The codependency model has traditionally been used to treat wives of men who use pornography and sexually act-out. In recent years, research has shown that betrayed women are not codependent but are in betrayal trauma.
Betrayal trauma experts Kate Bowers and Michelle Adams join Anne on the free BTR podcast to take a deep dive into why the codependent model is harmful, and how betrayal affects women. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
The Codependency Model Doesn’t Label Women As Abuse Victims
Infidelity, pornography use, and other sexual acting-out behavior are abusive. It is important to label victims as victims, or abusers are enabled to keep abusing.
The codependent model does not clearly delineate that partners of porn users are victims of abuse. In fact, it may be used as a tool to blame victims for being abused.
Once I made that shift in my head where I started viewing women who are in relationships with porn users as abuse victims, it was like I’d always known it. I was able to reframed everything in my past according to that paradigm. Everything fit really well. Now I sometimes hear women who have a hard time wrapping their head around the trauma model at first because they feel more comfortable sitting in codependency because they have some semblance of control this way.”
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
What Is The Problem With Codependency?
When women accept the label of “codependency” rather than the truth: that they are abuse victims, it is more difficult for them to find truth and safety.
Michelle, victim of her porn-using partner, describes how she processed the codependency narratives that she learned from a 12-step group:
My very first real memory of SAL was Step 1: My life has become unmanageable. That wasn’t true for me: my life was manageable a month ago but it’s not manageable now because of my husband’s choices but I could do everything before and now my life is unmanageable but it’s not because I can’t manage my life. It’s because my life has been turned upside down. That particular part seemed very codependent and didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t like that part, but I loved the women there. I loved the stories that they share. I loved how vulnerable they are.
Michelle Adams, betrayal trauma expert
The Codependency Model Blames Victims
Kate, who is a recovering addict herself and also an abuse survivor, explains her journey beyond codependency to the trauma model,
In the trauma model, I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m not saying I don’t have flaws, but I didn’t do anything wrong to cause the issues in my marriage, like the big issues, the addiction.
Kate Bowers, betrayal trauma expert
The Codependency Model Enables Abusers
In the trauma model, there’s a perpetrator and a victim. In other words, it doesn’t take two to tango.
In the codependency model, when a victim takes responsibility for her abuser’s choices, the abuser is not being held accountable and the victim is less likely to set safety effective boundaries.
It is very important to make clear that a man should not abuse his wife ever. For any reason. Regardless of what she is doing. Regardless of whether she sets boundaries or not the abuse is still 100% his deal.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Embraces The Trauma Model
At BTR, we understand how difficult it can be to decipher the truth when you are being labeled a co-addict or codependent. BTR uses the trauma model and accurately labels victims as victims and perpetrators as perpetrators.
Victims of betrayal and emotional abuse deserve support. TheBetrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone and offers women the opportunity to process trauma, ask important questions, share experiences, and express hard feelings. Join today and find a community of validating, knowledgable, and supportive women.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery this is Anne. I am really excited to have Michelle and Kate on the podcast today. They’re just fellow shero friends and I am grateful for all the hard work that they do to help women around the world find peace and hope.
Michelle Adams is a survivor of betrayal trauma and she openly shares the mess which has brought about so much beauty in her life. Through the years of struggle and discovery, she has become passionate about helping others tell their messy and beautiful stories, learn to trust their gut again, know their worth, get outside the box and become flexible. She helps them discover that they can be soft and strong and realize that they are not alone and help them find a way to be whole again.
Michelle’s first-hand experience with darkness and heartache enables her to crawl into the dark with us, sit in our pain, and she guides women toward education, support, and tools that will empower us with the courage to find the light.
Michelle Adams And Kate Bowers On The BTR Podcast
Her intention is to empower others to dig deep and fight for themselves. She is currently pursuing a degree in psychology with aspirations to become a specialized therapist in the field of addiction, trauma, and other associated abuses. You can find her on Instagram at its.a.beautiful.mess. Welcome, Michelle.
Michelle: Thank you.
Anne: Then we have Kate. Kate Bowers is an alcohol, drug, and sex addict and she has been sober, in recovery for 10 years. She found healing, help, and happiness through the atonement of Jesus Christ and was looking forward to an addiction-free life with her 2nd husband. After his deeply hidden sex addiction came to light Kate was thrust into the depths of betrayal trauma and experienced the other side of addiction as an innocent betrayed spouse.
Kate’s journey back to health and healing after being victimized by her husband’s addictive and abusive behaviors has taken her from an advocate of the codependency model to an advocate of the trauma model on a mission to protect other traumatized women from the covert but very real harm that the codependency model perpetuates. Kate’s passion for help, healing, and advocacy coupled with her intense focus on new ideas, information, and exhaustive research have made her a well known and respected voice in this community.
What Is The Codependency Model?
Her personal life experience both as a recovering addict and as a betrayed and traumatized wife, who has found strength and healing, offers an invaluable 360-degree perspective. Kate is the author of the blog Make My Burden Light and the founder of a trauma-focused Facebook support group for betrayed wives of sex addicts.
I have invited Kate and Michelle here today to talk about all, mine included, of our journeys from finding out about our spouse’s sex addiction. Starting to kind of come to grips with the fact that’s it’s abuse and seeking help first through “codependent” means, being on that train for a little while and then how we progressed to where we are today.
“We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know”
If you have listened to the very, very beginning of the podcast at that time I was heavy into 12-step which really, really helped me. I worked the steps, I continue to work the steps, and I absolutely love them. I would recommend it for everyone with a bunch of caveats around it, and we’ll talk about that later. We’ll talk about Kate and Michelle’s journey and where that has taken them and where we all are now. All 3 of us I think now at this stage of our journey are on the same page, but I guess we’ll find that out as we progress this podcast, so that will be exciting.
One thing I want to start with is that Michelle, Kate, and I were all where we are right now, and we don’t know what we don’t know. So, where we are now is where we are in our journey and we’re excited to see maybe what the next phase will bring or what we’ll learn tomorrow and that’s the cool thing about being on this journey is that we’re all learning as we go, right. So, if you’ve listened to the podcast you may say: Oh, she thought this, you know 2 years ago, and now she thinks something different and that’s how all of us are as we progress.
Is The Codependency Model Wrong?
So, let’s start with Michelle. Let’s talk about your journey of discovering healing. What has it been like?
Michelle: It seems like it’s been a forever road, right. You look back and you’re like: That was only 3 years ago. It seems like it’s been forever ago. First, there was a friend of mine that told me about this wonderful world of SAL and this was right when I found out about my husband’s addiction and so I thought: Okay, this is what everyone else is doing so I guess this is what I need to do too.
I attended 3 to 4 meetings a week, every week, for 6 months and while I was doing this I was reading, and I was learning as much as I could learn about addiction and trauma. Then I started to notice things.
The Codependency Model Exposed: 12 Step
So, my very first real memory of SAL was Step 1: My life has become unmanageable and I’m like: Wait, my life was manageable a month ago (laughing) it’s not manageable now because of my husband’s choices but I could do everything before and now my life is unmanageable but it’s not because I can’t manage my life. It’s because my life has been turned upside down. I was like: Wait, no that doesn’t feel right. I don’t like that, but I love the women here. I love the stories that they share. I love how vulnerable they are. I love how open they are and maybe there’s something I can learn.
So, I attended these 12-step meetings and never did a step. (Laughing) Never did them. I read them while we were there but that’s it and it was mainly for that connection and then I started to realize some things about myself. That I wasn’t as open as I wanted to be. I wasn’t as vulnerable as I wanted to be. I wasn’t like these other women that I was seeing and so as I was learning and educating and on the group I would start to find women who were similar to me, who were kind of out of the box thinkers. I learned that I have to be really flexible and I had to take risks and I had to do things that were uncomfortable.
The Codependency Model In 12 Step Groups
Then I attended a group where I started showing up and I was open, and I was vulnerable, and I connected with women. Then I realized that the more I told my story and the more I heard other women’s stories, that’s what I actually needed to heal. It’s been a big discovery process, but I think the biggest thing is that you just have to be flexible. I liked it for some aspects because it felt like I had some control in the situation when I really didn’t, I just have control over me.
Anne: Yeah, it’s funny when you learn something new. Like for example: Now viewing women who are in relationships with porn users as abuse victims, right. Once I made that shift in my head it was like I’d always known it and then I like kind of reframed everything in my past according to that paradigm.
“Everything Fit Really Well”
Everything fit really well and now when I hear women who have a hard time wrapping their head around it or they feel more comfortable or more like they have some semblance of control because they’re sitting in the codependent model and if they have something to do with it then they can control it, right.
So, they feel a little bit more comfortable there at first and it’s funny because now I think: How can they think that?! You know sometimes and then I think: Wait a minute, I thought that for a little while and so it gives me some compassion to think back on what my own process was.
Kate, can you tell us about your journey?
Can Codependency Be A Part Of My Journey?
Kate: I actually did not use the 12-steps for my addiction. I mean, I did a little bit, but I didn’t know it was 12-steps at the time. My counselor gave me a bunch of questions, so I did all of these things, but I didn’t know they were actually the steps. Later on, I read the book “Codependency No More” and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I loved codependency. It feels so empowering when you first learn about codependency and then later on when more trauma started coming out and I found out about my husband’s addiction I had this analogy come to me about:
What if I was driving on the road and I was obeying all the rules and then a car just blindsided me out of nowhere and ran a red light and blindsided me and they were drunk. Yeah, that wouldn’t be my fault at all. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t breaking the law. They are the ones who broke the law. They are the ones who hit me. They’re the ones who are drunk and when I realized that I was like: Wait a minute, so maybe the codependency thing isn’t as accurate as I thought.
“Codependency, I Don’t Think It Exists.”
Then I started going into: Well, okay I’m not codependent but I have codependent behaviors. Then the more I learned then it became: Well, I don’t have codependent behaviors, but some women do and then it was like: Well, never mind. Codependency, I don’t think it exists. (laughing) So, that was kind of my transformation. Especially codependency today is so sugar-coated. It’s still the origin, the actual foundation of codependency is still there even if its sugar-coated. The treatment for it is still the same.
Anne: Yeah, it’s a very sophisticated and beautiful form of victim blaming. It’s empowering and shaming all at the same time depending on how you view it, right.
What Do I Need To Watch For With The Codependency Model?
Kate: In the trauma model where I didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m not saying I don’t have flaws, but I didn’t do anything wrong to cause the issues in my marriage, like the big issues, the addiction. The trauma models more scary because it leaves me feeling more vulnerable. I could get hurt easier. The trauma model is a lot harder sometimes to accept then: Oh, I can control it. I can fix it.
Anne: Uh huh. Yeah. So, this weekend was the Utah Coalition Against Pornography and me was there, Michelle was there, and somebody’s materials had the classic drama triangle on it, right. Where you have the persecutor, the victim, and the rescuer and in the codependency model that’s a common thing that they bring out and they’re like: Yeah, you can do this dance and everybody is in this dance and sometimes you can be the persecutor and sometimes you can be the rescuer and sometimes you can be the victim.
Codependency Does Not Help In Abuse Situations
In the trauma model, there’s a perpetrator and a victim and it’s not a dance. It doesn’t take two to tango. There’s nothing that the victim can do to dance their way out of being a victim. There always going to be a victim. They can learn how to keep themselves safe and they can set boundaries. Okay, let’s pretend like they don’t, and they decide I’m not going to set boundaries, or they don’t know about boundaries.
They’re still a victim and guess what, it’s still not their fault and so if they’re in it then they’re still a victim. The abuser is still the perpetrator and it’s still not their fault. I think that’s really important to make very, very clear. That a man should not abuse his wife ever. For any reason. Regardless of what she is doing. Regardless of whether she sets boundaries or not the abuse is still 100% his deal.
Kate: How many relationships do we see that the women have all of these crazy issues? These women in these relationships usually are hard workers. They’re usually trying to stay close to their higher power. They are usually dedicated, loyal women. They aren’t off the handle crazy like they like to be portrayed as. These men flock to these women for a reason. It’s just crazy. You can be as perfect as possible, and an abuser will still abuse.
Codependency Can Hurt Victims
Anne: Absolutely. So, I want to tell you guys about my process. Before my Ex’s arrest, I was 100% all in trauma model. Okay, I hated codependency, I was never liking it. I didn’t talk about it, I thought it was stupid, I called it out all the time. So, I didn’t go to 12-step. I didn’t participate in other support groups. I felt like this was his problem and he had to deal with it and that in order for our marriage problems to improve he had to stop acting out and being angry. That was the solution that I saw.
Now, I didn’t know how to set boundaries at that time, at all. So, instead of setting a boundary, I thought a boundary was giving him a lecture. Like: This is absolutely inappropriate. You can not do this. I will not stand for this, you know, and I’d give him lectures all the time.
The Codependency Model Conditions Victims To Believe They’re Part Of The Problem
I thought that things were getting better and I thought that I had this certain view of what was happening, and I thought that what I thought was the right thing, right. At the time I thought codependency was stupid and then when he got arrested my whole world fell out from under me and I thought: Oh my, maybe I have been wrong this whole time. Maybe I really have been the problem, right. Maybe I really don’t know how to live my life and I immediately started going to 12-step because I thought something has got to be wrong with me.
Where I found so much strength in 12-step was that I still innately in my gut knew that I didn’t have anything to do with his choices, but it started helping me separate out the guilt I was feeling for what could I have done, what could I have not done with the reality of who I was. I decided to just absolutely face the reality of who I was and as I did that I felt myself becoming closer to God. However, I’ll say that with all of these caveats: In the blue book, the SANON book, it would say like, you have a disease or something, I would cross that out and I would put: You are injured, right.
What’s Wrong With The Codependency Model?
So, my blue book if you looked at it is like rewritten Anne style. In fact, I was thinking about that the other day. I thought: I like the 12-step. I should write a victim manual in 12-step because I felt like I was becoming closer and closer to God and seeing parts of myself that I’d always maybe wanted to change or always felt like: Is this right or is this wrong, growing stronger. It was an exciting time for me.
So, then I got really into 12-step, right, because it was working for me at the time and I thought this was really good. Then the more I thought about it and looked at my book I was like: Wait a minute, I’m just doing the 12-step for me to get closer to God. It has nothing to do with what’s happening with my Ex and also all these parts of the book that I disagree with I freely and easily crossed out and wrote my own version. I did a podcast with Dr. Omar Minwalla about this and he said that for me like maybe it worked because I was able to do that, but for women who have to do what he called mental gymnastics, right, in order to separate out in a 12-step book it’s saying that she also has a disease or that she’s become pathological in some way or that she’s enabled it or any form of victim blaming at all.
The Codependency Model Blames & Shames Victims
Someone who can’t see that and work around it, there can be this whole element of shame and victim blaming that goes along with it.
Kate: And I think with that the idea of: Okay, if I have a portion of some semblance of control here, right. If I get myself better that means that he’s going to get better too. It is blaming but it’s shifting the blame from him to now you, right, and so now you’re like: Okay, if I do all of these things then he’s going to magically going to get better. If I just take care of my side of the street, then he is going to start to become amazing and clean and beautiful too. So, now you’re taking on all of his stuff.
Anne: Right, this is the exact opposite thing that you want to be doing in this situation.
Does The 12-Step Program Involve Codependency?
Michelle: Well, but see the problem is with it, it masks it in a way that it makes you convinced that you’re not taking on his stuff. You think: Oh, you’re taking control of your life. Your letting go of control of him. You need to sweep your side of the street. You need to let go of him, but in the process, it also kind of leaves you unsafe because you’re basically putting your head in the sand and being like: I’m only focusing on what’s in front of me.
Kate: Yeah, it’s that band-aid, right. We’re putting a band-aide on what we think is the problem instead of really focusing on healing the problem because codependency, that mindset, that attitude is not going to get to the root of the problem ever.
Anne: In an abuse situation, if you say: Okay, I’m going to stay on my side of the street and focus on myself and he’s still abusing you, you can’t my side of the street out of abuse. You have to get off the street.
Kate: And part of your problem is that he’s flinging his crap all over you from his side of the street. So, you can’t say that you can be all clean on your side of the street while he’s flinging his crap onto you. It can’t work like that.
Codependency Make His Abuse Your Problem
Anne: No, it absolutely cannot. So, let’s talk about in your experience, what you’ve found about codependency that was so damaging and so harmful and also perhaps what you see in your communities, like with other women?
Michelle: For me, I think the part that I saw the most damaging is I’m already in a really sensitive broken place and had I not believed some things about myself or had I decided I’m not going to trust my gut, I would have easily fallen into a lot of these patterns and ideas and thinking that would have taken me further away from healing and it would have been a lot longer for me to get here. So, that first: Your life is unmanageable, and I thought: Well, gosh, yeah it is unmanageable now.
The Codependency Model Depletes A Victim’s Confidence
It totally is unmanageable now and then that little voice would say: But it wasn’t before. And then, you know, here we come to humility. Well, I thought I was pretty humble (laughing) you know, I thought I am doing these things. I thought I was being this person. So, it was constantly making me question who I was when I was already in a place where I was questioning everything about my reality and now I’m questioning me and my relationship with my Heavenly Father and my relationship with people around me and just me and my connectedness.
So, Kate is someone I reached out to a lot and my counselor was telling me: You just have multiple personality disorder. You have this, and you have that. I’m like: I’m out of my mind crazy and I didn’t even know this about myself. Like, it was making me question so much about my core self because these things were just so foreign, and I was trying to adopt them because this is what people in my situation do and I need to conform, I need to fit in.
So, that whole 6 months when I was reading, and I was studying, and luckily there were groups and I found Kate and I found some other women and I was just like: What you’re saying resonates with me so much and it has nothing to do with this 12-step world.
Codependency Can Be Damaging To Abuse Survivors
It just helped me start to connect to myself again and to realize what I needed for healing had nothing to do with 12-step. Had nothing to do with codependency. Had nothing to do with what they were trying to put me in this box, and that’s what it felt like it was. Like, you fit into this box and if you just do what it says in this box you’re going to get better and your husband is going to get better in this box too. And I just thought: No. No, I’m not and he’s not either. This is going to enable him to be worse. It would have trapped me. It would have kept me trapped.
Anne: Well, it’s also a form of victim silencing, right. If she’s staying on her side of the street, then she’s not going to ask for check-ins. There’s also this whole element in all 12-steps circles and I crossed this out all over in the blue book, like all over the place. Manipulative behaviors, which are safety seeking and truth-seeking behaviors.
The Codependency Model Shames Women For Seeking Safety
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking your husband if he’s viewed porn. There is nothing wrong with checking his history. There is nothing innately wrong with any of those things because you are desperate to know the truth and seek safety and those are two things that you deserve. So, this whole talk around you’re a bad person because you’re controlling and manipulative is insane.
Michelle: Yeah, and it makes you start to feel like you are insane, and it really makes you start to question: Well, okay, so now I’m going to go blind. I know this about my husband and if I just am blind to it all it’s going to magically get better. You were blind to it before and it didn’t get better. So, yeah it is crazy.
Codependency Can Put Us In More Danger
Kate: I, with even my first husband, I used a spy program and that’s the only way I found everything out. There’s no way he would have told me the truth. I’m sitting here thinking: Well, but if I didn’t put a spy program on the computer I wouldn’t have found out about anything which means I probably would still be married to him. I would have zero clue. I’d probably would have an STD by now. Like, who knows. The possibilities are endless.
I think it’s sad there’s so much shame around the whole, like, don’t snoop. You can’t snoop. Don’t look on his phone, that’s just trying to control him. And I’m like: No, that’s for safety. I have a right to know what is going on in my home that puts my life in danger or my kids. It’s a fundamental right to know about things in a relationship that will affect me.
Anne: Absolutely. Any place where someone says that you don’t have a right to ask or know the truth is, I think, a form of victim silencing.
Michelle: And abuse. Keeping them in that place.
Codependency Does Not Focus On Safety
Kate: We have a friend who was abused in every way possible by her husband and even she was stating that at first, she started with the healing through Christ 12-steps and the codependency model and she’s like: That kept me in the abuse even longer because I ignored while he was doing all these sorts of things. She just stayed in danger even longer and I think it actually does that to a lot of women, but they don’t always realize it because they feel that empowerment of: I’m changing my life. Like, I am taking control and I think it leaves a lot of women in a very dangerous position that they don’t always realize they’re in.
“Set Some Really Intense Boundaries Around Your Safety”
Anne: Exactly. I think about it now, in terms of 12-step, because I really do love 12-step. So, for me I’m like: Get to safety, right. Be safe, make sure you’re safe. Set some really intense boundaries around your safety and then if you feel like: You know, I want to become closer to my higher power. Just period. Not within the context of this relationship, not within the context of being a victim, nothing.
And if you’re realizing that this is not the life that I want to live, like I really did think my life was unmanageable. For me, when I got to that point it felt like that to me. I was like: Everything is out of control. I can’t control everything. So, for me, that was an easy step.
But for some people, it’s not, right. So, I think that is the key. Get to safety first and at that point, if you feel like that’s what you want to do then that is a good reason to do it but trying to get yourself safe and think that if you focus on yourself that the abuse will stop is crazy.
Codependency Takes The Focus Off Of The Victim
Kate: Yeah, and I used to love the 12-step too. I was like: There needs to be 12-steps at church. Everyone needs to do them. Like, I loved them so much and it wasn’t until I started researching more about how did ALANON start. How did SANON start? I started realizing: Wait a minute.
If you look at the SANON or any group for women versus the addiction 12-steps they’re the exact same wording except for maybe 1 or 2 words, and that’s what I started having a problem with because there was a point in time where I was trying to make my own 12-steps, but trauma 12-steps and I kept trying to do it. I couldn’t do it because the 12-steps were just so founded in the addiction stuff.
Codependency Work Doesn’t Solve Abuse
So, now I kind of look at it as more like: Yes, can the 12-steps help, yes they really can. I’m never going to say never do the 12-step, they will never help anybody, but there are better ways. It’s kind of like if I went to counseling for schizophrenia even though I don’t have it. Could I get some benefit out of it? Absolutely, but do I have schizophrenia?
No, and is there a possibility that I could get wrong information and it could hurt me? Yes. So, I feel like there’s a better way. I mean 12-steps are good, but I want the better. Like, I want the best way.
Anne: Exactly. You guys would have died in my 12-step meeting when I was the moderator. I mean I was like: No, that’s not true. Cross this part out. Don’t listen to that part, you know, you guys would have thought it was funny. What did you guys find intriguing about some of the codependent thinking? Why did you stay for 6 months if you were like: I’m not even going to work on 1 step?
Why Codependency Does Not Work
Michelle: Because I like to think that I can control stuff. The one thing that 12-step kind of made me feel is that if I can control myself then I’m going to control the future of what happens to me and this is something that I’d already heard in a church cultural teaching, right. That if I had a certain relationship and I lived my life a certain way then I can expect these certain outcomes.
That’s what 12-step did. If I do these things than I can expect this happy eternal beautiful marriage, right, and my husband’s going to fall in line too and this is going to be this amazing thing if I just do every single one of those steps the way that they say that I need to do them.
Anne: Michelle, I’m having an epiphany I’ve never thought about it that way before, but it’s true like: If you obey the commandments and if you get married to this type of person who “obeys the commandments” and worthy to marry you then you guys will live a blissful eternal life together.
Michelle: Yep, everything is going to work out. You’re going to have 3 kids. They’re all going to be beautiful and then your going to have the house up on the hill that everybody looks at.
Anne: And then it falls apart and you think: Was it because I wasn’t obedient enough? And so, the 12-steps has that similar feel to it. Yeah, I agree with you actually. That’s true.
What about you Kate? What did you find intriguing about it?
Can Codependency Be Helpful For Me At All?
Kate: I loved the order. It was just like: I need to do something to help me. I want to feel better and it’s a checklist. That made me feel better because I felt like I was more doing something proactive, but the problem was I was more focused on doing steps and checklists instead of really connecting to who I was and reconnecting back to my gut intuition that I lost through gaslighting. When I learned how to reconnect back to myself I don’t need to just do this checklist of things. I don’t need it. That’s actually is holding me back, it’s keeping me in a box. Whereas: No, I can pull resources from tons of different stuff or I could just listen to the Spirit and actually get inspiration on something instead of feeling like I need to follow these steps.
12-Step Isn’t Helpful In An Abuse Situation
Another thing is that going in order. I actually don’t like it now. Me and Michelle started talking. She asked me to be her sponsor and I was like: Uh, sure, but I’m not going to do it in the order that it says to do it and I’m not going to do it the way that usually most sponsors do it. (laughing) Instead, I just was more getting things like information out of her and then helping her to see the check-boxing.
There’s a lot of women who like checkboxes. They like so much structure and I think the 12-steps helps them feel better about that, but it doesn’t always fix the problem.
Anne: Well, and I think looking at the overall principles of it. It’s very valuable in any situation but not in an abuse situation.
To take an honest look at your weaknesses or problems that you have but Lundy Bancroft says over and over again with abuse victims the moment she can realize how strong and beautiful and brave that she is rather than thinking: Okay, well there must be a reason for this happening because I didn’t do this, or I didn’t do that, right. That the moment she can start to make her way out of the abuse and so it’s really damaging.
“Tell her That She’s Brave, She’s Strong”
His top advice to people who say: Well, how can I help a victim of abuse? It’s to tell her that she’s brave, she’s strong, that she didn’t deserve that, that she can do it, that you’re there for her, that you support her. Not to say: Okay, well, let’s look at your character defects and how you’re contributing to the problem.
Kate: Because you would never say that in any other situation and that’s what’s unique about us. If this was a burn victim, you wouldn’t go tell them to go stand by the flames.
Michelle: Yeah, if it was a rape victim you wouldn’t be like: So, what did you do that caused it? What were you wearing that maybe attracted this person to do that to you? That’s not the right thing to say to someone.
12-Step Can Be Traumatizing For Victims
Anne: And it’s also traumatizing. So, it’s like even more traumatizing.
Michelle: You’re just in this place where you feel like you’re in the bottom of a pit, right, and you are clawing your way. Like, your life as you knew it is no longer that way and it won’t ever be that way again. You don’t trust yourself and so you grasp on to these things. That’s what happened to me when I started I was like: Well, they’re telling me this and they’re the outsider here and I obviously messed up big time, so they’re spot on and I’m going to have to buy into this.
Yeah, so it’s scary and that’s why I think it’s so beneficial about what you said. When you have healed, when you have gotten further down the road, and you are a little more secure in who you are and what you need, then something like 12-steps that helps you, that empowers you, that brings you closer to your center is fabulous.
Am I Codependent?
Kate: Or something better because I feel like 12-steps might even make someone go backward. Take out all the connection that you found in 12-steps, all the wonderful friends that you were able to find, the feeling that you’re not alone. Take that away. Were the 12-steps as beneficial without any of that stuff? What makes it good, if it is good for someone, is mostly the connection.
Anne: So, I have my opinion about this to respond to Kate’s comment about was it the steps themselves or was it just the support group of women who were going through your same situation. I’m going to answer that and share my thoughts on it on next week’s podcast. We are going to stop here for today because this interview was really long so I’m breaking it into two parts.
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