Hearing Our Own Voice – When Faced With Being Blamed for Violence We’ve Experienced

February 12th, 2013 | Posted by Patricia O'Gorman, PhD in Uncategorized
Psychologist in private practice in Albany, Saranac Lake,  New York, is noted for her work in child welfare, mental health, and substance abuse. She has served as a consultant to organizations in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and has held positions ranging from clinical director of child welfare agency to interim director of a crime victims organization to director of prevention for NIAAA.

Psychologist in private practice in Albany, Saranac Lake, New York, is noted for her work in child welfare, mental health, and substance abuse. She has served as a consultant to organizations in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O’Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and has held positions ranging from clinical director of child welfare agency to interim director of a crime victims organization to director of prevention for NIAAA.

Our past trauma can be triggered in a variety of ways. Just after The Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), a patient brought in an article sent to her by a friend in California; and she was triggered.   The article concerned a priest who actually blamed women for abuse they experienced at the hands of men.  She was deeply upset but laughed at some of the excerpts she read. After all, it was all so familiar.  She, as many of you have, heard it before, in so many ways since we were children. But as she spoke about it, she noticed that it really disturbed her. 

So she began by doing what we all know how to do so very well. She began to find reasons to explain why this man of God did this very un-Christ-like act.  She expressed: well, he’s probably done some good.  He’s probably old, and being kept on due to his past good deeds.  Yes, she rationalized his actions, but she was still feeling it.

But through the process that I taught her, she began to listen to that little voice inside.  She heard this voice of reason begin to whisper, then speaking more clearly, then demanding to be heard, and finally screaming:  what about YOU?  She realized that she had caught herself being the “good girl”, yet again, explaining the abuse instead of feeling her response to it as she remembered it, yet again. 

Being so trained to be the good girl is a type of cultural trauma that is so subtle, so pervasive, that it took her speaking to me, for her to finally hear herself, and risk stepping outside of her conditioning to express her anger at this very poorly informed man.  All I did was to point out: you sound angry, inviting her to check in with the part of herself that has been traumatized, and prevailed, her resilience.  When she did she discovered she was incensed!

Violence against women is making the news, as usual.  It is for some sexy, young women, usually, strong men exercising their power over women, women hurt, killed—shot in the head, raped on a public bus, beaten by their husband.  Oops, that usually doesn’t make the news.

So what’s the big deal?  Aren’t women always blamed for a man’s bad actions?  Nothing new in this, except this time it is a priest delivering this disgusting message in his Christmas message.  The Pasadena insert of the LA Times this Sunday reported on Father Corsi’s gift to his congregation on the Feast of the Epiphany, the Feast of The Three Kings. http://www.pasadenasun.com/opinion/pas-0104-in-theory-an-italian-priests-divisive-words,0,224530.story?page=1

Yes, Father Corsi, from Northern Italy, was very clear in his text: Women and Femicide, women bear the responsibility for everything from sexual attacks to sexual abuse.  And he exhorted women to search their conscience.  Yes, you have that right.  He didn’t pressure the men to examine their conscience, those who are the major perpetrators of the 1/3 increase in domestic violence deaths in Italy in 2012, but the women, who were the victims.   Now don’t be so ungrateful.  So what if what he offered was a piece of coal?  Down deep inside, what do we expect?

Don’t we agree that we are to blame for the “violence” and “sexual abuse” that comes our way due to our being “scantily dressed” and wearing “provocative clothes”.  Because when we do this we, according to Father Corsi,  “provoke the worst instinct,” and are responsible for the outcome.

What is outrageous perhaps is not that he is thinking this, but that he was so very clear about it and made this thinking public in a house of worship on a Holy Day.  But the message he gave has been so internalized that many women already feel responsible for the violence they experience in their life even without his explicit direction to do so.  For example, when there is a problem in our most intimate relationships, don’t we already do what Father Corsi suggests and search our conscience asking ourselves, how did we cause this? Aren’t we frequently so understanding because we are so very hopeful, that the violence directed against us by the person we love won’t occur again, even when they hurt us due to our “serving cold food,” and “not cleaning our houses,” as Father Corsi explains.

But there is hope.  We need to realize that when we do this it is our “girly thoughts” speaking — those societally developed and reinforced messages that we are to blame for all the ills that befall us.  It is important to take in, that this is not really how we feel, but how we’ve been trained to think. And how we’ve been trained to think one way can be changed into thinking another way.  We can learn to control our thinking these less than helpful thoughts, a major topic in my book, so stay tuned.

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