It is so hard to deal with abusers and other types of manipulators because they are masters at blame-shifting. Somehow, in any argument, they are adamantly more capable of convincing victims that they are at fault, than victims are at realizing they are the victims of the entire debacle!
Victim blaming is a manipulative tactic used by abusers to convince themselves and their victims that the problems lie with the other person, not with them. The ploy is very clever and effective.
What should you do if you suspect you are the victim of this tactic in your relationship?
Beware of the tendency to play the game of, “Find the bad guy,” in your intimate relationships. It is never healthy to use someone as a scapegoat for your problems.
If you are in a relationship with someone who needs to make you the “bad guy,” then be aware of what is going on and do not allow yourself to accept that mantle.
The best way to understand victim blaming is to realize that two concepts are at play:
Projection occurs when one person displaces his or her own characteristics onto another person. An abusive person will “project” his or her own attributes on to the other person, particularly in a conflict. Examples of this include:
- “You’re always causing problems!”
- “You’re nothing but drama!”
- “If it weren’t for your mouth we would get along fine!”
- “You’re impossible to talk to!”
- “All you ever do is complain!”
- “Can’t you ever be happy?”
Do you see my point?
The main reason victims get in fights or arguments with abusers is because the abusers cause the problem in the first place by saying or doing something that engenders a negative emotional reaction in the other person. He/she may be rude, hurtful, hostile, or act in some other relationship-destroying manner. It takes superhuman strength to keep from being triggered by the anger-provoking tactics of an abusive or manipulative person.
Once you’ve been triggered by the abuser, you may make one small mistake in speaking, or you may even commit the heinous crime of yelling back and defending yourself! Heaven forbid you have a reaction to a hostile instigation!
And once you do react supposedly inappropriately you just gave the abuser a gift. He/she can now capitalize on your reaction and use it as the evidence that the problem resides with you.
Don’t take the bait. Literally. Think of your abuser’s accusations and blame-shifting as fish hooks for you (the fish) to grab on to. As hard as it may be not to defend yourself in any way, you should refrain. Simply have an internal dialogue. Tell yourself the following: “He/she is trying to manipulate me into a fight. Don’t react. Breathe. Walk away.”
Remind yourself to stop engaging in the debate. You don’t have to defend yourself because you didn’t do anything wrong. Remind yourself of that. Even if you did react, give yourself a pass. Remind yourself that to react to an attack is a normal human response and that it sometimes takes extraordinary strength not to. In this case, give yourself a break.
The other concept, along with projection, that your abuser is using is judgmentalism. When people use judgmentalism as a relationship strategy, they put themselves in the “one up” or superior position. This is a tactic used to keep disconnection possible. Abusers, in general, are incapable of healthy human connections. They suffer from attachment issues, and true to form, they must sabotage any semblance of healthy attachment.
This is why the term “interpersonal violence” is used to describe domestic violence. It is abuse of an interpersonal relationship.
Abusers struggle with intimacy, mainly because of childhood trauma of their own, and because of this, when faced with the potential of a healthy interpersonal relationship, their unconscious mind will work to destroy the other person before the abuser has to face being potentially rejected (which is always a possibility when someone risks being close to another person.)
Judgmentalism precludes connection. When someone is judging you, you do not feel connected. You will not feel connected because you are too busy feeling shame or defensiveness or both.
Victim blaming keeps the abuser emotionally safe by projecting his/her interpersonal problems on to the other person, preventing insight and potential growth (not to mention resolution of the problem at hand.) It also helps the abuser feel personally superior and smug as he/she believes that it is his/her role to judge the victim.
If you are subjected to victim blaming do not “introject” the abusers accusations. This means, do not absorb them as your own; rather, be like Teflon, and let the accusations fall right off you onto the floor. A good defense is offense. Realize ahead of time, that you are dealing with a victim blamer and psychologically arm yourself appropriately.