Stop Blaming Yourself For Abuse

by | Self-Care

Emotional abuse victims often feel a deep level of self-betrayal. Some are told to practice self-forgiveness. At BTR, we believe that every woman is courageous and powerful, and that victims are never to blame for their partner’s abusive behaviors.

Victims of Emotional Abuse Often Blame Themselves

Victims often find logical reasons to blame themselves. While these may make perfect sense at first, with healing, many women are able to accept that they did what they could to survive the abuse.

Further, understanding that these feelings are universal and that many other women are experiencing them too, can be especially healing and vindicating. 

You may feel that you betrayed yourself by:

  • Not spotting the abuse sooner in the relationship
  • Entering into a relationship with your abuser at all, especially if you felt uncomfortable with him or if you were warned about him
  • Not leaving as soon as you realized it was abuse
  • Trying to make him more interested in you sexually or intellectually to keep him from hurting you
  • Not being able to protect your children from his abusiveness
  • Ignoring that nagging feeling that “something’s not quite right” (especially after discovering pornography, affairs, or other lies)
  • Lying or covering up his abusiveness to others

Do I Need To Forgive Myself?

“Forgive yourself for being abused” and its variations are buzz-phrases in the self-help community. 

This mentality is not helpful. It places blame on victims and excuses abusers. Instead, victims can give themselves compassion. 

To show self-compassion, victims can:

  • Give themselves permission to set boundaries
  • Find healthy support systems
  • Become educated about trauma and abuse
  • Take “time off” from recovery work and enjoy relaxing hobbies
  • Journal and create art 
  • Process the trauma at their own pace
  • Give their bodies extra sleep and nutrition


The First Step of Safety Is Survival

Many women berate themselves for what they perceive as “self-betrayal”, when in fact, they were doing what they had to do to survive. At BTR, we believe that a woman’s safety is the highest priority. Her emotional, sexual, physical, spiritual, and financial safety are essential to not only survival but eventual healing.

How Can I Find Safety?

When victims set and maintain effective boundaries, they are separating themselves and their children from abusive behavior. A boundary is not a statement, request, or ultimatum. It is a courageous action that a woman takes to make sure that her safety is not breached in any way.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Emotional Abuse

At BTR, we understand the complex emotions that women feel as they process trauma and abuse. Feelings of self-betrayal are real and can be devastating. But understand that you are not to blame for the abuse that you have endured. In fact, you are a triumphant warrior for just surviving another day through the trauma.

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone. Join today and meet women from all over the world who understand your pain and will support you as you begin your journey to healing.

The free Betrayal Trauma Recovery podcast offers hope and encouragement to women all over the world. Victims share their stories of triumph over trauma and healing from abuse. Women find that they are not alone in the complex feelings that come as they process trauma.

Remember, you are not alone.

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  1. Jim Hailey

    A common tactic of the narcissist is “you must forgive me because your’e called to.“ In other words, his communication to his victim is that he doesn’t have to ask for forgiveness. Your’e call to issue “unconditional forgiveness“ is a lie and a manipulation tactic. Coupled with that is “don’t bring up the past”. Of course he doesn’t want you to bring up the past because then he would have to acknowledge his bad behavior. The most important thing of forgiveness is being willing to forgive, should he take the proper steps. The willingness to forgive helps the victim to be free of nagging bitterness. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are called to issue unconditional forgiveness. God himself requires things of us to be forgiven. Such as first acknowledge that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God second we are to repent and turn from our bad behavior and third we must request forgiveness. Unconditional love is scriptural but unconditional forgiveness is not. Dietrich Boenhoffer equates it to “cheap grace“. Don’t fall for it.

    • Anne Blythe

      Jim, thank you so much for these insights!


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