“I Was Abused” (The Problem with a Victim Mentality)

I haven’t forgotten the day. My dad glared at me, then threw the door stop across the room. He stormed out and that was it. The next day, he acted normal.

I was accustomed to such volatile cycles. Things had been bad for a while. I had learned to survive in an environment where authority was paramount. My mom would get mad at me too and raise her voice. One day she even raised her hand. Although she didn’t slap me physically, the damage was done. And that hurt worse.

There were other episodes of which I’ll spare you. Thankfully, I was gone a large portion of the day. School was a refuge from the strife, even though I still feel under-educated. I guess shipping me off on a bus every day was easier than being a parent. I found solace in my friends and teachers. They couldn’t imagine what went on at home.

And then there was the abuse I suffered at the hands of boys who took advantage of me. Left on my own with them from a young teenager, I still bear the scars of sexual abuse.

To this day, I battle depression from my upbringing.

STOP.

Let me tell you about the story I wrote above. It’s true. Partly. I left out a bunch of truth too, which transformed the partial truth into a lie. I also used some words and phrases carefully to leave the reader with certain impressions I wanted him to have without actually lying.

I want to tell you something VERY important. What I just did is happening everywhere, with all varying degrees of truth and lies, and children growing up to embrace the ever-popular “victim mentality,” blaming others for their problems. And you need to be aware of the need for discernment. The power of suggestion is indeed powerful, and can easily sway any of us.

Sadly abuse happens. And it is real, and we need to be sympathetic and ready to offer the healing grace and love of Jesus to those hurting. Just as sad, many other stories are not real abuse. The problem is, you or I (or even those being accused of abuse) are not allowed to question the allegations. (Watch the comments if you don’t believe me. The daggers will come out.) And if we do question them, they have ready, cleverly crafted answers that turn us into abusers too.

They are convinced. They have distorted reality for themselves which makes them so able to share the distorted picture with others. It is what they believe. And so the real injustice goes to false perpetrators who have been criminalized but have no voice and real victims who suffer real abuse at the hands of their abusers.

I speak from personal experience of witnessing this many times, not just a conjured idea.

“Victim mentality is an acquired (learned) personality trait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case — even in the absence of clear evidence. It depends on habitual thought processes and attribution.”-Wikipedia

Here is what my story really looks like (corrected in black):

I haven’t forgotten the day. My dad glared at me, then threw the door stop across the room. He stormed out and that was it. The next day, he acted normal.

I haven’t forgotten the day. It really happened. As a rebellious teen I had yelled at my Dad and fought with him for days, while he remained his characteristic, patient self, hurt and broken over my rebellion, but refusing to give up on me. I said some terribly hurtful things, and in a moment of normal human reaction, he picked up a wooden door stop and threw it in the opposite direction of me. It was a rare sight and I knew I had pushed him to a place he didn’t want to be. He reacted because he is human and humans have limitations. He was back to his patient self the next day.

I was accustomed to such volatile cycles. Things had been bad for a while. I had learned to survive in an environment where authority was paramount. My mom would get mad at me too and raise her voice. One day she even raised her hand. Although she didn’t slap me physically, the damage was done. And that hurt worse.

I was accustomed to volatile cycles because of my incessant provoking. My parents didn’t create the volatile environment, I did. Authority was paramount (of supreme importance) because that’s what God’s Word says is good for children. (In the “victim” circles, authority is a bad word. Always.) Did you notice what you felt when I used the phrase “I learned to survive”? Look carefully for language that invokes pity. Almost always, that should be a red flag. My mother did raise her voice sometimes. Because I provoked her too. Any normal human being would have done the same thing. She did raise her hand at me and quite honestly, my mouth deserved to be slapped but she refrained.

My parents are normal just like I am and you are. But in the first description, I could make you picture them as overbearing tyrants. They were not at all. They were loving, caring parents who would have given anything to pull me back from the destructive path I was on. They would have given their own lives, I’m sure of it. Do you see how easy it it to paint a distorted picture?

There were other episodes of which I’ll spare you. Thankfully, I was gone a large portion of the day. School was a refuge from the strife, even though I still feel under-educated. I guess shipping me off on a bus every day was easier than being a parent. I found solace in my friends and teachers. They couldn’t imagine what went on at home.

This language was carefully crafted too. “Refuge” insinuates I needed to escape some horrible circumstance. I did want to escape my parents. But it had absolutely nothing to do with their being abusive or mean. It was because they were attempting to parent me, like good parents do, and turn me away from the rebellion I was in. And a rebellious child doesn’t enjoy being in the presence of those who challenge and oppose him. Someone with a victim mentality, however, wants to shift all the fault to someone else, and never wants to take responsibility for his own problems or own his behavior.

And then there was the abuse I suffered at the hands of boys who took advantage of me. Left on my own with them from a young teenager, I still bear the scars of sexual abuse.

This my friends, was the typical dating system I was a part of. Interestingly,  many grown up children blasting their parents for the alleged “abuse” they received like to bring up the “courtship” or whatever approach their parents used to avoid the dating game. Then they infer that was abusive. It’s the greatest of contradictions. Any attempts, no matter how flawed, at having your children avoid the dating game should be embraced with gratitude. I was a willing party to the sexual charade that went on in my dating life. I could even blame my “perpetrators” and claim abuse against them. I was, in a very real sense, taken advantage of, if you define that as a boy getting what he wants and then moving on. But that’s the name of the game and I played. My parents hated the whole dating game too, but at the time, they didn’t know there were any other options.

To this day, I battle depression from my upbringing.

I do. But no one is to blame for that. Mostly, my own poor choices are the culprit. That combined with a unique personality that is historically more prone to depression. To grow up and blame someone else for my problems as an adult is the height of immaturity, the greatest injustice and quite frankly, far more paralyzing than any negative influences someone inadvertently may have had on me as a child.

If I wanted to, I could go with the first story and evoke all sorts of sympathy from ready ears. I could crusade against conservative Christianity (we weren’t allowed to listen to rock music–I could conjure that into images of being denied self-expression or being “told” what I should and shouldn’t embrace. Once upon a time, that was called good parenting.)

In truth, my parents were wonderful and flawed. I have given them grace for the days I provoked them to anger, for the days they didn’t have just the right response. Not one of us, as a parent, will be able to survive parenthood without that same grace from our children. I abused my parents, if the truth is told. I was hateful and arrogant and resisted authority on every level. I have a deeper love for them now that I’m a parent and nothing could ever make restitution for the trouble I gave them.

I’m thankful now for where my parents insisted that we follow the Lord, even if others didn’t. Limiting my choice of clothing, music and influences wasn’t squelching my individuality. It was caring for me enough to even invoke a fight I was likely to give.

I grew up in a home where there were abused children. We opened a children’s home for neglected and abused when I was twelve. I’m no stranger to abuse and its ugly effects, and if anything, I have a softer heart for abused children than most because many of  them were my brothers and sisters for a season.

The strong sense of justice I feel is extended to those who are abused, but also to those who are falsely accused. We MUST be allowed to exercise discernment or the truly abused get drowned out in the cacophony.

The truth is, even those who have been truly victimized can thrive and overcome their abuse by refusing to be a victim (which only renders us powerless). I know those people too, and they are beautiful, strong examples of what God’s grace can do. Reading stories of prisoner of war survivors who chose forgiveness instead of bitterness, reminds me of the power we have over our circumstances, regardless of what others do.

Let’s help our children see the only way to live free is to take responsibility for our lives, refuse to let bitterness enslave us, and rise above even injustices we all will likely encounter in some degree.

20 Responses to ““I Was Abused” (The Problem with a Victim Mentality)”

  1. Cindy says:

    Oh, yes, the knives will come out. But you’re right. It’s very easy to spin up a story of rank abuse out of the normal interactions of imperfect people, and there is NO toleration for fact- checking or careful investigation. Feelings uber alles!

  2. Lyn says:

    Very good article…but there are times when abuse is completely unprovoked. Sad reality.

  3. Lyn says:

    Oh my apologies…I misread. You absolutely did!

  4. Layne says:

    This is good, and isn’t often said, even in Christian circles.
    Thank you for writing it. Blessings dear daughter of the King!

  5. Kelly D. says:

    This was so, so good.
    A very good friend is currently in jail for a rape he did not commit. Evidence proves he did not commit it – yet he was still found guilty and jailed.
    The woman he supposedly raped told him she would make his life a “living hell” (her words) and she did. His crime? Refusing to marry her. So she twisted the truth, just like you did above, to turn herself in a victim and the authorities fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
    Yes, he hurt her feelings by rejecting her. But by deciding to be the victim and get revenge, she has destroyed an innocent man.
    And in the process, has made a mockery of TRUE victims.

  6. renee says:

    My sister in law played this game and created massive division in the entire family. She accused my mil of abusing her. She cut off my husband because he didn’t disagree with her when she was telling him of the abuse and only offered her sympathy and a listening ear. He then told his parents he really doesn’t remember their childhood and instances she described in the way she describes. That was enough to cut him out of her life.

    She even accused her husband of abuse when she was caught having an online affair with a mentally ill person she later left her husband and children for. In the end she still managed to get most people to believe her. And she cut out everyone who didn’t support her or she just assumed would not offer her support.

    I’ve now been dealing with my own teenage girl myself accusing family members of abuse. She accuses me of abuse. She accuses her siblings of abuse. It all sounds so carefully crafted from stuff she read online. She loses her cool and screams at her siblings all the time but if someone yells at her they are apparently abusing her. I’m deeply concerned with the path she is going down. And it reminds the rest of us of the drama her aunt caused through her own lies and completely embracing herself as a victim.

  7. Kathy Garriott says:

    Thank you for sharing this story of truth. So many want to manipulate the story to gain sympathy and attention. In my life there was clear abuse and neglect, but also wonderful adventures and memories. I need to hold on to the good and let it overcome the evil. ❤️

  8. Shelby says:

    Knives will come out – but you are SO correct. I agree with this and have played the victim game myself from very similar occurrences. Games I chose to play and then regretted playing. It is why we are to teach our children to be wise and cautious. It is so hard to speak truth in our culture. And being a victim is NO good for anyone, it took me years to learn that in my marriage. There are real issues in everyone’s lives that need to be dealt with but adding embellishments to them is NOT helpful for healing.

  9. Laurie L Rogers says:

    Wow! Most of this story (except for the dating part, although she wants to) could describe our 16 year old daughter. Her older sister secretly moved out of our house 2 days after she turned 18, claiming depression and oppression from us. Meanwhile, her older, married sisters say that they’re trying to figure out a way to sneak back in! I blame a lot of this mess on the internet, and I just need to woman up and remove the cell phones from their hands.

  10. LauraSuzy says:

    Fantastic perspective! I am going to ask my teens to read this both for the awareness of how words can twist a scene, and also to realize that abuse can and does really happen, but even when it does, God can redeem those lives. Well done!

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  12. Christina rood says:

    As someone who really was sexually abused I greatly appreciate all that you’ve said, and thank you for saying what needed to be said.

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