I had suffered and when I experience hurt today, I go to my Abba Father and Jesus for Help again.
Christian Love and Blessings – Anne.
This brought tears to my eyes, Anne. To say that you have an amazing testimony is an understatement. That you survived at all is miraculous. That you now reach out to share your faith with others is astounding.
Whether the Lord heals us completely as He did with you, or sustains us despite our wounds as He does with me, His power is beyond question. I pray that all victims may find comfort, healing, and sustaining strength in Him. He is able to restore even the most broken among us.
God bless you, Anne.
Excellent idea! Thanks for posting it. It teaches people to be sensitive to the needs of the vulnerable –something that we are losing tough on [touch with] these days.
I am the mother of a victim and feel terrible guilt. I read through your list and checked myself. Thank you.
Abuse is a tragedy for all those impacted. The predator is the one responsible for that pain. The first response of a parent who learns about abuse should be to support and protect the abused child. Education about abuse is part of that process.
I see from your website that you have moved beyond that. Thankfully, the pedophile has been incarcerated.
I wish you much success with your book The Six Foot Bonsai about this difficult experience. It takes courage to discuss the topic of child molestation. I was not aware of the impact of Japanese culture on abuse, myself.
Above all else, love and acceptance make a tremendous difference to victims. ❤
I think most people don’t realize their insensitive comments. I am so glad you wrote this!
The credit goes to Sue Cass, another survivor. I think she hit the nail right on the head. ❤
Powerful posting! Some of the comments listed just broke my heart. Unfortunately, these comments are made too often. I was planning to reblog this as soon as I saw it… then I read #2 and was totally blown away. We never know when we write something if it helps anyone. Thank you so much for the encouraging words about my book Sue. And thank you Anna for sharing this to bring more attention to this problem. God bless you both!!
Pingback: “Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse” by Sue Cass | The Abuse Expose' with Secret Angel
Reblogged this on The Catalysts for Change.
Pingback: “Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse” by Sue Cass – The Catalysts for Change
Pingback: “Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse” | Faithful Steward Ministries and FSM Women's Outreach
Sue, without getting into details I was myself caught up in sexual idolatry that thankfully did not lead to physical abuse but still landed me in BIG trouble. I have spent nearly 20 years in counseling and the past 20 counseling others. You hit so many of the points that we discuss on a regular basis. Thank you for the insightful post. I reblogged it.
I am happy I found you on here! Thank you.
I’m happy you did, too! 🙂 You should check out Sue Cass’ blogs, as well. She’s the one who actually wrote this particular post. Sue blogs at https://cybersupportgroup.org, https://suespen2paper.com, and http://www.elahministries.com. She’s, also, written multiple books.
Pingback: “Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse” by Sue Cass — ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse | Site Title
A powerful post done well!
The credit, of course, belongs to Sue Cass.
Pingback: “Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse” – NarrowPathMinistries
Pingback: “Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse” – NarrowPathMinistries