Profile of the Victim
· Profile of the Victim
As it happens with abusers, victims usually allow abuse mainly because they are unaware or ignore other healthier ways of interacting with people. Also, as we have already seen in the case of abusers, it’s possible that victims of emotional abuse may have been victims of abuse during childhood or they may have witnessed abusive relationships.
Victims of emotional abuse tend to feel unable to set boundaries or be in control of their own life. They usually depend on others, emotionally or financially, or both; and they lack good judgment and a realistic standpoint that could allow them to see with clarity and objectivity what’s right and what’s wrong.
These are some common characteristics of the victims of emotional abuse:
§ They have a low self-esteem.
§ They tend to be very insecure, and anxious.
§ They have a submissive personality.
§ They feel inferior to others.
§ They depend on others, emotionally and financially.
§ They feel they don’t deserve to be respected as human beings.
§ They have unrealistic expectations.
§ They feel they need to be controlled (or “protected”) by others.
§ They are excessively tolerant and accommodating.
§ They don’t stand for their rights.
§ They deceive themselves by thinking that –one day- magically, the abuser will change.
§ The blame themselves on other people’s problems, or they blame it on the world, or life, or luck or a given situation.
§ They are not aware of the fact that they allow abuse to occur.
§ They don’t feel they are capable to succeed by themselves.
§ They tend to have a difficult time with setting boundaries and saying "No”.
Usually, they are psychologically weak people who have learned to be content receiving “crumbs of affection” and they prefer to receive “pity strokes” rather than be ignored. They are afraid of growing old alone or being unemployed, they believe they will not be able to find something better than what they have until now.
We may also argue that there’s some level of “comfort” on the victim’s side, since –somehow- the victim chooses to put up with the abuse as a way to avoid growing up and being in charge of his/her own life. The victim chooses to let others make decisions for him/her, or chooses to be financially supported, etc.
To some extent, the victim chooses (whether consciously or unconsciously) to pay a high price for that level of comfort that allows him/her not to make any changes, or not to grow, and not to make his/her own decisions, set boundaries, and succeed in life.
At the same time, they live between depression, due to the lack of self-achievement, and frustration, because of the continuous controlling and belittling attitude from the abuser.
Often times, victims of emotional abuse allow abuse to occur because they feel they don’t have anything to live for, as it happens with some older people.
Contrary to some popular beliefs, victims of abuse neither are not weak people nor are to blame for the behavior of abusers.
They are not responsible for the personality disorders of the abuser, either. Abusers are people with mental health issues who exhibit certain inadequate behaviors, regardless whether the victim is present or not (absence of the victim).
We could mention two types of victim: innocent or unwilling victims, like children, elderly people, disabled people, or healthy adults who simply don't know there are healthier ways to develop relationships with others.
Many of the relationship problems between victims and abusers come from behavioral patterns and ways to establish relationships and interact with others that are unhealthy or inadequate, and were learn throughout their lives.
In other words, no one develops a victim-abuser relationship willingly, or because they like to "suffer". Victims of emotional abuse, as well as abusers, simply don't know other ways to establish healthier and more adequate relationships.
Once victims of abuse become aware of the type of relationship they are involved in, or the type of relationships they tend to develop with other people, they need to educate themselves better about how relationships work and gather more information about the diverse types of personality disorders abusers may have.
It is for this reason that we can define a second type of victim: the "conscious or aware" victim.
This does not mean, either, that the victim "enjoys" his or her victim's role. It simply means that once a victim starts getting more insight on the type of relationship they are involved in, or the type of relationships they tend to develop, it's important that they also start becoming aware of the fact that they can choose - a self-decision - how to develop healthier relationships or choose to develop relationships with other kinds of people.
Dr. Joseph Carver is a psychologist from Ohio, USA, and has written many articles which are a truly valuable source of information on this subject. Information is like a tool that allows us make better decisions and overcome abusive relationships.
It is not about looking for "culprits", it is not about "whose blame is it or who is guilty", and it’s just about learning there are better and healthier ways to relate to others. It's about getting a better insight about the different types personality disorders and how abusers function and what we can do so as not to keep developing abusive relationships.
The concept of the conscious victim derives from some victims of emotional and physical abuse who, although they are aware of the kind of relationship they are involved in, they keep hoping and waiting for the abuser to change. The (the victims) believe that if they change then, perhaps, the abuser will change too. Sometimes, some transient changes can be observed, but the essence of the personality of an abuser does not change. And the victim has no control over this. This is why it is equally important to bear in mind what things are actually under our control, and what's not.
Victims of abuse may control their emotions, but they cannot control the emotions of the abuser. Victims can make their own decision to change, but they cannot force an abuser to make the decision to change. Some victims of emotional abuse, for different reasons, decide to stay in an abusive relationship, even knowing the psychological problems of the abuser and type of abusive relationships they are involved in.
Some abusers are able to change. With a sound therapy that addresses their mental health issues and a through work on their own personality disorders, some abusers change and they stop developing abusive relationships. But this demands a significant amount of commitment by the abuser, just like the victims commit her or himself to address and solve their issues around abusive relationships and abusive people.
Dr. Carver's articles are available mostly in English and some of them are available in Spanish too. You may download these articles from our network at: