Victim Nation

by TChris

The post below describes the pain that a judge experienced after being accused of telling a rape victim to "get over it." He denies saying those words, although he may have said something like "she needs to get over it." Even that compassionate suggestion may be politically incorrect in today's society.

In addition to being a "prison nation," we've become a "victim nation." Crime victims are a staple of afternoon talk shows, and their stories are often horrible. But victims (or those who claim to be victims) sometimes find the attention and sympathy they receive so rewarding that "victimization" becomes a way of life, and an excuse to avoid recovery. Too often families hear: "You can't expect me to [return to work] [be a supportive mother/father/wife/husband] [feel love] because I'm a victim." And too often "support groups" for victims validate those statements rather than encouraging victims to get on with their lives. That may be one reason that so many false accuations are made: victims receive attention, sympathy, and sometimes celebrity -- responses that many find appealing.

A psychotherapist reminds us that we aren't helping victims by encouraging them to dwell on their personal tragedies.

Those who choose to allow painful events to negatively determine the rest of their lives stand in their own path to healing. Yes, we never recover totally from the loss of a child or the loss of a limb. However, we also do not want to allow that event to turn us into bitter, angry people whose bitterness creates a downward spiral where more and more evidence for negativity can so easily be found.

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  • Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 09:53:26 AM EST
    There is a qualitative difference between understanding and suggesting that people might be well served to focus on successful survival of traumatic events and suggesting that they "get over it." The context for the difference is rooted in an understanding that what we attend to in our lives we get more of. So, if our story about ourselves is about traumatic events, that is what we will experience. That is not to say that we create the traumatic events, but that our focus on trauma may allow us to experience trauma or more trauma through a certain event than we might experience if our focus is on our inner strength, our ability to survive and transcend events. It's like the "don't think of elephants thing." Linguistic narrative emotional programming, narrative therapy type stuff. I do think that a focus on trauma, a "cathartic" rehashing and reliving of traumatic events may be less helpful than many therapists may believe.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 09:58:53 AM EST
    oh, great way to blame the victim.. poor poor judgie... I mean, she's 14 and was raped, what the hell is her problem! That surely doesn't compare with what the poor judgie experienced.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#3)
    by nolo on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 10:08:07 AM EST
    majkia, from what I understand, the judge's comments were taken way out of context, and may not even have been made at all. This article has some background info.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 10:16:35 AM EST
    TChris - wow. Honestly great topic. From what I've seen, there is great power in defining one's self as a Victim - you are owed an appology (or more) dammit! Group Victimhood can also bind together what would otherwise be a disparate group of people into one powerful unified voice. The power of Victimhood can be used beneficially, although, as you discuss, it can often create (and in my view, in our society, most often creates) that "bitter downward spiral" that is the antithesis of "pursuit of happiness." One of the biggest drawbacks to Victimhood is that it forces those who choose to define themselves as Victims to then define the rest of the world as members of only two groups - they are either the Victim's Rescuers or, by default, they are the Victim's Oppressors. You are either with me or you are against me. A powerful position, but sad nonetheless. There are legions of examples of this dichotomy in the posts on this site and our world at large. TChris, thank you for the most fundamentally important topic I've ever seen on this site.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#5)
    by Peaches on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 10:45:20 AM EST
    Chris Hedges says in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning about reading Shakespeare, "Shakespeare reminds us that though we may not do what we want, we are responsible for our lives. It does not matter what has been made of us; what matters is what we ourselves make of what has been done to us."

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#6)
    by jondee on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 12:20:27 PM EST
    Those that have suffered and come through make the best healers - in "traditional societies" the suffering was actually consciously chosen through isolation and ordeals. The so called therapuetic society has all too often encouraged the disempowerment of the "victims"- keeps em dependent and coming back and scarfing up seminars and this weeks self-help treatise.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 01:12:17 PM EST
    I don't know jondee. I am on the board of the local sexual assault and domestic violence agency and we use a lot of group work led by "survivors" of domestic violence and sexual assault and I still think that sometimes many years after the group leader's traumatic event they are still processing their own stuff instead of helping clients. It goes to the focus of the discussion for me more than whether the therapist has experienced any specific trauma. Some of the approaches I feel most positive about are lumped in the categories of brief or solution oriented therapy. Don't think of elephants. Don't think of rape. Don't think of domestic violence. and the other approach: what if a miracle happened and everything was exactly the way you want, what would be different? What specifically? Surroundings? Work? Family connections? Intimacy and parthership? Don't think of your happy life and what it would look like.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 01:50:39 PM EST
    Kind of funny that the judge totally uses the language of survivors (or "victims" if you will) to describe his own experiences.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 02:26:20 PM EST
    Have we all seen the white cross planted by the highway with sundry flowers and balloons to denote someone's death in a car accident? I can't help but think that the people who make these displays feel their grief is more important than anyone else's grief. Sure, they probably don't think this consciously, but they do make a statement with thier actions.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 02:35:32 PM EST
    I find the shift to a more conservative view of justice has turned justice into a pissing match for the victims. Where folks compete with the system to get the most for their cause. For example the death penalty forces us to put different values on life itself. Why is a mothers life valued less than a policemans? How can a killer of an innocent child negotiate with The People of the State for a lesser sentence? remember "To bargin with the Devil first you must put your toe in Hell"

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#11)
    by Mary on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 02:47:19 PM EST
    Ouch, let's dump on victims some more? Nobody should have to become a permanent victim and recovery should be helpful. But for a period of time during recovery, one is often grieving what was lost by being victimized. "Getting over it" has to include that grieving period, during which time one can get angry and learn to accept what happened. Then the recovery and readjustment period can occur. Jumping right into readjustment can work for some, but others, like those who suffered childhood sexual trauma, have to work out a lot of issues, like not blaming themselves for what happened, working through legal actions (which keeps one thinking about the victimization), figuring out how to deal with parents as abusers, etc. One of the worst things victims hear that can isolate them and stall recovery is to hear someone they trust say "get over it" (or any variation on that theme.) It's about as compassionate and helpful as Bush's "compassionate conservatism"; i.e., it's not, and it can make the problems worse.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 03:24:17 PM EST
    Very thoughtful post Mary. I agree that those who can move to adjustment quickly should be allowed and those who need time to grieve and process should be allowed that time. I think the goal of therapy should be able to help people move to the world of one damn thing after another instead of the same damn thing over and over. I know people who seem stuck for years trying to process an event or situation. I feel bad for them. On the other hand, the first two years after my daughter died were really terrible. Things changed during the two years, but I can't say they started getting better until the third year. I walked away from people who felt I should have gotten over it earlier. We all get over stuff in our sweet time. The suffering and grief are not fun to experience or watch. I am a survivor of childhood molestation. It has never bothered me. I was four or five, it was not extended or brutal, just exploitative. Delving back into it has never had any appeal to me, but I mention it because sometimes other survivors of molestation, assault, etc. assume that I have no first hand experience. Right now, I am trying to get over Dubya and his cronies and I am really stuck. It's definitely the same damn thing over and over.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 03:32:01 PM EST
    If I had read this post and some of the comments here that are so critical of victims without knowing where it came from, I would have sworn that it was from a far right blog. The view that "everyone should be responsible for themselves, (like I am), and get over their (little) problems, (like I have)", is a typical right wing Republican viewpoint that is used as a justification for trying to eliminate social programs for people who need assistance. It is arrogant and foolish.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 04:23:27 PM EST
    Dean, then you are indeed on the wrong site. This is a site dedicated to preserving the rights of those accused of crime. Nothing right-leaning about that.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 05:23:45 PM EST
    Hey TL, Excellent piece! I cannot agree more. Like Dean, I thought for a moment I was on a righty blog. But unlike Dean, I agreed with your points. People are victimized every day. Victims have two options...1) get on with life as best you can, or 2) cry, wail, ask for help, make noise, do nothing, be a failure, and raise a bunch of dysfunctional kids on the public dole. I think there is a dircet correlation between IQ and whether the victim chooses option 1 or 2. Dems have pandered to the victim to the point where millions of them think it is a meal ticket, thus victimhood is sort of like weight loss - you get a big round of applause on a talk show for doing something that anyone can do. Anyone can be a victim. Anyone can gain a hundred pounds and then lose it. Hey, applause should be reserved for something that is noble. Saving a bus load of orphans from going off a cliff or carrying a person out of a burning building, etc. Any loser can be a victim or a weight loss expert.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 05:26:40 PM EST
    Some of the things that impede victims' recovery are: being told that "we are a nation of victims", that they are just looking for sympathy, that they are "choosing" to stay in their problem, that 'too often "support groups" for victims validate those statements rather than encouraging victims to get on with their lives.' (just what is your experience with support groups, anyway, and who are you to say how soon a person should get on with their life?), that "so many false accusations are made" (how do you know that?). I agree that people sometimes become stuck in victimization, but please don't judge all victims by what you see on daytime TV. It's also true that re-living trauma can be excessive and that there is a time for 'getting on with it' but trauma recovery is an area where it is all too easy for everyone to be an expert and suggest half-baked solutions with no real idea of what they are talking about. I have often admired TalkLeft, but on this topic you really, really don't get it and your comments reflect a judgmental narrow viewpoint that needs some serious self-examination. Read Mary's post and give it some thought. Dean, a psychotherapist with lots of experience in helping real victims to really recover in their own time and their own way.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#17)
    by Al on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 06:35:38 PM EST
    Who's to know what the "right way" to deal with a profound injury is? If anybody has the ability to find out it is the victim, for whom it is a matter of remaining sane. Certainly I have no way of telling how a 14-year-old rape victim "should" feel, and I suspect that judge is in the same boat.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 06:37:01 PM EST
    "Posted by majowa: "Have we all seen the white cross planted by the highway with sundry flowers and balloons to denote someone's death in a car accident? I can't help but think that the people who make these displays feel their grief is more important than anyone else's grief." It must be your ignorance making you think that. Have you ever been to a cemetary? WHAT a self-pity trip THOSE people are on, eh? Big stones and flowers...who do those people think their departed are, kings and queens? The tradition of putting crosses and flowers at accident scenes is not so that people driving by will pity the family. It is a pagan-Catholic tradition, designed to ease the departed's passage, to lessen the shock and disruption of the accident scene, and to give the family and friends a focus for their grief during that transition period. Wow, how dare they. It also serves an additional purpose, in many cases exposing local hazards and shaming gov't to put in signals, signs, to fix dips and potholes, put in dividers, and otherwise respond to often longstanding conditions that endanger everyone. How selfish!

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#19)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 05:04:07 AM EST
    Cemetaries also contain corpses. ...give the family and friends a focus for their grief... I'll agree with that, but it also is a means for the living to elevate the importance of thier grief. Not everyone who had someone who has died in an auto accident indulges in this self-pity. exposing local hazards Perhaps, but since most accidents are caused by driver error it would seem that any exposure of hazards is secondary and unintentional to the purpose of these displays.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#20)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 09:34:01 AM EST
    I have always appreciated the roadside memorials, especially if they are bit more than the white cross. The person who died there is not forgotten, it's a visible reminder to all that driving is a mortal affair and it may help people with their grief process and "get on with it." I would put up a little white cross and memorial in the Boston hospital where my daughter died, but the hospital staff won't let me.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#22)
    by glanton on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 11:35:25 AM EST
    Well said, dadler.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#23)
    by Dadler on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 11:39:42 AM EST
    alright, so maybe this judge has gotten too much flack, tho two mil is certainly a nice trade-off. you got my ire up with the "victim nation" thing. i hate crap like that. would you aim that charge at combat veterans? uh, i doubt it.\8

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#24)
    by Dadler on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 11:57:35 AM EST
    also, it took me until i was thirty-five to figure out why i had those debilitating stomach pains as a kid. i had to do my own research, no one helped me then. and to find out, yes, they were real, that i hadn't faked it or imagined it like some adults told me then -- doctors didn't even know about it back then -- wow, let me tell you, i felt sane for the first time in my life, i felt validation for this terrible sh*t that had happened, and i was able to move on to other things. trust me, i felt crazy, like maybe i really had made it all up, or imagined it. and i'm not alone in those feelings. "getting over it" for me would've meant a lifetime of denial and self-hatred. i had to face it, i owed it to that little kid who used to have to curl up in a tight little ball and shove himself into the corner of the room for hours to make that pain go away. it took me more than a quarter of a century to face all that crap that was inside me, eating me away. and someone telling me to "get over it", or any variation thereof, was simply telling me to remain damaged, incapable and angry. sorry, wasn't going to work. i got over it with a long, hard climb. might not have had to if the help were available. it should be today. instead, we still get the charge that we're all just the "victims" of a mindset. f'ing hell, listen to me. guess you hit a live wire, eh?

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#25)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 12:27:07 PM EST
    Dadler, You probably need to seek couseling. I doubt anyone here gives a rat's ass about your childhood. You sound like a menace to society.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#26)
    by BigTex on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 05:24:54 PM EST
    We're all th' victim' o' somethin', what defines our character is how we act in th' aftermath. Amy Grant has a wonderful quote that isn't about victimhood, but definatley applies. Th' capacity t' love is directly perportional t' th' hurt we've felt. (This may be slightly off.) There's no shame in bein' a victim, but there is shame in victimhood. A victim needs t' pick up th' pieces and move on. No one demands that th' transition from victim t' member o' society be smooth, only that th' road is taken. T' be a victim is terrible, but it is an opportunity. An opportunity t' grow. T' love. T' appriciate what all good you have in life. It's sad that there are victims, and they need th' support given t' them, but it's also an opportunity t' grow. T' not try t' pick up th' pieces o' yer life after bein' victimized is t' be victimized twice. Th' first by another, th' second by yerself.

    Re: Victim Nation (none / 0) (#27)
    by Dadler on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 11:05:13 AM EST
    eclaire, marvelous, my friend! what a f*cking prick! how does a person like you draw a breath, what with all the psycopathic repressed sh*t you're full of? i can't even be offended by so obviously and bitterly damaged a creature such as you. sad. but darkly amusing. and that's menace 2 society, junior. you goddamn amateur, you child. to quote david mamet: "who the f*ck told you you could work with men?!" now go back to the cyberporn and pull another mile of taffy. i have the evolved world to get back to. peace, my fellow free american.