Never list an abused person’s favorable attributes–beauty, intelligence, personality, accolades, assets, etc–as reasons you can’t comprehend them being abused. People are abusive due to their own issues, not because of their victims’ attributes.
To say that an abused person’s admirable qualities makes them being abused even more incomprehensible unwittingly suggests that a victim with less admirable qualities would make more sense.
Is a battered woman less deserving of compassion or empathy if she’s attitudinal, obese, poor, plain, “smart-mouthed,” “hard-headed,” “doesn’t listen,” a “b*tch,” “sl*t,” “wh*re” or doesn’t fit some other deeply misogynistic modesty standard?
Does the level of violence determine the moral imperative of the abuse?
At what point is passive aggression abusive, when the abuser’s ‘humor’ darkens?
Blocking an exit or grabbing an arm to stop/hinder leaving during an argument?
“Playful” forced, unwanted hugs or affection to “makeup” after a “fight” (attack)?
Do open or closed-hand strikes, the amount of bruising, blood, or broken bones determine the degree of empathy or intervention an abuse victim deserves?
No. No. No. No. No. No.
If someone is found to be a predator, a child molester, would we morally qualify their abuse based on whether or not their abuse involved penetration, open or closed-mouthed kissing, oral copulation or if they “only” inappropriately touched their child victim? No. The abuse itself in any form is unequivocally reprehensible.
Likewise, is the abuse of an adult–be it verbal, physical, or sexual in nature. And only when we begin to see the preying upon of any person as unconscionable will we begin to create a climate of health and healing for victims (and abusers, alike).
Blaming the victim is not always conscious, direct or deliberate. Most people who blame the victim deny it and genuinely believe that they are not. Still, looking at a victim’s personal attributes to better fathom why they are being abused shifts responsibility for the abuse from the abuser to the abused. Which literally blames the victim.
Conflating a victim’s attributes with their abusers actions sends the message that a victim is culpable the abuse and can partly control it by adapting or acquiescing. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The abuse will not stop if only the victim is quieter, doesn’t “talk back,” “behaves” themselves, dresses dowdy enough avert the flirtations of others, cooks better meals, loses weight or has more sex. No. Just no.
“You are too ___ to be treated that way” is meant well, but it’s like saying a car is too nice for a drunk driver to crash it. One has nothing to do with the other. What the car looks like isn’t causing the crash. And though people are certainly not objects the same principle applies to an abuser’s motives: there’s no such thing as being too pretty/handsome, sexy or sweet for them to violate.
So, careful with your wording when counseling someone who’s being abused. Many times abuse victims subtly feel out who they can trust to confide in before openly sharing their ordeal or asking for help. The way we speak of abuse in their presence might not only deter them from asking for help, risk making them believe they don’t deserve help.
This is not to say that we should not praise the qualities we admire about them to lift them up when they’re down. Please, praise them… don’t appraise them. #dontBSyourself