Have you ever heard somebody say that people who were abused as children or in intimate relationships “seek out” abusers? The idea seems to be that we are trying to “recreate” an awful experience in order to “do it right this time”. To me, this seems mostly to be a way of dismissing our pain, blaming us for it and minimizing the causes and effects of abuse.
And it doesn’t stand up to close examination of either the logic or the facts.
Think about abused children. More specifically, think about the child who are preferentially targetted by child abusers like pedophiles. Did these children somehow want what happened to them? Did they seek out the creepy guy in the rusty van?
And did the creepy guy seek out the happy, healthy, confident, cherished child? Or did he look for the kid who’s already hurt, already broken? The one who has already spent way too long doing things he didn’t want to do, things that hurt him (and maybe others that he cared about); the one who is already desparately lonely and unloved?
The pedophile looks for kids who are hungering for any kind of apparent affection, who are already used to doing things they think are probably wrong, who are used to not having choices. They look for the broken, the damaged, the hurting, the defenseless.
Does that mean that their victims deserved it, or somehow brought the abuse upon themselves? Most rational caring people would say, “No, of course not!” And they would be correct:
The pedophile’s victims didn’t ask to be abused in the first place, and they didn’t “seek out” their revictimization. Why are the abused so likely to be revictimized? Because their hunters are looking for the weak.
Think about a nature special, where the lions are stalking the herd of wildebeest. They somehow manage to pick out a weaker member of the herd. Usually, I can’t tell any reason for the one they’ve picked out. But they know. It’s their business to know. They can sense it. Do we say that the wildebeest they’ve chosen “sought out” the lions, that it wants to “recreate” some traumatic event from its calf-hood? Of course not; that would be nonsense. In fact, we would probably easily accept the premise that the lions’ target has no idea what “signals” it is broadcasting to the lions, and dearly wishes that it weren’t.
In much the same way, those children who are vicimized by their families and then revictimized by others, both inside and outside their families, do not “seek out” their new suffering. They don’t know what “signals” they’re broadcasting, and likely dearly wish that they weren’t.
I believe the same reasoning holds for adult survivors of intimate abuse, whether that abuse happened in childhood, adulthood, or both. We have been broken, and we don’t realize the “signals” we’re broadcasting. We don’t seek out our new abusers; they find us, just like the creepy guy with the van found his lastest child.
We didn’t break us, we didn’t damage ourselves. And we certainly aren’t “seeking” out the opportunity for more of the same. I wish others would do us the respect of putting the blame where it belongs.