Victims, Trauma, Spinoza, and Butler

5 Jun


Trauma Narratives. University of Zaragoza


I’ve never met anyone whose ambition it was to be a victim, though I don’t doubt such people exist.

Victimhood is not considered an honourable state, rather it’s an abject one, shrouded in shame and often guilt: had I done something differently, been a better person, had more sense, (insert your favoured self-blaming admonition) this thing wouldn’t have happened to me and I wouldn’t be a victim.

Victims are frequently blamed by others and victims frequently blame themselves, so all in all, no one in a healthy state of mind would desire the experience. In the current economy of victimisation, the victim is always deeply in debt.

Being confronted by your own vulnerability isn’t an easy experience: many of us spend an inordinate amount of energy convincing ourselves we aren’t vulnerable, which is entirely unrealistic as we are, every minute of our lives, vulnerable to something or someone. Vulnerability is one of life’s inescapable conditions.

I suspect, though I have no proof, that one of the elements of victim blaming is anger at a being confronted by a victim’s obvious vulnerability that can’t help but remind us of our own precarious state in the world, a state many of us would rather not admit to. It doesn’t bear thinking about, the things that can happen to us, and victims can make us think about it.

If the injury can somehow be made to seem their own fault that makes us feel safer. We have control: we just won’t do what they did. These convoluted self-delusions are a sorry waste of psychic energy: denial is ultimately exhausting and it’s entirely unfair to project our own vulnerability onto someone else, rather than learn to live with it.

When I visited the doctor last week we got into a conversation about the 17th century Sephardic/Portuguese philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. I’m not sure why this topic came up but anyway, we talked about how Spinoza was banished from his Jewish community for what were perceived to be his heretical views. A cherem, or herem was declared against him, a form of shunning and ostracism employed as punishment for his refusal to accept god as some kind of divine human with emotion, intention, and desires. For Spinoza, god was Nature, and there was nothing beyond Nature and the laws of the natural world.

Spinoza also argued passionately for freedom of thought and speech: it is permissible to speak any thought, although not necessarily permissible to act upon that thought. Forbidding speech causes resentment and an inevitable backlash against the deciders, and only sends thought underground. No wonder Spinoza remains relevant hundreds of years after his time.

This conversation about Spinoza reminded me next of Judith Butler, American philosopher and gender theorist, who in 2002 gave the annual Spinoza Lecture at the University of Amsterdam. This lecture morphed into the book Giving an account of oneself, in which Butler examines, among other things, the concept of injury and victimhood, and what new ethical possibilities these experiences open up for a subject, what she calls…the moral predicament that emerges as a consequence of being injured…

From the traumatic and unpromising site of injury and desire for revenge or redress, Butler argues that …a model of ethical capaciousness… might emerge. This model of ethical capaciousness, she continues …understands the pull of the claim (for retribution) and resists the pull at the same time, providing a certain ambivalent gesture as the action of ethics itself.

As Spinoza’s thinking suggests, ethical capaciousness is permitting the thought without taking the action, a moral victory perpetrators outstandingly fail to achieve.

Much taken with Butler’s notions of un-willed injury as a site of ethical possibility, I wrote a paper that I gave at a conference at the University of Barcelona in 2008, titled The Experience of Being Injured: An Otherwise Perspective. The conference was about myth, history and memory, and I was exploring how traumatic injury and its aftermath, both societal and individual, are contained within these frameworks.

All of this has come  flooding back to me as a consequence of the last post I wrote on Sheep about memoir and trauma. There are, it’s alleged, too many people writing about their personal traumas; public accounts of private trauma will not bring about political change; must we have one more “misery memoir” and why aren’t these things kept private. These are some of the objections to what has over the last years become an outpouring of first person accounts of traumatised lives.

They are the objections of the very privileged, and they are both ignorant and pointless: trauma is not going away and one of the ways assaulted individuals attempt to deal with distress is to give their personal pain expression. This is a way of clawing back some of the agency lost when another exerts silencing power over you.

Criticising traumatised people for doing something that assists them is victim blaming. Unlike the victim, the consumer has the choice not to enter that world: it isn’t a victim’s obligation to stay silent in order to avoid disturbing bourgeois sensibilities.

Granted some media have seen an opportunity and set about exploiting it: take that media to task, not the authors of traumatic narratives.

The sheer volume of traumatised people on the planet is breathtaking: from stateless and displaced refugees escaping wars, to defence personnel, to paramedics and police, to those traumatised in childhood by sexual abuse; domestic violence, and sexual assault. Trauma and post traumatic stress shape and dominate societies and relationships. The effects of PTSD are crippling, not only on the sufferer but on everyone around him or her. The costs to society are astronomical.

Butler’s concept of the moral predicament anyone faces as a consequence of being injured can help shift one out of victimhood into agency. What actions does the injured party take or not take as a consequences of the injury? What does one do about the natural desire for revenge, for redress, for acknowledgement, apology? How far can one go before becoming a perpetrator?  What if the law will not assist you, or fails in its attempts?

The moral predicament that results from un-willed injury is an opportunity to regain the agency that is lost when someone is used by another as a means to an end. It is an ethical possibility that rises out of the ashes of an immoral act. Very often the first step on this alchemical progression is the externalisation of personal trauma through artistic expression.

It’s ludicrous to expect that a memoir or a thousand memoirs of personal pain will bring about political change, then complain when it doesn’t happen. What actually does change is that instead of one or a thousand people crippled and without agency, some will make a partial or whole recovery as they struggle with their moral predicament and give that struggle expression. Every victim experiences a form of cherem, of shunning, of banishment. Having no voice is one form such exclusion takes.  If we find a voice with which to paint the trauma, or write it, or compose it for piano, who cares, if the outcome is functional, productive people?

Expression of our personal pain is indeed a blow for justice: that it may not be someone else’s notion of what justice is and how it ought to be attained is irrelevant. Traumatised people have usually done enough of what other people want the way other people want it done. We don’t have to do it anymore.

And most of all we do not have to observe the bourgeois values of “privacy” that silenced many of us in the first place, and made our abuse possible.



114 Responses to “Victims, Trauma, Spinoza, and Butler”

  1. Elisabeth June 5, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    What a brilliant piece of writing and a wonderful explanation on the nature of trauma and our response to it. I shall treasure these ideas. If only I was still writing my thesis on life writing the desire for revenge I’d include aspects of this article, with due acknowledgement of course.
    You have a way with words, Jennifer that makes me hold my breath in awe. They flow from you in simple explanations about complex ideas and send my mind ricocheting in all directions.
    How important it is for all of us this idea of Butler’s of ‘permitting the thought without taking the action’. Growing up Catholic this was particularly difficult. If the thought was bad you kept it to yourself little knowing it would slip out somewhere else in unprocessed form and therefore be all the more dangerous particularly to vulnerable others. Think of all those celibate priests who have abused children. And I think of Adolf Hitler, who, as I understand it came to know – if not deny – that he had a Jewish ancestor and in his shame and vulnerability from the trauma of his own brutalised childhood, he projected all his rage onto the Jews whom he also tried not only two banish but also to exterminate, in a bid to rid himself of his own vulnerability. I could go on.
    Thank you for your generous and wise writings.

    Liked by 4 people

    • helvityni June 5, 2016 at 10:52 am #

      “The former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne has been ducking hearings over her extradition to Australia for 18 months, claiming she is too panic-stricken to show up, forcing adjournment after adjournment.”

      What about all those girls Malka Leifer abused, what kind of panic attacks are they having right now waiting and hoping for justice to be done.
      How many lives has Mrs Leifer ruined.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 10:57 am #

      Many thanks, Elisabeth, for your appreciative reading. There’s little more a writer could want.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. doug quixote June 5, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    Allowing the thought without the action, allowing the spoken or written expression without the action, allowing the virtual or staged depiction without the action – these are the cornerstones of freedom, of art and of civilisation.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 10:59 am #

      You’re having a laugh aren’t you DQ
      *Sticks up middle finger* why is there no emoji for giving the bird?

      Liked by 1 person

      • doug quixote June 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

        Why do you think that? I thought to take one of your points made en passant and run with it. Does it not tie in with our discussions of freedom of speech, of pornography, and the denying of platforms?

        What is Art if it is not a depiction of subjective truth?

        Liked by 2 people

  3. paul walter June 5, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    Yes, I think it is culminating piece, at the least a sort of state of play during a long, comprehansive investigation into human interrelativity.

    Elisabeth stole my thunder but her comment and dq’s, indicate that not just Spinoza and Butler, but we observers, can grasp the operation and dynamic of process in a space time continuum and the call of situation to patience and effort.

    DQ alluded to decentring in a comment on the previous thread and Wilson demonstrates that a adult undergoing misfortune need not necessarily respond in a victim (abject) way, but as a person who moves to the next stage to cope.. its not about “me”, its about life..which goes its own way on its own often obscured rationale and expects me to cope with my inherent weaknesses through effort.

    But I won’t go the whole hog and valorise Voltaire’s rather brutal response to late seventeenth century philosophy in the form of Candide, but draw on a comment I read from a USFB friend just before I came here:

    ok , it’s a very conservative thing, but the woman who shared it is a progressive, intelligent and educated woman.

    I actually beleive that if god existed he or she would have better things to do with their day than just zap mugs like us, even I grew out of pulling wings off flies after childhood.
    Humans may or may not make their own problems and do, or dont find solutions for them, although some times a friend in need is a friend indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • paul walter June 5, 2016 at 10:50 am #

      Didn’t reproduce the comment I wanted to share.

      Alternative Serenity Parayer.

      “God, grant me the serentiy to stop beating up on myself for not doing things perfectly, the courage to forgive myself because I’m working on something better and the wisdom to know you might take me as I am”.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 11:58 am #

        Except for the god bit, excellent advice PW.
        I’m sorry, I just don’t do god…

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter June 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

          Whether god exists or not is peripheral in this context,
          (personally, I don’t understand god phobia, if even humans have good traits manifested under fire, why not god, if he or she exists?). Do you know why people really hate “god”?

          Because, like naughty children, the fear of an adult figure capable of observation of the murky little transgressions people commit under everyday circumstances, scares the bejesus out of us. We are not “victims” totally, as you seem to say in your posting, but unfortunately, sometimes have to account for our naughtinesses, such as with time I got clobbered by a parent for tormenting my kid brother.

          Forget god. Remember the original Epicurus, who didn’t beleive in god, but wanted to live out the sort of constructive life you lead, Dr Wilson with meaning and value found in friendships and ideas.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

            I’m not god phobic, I’m more in tune with Spinoza, rejecting human projections of god while acknowledging a force other than the human, that as yet remains inexplicable to me. Spiritual, rather than religious.

            Liked by 3 people

            • paul walter June 5, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

              Spinoza was the best of them and paid a high price.

              The post Reformation ultra right were down on him for a century for his propositions, starting with the brilliant Leibniz, but Bayle and others of the early Enlightenment were ready to wield clubs on the issue of thinking to a point, let alone Voltaire, later. Back to basics, I think Spinoza’s view was not necessarily at odds with Leibniz, if you choose to read Spinoza in context. Monadism and the mechanics aspect of the universe is not the main preoccupation, for
              Spinoza, so much as what monadism implies about the scheme of things and says of Spinoza’s influence on other philosophers.

              I was always intrigued by the suggestion that Spinoza, in affect, advised people to see things from the ” viewpoint of god” and think the god question and argument from design has only been successfully dealt with Spinoza of most philosophers, because this man had the ability to detach and see things from new angles. Maybe they thought he was transgressive, but what’s life for, if not knocking off a few sacred cows.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

                Do you low, PW, that very recently the Jewish community that expelled Spinoza, (their descendants I mean) reviewed his case and decided they still think he’s a heretic and are maintaining the cherem.

                Liked by 1 person

            • davechaffeyhippie June 6, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

              Science-based spirituality for me is about finding healthy irrationality to cope better with life. A higher power isn’t required for me, but I accept that it is for many even if untrue. Raw reality is tough to digest and impossible for our brains to comprehend so some optimism, a belief that we are above average and a belief that we have at least some free will are some of the possible delusions that help us to function and helped our ancestors to survive. The next wave of skepticism and atheism needs to accept this quirk of our psychology rather than just calling all believers stupid. Shifting from destructive irrationality to useful, healthy irrationality is what the Uniting Church of Australia has done a pretty decent job at. They believe in the best bits of Christian BS and are almost as progressive as me.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

                I think of Jesus as a political activist and philosopher, don’t need the divinity thing. I don’t have a problem with others having faith, it’s just when they attempt to impose it on society that I get snarky.

                Liked by 1 person

                • davechaffeyhippie June 7, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

                  Totally, I like the Jesus activist philosopher hippie too. Let he who is without sin, cast the first Amanda Vanstone.


          • silkworm June 5, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

            Belief in god is a sign of diminished intellect.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Hypo June 5, 2016 at 9:35 pm #

              ..Amen to that.

              And religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel..
              (Blame /responsibility avoidance strategy)

              I believe the RC into child sexual abuse pretty much = game over to that little charade.
              Demonstrable consistent christian charity,delivered politically amid a whole of community approach?
              Not likely.
              Too busy gutting ‘the different’ lest they offend the ‘entitled ones’.

              Talk about own personal Jesus.


              Liked by 3 people

            • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 6:21 am #

              I often think of it as wanting to stay in that time of childhood when one believed in fairies, superheroes and the possibility of paradise.

              Liked by 1 person

              • doug quixote June 6, 2016 at 9:29 am #

                So many people who ought to know better still profess to believe in a deity. The more we know the less wriggle room there is for the belief, as the numinous is reduced to being the god of the cracks in knowledge.

                The god of the cracks in knowledge.

                ‘Faith’ is defined as a belief in something without evidence. All very well, but when the evidence is to the contrary, it is delusion.

                Liked by 2 people

                • paul walter June 6, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

                  I don’t know that anyone has yet proved conclusively that god does not exist, any more than others have proven that god does exist.
                  And let’s ponder on what is meant by god, anyway..some old guy with a stack of lightning bolts and an antisocial attitude?

                  Surely, in the wake of Christ, Socrates, the Buddha and others people get to glimpse a nuanced, a more worthwhile holistic, maybe involving someone like us when we try rather than we are just running around with a chip on the shoulder knocking off people who disagree with us.

                  If god was a nice guy, held up by dark implacable forces, who, like Simpson and his Donkey had done his (or her) best before being killed off by the System, would some feel a little more comfortable wth the concept? It’s really about our nastiness, not “god’s”.

                  Is there actually a god? I don’t know. I think I’m likely to follow the likes of Socrates and Spinoza, eventually JW in an earlier comment here and retreat to informed agnosticism, since the idea of making war on someone who either doesn’t exist or is not proven a bad guy if he/she does exist in a form we could identify, just seems ludicrous.

                  When JW talks of spirituality, that is my ambit for myself. I’d hate to snipe the wrong bloke or gal, but I had be happy to sit down and share a mug tea even with a lowlife like god, if I had the chance, although it is obviously not possible to teach a person who already knows everything much, so for god it would be a futile execercise conversing with such a wasted effort as myself.

                  But if god is god, I suppose he/she entitled to do what he or she likes, even to stooping to “talking”or even “sharing” with me through life, my mind, my conscience and if there is a being and a being who alone has mastered generosity, who am I to sneer at this consequent gift of life, or blame the man of the cloud for MY stuff-ups?

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • Hypo June 6, 2016 at 8:47 pm #


                    You said
                    “I had be happy to sit down and share a mug tea even with a lowlife like god, if I had the chance”

                    and followed up with>

                    “I don’t know that anyone has yet proved conclusively that god does not exist, any more than others have proven that god does exist.

                    Is there actually a god? I don’t know”

                    I think you’re making a case for ‘faith’.
                    (deliberate or otherwise)

                    Thats what makes ‘religious fishing’ so easy.

                    I’m 110% with JW on this.
                    *Religion >has become< the haven of bullies,nut jobs and social engineers.
                    Two faced ghouls with the hypocrisy to slam the individuals,communities and political parties calling them our for it.
                    Leeching the 2 big parties and controlling their policies at will.

                    [the royal commission demonstrates what religion has become]

                    eg; One 'particular' church has lost NO skin over this 'royal commission' because they have hidden,shredded and denied the truth.

                    The big Cohuna was too spineless to show up.He was the second last domino.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    • paul walter June 6, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

                      Hooray, put it there, sista!!

                      davechaffeyhippie “gets” it also.

                      Re Hypo, thanks for reminding me of how I butchered that previous always looks ok then looks stuffed immediately AFTER you push the send button.

                      I guess I was into the abstract side of it a bit more..churches don’t interest me except on a rainy day if the door is open and I’m outside, but am mulling over your “faith” comment, which actually has synergies with davechaffethippie’s take, which is actually a fairly subtle reversal; do you take on an anti th
                      eocracy for totalising tendencies?

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Jennifer Wilson June 7, 2016 at 7:05 am #

                      There is a militant atheism that strikes me as closely resembling the dynamics of religion.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • silkworm June 6, 2016 at 11:31 pm #

                    Epicurus disproved the existence of God:

                    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?”

                    Liked by 3 people

                    • paul walter June 7, 2016 at 12:18 am #

                      That’s if that’s what god is. You should nuance your reading of that quote a little.

                      The point I’m trying to make is that Epicurus neither asked or demanded of any other being take control of his life.

                      Respect yourself and you respect god, but think what a slippery signifier the term evil is, for a start; does Epicurus conflate evil to pain. if no pain, how is the lesson learnt?

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Jennifer Wilson June 7, 2016 at 7:10 am #

                      PW, Evil is subjective, isn’t it? Cory Bernardi believes gay sex to be evil, for example.
                      My problem with the term is that it seems to refer to something external to the human, whereas I think there’s nothing that has as wide a capacity for evil than the human species.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Jennifer Wilson June 7, 2016 at 7:05 am #

                      Ah, Silkworm, thank you. Perfect.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • doug quixote June 7, 2016 at 8:07 am #

                    Proving a negative is always a difficult task. If in 1770 I had said “there is no such thing as a platypus” I would be proved wrong by Cook’s discoveries.

                    If I say now there is no such thing as God I may be proved wrong as he enters Sydney heads in glory tomorrow, but I doubt it.

                    God is “the god of the cracks in knowledge” and the less you know the more room there is for god; Ignorance is Strength.

                    A belief in a deity is not necessarily evil in itself, but it can and has been used for evil – bear witness the Crusades, the pogroms, the Jihad.

                    How much better off we would be without religion.

                    Liked by 3 people

            • paul walter June 6, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

              Certainly that Dutch Jewish community sounds a typical t ultraist or fundamentalist claque, solely interested in upholding narrow, hierarchy-favourable interpretations. Their spiritual pal would be De Maistre who also railled at people using their minds and consciences rather than just accepting dogma and being content with being beasts of burden.

              The one true gem they produced, Spinoza, remains outside the pale, so to speak, cast like a pearl before swine by the closed-minded.

              Liked by 2 people

  4. Stewart Hase June 5, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    Neat. I only have one objection and that is an apparent conflating of trauma with victim. I have met many people who have been traumatised who are not experiencing being a victim.

    Liked by 2 people

    • paul walter June 5, 2016 at 10:52 am #

      A process like this is going to be complex. Depends what you mean by victim, by trauma by victim and by victimhood.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 10:55 am #

      Ah, well, this a problem with the term, IMO. Technically, if you’re subjected to disempowerment you’re a victim, however the word has taken on such baggage that it’s almost a matter of pride to deny being victimised.
      I don’t see any shame at all in experiencing victimisation – practically everyone does to some degree. I’d argue that the experience of trauma is the experience of being a victim in that moment, & it’s to our detriment that we resist acknowledging that, instead “othering” victimisation as something that doesn’t happen to me.
      The word has become associated with shame, where there should be none.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. davechaffeyhippie June 5, 2016 at 11:15 am #

    Great stuff. Thank you for getting me thinking. I was taught to bury or at least compartmentalise the trauma and just get on with it. My teachers have managed to get on with it by empathy reduction, reality distortion, projection, secrecy and severe addictions. I’m trying to find a better way as are many others. Also, some people are more susceptible to PTSD and complex stress disorder and we don’t know why. If the answer was simple, I think we’d know by now. Much better to accept people like me and keep working on effective support and healthy trauma-reduction strategies than casting us aside. That makes the problem even worse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • paul walter June 5, 2016 at 11:26 am #

      They are the sick ones, davechaffeyhippie, not you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • davechaffeyhippie June 5, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

        Thank you. Humour helps me and my first thought was as tax paying units driving economic growth, 2 of them are fully functional! I’ve been listening to certain politicians too much… I think Julia Gilliard put it a nicer way when she spoke of the dignity of work. That’s probably true for most people; but not all.


        • doug quixote June 5, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

          Yes Dave. Bob Ellis proposed that as jobs continue to vanish along with industries that need them that those left unemployed should be given jobs. There must be thousands of people who could be paid a wage for doing nothing much at all. Watching out for kids before and after school, checking out parking regulations, tidying parks, additional staffing for shops, all sorts of things, with wages subsidised at the dole level, or better at disabled pension levels.

          This would be a win-win : people have the dignity of a job, they are occupied and not idle, there is money for them to spend in shops and businesses, stimulating the economy.

          The powers that be should look at the possibilities.

          Liked by 2 people

          • paul walter June 5, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

            If they dropped the policing bullshit with unemployment benefit (since there are no jobs or they have been farmed out to 457 visa holders) the unemployed could head up country, restore deserted old blue stone homes in country towns in decine and help lower housing affordability (hysterical laugh).

            Liked by 1 person

          • davechaffeyhippie June 5, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

            Avoiding exploitation of a long term working underclass would be the challenge. A politically centre party should be able to come up with something that would work, but the federal duopoly has a hole in the middle.

            Liked by 1 person

      • davechaffeyhippie June 5, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

        Thanks. I’ll take a look. I’ve also been thinking about healthy, benign and destructive irrationality as none of us can be Spock. Captain Kirk had irrationality in spades including destructive. Kill or f*ck all aliens is the oft used joke. James Bond is another great example and the more recent movies have themes of the classic alpha archetype realising the path of destruction they’ve left behind; inflicting trauma & murdering sometimes maybe justifiably but often not and being traumatised by his actions. Bond’s only wife was murdered too so that’s another PTSD theme, but we don’t think of him as a victim. The failed alpha can retreat but can also become more dangerous. How should the Bond character evolve in the next movies to keep it more interesting than a dumb action movie? There are calls for a female Bond which could have great potential if done right. How would she handle a license to murder? Sorry if a bit off topic. Unfortunately I relate to pop culture icons more than philosophers and intellectuals!

        Liked by 2 people

    • Florence nee Fedup June 5, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

      One is not told to bury trauma say of a broken leg, bury it and get on with life. One gets sympathy, time to heal.

      Liked by 3 people

      • davechaffeyhippie June 5, 2016 at 5:10 pm #

        Indeed. It’s funny you mention a broken leg because I came pretty close to walking with a limp from a bicycle accident. I did get plenty of sympathy and time to heal. My next bicycle accident was less serious but more traumatic because I was away from family and friends and didn’t get sick leave so went back to work too early.

        Physical domestic violence perpetrated by a family member was dealt with by another family member by giving sympathy for the perpetrator and laying blame for plus abandoning the victim. The victim was left with short term physical trauma and long term mental trauma made even worse by the aftermath. The perpetrator avoided a conviction because the victim had sympathy for the perpetrator and dropped the charges. He was also bailed out financially by the family, he has a new job and he pretty much acts like nothing happened. I was asked to not name him which enables their wall of secrecy but his daughters haven’t been told so I don’t want them finding out on some random internet comment. In my opinion they need to be told before they start dating, but it’s not up to me. We suggested handling it all differently and tried to support the victim but we can’t right the wrongs and can only do so much. When experts talk of the difficulty of rehabilitating extremists, I can relate and I try to not fight back with extremism because that makes it worse. We sought professional advice to make sure it wasn’t us in the wrong. And all we can do is metaphorically put them in an empty gorilla enclosure and try to discourage people from getting in.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 6:19 am #

          Dave, what strikes me immediately about this story is how even with support and understanding, the victim wasn’t able to have the perpetrator charged. I suspect this happens an awful lot, and I know the complex psychology of that situation. Popularley likened to the Stockholm Syndrome, in which hostages came to care for, love & want to protect their captors.
          I hope someone tells the daughters: it’s very likely they’re aware of something even if they don’t know what that something is. Lies and secrets are so undermining for children and their later adult lives.
          Of course whoever does tell them won’t be thanked by anyone, probably. The messenger is often metaphorically killed.
          It’s an awful situation to have to stand by and just watch. Good on you for caring and bearing witness.

          Liked by 1 person

          • davechaffeyhippie June 6, 2016 at 4:35 pm #

            Thank you for your kind words. Do you have an opinion on whether the police should file assault charges rather than leaving it up to the victim? There are pros and cons of any change but I feel that it’s likely a good idea and I think is what happens in some other countries. The victim is often not in a good mental state as you point out. And it’s not easy to feel that you’re responsible for the consequences of criminal charges for someone you still have some feelings towards. The strong movement to reduce domestic violence as much as we can is great and needs to include so many things. Cultural change is slow and resisted by those those who gained power and privilege in the current culture. System changes can happen much faster and help to drive the cultural change. But system changes require convincing those in power. We hear about many reports that have been written on the topic. One was completed in QLD recently that I found. I’ll take a look at the recommendations.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

              Dave, as far as I know assault charges are brought by police and the victim then becomes their witness.
              A witness can be subpoenaed however I imagine that if he or she was uncooperative police would be disinclined to press charges, for obvious reasons.
              There’s information on this available at the legal aid website I think, or similar sites, or you could ring a legal aid office & ask about the process.
              If the victim won’t make a complaint, nothing can be done, the police have nothing to act on.
              It’s a hugely difficult situation.

              Liked by 1 person

              • davechaffeyhippie June 7, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

                That makes sense. Thanks. So in the case I was talking about, she would have withdrawn the complaint & even though there was ample evidence, the police couldn’t proceed with filing charges. The cops were taking weeks and the perp hadn’t been arrested yet. We’ll continue to support the victim who has become more socially isolated.


  6. townsvilleblog June 5, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Jennifer I’m sure it is beautifully written though I am too uneducated to understand it, and obviously too dumb to add to comments.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. paul walter June 5, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    Townsville. you have shared some of your own misfortunes with us on tricky topics.

    “Being confronted with your vulnerability isn’t an easy experience” but “expression of our pain is a blow for justice”, JW pointed out and Elisabeth, canny Elisabeth, caught on with the following take of Butler a well know feminist philosopher: “permitting the thought without taking the action”.

    You are not dumb, you are learning the game and it takes effort. Think Adam Goodes. What we have seen is the finished product in a process that would have started with a skinny kid swatted down by opposition defenders, hardly able to get a kick when he commenced..

    Liked by 4 people

    • townsvilleblog June 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

      Paul, I have always know my limitations, I fight against injustice and advocate for those who like me have not had a decent education and are stuck writing letters to editors from my life experience of being exploited by big business until I could take no more. I advocate for the underdog and those of us who are less fortunate than the rest of Australia, and like my comment to Jennifer, I do appreciate your empathy and compassion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • townsvilleblog June 5, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

        Thanks Dave, I didn’t expect the compassion, but it’s much appreciated.

        Liked by 2 people

      • davechaffeyhippie June 5, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

        Keep up the advocacy! Our leaders with God complexes need to be reminded we are all human beings and their decisions can cause harm to those without a voice. My first response was too long so I might turn it into a blog article with your comment quoted at the top. Is that okay? Thanks for inspiring me to express myself through writing as my verbal communication skills are compromised. I too haven’t read the works referenced in the article. I mostly rely on others to interpret academic works and remind me of all that I’ve forgotten. I think there are pros and cons to reading the old philosophy that predates our modern global society and definitely the Internet. Blogs and short articles are great to get a taste of ideas and the reinterpretation required for much of it. So much great writing is free to those of us privileged enough to enjoy internet access; even if it is slow through the crappy NBN!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

          Are you talking to me or Townsville, Dave? If it’s me, course you can use comments.

          Liked by 1 person

          • davechaffeyhippie June 6, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

            Townsville but thanks. Some have trouble with my writing style adding humour on serious topics to highlight absurdity. But most seem to get the point.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

              I’m missing signals everywhere the last couple of days, Dave. Probably due to brain fog induced by virus. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • davechaffeyhippie June 7, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

                That’s no good. Feel better. I’ve had brain fog for 2 years with my health problems & it’s not much fun, but my brain has gone in all sorts of interesting weird directions so that’s the silver lining to the cloud.


    • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

      For the rest of my life I’ll be learning the game & sometimes I hope I’ll come back to reap the benefits of all that education, it seems such a waste just to die with it all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter June 5, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

        Ahhh, but that strikes a chord. Really does.

        Liked by 2 people

      • doug quixote June 7, 2016 at 8:14 am #

        Yes! Just as the old man finally worked out the Meaning of Life and was about to announce it to the world, “It is . . . aaarrrggghhh!”

        “Aaarrrgghh? That hardly makes sense” said the philosophers, and argued about it for a century. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Florence nee Fedup June 5, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    During my years of being trapped in a violent marriage, I never seen myself as a victim. Could never understand why some would tell you to stop acting victim, get on with life.

    I now know they spoke out of embarrassment.

    The truth is I felt the situation I was in was my fault. I seen myself as a failure for not being able to make the marriage work. Made excuse for my husband for many years.

    After all what happens in the family stayed in the family, didn’t it. Mum’s responsibility to ensure it did. Mum;s role to make the money stretch, after all dad needed his pocket money.

    Yes, one was really entrenched in the belief that one made the bed, one lays on it.

    It was not until years later, after much study and re that is hard to accept. search on my part, the penny dropped. Yes I was a victim. No, it was not my fault.

    Why should victim’s act as if they weren’t? That makes no sense.

    One accepts they are a victim, then gets on with repairing what they can. Sadly when it comes to DV in many families, that isn’t much. Something one has to accept.

    Blaming the victim, lets society off dealing with the issues. If one is a victim, nothing one can do to change that.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

      There’s no shame in being in a situation where you’re the victim, Florence. I think it takes a lot of strength to admit we were victims, and had to work our way out of that. People have a very confused idea about the word, and use it to shame people, but that says more about their own fears than anything else.
      You have to be strong to admit you’re vulnerable, when that’s the truth. Then it’s what you do about it. I agree with you. Acceptance, then moving onto survivor, and just being you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Florence nee Fedup June 5, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

        Took me decades to realise that, When told not to act the victim, get on with life made one feel more ashamed. The other thing was being told I was strong. Didn’t believe that either.

        Today, I realise, being strong, helps to keep one trapped. If one was weak, one would have given up on the relationship at the first sign of abuse, One wouldn’t have tried to stay in for sake of the kids. (that was the worse self deception of the lot).

        One always hoped, even believed things would get better. One only had to work harder.

        I would like to pass on, never gets better. Will keep going until a tragedy steps in.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Jennifer Wilson June 5, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

          Giving up hope is bloody hard, in my experience.

          Liked by 2 people

          • doug quixote June 6, 2016 at 9:12 am #

            Florence has my best wishes. I nearly wrote ‘sympathy’ but often that is unwelcome. Her experience suggests to me that there is no one strategy that will work in every case. But before one can ‘get over it’ first you must be out of the situation. If it is ongoing, ‘get over it’ is absurd and harmful advice, and a useless strategy.

            Liked by 3 people

          • paul walter June 6, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

            I reckon Socrates would have loved that observation.

            Liked by 2 people

  9. Pru52 June 6, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    Found this article and thread really useful. I am in the process of reporting my step father who is also a church minister for sexual abuse and psychological abuse that happened over many years when my brothers and I were young. I am supported by one brother. The other states that I am going to cause more harm to too many people. How to determine the difference between breaking a very evil secrecy pact and weigh this up against revenge and harm done now. This is haunting me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Florence nee Fedup June 6, 2016 at 10:05 am #

      I am a great grandmother now. The one thing I regret was not insisting the police acted. Just too tired at the time.

      Doug, sympathy is the last thing I want or need. What I have learnt or at least believe nothing will change unless victims, yes that is what we were, speak out.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

      Oh, Pru.
      I don’t see telling the truth as revenge, and better the harm from truth than the harm from secrecy and lies. At least with the truth out it’s possible to move on: secrets and lies maintain the toxic status quo.

      It’s the abuser who has caused the harm, not you for speaking about it.

      I wish you strength, and the help of people who care for you. Very best wishes & thoughts, Jennifer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter June 6, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

        It’s an ugly thing, by the sound. Felt compelled if not to comment at least to come out in sympathy.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. diannaart June 6, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    An extraordinary article, generating a wealth of commentary.

    As our (thankfully) former PM Abbott said,

    “Shit happens”

    Such observation, such lack of insight,

    Unless people can cry, “look at me” shit remains.

    “Look at me” – others who have suffered need to know.

    It is not all about me, it is about all of us.

    Remain silent and we will never know. We will never know we are not alone.

    Too afraid to speak because we appear too dumb, stupid, ignorant. Those are words used to silence us.

    The art in speaking out is learning when to continue to rail against the pricks and when to conserve and move on.

    I am not the only one who is still learning.

    Thank you

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

      Thank you, Dianne.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter June 6, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

        Dead right, this curious insensitivity streak that so often was the give away as to Abbott’s suitability for high office, diannaart.

        Because a bad thing didn’t happen to HIM, but some bloodied piece of irrelevant, (once) walking, talking, laughing collateral damage, it was shrugged off as “shit happens”, wtf?

        Liked by 3 people

        • Jennifer Wilson June 6, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

          Do you think Turnbull is any better, PW?

          Liked by 1 person

          • paul walter June 6, 2016 at 11:09 pm #

            He’s no worse…

            Liked by 2 people

            • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) June 7, 2016 at 6:37 am #

              That was thin margarine indeed!

              Liked by 2 people

              • Jennifer Wilson June 7, 2016 at 7:11 am #

                I sometimes think he is worse. Turnbull has sacrificed decent beliefs to hold onto power: Abbott never had any in the first place.

                Liked by 2 people

                • doug quixote June 7, 2016 at 8:25 am #

                  It is an abuse of his powers as an advocate. It is one thing to know better but to argue a case so that justice can be served, it is another to know better and to wilfully argue a set of beliefs inimical to your society and nearly all within it.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • Hypo June 7, 2016 at 8:43 am #

                    Turnbull is a mega-hypo-hypohypocrite.
                    He has had more owners than a conmans homing pigeon.
                    I reckon when he looks in the mirror he wonders WhoTF is looking back at him.

                    Having said that he will probably win easily in the end.
                    The dilligaf factor alone, is worth a 5% swing.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • helvityni June 7, 2016 at 9:26 am #

                      Of course he’s worse, he knows better…

                      You are right ,Hypo, he has/ and has had lots of owners, Lucy for one and the ghost of his father in law, just to mention two of them.

                      Who’s idea was that creepy FB story about DAD and ME, do people fall for that.

                      I suppose some poor bastards think they have ‘arrived’ if they vote for conservatives, one caste up.

                      It’s not just Mal we’d be getting, but Morrison, Dutton, Pyne, Cash, Kelly O,, Bishop….Scary.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • helvityni June 7, 2016 at 9:28 am #

                      That would be your proof that there’s no god.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • helvityni June 7, 2016 at 9:30 am #

                      Oops, pushed the ‘like’ button, instead of ‘reply’.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • paul walter June 7, 2016 at 11:55 am #

                    That’s THE comment..

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • paul walter June 7, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

                      Hope Jennifer’s bug is is running its course and the rest of you haven’t caught a dose through transmission over cyberspace, commenting here…it’s how it happens, you know.

                      I’ve gone back to the thread starter and think much of importance revolves around the mid section of the posting leading to the proposition that Judith Butler offers with a description of the processes of grief and the understanding that properly managed, solutions may exist for even the darkest states of mind at the worst of times.

                      Whether life definitively offers a shovel to shift the mound of misfortune, I’m not sure, and who said life owed anyone a living, anyway?

                      But I think Butler is speaking of the challenge of getting up after being decked by some life misfortune, of demonstrating that you still have to move the mound, even with the easier task with a shovel, work can be both boring and tedious, yet rewarding when you survey a finished job.

                      To be sure, it offers a brief glimpse of the responsive psychic apparatus at work, with the appropriate functioning of “Will” within the human apparatus and context of situation, on show. It’s corpuscular, but I think there are corpuscular examples, including amongst asylum seekers, or abuse victims here, at the bosom of God’s Own Country say, at the back of of JW’s mind, who maybe is pondering Marx and the finding of a pathway for the transcribing of theory to practice.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Jennifer Wilson June 7, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

                      Well, it’s running some kind of course that now has me bedridden.
                      I’ll have to leave the discussions to the rest of you as my brain has temporarily packed up.

                      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hypo June 7, 2016 at 8:22 am #

    @ The comments aboe PW and JW about religion and ‘militant atheism.

    From my POV “There is a militant atheism that strikes me as closely resembling the dynamics of religion.”
    I have a zero tolerance on institutions who wield power (and destruction) and inflict more hate than piece, and yet claim the highest moral ground, and who have effectively successfully behaved unconstitutionally to bastardised the separation of state.A position done from outside and within.
    If militant atheism(whatever that is)takes down the corruption of our social cohesion and humanity it no better than those on foreign shores we seek to oppress for reasons based within the faux framework of this pseudo ‘separated’ state.
    The circular argument about the proof or non proof of god is really one for stoners theologians and anyone else with a vested interest in consuming time for no altruistic purpose, or making money for jam.
    If militant atheism means calling out the damaging effects of religion as a controlling force direct,subliminal and emotionally tactical, then pick me to fly the flag..
    : )

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hypo June 7, 2016 at 8:37 am #

      Reflecting PWs accurate observation of hitting the send button here’s some obvious edits
      piece= Peace

      A cut and paste went awry
      and the paragraph should read:!!

      “If militant atheism is what it takes to bring down the religion driven corruption of our social cohesion and humanity , [this religious influence being no better than those on foreign shores we seek to oppress militarily], for the reasons based within the faux framework of this pseudo ‘separated’ state, then we should bring on it on sooner rather than later.

      (Hope that finally makes more sense)If not try this>
      In other words we keep locking ourselves into scenarios driven by religious zealotry,whether we want them or not, or whether our so called leaders are religious or not.That’s how deep the tentacles are.We are constitutionally corrupted.

      Liked by 2 people

      • doug quixote June 7, 2016 at 9:36 am #

        Better the second time around, but I knew what you meant. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hypo June 7, 2016 at 10:04 am #

          [Thank goodness some coherence escaped from that post of mine.]
          I would also add that religion has so much power in politics(clearly a constitutional bastardisation) that atheists and agnostics should refrain from creating any ‘more’ space for these religious orgs to illegitimately fill.They have already eaten away far too much living flesh.
          The ‘faux fraught’ have encroached so much they are now making up stuff as they go along.Outrage ,for outrages sake.Gutsing down other peoples private lives and freedoms like baleen whales in a cloud of krill.

          Liked by 2 people

          • diannaart June 7, 2016 at 11:50 am #


            “Militant atheism” implies that there is organised atheism, which is somewhat contradictory. There are extreme atheists, once again, I would question their organisational skills being such a questioning, precocious and bloody-minded lot.

            Just a thought…

            As for whether god(s) exist – depends on who is doing the asking; the god of Abraham, the many gods of Hinduism, the reincarnation to godhead of Buddhism. If any or all of these gods exist, as described in the holy books – what a waste of energy.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. paul walter June 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    Btw, has anyone else had trouble trying to get at Jennifer’s 2008 paper? Stuffed if I can get the site to cough up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

      Here’s the link again PW. It works OK for me.

      Otherwise Google Coolabah, Universitat de Barcelona, my name, 2008/9 might work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • doug quixote June 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

        A terrible beauty, indeed. The sublime and the abject, so different yet so alike. Crime and retribution, another dichotomy yet so similar.

        If an eye for an eye is the measure the whole world would soon be blind, as Gandhi observed.

        A fine paper, Jennifer.


        • paul walter June 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

          Has me in mind of a monologue of Sam Neil’s Damien in Omen 2, where he extolls the virtues of “desolation”. Doug, I enjoyed it also, very accessible writing.


      • paul walter June 7, 2016 at 4:38 pm # there now.. my eyes are poor and I missed the little download link. Now I shall read on..


        • paul walter June 7, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

          Sorry re the flu, hoped it had ran its course, but it looks like you are at the nasty “for the next couple of days” stage. Please, please keep out of draughts and gwq.


          • paul walter June 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

            Yep, read it and glad for that- all seems in place.


  13. Hypo June 7, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    Just to close out the side thread on religion,influence and abhorrence in the hypocrisy of a cult ……..


    • paul walter June 8, 2016 at 12:55 am #

      It’s a dead fish. They won’t dare let him out of the Vatican.


      • Hypo June 8, 2016 at 8:52 am #

        Poor tootz is a bit too crook to go out.?

        Probably be cremated with shredded paper in the Vatican then?


      • doug quixote June 8, 2016 at 9:25 am #

        I’ll lay odds on a remarkable recovery if he has a chance to become Pope. Globe-trotting after he performs his first miracle!


        • doug quixote June 8, 2016 at 9:30 am #

          Or is it his second, after turning altarboys into swine? ??


          • Hypo June 8, 2016 at 10:01 am #

            3rd, (at least) hasn’t he turned credibility into bullsh*t?


            • paul walter June 10, 2016 at 10:14 am #

              Which is why they will not be in a hurry to have him under public view, so he will stay in the Vatican, a humble serving priest.

              More chance me winning the lottery than him coming back to Australia, for locals who will be embarrassed, both individuals and powerful institutional players in the shadows. Nor does the Vatican need him out in the real world with the potential of a loose cannon and magnet for bad publicity.

              He may leave Italy in a Pine box.


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