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3 Ways They Blame Abuse Victims

by | Abuse Literacy

3 Ways They Blame Abuse Victims

All we can tell you is that it’s not your fault.

None of it was your fault.

Societally, “experts”, clergy, and social media users throw out terms that blame pathologize healthy women who are responding to abuse in normal ways.

Kate is back on the BTR podcast to discuss 3 ways society blames abuse victims. Tune in to the BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

The Truth About Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is a big, fat lie. Straight up, it doesn’t exist. It’s a harmful victim blaming modality, because society accepts its existence as fact, even though the history of its creation and the fact that there is literally zero evidence to back it up, make it pretty clear that it’s junk science.

Even Elizabeth Smart said that nobody should ever question why you didn’t do something. They have no idea what victims would have done. And they certainly have no right to judge: everything I did, I did to survive. And Natasha Kampusch said looking for normality within the framework of a crime is not a syndrome, but people get annoyed. There’s no example of like Stockholm Syndrome. That actually is legit. Because if you go and look at why they did what they did, it makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with them.

Kate, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Community Member

Learned Helplessness Is A Myth

Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, Learned Helplessness is a concept founded on junk science and ridiculous biases leading to victim blaming modalities that make zero sense in real world, human interactions.

The myth of learned helplessness is basically that victims choose to be victims by staying in abusive situations. Anne summarizes:

They did a study abusing dogs and not letting them get out. And then they said that it was their fault that they couldn’t get out when they rigged the study to do that in the first place.

Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

They then took that study and applied the findings to humans, coining the term “learned helplessness”.

Yep.

Codependency? Prodependency? False and False.

Many women in the BTR Group Sessions have been labeled “codependent” by therapists, clergy, and others. Prodependency is a new concept that is now similarly being used to pathologize women who are reacting normally to abuse.

Any time women react at all to an abusive scenario in any way that is not exactly how a misogynistic, patriarchal society wants them to react, we are diagnosed with some kind of pathology. Codependency, co-addiction, personality disorders, hormonal issues –

It is normal to be angry when you have been betrayed. It is normal to be deeply sad when you have been abused. It is normal to be angry. It is normal to feel rage. It is normal to be upset.

BTR Is Here For You

At BTR, we do not victim blame. We know that you are reacting normal to a horrific situation. We stand with you. We believe you. Join the BTR Group Sessions today and find the validation and community that you need to begin your journey to healing.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to BTR. This is Anne. Kate, a member of our community, is back with me today. We’re gonna continue our conversation about victim blaming modalities. We’re talking about a few and then we’re gonna cover some more next week as well. So if you didn’t listen to last week’s episode, do that first. Kate and I have been talking for a few weeks. So you might wanna back it up a few episodes. If you haven’t heard those and then join us here, cause we’re just gonna jump right in to where we left off.

Kate (04:19):
So these last three are actually my favorite. They’re Stockholm Syndrome, Learned Helplessness and Codependency.

Anne (04:25):
All right, let’s talk about those. I think everyone knows what Stockholm Syndrome is, but if they don’t, will you remind everyone?

The Truth About Stockholm syndrome

Kate (04:32):
Okay. So Stockholm syndrome; a lot of people thought that Elizabeth smart had Stockholm Syndrome. So when somebody says Stockholm Syndrome, sometimes we think of people like Elizabeth Smart, when we’re like, why didn’t she get away? She had so many opportunities to get away. Why didn’t she escape? And it’s like, oh, it’s cause she had Stockholm Syndrome. Turns out the whole diagnosis is bogus. It has no foundation whatsoever. No truth in it whatsoever. It is only a way to blame victims and make them sound crazy because their choices aren’t making sense to the rest of the world. It is insane.

Anne (05:10):
Yeah. Speaking of Elizabeth Smart, there was an article in the Deseret News just recently about her talking about that and how harmful it was to her as a child for people to be saying, why didn’t you just get away? You know, what happened and how those types of comments were just so hurtful to her and so difficult for her to hear because she’s a victim and she did whatever she could to survive.

The Misogynistic History of “Stockholm Syndrome”

Kate (05:35):
So the history of Stockholm syndrome. So it was made up in 1973 by psychiatrist, Nils Bejerot. So he was helping at the police during a bank robbery, which resulted in about four people being taken hostage. And the police botched it completely from the very, very start. They put hostages in danger. They were very, very reckless and the hostages were actually more scared of the police than the bank robbers. The bank robbers were actually pretty nice. Um, that’s not to say, oh, what they did is okay, I’m not saying that they were like, okay, people that like, oh they’re innocent. No, no, no. What they were doing is still pretty messed up. But according to the hostages, they’re like the police are actually putting our lives more in danger than even the bank robbers. And so they had one of the hostages, Kristen en Mark. She’s amazing.

Kate (06:25):
She’s a therapist now. And from the very beginning, she was very outspoken to the police. She called the radio stations, try and say, get the police off, tell them to stop. They need to stop. Let us go. And we will be safe. Like the bank robbers are letting us call our families. They, they just wanna get away. They will not harm us. She talked to the radio station two times. Police still didn’t listen. They actually ended up hanging up on her. At one point they, they were just treating her like crap. She even talked to the prime minister and was like, help us, help us leave. We’ll be fine. Please get the police off of our backs. This was in Stockholm.

Anne (07:04):
Hence Stockholm Syndrome.

Stockholme Syndrome… Oh Please

Kate (07:07):
Yes . So, and what happened was there, is this a psychiatrist who was helping the police at the time? She didn’t wanna talk to him. And so then he decided to make up this brand new syndrome. Why? Because, oh, she was acting too crazy cause she wasn’t like cooperating with the police and, and she was angry with the police when we’re just trying to help her, you know? And, and so there must be something wrong with her. So he decided to come up with Stockholm Syndrome. Oh, she has Stockholm syndrome. The interesting thing is she has never spoken to this guy ever. And he diagnosed her with something. He has never even spoken to her about it doesn’t make any sense.

Anne (07:51):
Cause her side of the story, I think you’ve told me about this before her side of the story is that they weren’t on the side of the bank robbers. They knew that the bank robbers were like not the best people in the world, but they just were trying to get to safety and the police were making it worse.

“It Was For Survival”

Kate (08:06):
Yes, yes. And the bank robbers were being nice. She has a YouTube video. And if you actually listen to her first account story, everything that they did made complete sense. Nothing they did was like, oh my gosh, why did they not try to escape? Or why? No, no. It makes a hundred percent sense. It was for survival, but she wasn’t acting like the good little victim that the police wanted her to. She wasn’t fitting the mold of what a victim should look like and they were upset with it. And so then basically he made this whole syndrome up. It got spread around. I mean, who has not heard of Stockholm Syndrome, everyone has heard of it and it’s not even real. It’s not even based on any facts at all. They thought, oh she has Stockholm Syndrome. There must be something wrong with her. And now it’s being stamped on victims all around the world.

Kate (08:58):
Elizabeth Smart, you got Natasha Kampusch. It’s basically a way to silence victims and pathologize them for normal behaviors in order to make them look unstable. And en Mark even stated once, like the syndrome is in a condition of illness, I became stamped as ill and thus not credible. Whereas I just, I love this story so much. They have recordings of her on the radio and even talking to the prime minister and her voice is so calm. Oh you can tell she’s smart. And she knows what she’s talking about. She’s not like somebody who’s like freaking out and like, doesn’t understand, like she knows what she’s talking about. She’s like, get us out of here. Let us go. It’s just sad that they then said she had a syndrome and then made her not credible in order to fit their mold of what they think a woman should or should not react

“Misogyny Is The Foundation”

Anne (09:50):
Well. And misogyny is the foundation there because how could this woman know better than the police?

Kate (09:56):
Yeah, exactly.

Anne (09:58):
And all these men and this psychiatrist, how could she know better about what to do? She must be crazy.

Kate (10:04):
Exactly. Cause here they are like, oh, we’re just trying to help you. And you’re mad at us. Oh Boohoo.

Anne (10:09):
And she’s like, you’re not listening to me. This is not the issue.

Kate (10:13):
Yeah. You’re not helping. You’re gonna get us killed. Stop it. And they messed up on so many different things like they even brought in one of the bank, robbers, brothers turns out not to be his brother

Anne (10:25):
Well it was all a cover up to make sure that they weren’t accountable. It was to make her accountable instead.

Kate (10:31):
Exactly. They blamed it all in her. Oh well this doesn’t make sense. And so she must be the problem. And this has happened to Elizabeth Smart. Even Elizabeth Smart said like, nobody should ever question why you didn’t do something. They have no idea what they would have done. And they certainly have no right to judge you everything I did, I did to survive. And Natasha Kampusch said looking for normality within the framework of a crime is not a syndrome, but people get annoyed. When I say that I just, I love all these. There’s no example of like Stockholm Syndrome. That actually is legit. Because if you go and look at why they did what they did, it makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with them.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne (11:13):
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back.

Learned Helplessness

Anne:

So these last three were your favorites. What were the other two?

Kate (12:17):
Learned Helplessness. So have you heard of this?

Anne (12:23):
I have, yeah.

Kate (12:24):
Okay. What is your understanding of it?

Anne (12:26):
It’s very similar to Stockholm syndrome. It’s like that it’s her fault because she could have done more about it or she could have done something, but she chose to be helpless because somehow it benefited her or something. Is that your understanding? Maybe mine’s totally messed up. Never mind. Maybe. I don’t know about it.

Kate (12:45):
Kind of. No, see that’s what I used to think too. I was like learned helpless is like, oh, she like learned how to be helplessness. Cause I mean, that’s what it sounds like. Right? And I’m like, how is that victim blaming? You know, like the what? No. And um, I just happened to stumble on this and reading the background to it and I’m like, oh crap, no, this is bad.

Anne (13:05):
I’m so excited to be educated. Yay.

Why “Learned Helplessness” Is A Myth

Kate (13:07):
Yeah. So learned helplessness is actually a term coined by psychologist, Martin Sellman. He wanted to understand depression. And so he ended up doing this study where he took dogs and you’ve heard of Pavlov’s dogs and all the studies. So he kind of took things similar to that. So he took these dogs and put ’em in these Pavlos slings and it looks like a hammock with their feet sticking out and he attached electrodes through their hind legs. And then he had the electrodes deliver shock to half of the dogs. And the ones that got the shock are called the yolk group. He then took the yolk group and put them in the, in a shuttle box with an electrified floor and half the wall in the middle and continue shocking them in hopes that the yolk group would jump over the wall, which would end of the shock.

Kate (13:52):
So if they jumped over, they wouldn’t be shocked anymore. But what he found interesting was that 60% of the dogs just whimpered and yelped and then eventually laid down during the entire parts of the shock, the 60 seconds of shock. And didn’t try to escape his conclusion was that the reason that the yolk dogs didn’t jump over was because they had learned to be helpless. And so some people might think, well, that doesn’t sound too bad, right? Like, right. Like, okay, I can understand that. Yeah. The dogs didn’t have anywhere to go. They didn’t feel like they had anywhere to go. So they just laid down and whimpered and great. Although I do find it interesting that he mentions in his study that when the door to the shuttle box, it’s just a, it’s just a box. So when the door to the box is open, the dogs did try to run out. Uh, but for some reason he doesn’t consider that escaping. I, I don’t, I don’t know why, cause that sounds like escape to me. Like , if a cop’s gonna try to run outta the box, then that is escaping. So they’ve done similar studies and with rats and monkeys and they even try to do with humans and then which is like most problems. Then they try to apply this to abuse victims.

“Women Are Not Rats And Women Are Not Dogs. Women Are Women.”

Anne (15:01):
Women are not rats and women are not dogs. Women are women. So yeah.

Kate (15:05):
Exactly. And they they’ve done this study with humans too. And if the humans were like, well I can’t escape the shock, so why am I gonna try? Like they shock the hand. They’re like, well I can’t, I can’t control it. So why try, which to me sounds like logical thinking. You literally can’t do it. So then they try to apply this to victims and saying, oh they, the victim learned helplessness.

Anne (15:30):
Wait, wait. So, so instead of just saying they were acting logically for the situation they were in, they couldn’t get out and they knew they couldn’t get out. So they just kind of sat there. He’s saying they should have done more to get out. Even though they couldn’t get out.

Kate (15:47):
It’s not entirely saying this. They’re trying to explain why the abuse victims don’t leave. Not that they like should have gotten out, but they’re like, oh this is why they don’t leave. Like, so then they try to play –

Anne (15:59):
The number one reason why women don’t leave abusive relationships is cause they don’t know they’re in one. That’s the number one reason. But anyway –

The Myth of Learned Helplessness

Kate (16:07):
Or it’s forced. Yeah, exactly. It’s not because they have learned help assist. No, it’s it’s quite ridiculous. So they even did this study with a, a classroom full of kids and they gave half the kids a test where that was actually answerable and then the other half didn’t. So they were like, oh, try to solve this problem. And half of them were able to solve it. And so they were like, okay, who was able to solve number one and everyone raised their hand. So the, all the kids that weren’t able to solve it, she, the teacher asked her, asked them. So how did that make you feel? And they were like, well, I felt stupid. I feel like I couldn’t do it. I felt like, and she’s like, this is learned helplessness that, and basically the cause of you feeling the way you’re feeling is because of learned helplessness. And I’m just like the cause is because you rigged the study and did it to them. The reason why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling isn’t because they have learned helplessness. The reason is cause you’re abusing them. Like that’s the cause – the cause isn’t learned helplessness. The cause is you did it. You’re doing it to them. Why are you blaming the victim? Like, oh it’s because the victim has learned hell since it’s like, no you’re doing it to them. You’re the cause –

“Learned Helplessness” Is A Ridiculous Concept

Anne (17:11):
So let me restate. They did a study abusing dogs and not letting them get out. And then they said that it was their fault that they couldn’t get out when they rigged the study to do that in the first place –

Kate (17:24):
Basically. Oh, the reason that you’re like, this is cause you have learned helplessness. Not because I force you to be in this like position.

Anne (17:33):
That is insane.

Kate (17:34):
It is insane.

Anne (17:35):
Okay. I didn’t know that. I’m really grateful that you brought that up. Okay. That’s really dumb.

Kate (17:40):
It is insane. And that’s another one that goes under the radar where a lot of people hear it and you hear the words learned, help assist and you think it’s innocent cause you’re like, well, I do feel helpless. And you know, and so they think it’s legit cuz that’s what I thought. But then you go and look at actually what it means. And it’s just another label that is implying that it’s somehow your fault. Okay. Cause you’re helpless –

Anne (18:01):
In fact, some really prominent sex addiction people are using that. Yeah. Okay. And to conclude, let’s talk about that last one that you, that we’re gonna talk, we didn’t talk in detail about every single one of these modalities or these theories of victim blaming. Let’s just conclude with this last one.

What Is Pro-Dependency?

Kate (18:19):
This last one is pro-dependency.

Anne (18:21):
Okay. This one’s ridiculous because it’s saying codependent was bad, but pro-dependent is the exact same thing, but it’s just good, but it’s still a little bad right, right.

Kate (18:36):
Yeah. I’ve done a lot of research on pro-dependency. I’ve read the book. I have listened to tons of YouTube videos. Yeah. And I have read tons of articles.

Anne (18:45):
That’s way more than me. Okay. So you educate me about it.

Kate (18:51):
So there is this thing called Codependency it’s by Rob Weiss and basically yes. He claims that codependency is bad. Pro dependency is good. I agree. Codependency is bad. I think it’s crap. Even once he said like F codependency, I just start giggling cause I’m like, I agree with you there. You know, I feel like this is kind of another example of men trying to make up labels for women. Okay. So I can hear, he claims it’s not a label. He says pro-dependency cannot be a label. It’s not a label. But then he says the craziness of someone you might call co, I would call them pro I’m like you just, that sounds like a label to me.

“This is a Healthy Woman Who’s Reacting In Normal Ways”

Anne (19:24):
You just use a label. If you’re not gonna use a label, then you would say, this is a healthy woman who’s reacting in normal ways. That’s to not pathologize it. Right. That’s what you would say. Okay.

Kate (19:33):
Yeah. Okay. So, and then the reason why he’s against codependency is because it pathologizes women. Right? So he’s against that. And then he turns around and talks about how he likes co-addiction which literally by definition pathologizes women.

Anne (19:49):
Whoa. He says, I don’t like codependence, but I like co-addiction. What he mean the exact same thing,

Kate (19:56):
Word for word. He says the word codependency came from a word that Claudia Black named in the seventies, which I really liked and thought was great. The idea was I’m obsessed and addicted with my husband’s drinking problem. I can’t get the drinking off my mind. That’s where I just feel driven and focus on the problem, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then he says like, I don’t stick by you as a COAD because there’s something wrong with me. I may stick with you as a COAD because I learned how to stick by people in my childhood. And so I know how to do it, but that’s not pathology. And I’m like, no, that literally is pathology.

You Are Reacting In A Totally Normal Way To Being Abused

Anne (20:30):
You know what? It seems like happening. He knows codependent is bad. Right. This is what I think. And then they, they can’t figure it out. They’re like, okay, codependency is bad. So why are these women doing what they’re doing? I don’t know. They’re not victims. We can’t make him victims. So how can I rationalize this? How can I like twist everything to make it still their responsibility or make it still have something to do with them or make it still so that they have some kind of problem. Because otherwise you just say, no, they’re totally normal. They’re reacting in a totally normal way to being abused. That’s all you have to say.

Kate (21:05):
And the weird thing is, is sometimes he does allude to that. This is like the confusion of the whole entire sex addiction industry is like, I don’t blame you. He actually did use the word abuse. I think once where yes, yes. These people are being abused. Okay. So he did acknowledge that like, oh, it’s not your fault. It’s not this. And then he mentions you have co addiction or he is like, I certainly think Al-Anon is a wonderful program. And Al-Anon, by the way, never implied that you were addicted to your husband or wife. And I’m like, yes it did.

Anne (21:35):
It said that you’re diseased. Al-Anon says that you have a disease too, just like your disease spouse.

Codependency, Straight Up, Doesn’t Make Sense in the Context of Abuse

Kate (21:41):
It it’s just, he says these things and they’re so contradicting, like he even says codependency is a trauma based theory. And I’m like, what are you talking about? It’s a disease based theory. And he’s like, there’s a trauma based theory and that’s not right. That’s why part OFCY is an attachment based theory. And I’m like, what are you talking about? You end up like listening to it. And you’re like, I’m so confused right now.

Anne (22:06):
He’s like running around in circles because part of codependency, part of why victims, like it is because it gives him some sort of semblance of control. Like, okay, well, if I do this, I can kind of control what he does rather than boundaries that like, literally you’re like, I don’t wanna set this boundary cause he could just do anything. Right. And that’s really, really scary. So it’s sort of like, he wants to give them some control. He kind of wants to like quote unquote, empower them. But he’s not because he is not telling them the truth.

“The Model Is Offensive, Not Just The Word”

Kate (22:36):
He basically just wants to keep half of the quote dependency model. He knows he can’t call it that anymore because the word is too offensive. And it’s like, no, the model is offensive. Not just the word. The whole model is offensive. One of the things he even says about cocy that he doesn’t like is that it’s automatically assumes that the wife is coming from a traumatic place. This is why he thinks it’s a trauma based model that like, oh you must have childhood trauma that led you to this person. But then he goes on to say that, well yeah, betrayed partners, they do perpetuate and facilitate the disease. They do have childhood trauma and you are attracted to someone who is just as dysfunctional as you literally, he has a chapter called twos. Don’t marry sevens. Cause he believes that.

Anne (23:20):
What?

Kate (23:22):
Oh yeah. Oh yes. He believes that you will not end up with a person who has a higher emotional intelligence in you. And I’m like, what does that say for every one of us who married addicts, are you kidding me?

Support the BTR Podcast

Anne (23:38):
What that says is if two can’t marry sevens that is so offensive, like numbering people or whatever, but number one. But then that also means that someone who is healthy could never, ever be victimized by abuse. So the only people that are victims of abuse are, are very unhealthy, you know, problemed people, which I don’t agree with at all. Anyone can be victimized. I think they can be lied to, they can be manipulated and not understand that it’s happening to them because they are a victim. We’re gonna pause right here. Like I said in the beginning, Kate will be back again next week for our final episode about victim blaming modalities. She is such an advocate for victims. I appreciate her so much. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.

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2 Comments

  1. Trina

    I’m wondering though if you’re getting Dr Doug Weiss and Dr. Rob Weiss confused???

    I don’t recall reading about Pro-dependence and hearing Dr. Robb say anything about women being coaddicts. Please help me. I need to know where you found this in his material and even with Dr. Doug because I’ve been suggesting their materials to other Betrayed Partners and I don’t want to hurt anyone with their views.

    Thank You.

    Reply
    • Anne

      Hi, Trina! We actually don’t recommend either Weiss because they don’t call “sex addiction” what it really is: abuse. We only recommend people who view adultery, porn use, otherwise known as “sex addict behaviors”, etc as the abuse that it is. Hugs!

      Reply

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