The perpetrator doesn’t get to decide how long the victim should grieve. The process of grieving is inside each individual. Everyone will be affected differently.
The perpetrator doesn’t get to decide how quickly they should be forgiven, as if when they are finished thinking about their action everyone else should forgive them too. No. They do not dictate when they should be forgiven. They do not control another person’s forgiving process.
The perpetrator doesn’t get to decide the short term or long term actions or reactions to a victim’s healing process. This is where we see an increase of manipulative behaviors or outright threats when the victim begins to realize that they have inherent power to do something for themselves. The perpetrator’s power relies on stealing power from others, complacency, and silence.
The perpetrator doesn’t get to have a say over their victim’s psychological process. They do not get to dictate where the trauma gets stuck or how long it takes to work it out. Often in relationships when this happens, mention of the trauma is uncomfortable to the perpetrator, and therefore the mention of it or symptoms thereafter is often met with more attempts to control or suppress.
The perpetrator doesn’t get to go on being the perpetrator. Each and every one of us has at times been perpetrator as well as victim. And each and every one of us has the responsibility to own our own behavior. We need to do the mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical processes. We need to attone. We need to understand that healing does not come through more demand or through a means of escape (religion included).
We live in a dominator culture, and thankfully the awareness of that is on the rise now, but we still have a long way to go. Men have historically been more violent, but it is the repression of authentic masculinity and femininity, and the emphasis on domination and control in the patriarchal system that has lead to this, and women are not exempt as we have learned to adopt dominator methods to attempt to gain control and power in this model.
This is so pervasive that unless one truly wills himself to change, and does the work to become aware of their patterns of domination, they will by default perpetuate. In my experience, it is uncomfortable to admit that you have been the perpetrator, but only while you are clinging to the dominator model as the only way.
bell hooks says in her book, The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, & Love, “No man who does not actively choose to work to change and challenge the patriarchy escapes its impact. The most passive, kind, quiet man can come to violence if the seeds of patriarchal thinking have been embedded in his psyche.” I will add: the most loving man, the father, the man who is aware of his shadow, the man who goes to the men’s groups, the man who is aware of his mother wound - even these men will come to violence. It will happen, because this is the dominator culture we are rewriting now. It is default. Let’s make this conscious.
It also is important to note that over-identification as a victim will not help to rewrite the cultural narrative. This is where we get “all men” and “all women” finger pointing. Each person is responsible for how they have behaved and how they have moved through it. Each person is responsible for unpacking both the trauma that came before an event of perpetration and the event itself.
This past week, I co-hosted an event where the men in the circle were asked to write held judgements of women down on little slips of paper, and women were asked to write down judgements of men on little slips of paper. Then we put all the slips of paper into one basket. As we read each one aloud, we asked every person in the standing circle to take a step forward if they had ever been the perpetrator of what was on the slip of paper, and nearly every single time, nearly all of the men and women all stepped forward. Both. All. Taking accountability and meeting together to find a new way.
We are here in a new time, where personal responsibility is allowed, where your healing is welcome. If your shame of your perpetration is clouding your behavior, change it. Own it. If not, you will, by default, continue domination regardless of any attempts to subdue, avoid, or deny.
If you are not happy with how you’ve behaved or the feedback people are giving you about how you’ve behaved, you can, and need to, take action. When you do, you break the dominator model in your own life. Thank you for doing that. It benefits the whole.