In the Bible the scapegoat carried the sins of the people out into the wilderness after another kid goat had been sacrificed for the people’s sins as a part of a sin offering. Together they offered atonement for the sins of the people and the sins were then carried away by the scapegoat.
While reading about this I realized how often I had felt like I was the scapegoat for others. Feeling like I had taken on the blame or responsibility for others so they could justify their own behavior. Growing up my well-being was often put aside so that the adults in my life did not have to fill the role that they should have. Scapegoating can happen in any relationship, however, it especially happens in unhealthy relationships.
What Being the Scapegoat Looks Like:
When someone blames you for something they did to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.
To avoid taking responsibility for mistreating you, they blame you for their mistreatment of you.
Being given responsibility for someone else’s happiness or moods.
Being someone’s emotional dumping ground.
Not having your boundaries respected.
Getting gas lighted.
A clear pattern here is the lack of willingness of someone to take responsibility for their own actions. Instead they make someone else their scapegoat by placing the blame or the responsibility for their actions, behaviors, words, and/or their moods onto another person.
What it feels like to be the scapegoat:
Inducing anxiety when you have to deal with a particular person(s).
Wondering what you did wrong.
Feeling like you cannot do anything right in another person’s eyes.
Wondering why nothing you do is enough to make someone happy, or to snap them out of their depression or to keep them from getting angry.
Feeling like you are responsible for fixing all their problems.
Walking on eggshells.
Trying to do everything perfectly.
The weight of being the scapegoat is a heavy burden to carry, and it negatively affects the way a person views them-self. The act of scapegoating another person shows a lack of personal responsibility and a lack of respect for another person.
If, like me, you grew up without boundaries, then you may find it difficult to stand up to someone who is using you as their scapegoat. You may even feel powerless to stop it. For me, being the scapegoat was just the way things were growing up, and it was part of surviving. I can’t say that I have it all figured out. This one thing I do know, as I get better at protecting my boundaries and speaking up for myself the more I can see myself being able to stand up against being used as someone’s scapegoat. I am getting better at being able to see what I am responsible for and what others are responsible for. Standing up for myself is hard but I’m getting there. I know speaking up is not easy for everyone. So, if you struggle with it don’t give up because you can get to a place where it becomes easier.
You do not have to be someone’s scapegoat. No one is responsible for how another person behaves, their responses, their moods, their happiness, their words, or fixing their problems. We are only responsible for ourselves and how we respond to the things that come our way. When you notice someone is trying to use you as their scapegoat, remind yourself that you are not responsible for them.
It was Women’s Day the other day, and I’ve had a little time to reflect. In a recent class assignment we looked at the Proverbs 31 woman. To be honest, I’ve had a bit of a love hate relationship with her. She was both something to be admired and a symbol of oppressive ideology.
You see, I once belonged to a church where they used the Proverbs 31 woman as an example of what a wife and mother should be: a woman who submits, whose place is in the home, cooks, cleans, raises kids, and is frugal in all her ways. All of the Proverbs 31 woman’s other attributes and the full scope of her accomplishments was ignored. I had never felt like a second class citizen as a woman until this particular church organization. Keeping a house looking immaculate has never been my strong suit, and struggling with my mental health didn’t help in those endeavors either. I lost myself in trying to become this Proverbs 31 woman that was portrayed to me as the ultimate goal in becoming a godly woman. I tried to force myself into a mold that wasn’t designed for me (a mold that required me to give up desires and drives God had given me), and became increasingly frustrated that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fit the mold. When equality is measured in terms of how much equality others say you have it isn’t really equality. In other words, if a wife’s equality is measured by how much equality her husband says she has, then it isn’t true equality because it is dependent upon his definition of what equality looks like to him in the relationship. That is precisely the type of equality that was promoted in this version of the Proverbs 31 woman and she was expected to fit in that mold. Equality isn’t something that is given but rather it is a result of being viewed and treated as an equal.
The real Proverbs 31 woman while she may follow the lead of her husband as a leader (not a ruler) of the home she is a woman who is more than capable of holding her own and rocking it. She isn’t a slave to her house duties or husband but is a manager of the in’s and out’s of her household. Yes, she’s a great cook, makes sure her house is in order, knows how to spot a great deal, and is a great mother. But she is so much more than all of that. She is also an entrepreneur and business owner who is talented in many areas. She takes the time to help those who are in need, and is an all around Super Woman. She has the time management and leadership skills anyone would want to have.
I still view her as having awfully big shoes to fill but no longer view her as a subjugated woman. To make deals, to be an entrepreneur, to run businesses, and do all that she did requires respect, fortitude, and to not settle for be treated as less than. I now view her as a force to be reckoned with but not in an aggressive demanding way. She knew how to cultivate respect by treating others well. Becoming this version of the Proverbs 31 woman is well worth striving for because she shows us just how capable women are. I may never perfectly fill her shoes but she reminds me that I am more than capable of doing anything I put my mind to. The same goes for you. You are capable of great things. Your equality isn’t measured by what others may define as your equality but is a God given right to be viewed and treated as an equal.
So often I find myself looking for that light switch that will cause everything make sense. If I could just understand the intricacies of how this one thing works it will all make sense. I think that same thought over and over for each aspect of healing. It’s been a long hard road in part because I feel driven to understand all the intricacies of how my mind processes what I’ve been through, and why people do the things they do. Understanding is good and we need to understand how things have affected us, but sometimes we don’t need to understand all the ins-and-outs. Sometimes the answer is “just because” and there is nothing else to it. That’s frustrating, I know.
So often I have wanted to come to you and say “Here’s the switch that will change everything”. Flipping a light switch is so easy. We just flip that switch and the light comes on. Healing, I have found, is not as easy as flipping a light switch. It takes time, patience, giving ourselves grace for not always getting it right, and forgiveness towards ourselves and others. It’s more like watching a bucket fill with water one drip at a time. The changes come; just sometimes slowly. So, give yourself grace, do lots of self-care, and watch your bucket fill up.
I know this blog isn’t glamorous, suspenseful, or even all that interesting at times (or at all for some). However, healing often isn’t any of those things. It can be boring, dreary, painfully slow, and has a real lack of fireworks going off every time we make a new stride in healing. There are times of great excitement though. That new break-through can be exciting and exhilarating to us, but to no one else. Because only we know how hard we have worked for that break-through and how great it feels to have finally reached it. It is my continued hope that even in the mundane of my healing and of what I share, you are able to connect and see you are not alone in your struggles.
This was me. This is what I looked like in high school around the time the abuse by my stepdad was ending. I was on the tennis team. I was in honor classes and made mainly A’s and B’s. I was quiet and kept to myself for the most part. I was a naive and compliant kid. Not one to ask many questions or rock the boat; I did as I was told. I had only a few friends who would have anything to do with me outside of school. I wasn’t the kid who had a ton of sleepovers with friends. Home is where I would be.
Home life was not great. I was the family and marriage counselor. I was the one the whole family looked to to make sure my mom didn’t commit suicide. They made her my responsibility. There were times I used my body as a shield to keep her from driving off while crying hysterically. She would often tell me how she wished she could drive off of a bridge or just run away. So I would stand in front/behind of her car to keep her from driving off while crying hysterically because I didn’t know if I would ever see her again if I let her drive away. I did the majority of the cleaning and I did everyone’s laundry.
This is my Denim Day protest. I didn’t wear skimpy clothes. I wasn’t a flirt. In fact I was shy. I was a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, and I still am. There was nothing about me that would have said I “asked” for it, and that’s because I didn’t. No one ever does.
Let me say that again.
No. One. Ever. Does.
When I was four years old my mother was attacked in front of me by a serial rapist, Robin Scott Dasenbrock, who had broken into our apartment. I woke up to seeing my mother struggling in front of me with a man who had ahold of her from behind. When I screamed he let go of her and ran.
Later, someone made a comment to my mom that if this man wanted to have sex with her then why didn’t he just ask her out on a date. For one thing, a date does not equal a responsibility on the part of the woman to sleep with the man. For another, what would dating have to do with a stranger breaking into your apartment and attempting to rape you? This implies some kind of responsibility on the part of the victim to placate to the deviant urges of a rapist. That if only the victim would have given it up then there would have been no need for the man to rape her. Victim blaming at its finest. My mom did not do anything to invite this man into our lives in such a way. She certainly did nothing to “ask” for it.
So the next time you hear about a victim of sexual assault remember this:
What they wore has nothing to do with it.
The level of alcohol in their system has nothing to do with it.
Their behavior has nothing to do with it.
Their line of work has nothing to do with it.
Their sexual orientation has nothing to do with it.
Their compliance to their attacker has nothing to do with it; they were trying to survive.
Sexual assault can and does happen to boys and men.
They in no way “owe” it to anyone to have sex with them.
There is nothing they could have ever done that would imply they “asked” for it.
They are in no way responsible for the vile actions of another.
It was not their fault.
Remember these things and treat victims accordingly with sensitivity and compassion. Knowing it was not their fault, and they did not ask for it. The only one responsible for a sexual assault is the offender, hold them accountable for the assault, not the victim.
Denim Day is fast approaching. Do you know why Denim Day is important?
Denim Day was started in 1999 after Patti Occhiuzzo Giggans, Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, saw on the news a protest over a case in Italy where a rape conviction was overturned by the Italian Supreme Court. Which ruled the sex in this case had to have been consensual because the victim wore tight jeans. The Italian Supreme Court surmised the victim would have had to have helped take her tight jeans off, therefore, the sexual encounter would have had to have been consensual. As a response to the ruling, women in the Italian Parliament staged a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court wearing jeans. This protest was aired in the news internationally where Patti Giggans saw it and was inspired to start the first ever Denim Day protest to bring light to all the myths surrounding why women and girls are raped.
Denim Day is important because there are still many myths that surround victims of sexual assault that need to be addressed and dispelled. The only way to end rape culture is to end these myths which suggest it is somehow the victims fault. This is an important conversation that needs to be had.
No one asks to be raped or sexually assaulted. What the victim wears or how they look has no bearing on why they were victimized. They did not “ask” for it by their behavior or what they were doing.
In Society’s attempt to rationalize why someone would do such horrible things it has wrongly placed that blame on the victim. Society thinks no one would be so evil, therefore, there must be some reason; there must have been something the victim did to elicit such a thing. That “something” has spawned into: it must have been what they were wearing; they were drunk and asking for it; everyone knows they sleep around and are a slut; you should see the way they always flirt with everyone. The list goes on and on. What Society is missing is placing the blame on the one person to whom it belongs to…the offender. The Offender is the sole person responsible for their actions.
Instead of asking if the victim must have “asked” for it, why not ask what is wrong with the offender that they would do such a despicable thing, and how can we further protect society from this predator. Those are the real questions that need to be asked.
This year Denim Day will be held on April 24, 2019.
Denim Day’s website has a good article on some misconceptions about sexual assault. You can read it here.