Don't give UP!
Stockholm Syndrome and how friends and family can support and encourage victims.
Date: 4/5/2011 8:32:53 AM ( 11 y ) ... viewed 9552 times
Stockholm Syndrome - when we hear that term, we immediately associate it with a situation in which hostages develop sympathy for their captors. The psychological dubbed this phenomenon "Stockholm" after hostages in a bank robbery in Sweden demonstrated bizzare emotional attachments with their captors. Personally, this association with that specific event gives the general population a very narrow and misconcepted idea of what it really is.
This psychological condition can develop as a method of survival by victims of domestic violence/abuse, cult members, kidnap victims, torture victims, hostages, and any human being who is exposed to long-term victimization. Psychologists have been aware of this phenomenon for decades, and it's a very difficult condition to manage and heal from.
One of the most poignant aspects of Stockholm Syndrome is that an ABSENCE OF ABUSE is interpreted by victims as an ACT OF KINDNESS BY THE ABUSER. This is particularly true in cases of long-term exposure to abuse and violence. As an example, members of Jim Jones' organization tolerated all manners of abuse at his compound because, a) to leave meant braving dangerous jungle environment, b) abandoning friends and family, and c) risk being hunted down and murdered. In typical cases of domestic violence and abuse, victims live in a perpetual state of fear, doubt, and veiled or outright threat of more extreme violence or murder. "Is that what you want? You want me to kill you?" In my case, it was more like, "If you leave, you won't get a dime of 'my money,' and you'll never see your kids, again!" Then, there were the threats of suicide, and murder/suicicde, "I will shoot the kids, then you, then myself, and YOU will be to blame if I do!"
If we know someone who is living in an abusive environment, be they mother, father, sister, brother, friend, co-worker, it is vital to their possible Survival to remain available to them without passing judgement. This doesn't particularly mean offering loans, cash, etc., because those resources are available through many victims' advocacy organizations. What I mean is listening, encouraging, supporting, and not walking away from the victim because they have returned to their abuser again, and again. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline organization, the typical victim returns to their abuser 7 times before they refuse to return, again. To give this statistic proper perspective, it takes the average human being to hear a fact or detailed instruction a total of 6 times for the concept to be completely absorbed.
So, what to do if someone you know comes to you with their situation? DO NOT JUDGE - although YOU may insist that you would never tolerate abuse, you have not experienced the gaslighting and crazy-making that the victim has, and you cannot imagine what types of abuse they have suffered. Chances are, you will never know the full extent of the terrorization that the victim has experienced. DO NOT LECTURE - resist the temptation to tell the victim what they need to do, or that the cycle will continue. It is appropriate to respond with, "You do have options if, and when, you make a decision to do something about it." If the victim is determined to leave, DO NOT GET INVOLVED in planning and executing the exit! Leave that to the trained professionals and refer the victim to http://www.ndvh.org.
DO NOT MALIGN THE ABUSER - yes, this seems a paradox, but all victims have been brainwashed and dehumanized by their abusers to believe that the abuser is doing them some great favor by allowing the victim to exist. "He/she is an animal!" Will not get the abuser to agree that they're in a dire situation. Even when victims suffered broken bones and lacerations, "But, I love him/her, and he/she takes care of me," is a nearly identical response to posing the question of leaving. My own son remains with his diagnosed sociopatyh brother because, "He's really helped me out." On a daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute basis, victims are reminded of how grateful they shoud be to their abusers, make no mistake about it!
Most important of all, don't give up on the victim. Keep at the foremost of your mind that the ABSENCE OF ABUSE is viewed as an ACT OF KINDNESS. In my own case, and every other case that I've been involved with, the victim had reached a point where the abuser was doing us a FAVOR by allowing us to purchase groceries, seek medical attention, and allowing us to visit a friend.
Yes, indeed, it is frustrating, tiresome, and infuriating when we see someone that we care about make the choice to continue living in a horrible situation. But, if you haven't experienced long-term abuse, violence, and brainwashing, thank God, Jehova, Great Creator, or whomever, and remain available to the victim. Hopefully, they will make the decision to save themselves. When they do, they will need all of the support and encouragement possible in order to start down their healing path and get the help that they'll need to avoid being a victim, again. The hardest thing for friends and family to do is to surrender control and remain available withiut taking things personally. Always remember that the abuser speaks through their victims - victims MUST agree with their abusers, or the absence of abuse/violence will evaporate and the abuser will blame the victim, "I TOLD you not to tell your family anything, and now they all think there's something WRONG! You had to open your mouth, like you always do, and it's none of their business!" The exercise in remaining available without taking the victim's status personally is the simple mantra, "It is his/her decision, it is his/her decision." Recognize that the victim must come to their own decisions in their own time, and put their stupidity out of mind - the victim doesn't ask to be a victim, and they know that what they're experiencing isn't normal. "I'm sure that must have been very painful/terrifying when he/she did that to you," is an appropriate response AND it affirms the victim's terror while placing the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the abuser WITHOUT naming the abuser for what they truly are.
Don't give up on them. If I could get out, THEY can, too!
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