PREVIOUS : Bystanders (#1b)
FAMILY bystanders – In many alcoholic / narcissistic systems, the 2 broad reasons for ignoring ongoing abuse & neglect are :
1. Personal DANGER : This applies mainly to the spouse &/or children of the physical & sexual batterer (usually the active addict, but not always)
If either an adult or child tries to object to or comment on obvious abuse of any kind, the perpetrator will smack, punch or otherwise beat whoever has the temerity to point it out – even if it’s indirect or mild!
2. DENIAL : Most immediate as well as extended members of severely dysfunctional families (the adults) are so thoroughly entrenched in the Toxic System that they can not or will not acknowledge Emotional & Mental / Psychological abuse done by other members.
If a child / teen complains, they’re either ignored, blamed or attacked as selfish & a troublemaker
✐ they behave in the same abandoning / neglectful ways, so they see nothing wrong with how others in the family behave
✐ it’s how they were mistreated in their childhood, so are convinced it’s the normal & right way to interact in all relationships
✐ they desperately need to keep the dysfunctional family ‘mobile‘ in tact, so they won’t have to face their own wounds, AND to not lose the ‘world’ they know (S & I).
So, recovering ACoA who start objecting have to be bullied or ostracized.
Self-justification OF Harmful bystanders
“I don’t know what to do / It’s none of my business / I don’t want to get involved / I have enough troubles of my own / I tried once, but got nowhere / I don’t want them to be mad at me / I want to keep a good relationship with them / It’s not really that bad, & children are resilient”….
♝ Audience modeling – bystanders copy how others are reacting. “No one else did anything about it, so I didn’t think about it”
♝ Trivialization – “unserious labelling” = under-estimating the seriousness of abuse or an emergency, AND
“familiarization” = seeing the situation as a so-common occurrence that everything is considered normal
🔻 OR, the bystander admits there’s a problem :
♝ ‘Busy Working’ priority – but stays focused on their own life & work needs, instead of making time to help
♝ Compliance with norms – but is overly concerned with the rules of their society which conflict with helping behavior
♝ Dissociation – but distances themself from the victim & the victim’s distress, either as ‘incident dissociation‘ (not involved with the abuse) or ‘relationship dissociation‘ (a non-friend of the victim)
♝ Embarrassment Association – but is embarrassed for the victim – since others are looking at him/her – so won’t join the audience, to not embarrass the victim further
♝ Responsibility transfer – but does not take any personal responsibility, feeling that others should take that on (family, friends, authorities….)
Bystanders are also affected. Watching others being assaulted, bullied or sexually harassed is not a neutral experience. Anyone repeatedly witnessing abuse inflicted on others, over time, will also be deeply injured. The bystanders who never intervene or don’t report ongoing violence – of any kind – may end up as traumatized as the victim. (MORE….)
This is a familiar long-term damage seen in siblings who grew up in alcoholic & domestic-violence homes. They’re often plagued by approach-avoidance conflicts, uncertainty, anxiety, fear & guilt. (Explanations)
Children’s Stress Reactions can include:
⚡️Anxiety about telling anyone about it
⚡️Fear of having to associate with the victim, the bully, or the bully’s pals (shame)
⚡️Feeling powerless to stop it
⚡️Guilt for not defending the victim
⚡️Pressure to participate in the abuse
⚡️Worry about also being victimized
Abuse Victims‘ scores for after-effects were in the post-traumatic stress disorder range.
Bystanders‘ scores were “comparable to the severe levels of stress” (PTSD) seen in survivors of natural disasters.
Comments from bystander-study-participants exposed to bullying, racism, homophobia, physical abuse, or sexual harassment (brief or lasting for years) included : “I tried not to talk about it, I felt angry & irritable, I had trouble falling asleep….. ”
When interviewed, participants’ heart rates & sweating were also monitored, which revealed emotional distress.
RESULTS show that bystanders are also likely to need help to heal from abuse exposure.