Stayers stay for a multitude of reasons, some of which may seem cowardly to The See-ers and The Leavers:
1. They are blind to the betrayal; their own and others.
2. They have too much invested emotionally, financially, culturally, politically, socially to see and to leave.
3. It flat out costs too much to see.
Keep in mind that seeing and leaving requires much more than staying and keeping the status quo; that victims also see and stay with individuals and institutions that betray them. “Betrayal blindness is a survival mechanism” (Freyd & Birrell, 2013).
Boy, I’ll say. I have engaged in decades of it.
I fear that we demonstrably demonize others when we do not take the time to understand that it takes immense time, courage, cognition, and a billion baby steps for institutions and individuals to become courageous enough to “see.”
Some never do and are blind guides.
This phenomenon of betrayal blindness is as old as the phrases, “It is the woman you gave me,” and “am I my brothers keeper?” We shun sight of our own lack of oversight, we shirk responsibility for those entrusted to us, we wash our hands and we are writ on the hallowed halls of history as eternal cowards.
Victims themselves rewrite the ruin, “he didn’t mean to,” “it was my fault,” “he must love me,” and so on, blind to the brutality committed against not only their bodies, but their persons. They cannot afford to know what they have known.
Their beautiful minds protect them thus.
This issue of betrayal trauma by individuals and institutions is so much more complicated than anyone of us give it credit for. The individual and institutional machine is powerfully potent in coping and maintaining stability of the status quo.
Change within and without is a courageous act.
It takes time and courage to for the individual to know what he/she has known. It is a slow dismantling of dissociation; a stepwise coming too out of the sedation of sexual abuse; an unthawing from the frozenness of trauma.
The betrayal is staggering.
It will likewise take time for institutions to come to the truth of their own complicity in the face of predation in their midst. It takes humility to listen to the stories of the slaughtered and courage to share your power/platform on behalf of the brutalized.
In the words of the #TRC “Getting to know the truth will be hard, but reconciliation will be harder.” First comes the knowledge of the truth.
We are not there yet.