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3 Common Triggers For Victims

by | Abuse Literacy

3 Common Triggers For Victims

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy.

Facing the triggering comments made by family, friends, therapists, clergy, and random people in the grocery store only makes leaving more difficult.

But Kate and Anne are on the BTR podcast to add some comedic relief with their witty comebacks to common triggering comments that victims hear. Listen to the BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

“He (Your Abuser) Just Needs Your Support”

Many victims hear variations of this statement, including the “love, serve, forgive” trope. Victims of betrayal are told to be more sexual, while victims of abuse are told to be more understanding of the abuser’s difficult childhood.

Anne shares:

“No one should ever ask a victim to support their abuser. Ever.”

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Many victims are kind, compassionate, loving people and may feel that they owe the abuser a degree of understanding and empathy. Victims can live within their value system while still preserving their own safety, allowing the abuser to seek support from other people who they have not abused.

“Don’t You Think It’s Time To Practice Forgiveness?”

Asking a victim to practice forgiveness is offensive. Period.

I’m just like, what do you mean forgiveness? If it was something that was in the past, and the threat was over, I can maybe understand that. And even then, it’s still nobody else’s business. It’s like baby steps. Forgiveness is not like all of a sudden done.

Kate, SHEro

If you’ve been counseled to forgive, or chastised for not being forgiving, give yourself the grace that you deserve. Forgiveness is a very personal matter and not something that anyone else deserves to lecture you about.

“Why Are You So Upset?”

Asking a victim why she is angry, upset, or afraid can be construed as a form of gaslighting. It minimizes the abuser’s behavior. If a victim has been vulnerable about sharing her story and then is told that she shouldn’t be upset, she may feel crazy or dramatic.

If you’ve experienced this, find a safe, accepting, and loving place to process your trauma.

The BTR Group Sessions are a wonderful place to find the validation that you deserve. Come join us today.

Full Transcript:

Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

It’s so nice to have Kate on today’s episode. She is an amazing warrior for truth and for justice for women all over the world. She is a Shero, and she has been through it all. She does a lot of research, she’s just one of us. Welcome back to the podcast, Kate. 

Kate: Hello. 

Witty Comebacks to Triggering Statements

Anne: We’re going to talk about kind of witty comebacks to triggering statements that people might say at church, or neighbors might say, or family members. Things that may or may not disarm the person, however, we need to do a very big warning here. Kate and I are just going to brainstorm. We’re just going to throw things out there. We do not recommend you actually use these. So please do not be like, well, Kate and Anne said that when someone says this, I should reply with this. That is not what this episode is about. So, I just need to put that out there. Do not try this at home folks. 

We’re just imagining or brainstorming about different ways that even if we don’t say it out loud, maybe we could think of it in our head and then we won’t feel so bad or maybe we won’t get so triggered. Or maybe at times, we might want to say it out loud depending, but this is not a script for you to use with the super nice lady at church who you call her out right there and she’s in tears. That would be terrible. Okay, so we’re not doing that. 

Triggering Statement: “You Shouldn’t ‘Out’ Your Abusive Husband”

To start this, let’s think about some common things that well-meaning people might say at church or your neighborhood or in your family that shows that they really have not been through this and they don’t understand. Not necessarily that they’re bad people or they’re trying to harm you. They’re genuinely trying to help you, or they care about you, but they just don’t get it. Can you think of any Kate? Do any come to mind?

Kate: Yes, yes. Oh, you shouldn’t out your husband.

Anne: When they say out, they mean like you shouldn’t?

Kate: Like if I happen to say at church or anywhere that oh, my husband is a porn addict. I’ve had people tell me oh, you shouldn’t out your husband like that. And I’m like, well if he didn’t want to be outed, he should have done it. Like, what?

Anne: Okay, so what are some ways that either in our head or out loud; again, do not try this at home, we’re just brainstorming here, that we can come back that might either surprise that person or shock them or at least make us feel better in our own head. I’m thinking of, I know, and I also shouldn’t have married him apparently.

Kate: I love that.  Well, it’s my story, I get to say whatever I want. It happened to me. It’s my story.

Anne: And he shouldn’t have looked at porn, so we’re even.

Kate: He made his bed. If he didn’t want it, he shouldn’t have done it.

Triggering Statement: “He Just Needs Your Support”

Anne: Here’s another one that a lot of people say. He just needs your support. 

Kate: Ugh.

Anne: Because they don’t understand what’s really happening. I mean, even sometimes in people’s church literature or other places it says if someone’s in addiction they’re going to need your support and they’re going to need your help. So, if someone says he really needs your support, one thing to think or to say is I really need his honesty, or I really need his fidelity.

Kate: I’m just like support? Yeah, you mean like the first two years we are married, where I just give him so much love and support and was amazing, and then he lied. What kind of support are you thinking? We’ve given them so much support.

Anne: I supported his butt out of the house.

Kate: I supported him by doing what was best for me.

Anne: Which was best for him. 

Kate: Yes. 

“No One Should Ever Ask A Victim To Support Their Abuser”

Anne: This one is like triggering to say, and I’ve actually said this to people but I couldn’t say it with like a smile on my face. I was saying it out of pain, and I said something like no one should ever ask a victim to support their abuser. Ever.

Kate: It’s so true. It’s just what do you mean, support him? Do you mean what I’ve already done for so long, and it didn’t work?

Anne: Well, I think people who, even victims, so even you and me, we tried that thing. Did anybody tell you, because people told me before that hey, you know you can’t do his recovery? They told me all this stuff, and I thought well, he is going to therapy, he’s doing these things. Like I didn’t recognize that I was not only supporting him but also managing his recovery and doing all these other things that I didn’t really realize I was doing, and I thought it was working. But I was just being groomed and gaslit and stuff, but he seemed to be doing it. I never realized that. It seems to be a pattern that victims have to try that for a little while to see for themselves that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t seem like victims, generally speaking, because it’s so common to say love, serve, forgive, support. Those are such principles of their church or principles that they’ve grown up with that it seems like they’re just not willing to just ditch those right off the bat and go with boundaries. They kind of have to go through their own realization. What do you think? Have you ever met anyone who just went straight to boundaries?

“We Do Have To Learn That Our Health Is Not Really Going to Help Them Like We Think It Will”

Kate: No. No, actually. No one. And I think it’s kind of normal. Like I don’t even necessarily see it as a bad thing. I see it as it’s like you have to try this one way to know it doesn’t work sometimes. And especially because it’s not even just religious. It’s like all culture is like, oh, you got to support your husband, you’ve got to be the good wife, and we just try. Plus, we are loving people, of course, we’re going to want to help someone. Let’s say if our husbands were healthy and we’re healthy people, and they were struggling, it would be good for us to go and help them. That’s a good thing. That’s never a bad thing. But now all of a sudden, it’s like bad just because they lied about it? It’s like no, it’s all on them. It’s not like we did a bad thing. But yeah, we do have to learn our health is not really going to help them like we think it will. 

Gaslighting & Victim Blaming Explained

Anne: Right. Well, the other factor is, let’s say your husband is struggling with eating too much chocolate cake. You’re going to support him by not bringing chocolate cake into the house. It doesn’t really matter if he ate more chocolate cake, it’s not gonna ruin your marriage, it doesn’t make him angry, he just doesn’t want to eat it anymore, and he’s asking for your help. And you’re like sure I’m not going to buy that giant cake from Costco anymore. Let’s say you used to buy it once a week and you’re like fine, I won’t buy it. And he’s like great, thank you, and then he’s grateful. He’s like, thank you for not buying that. I super appreciate it, you’re amazing, that’s helped a lot, and things are fine. You just don’t buy that cake anymore. No big deal. In this scenario, he’s not asking for your support, per se. He’s giving an excuse for why he’s not doing it himself. So basically, he’s asking you to do something for him that he’s not doing for himself. Plus, the thing that he’s doing is hurting you. So, he’s essentially gaslighting you and victim-blaming you and saying, I need help not hurting you. Which is essentially saying if you did something different I wouldn’t hurt you.

Kate: Exactly. It comes from the entitlement and resentment. 

Anne: Right. 

Kate: It’s so frustrating,

Triggering Statement: “It’s Fine. I Don’t Know Why You’re So Upset.”

Anne: Right. So, here’s one that I encountered. There was a woman who lived in my ex’s neighborhood, and I knew her from before. And I just said oh, hey, I’m actually really concerned about my kids. Can you keep an eye out for them? And I kind of told her a little bit and the whole time she looked really uncomfortable and then she said, it’s okay, I don’t know why you’re freaking out. Your kids are going to be fine. Instead of saying, of course, I’ll keep an eye out for them. This must be really stressful for you. She was just like it’s fine. I don’t know why you’re so upset. I couldn’t think of anything to say at that moment. I don’t know if I should have said anything. I think I might have said; which didn’t work, so don’t do this, I think I said it’s not okay. It’s not okay, and then I just walked off because I was super mad and triggered. Any thoughts on something like that?

Kate: I think I would have been like, thank you. I feel so much better now. And then just like walk away with like this ridiculous fake smile. Like, thank you. Yes, that is so helpful. Okay, thank you, I’m not freaking out now. 

It makes no sense.

Triggering Statement: “Forgiveness”

Anne: You know what is crazy? You saying it’s going to be okay like it erases all of the facts. I appreciate you waving your magic wand of the words, it’s okay, which apparently in your mind are magic and they make facts disappear. Thank you.

Kate: You just magically made my husband better. You just magically made him all better, thanks.

Anne: Or the situation fine. Yeah, thanks. Other things you can think of?

Kate: Forgiveness. Just have a little more forgiveness for your husband.

Anne: When people say forgiveness now; do you know Hamilton? 

Kate: Yes. 

Anne: Forgiveness. You know that part where it’s just like they sing forgiveness. I’m not singing it right because I can’t sing, but at that moment in the play, it’s very like that word and when they sing it like that. It’s like this burst of peace coming through and happiness and something. I don’t know. It feels cool in the musical. So, for those of you familiar with Hamilton, you may know what I’m talking about. If you don’t sorry, I didn’t mean to ruin it for you.

“When Someone Says ‘Forgiveness’, I’m Like, Maybe When The Threat Is Over And I’ve Had Time To Cool Down”

Kate: Actually, when you said Hamilton, I was thinking of the stand-up comedy from Katherine Ryan. I don’t know if I can watch Hamilton now because I will be thinking of her the entire time.

Anne: Wait, wait, wait. When I said Hamilton, you were thinking who?

Kate: Katherine Ryan does a stand-up about Hamilton. You have to watch. It is so funny. She calls out the misogynistic crap in some of the parts. But anyway, sorry, side-tracked. But forgiveness; I’m just like what do you mean forgiveness? If it was something that was in the past, and the threat was over, I can maybe understand that. And even then, it’s still nobody else’s business. It’s like baby steps. Forgiveness is not like all of a sudden done. Like okay, I’m done. No, it’s baby steps sometimes. There are so many little different things to forgive. It’s not just one big lump thing. So, when someone says forgiveness, I’m like, yes, maybe when the threat is over and I’ve had time to cool down. 

Anne: Yeah. I wonder if we said how is me forgiving him going to stop me from being abused?

Kate: Yeah, it doesn’t make any sense.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne: I am going to 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 has a 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.  

Safe People Vs. Unsafe People

Anne: Like how is me forgiving him going to stop him from harming me? Forgiveness will make me feel better if the harm is stopped. See the problem with us thinking of all the things we should say to people; actually, I think this is a useful exercise because the problem with thinking of things to say to people is that there are safe people with who we could actually have a conversation with them and explain how you feel and talk about these things. And they would be like oh, yes. I’ve never thought about that before. I totally see it. I’m so sorry. 

Like I have a super good friend, who when neither of us knew what was happening, she said kind of all the wrong things. But once we knew what was happening, I had her read Why Does He Do That and all that stuff, then she was like I can’t believe I said that stuff to you. I am so sorry. I was only trying to be helpful, and I totally missed the boat. She’s a safe person because she understood and when I started talking to her about it and how I felt she really got it.

The problem with trying to have a witty comeback or just the right thing to say to someone when they say something stupid or when they don’t understand or whatever, is that if they’re not a safe person, number one, you could hurt a safe person. Like if you’re snarky or sarcastic or something it could actually hurt their feelings. And then it could push safe people away from you. There’s that. And then the second thing is that if they’re never going to be a safe person, then you’re just kind of setting yourself up for your abuser to be able to groom other people around you that it’s your fault because they’ll think what is wrong with her? She’s rude. Or she doesn’t forgive, or she doesn’t live a biblical life. Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to submit?

Triggering Statement: “Oh, The Poor Husband”

Kate: She must be so mean. Oh, the poor husband.

Anne: Right. Yes. I think in at least our church culture, Kate and I have the same faith, a very outspoken woman sometimes people feel sort of sorry for her husband. Do you think that?

Kate: Oh my gosh, yes! A million times over yes. They will always feel way more sorry for the man than the woman. It’s obnoxious. Even my own family has done it. Where everybody knows, it’s not a secret. But there was one time I happen to mention it in front of family members. To me, that’s like nothing. He’s sitting right next to me, he knows this, and I know this, and I think I even said it kind of like jokingly because I mean it doesn’t have as much weight as it might to someone else. But my sister ended up telling me that. She’s like, yeah, you called out your husband, and he looked so embarrassed. I ended up asking my husband, and I’m like, were you embarrassed? He’s like what? No!

Because they were feeling so bad for him because he just was sat there and didn’t say anything, and he just looked so embarrassed. I was like, what? I feel like you’re kind of projecting your own feelings regarding this onto us because he was not feeling that way. And he ended up actually writing them all an email. I mean, he sent it before he even told me he was going to do it, and he basically was like no, I have ruined her life. I’ve done this. I’ve done this. I’ve done this. I’ve done this. She’s allowed to tell whoever she wants. It was very validating, but it’s so frustrating because no matter, even though he sent that email, I guarantee most people would still be like yeah, but she just must be so controlling. Maybe she forced him to write that email or oh, the poor man. It’s frustrating.

When Clergy Enable Abusive Behavior

Anne: And in our faith, it seems like a lot of the men might go in and confess to their clergy or something, and instead of getting some type of, whoa, this is really serious, you are not following Jesus at all. Maybe we need to protect people from you because your behavior is pretty atrocious. Instead of saying that, a lot of times they’ll tell these abusers oh, you’re not really that bad. You’re great.

Kate: Well, you just need more church. Here, go to the temple. Here, we’ll give you a calling. This will help you.

The Process of Healing Trauma

Anne: Yeah, exactly. Well, volunteer more. This is really interesting because the point of this was to think of witty comebacks and stuff. It’s not really coming to us. Sometimes we do a really good job and we’re super funny and we laugh our heads off. Right now, not so much, but what do you think the conclusion could be to this? Like, if you need to process your own trauma through thinking okay, these are the things I could have said, or this is what it really is then journal about it, talk to your friends, talk to clients in the BTR Group Sessions, or other Sheros that you know in order to process it. I think the conclusion that I’m coming to, and you’ll have to tell me, Kate, what the conclusion you’re coming to is from this conversation, is that when someone says something like that to you it causes some type of, I would say minor injury sometimes. It depends on where you are in your trauma healing process.

Sometimes it could be pretty extreme. Sometimes it could be minor. Like now when people say stuff to me, it’s just like whatever. The injury to me is a lot less than it used to be. But to validate people who were like why did these little comments that the nice 80-year-old woman at church tells me or my neighbor, why do they hurt me so much? And maybe to just validate women and say, of course, they’re going to hurt you. Of course, you’re going to need to process it. Of course, you’re going to go through this time in your head where you think oh man, what could I have said back to this person that could have either educated them or put them in their place? And maybe neither of those things are appropriate because you don’t want to be putting an 80-year-old woman in your place, that’s just not nice. And number two, if they really truly don’t want to get it then educating them isn’t going to work. So, the conclusion I’m kind of coming to through the process of this discussion with you is that to validate that we need to process it, and then to kind of consider that it’s not really our job and we don’t have to worry about educating other people or putting them in their place. What are your thoughts?

“You Can Still Find Some Humor In It So It Doesn’t Feel So Heavy”

Kate: Yeah, I think it’s beneficial to come up with witty comments, but not necessarily to say them because it doesn’t ever really help. I love coming up with funny comments, but it’s more fun to then tell it to friends afterward. It’s funnier then because that way you’re not hurting other people, but you can still find some humor in it so it doesn’t feel so heavy. And I know in some circumstances, it really is best not to say much at all because they are going to try to make you in the wrong no matter what. But there are many circumstances where I actually prefer to be vulnerable, and not necessarily for them, but for me. Even if it’s just as simple as oh, that kind of hurt my feelings, or well, he’s really, really, really hurt me a lot, I’m still processing. I’d like to be vulnerable, it’s something that is empowering for me, and I’ve noticed that actually does get better responses from people where they’re not defensive.

Anne: Rather than like a snarky sarcastic one?

Kate: Yeah. They’re still not going to always want to learn, but it might help them think twice. But again, that’s not the reason. The reason is that it actually empowers me to just be honest.

“The Truth Enables You To See Who Is Safe and Who Isn’t Safe”

Anne: I think being honest is always a good idea. My concern is safety. Like, could you put yourself in a place where you could be harmed by that person? However, I think we might think, oh, I’m not safe to say this to someone, and if they don’t like us, and we say yeah, I’m super sad because my husband is abusive. If they don’t like us, however they felt before is how they’re going to feel after. It’s not like suddenly they’re going to be like wow, I like you now or I don’t like you now. You’re not going to change someone who really liked you and cared about you to someone who doesn’t like you and cared about you. The safety factor is generally not like that, I don’t think. You can tell the truth, and I think the truth enables you to see who is safe and who isn’t safe. 

Kate: Yeah, it does. And I think also when it comes to safety, a lot of times I find that safety within me. Yeah, somebody might make me feel unsafe, but it doesn’t make me feel unsafe to the point where I’m not going to say hey, that hurt my feelings. Only because I’m still safe enough to do that because that is more empowering for me later on. It’s hard to explain. It’s hard to put this in words. I have not come across a time where I’ve been honest and vulnerable and it made me more unsafe, and I was like I shouldn’t have done that. Because I always learned from something. I always learned from it, but there are circumstances where this isn’t going to work for everybody. I’m not saying everybody should be like this because there are some horrible people out there, and sometimes the best thing is just to not say anything. Just do not say anything.

You Can Be Safe And Vulnerable Simultaneously

Anne: I think I was actually like that more at the beginning when I found out about my husband’s porn use or my ex-husband. You know, I’d see somebody at Costco, and they’d be like how are you? And I’d be like, really bad. I just found out my husband lied to me for six years or five years or however long it was at the time, and that he’s using porn, and it really stinks. But it’s super good to see you. How are you doing? You know, and after that, they’d be like uhhh. I would do this quite a bit in the beginning. And now I think I’m less like that number one because I’m not living in my trauma anymore as much as I was before. Like if they asked me how am I doing today? I’d be like great, I’m doing great. I ate a salad today, which was awesome, I ate a vegetable, and I just read this cool book. You know, it’s not like the thing on my mind. So, it would be easy for me to talk about something else. I think I’ve learned to be a little bit more guarded not necessarily because I don’t want to be vulnerable. I’m totally willing to be vulnerable, but because I was thinking that shouting it to the world would bring safety. Like if everybody knew how could he do that, you know? I came to realize that that did not keep me safe either. So, for that reason, I think about safety a little bit differently than I thought about it before.

Kate: Yeah, because it really doesn’t go over too well. When you’re like you know what, my husband just lied to me and so I’m a little upset. Like, I just found out he’s a big fat liar. That doesn’t always go over too well.

You Deserve a Safe Place to Process Your Trauma

Anne: With people who don’t understand. It goes over super well somewhere like the BTR Group Sessions or with a friend who understands it. Like, feel free to just say everything in that scenario that you want to say because you’re safe there.

Kate: Yeah, and I think you can still be honest in those circumstances without actually saying all of it. You could just say, you know, I’m so-so. I’m alive. I’m okay. You know you don’t have to be like I’m great and then be like I’m dying inside. It’s great. You know what, I’m having a day. You can still find ways to be honest.

Anne: Right. Things are really really hard for me right now. And if they say oh, what’s wrong? Be like, you know, talking to you about it wouldn’t be helpful, but it would be super helpful if you could bring me a pizza. Oh, I can tell that you want to help and that you care about me by asking me but talking about it’s not going to help, but you know what helps is if you fix my sprinklers or if you moved and I never had to see you again.

Kate: That one would be great.

Support the BTR Podcast

Anne: Do not, do not say that listeners. Do not say that. I hope this podcast is helpful to people. We’re just exploring this together and that’s what the podcast is for. 

Well, Kate is awesome. She is such a powerful woman and Shero, and she supports Sheros all over the world. I’m so grateful for her. Stay tuned not next week, but another time. She’s always coming back on the podcast to share her thoughts and epiphanies and important things that she’s learned in her journey. So, I’m always thankful when she comes to share her wisdom with us. 

If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.

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1 Comment

  1. Lara

    Love your podcast .
    Wow
    Keep it up

    Reply

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