Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Every day we make choices. Some of these choices seem small and insignificant but they all matter. The choice to cross the street instead of walking down it. The choice to have a salad or a cheeseburger for lunch. But sometimes the choices we make have much larger implications. The choice to believe someone when they say they didn't do something vs the person who says they were abused. The latter seems like an easy choice to make, but often people choose to protect the abuser.
There are many reasons why people might choose to do this. Maybe they don't want to believe that someone they know is capable of abuse. Maybe they are worried about what will happen if they speak up. Maybe they think that the victim is lying or making things up. But whatever the reason, when people make this choice, they are choosing the abuser over the victim.
When you choose to believe the abuser, you are telling the victim that their experience is not valid. You are telling them that their pain is not real or important. You are telling them that their abuser is more worthy of your time and energy than they are. This can be incredibly damaging to victims, particularly if they are already struggling with self-doubt and self-blame.
Victim-blaming is when people place responsibility on the victim for their own abuse. They might say things like "they must have done something to deserve it" or "Why didn't they just leave?" But no one ever deserves to be abused and leaving is often not as simple as it sounds. Abusers can be incredibly manipulative and controlling, making it very difficult for victims to get out of abusive situations. So when people choose to protect abusers instead of victims, they are perpetuating a cycle of abuse and violence.
The next time you are faced with a choice between protecting an abuser or supporting a victim, I hope you will choose the latter. Victims need our support and protection more than their abusers ever will. They need us to believe them and stand up for them. They need us to show them that they are not alone. Too often, victims feel like they have nowhere to turn but we can change that by being there for them when they need us most.