Throughout my work online and in my own counseling, I’ve considered the issue of abuse survivors reacting back to their abusers, being deemed by many as abuse. It’s not abuse. It’s not ‘mutual abuse’, or whatever other victim blaming terms people want to use.
When being abused, it’s only natural that at some point – the victim may react back. This can be verbally or physically. But this is a defense. This is not abuse. This reaction would not occur, if the victim wasn’t being subjected to abuse.
If baffles me that people do believe that the behaviour of the victim needs to be seen to be ‘perfect’ at all times. The behaviours and actions of victims prior to the abuse, during the abuse and after the abuse, is often scrutinized, criticized and used against the victim in a negative way. It’s often used to blame the victim. It’s often used to shame the victim. It’s often used to minimize the abuse perpetrated by the actual abuser.
I’ve seen this occur in my life and I’ve seen it in high profile abuse cases and the shocking amount of trauma the victim endured when it’s deemed, they too are ‘abusers’, is disgusting.
The term ‘reactive abuse’ is one I’ve written about previously. I felt uncomfortable terming it that and now I fully see why. Because it’s not abuse. It’s a reaction to abuse, that is completely normal under the circumstances.
When a victim of relentless abuse, gets to a point where they react back, this requires careful discussion. Many people get intentionally provoked by ongoing emotional, psychological, physical or sexual abuse etc and it is completely understandable and normal that they would eventually react back. And in ways they would never normally act.
There is also the issue of abusers intentionally provoking a response, to gain the upper hand and act the victim. This is something that occurs all too often.
If a victim eventually screams at their abuser, calls them names, hits them back etc, this is a reaction to being abused. If a victim responds to being deliberately provoked, that’s not abuse.
And anyone who doesn’t understand that, clearly lacks awareness of chronic abuse, lacks empathy and lacks good judgement.
Unfortunately, this is a big issue for victims of abuse when dealing with other family members, police, lawyers etc, as the ‘reaction’ will wrongly be deemed abuse by these people.
See further reading on the reactive response and why the term ‘reactive abuse’ is a negative one for the victim and can be used in positive way for the abuser. https://themendproject.com/reactive-abuse/
It’s my hope that in raising awareness of this, more people start to view this issue in a far more understanding and appropriate way.
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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