How Society Gaslights Survivors of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths (A Guide for Therapists, Law Enforcement and Loved Ones)
3) Making the victim responsible for the actions of the abuser and failing to recognize the impact of the trauma bond.
I understand that mental health professionals may only be treating the victim, so some feel they cannot “speak” to the actions of the abuser. Some law enforcement officials may be confused as to why the victim does not “press charges” or even defends the abuser. Friends and family members may also hesitate to “judge” a situation they themselves are not intimately involved in. However, aside from guiding the survivor to leaving the abuser safely, placing a hyper-focus on what the victim must do in the early stages of healing can be detrimental.
Asking the victim to continually “look within” in the very first weeks of recovery can even cross over the line to victim-blaming. Therapists, law enforcement officials, and loved ones must acknowledge the effects of the trauma bond that survivors developed with their abuser throughout the course of the relationship. This is a bond created by the intense, emotional experiences in the abuse cycle. Giving survivors tips and tools to gradually break what Dr. Patrick Carnes calls “the betrayal bond” is essential to their recovery journey.
Victims of malignant narcissists have heard many variations of victim-shaming statements such as the following even in the very beginning of their healing journey:
“You have to let it go.”
“You need to move forward.”
“You might be codependent.”
“Let’s talk about you, not him/her.”
“Why did you stay so long? Let’s explore that.”
These statements may come from a place of wanting the survivor to own their agency. However, when said in the early stages of recovery, they can retraumatize the survivor. A survivor at this stage is usually heavily trauma-bonded to their abusers. This means that regardless of any codependent traits (which may not even apply to them at all), they have bonded to the abuser in the abuse cycle in an effort to survive the abuse.