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VICTIM EXCLUSIVITY ENTITLEMENT
"You're not the only one healing here"
I want to introduce you to a term I coined as “Victim Exclusivity Entitlement.”
This phenomenon of Victim Exclusivity Entitlement, or “VEE” is when a group or segment or perhaps even an individual illegitimately claims exclusive rights to being the victim(s) of certain trauma or abuses. VEE is accompanied by an (again, illegitimate) exclusion of others who experienced the same or similar trauma or abuses.
The Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial and Domestic Violence VEE deconstruction
Before I go here, I will disclose that, in addition to certification for ADA Advocacy through John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I received training and in Portland Oregon for Domestic Violence/Sexual Violence Survivor Rights Advocacy at National Crime Victim Law Institute, which is associated with Lewis and Clark Law School. I am NOT an attorney, and anything I write hereon is absent intent or authority as legal, medical, or mental health advice.
During the Depp/Heard trial, we have seen the unconscious emergence of the awareness of VEE. Until this very trial, the public has never had such a powerful example that the paradigm of “only women can be the victims of domestic or sexual violence” is actually VEE.
When I received training in Portland at NCVLI, I was one of perhaps three males in a room full of females. I’m guessing we had 35-40 people in our class. ALL of the presenters were female. ALL of the staff presenters that I saw for NCVLI were female.
And as a student and victim of DV at the very moment I was going through training, I was negatively affected by the uncomfortable realization that these women were excluding me from the ability to pursue help, because I wasn’t part of the group that claimed VEE for DV.
The NCVLI staff and training construct used the Duluth Model Power and Control Wheel. The moment I saw this wheel, I knew something was off.
My new twitter friend, Jewel Eldora made this GIF that demonstrates the sexist and discriminatory mechanism of the Duluth Model. This is presented under FAIR USE.
As you can easily observe, all of the scenarios in the wheel paint “she” or “her” as the victim, which presumes or infers “he” “him” as the abuser.
My training at NCVLI was in 2018, and it was readily acknowledged during training (in my opinion as a virtue signal, and not as genuine) that in a lesbian relationship, the stronger or alpha partner could be the abuser. Even this was VEE in my opinion, because abuses and violence in relationship can be mutually expressed and/or experienced.
I also realized that the court system practices VEE because I regularly observe that persons with disabilities (already traumatized) are repeatedly excluded from equal access to court. This form of VEE is “That doesn’t matter here.”
I took the awkward step of pointing out my concerns to NCVLI. I even filed a Title IX complaint with Lewis and Clark Law School and the only responses I received were crickets chirping and a blowoff email, which I reproduce here (From Meg Garvin, the director of NCVLI)
It was a pleasure to meet you at SVAA last week. I wanted to personally let you know how much we appreciated your participation and honest feedback, as well as your willingness to share so much.
Your identification of areas where the very structure, content and faculty of training were contributing to exclusion is critical to us getting better so I deeply appreciate it. We are going to continue working to ensure that we have more diversity of voice in faculty and attendee.
I also appreciated you sharing how incredibly frustrating it is to have no avenues to push through critical system change. Fighting powerful structures is something that we too find frustrating. Our mission is about trying to change the criminal justice system’s exclusion of victims and we are constantly trying to find avenues to create that change; sadly victories are long fought and few. Our hope comes from knowing there are others fighting too – some inside the system and many like yourself outside the system.
Please know we took your feedback to heart and we deeply appreciate it.
If you can find any resolution in this email, you are much more interpretive than I am. They “took my feedback to heart” but didn’t do a damn thing to change their bias, heuristics, or discrimination.
This was basically, thank you for your complaint, and it sucks to be you…
I moved forward, knowing that the discrimination and exclusion were not dealt with, and would be continued.
For anyone brave enough to come forward with a complaint, and especially for someone who was at that very time trying to recover from DV, the response I received from NCVLI and Meg Garvin was de-valuing and dismissive, and this response has a chilling effect on the ability of excluded victims to come forward.
The results to date of the Depp/Heard trial, are that there have been long-awaited acknowledgements that men, too, can be victims of domestic violence and abuse. This deserves loud, raucous applause. It’s about time!
To state it plainly, NCVLI, in using the Duluth Model, and in being presented with their exclusionary issues, and then choosing to do NOTHING substantive to resolve this quickly and reasonably, have harmed every male victim of domestic violence and abuse nationwide. If the national training entity doesn’t care enough to correct the exclusion (that she admits in her email), then allow me to say that NCVLI has greatly harmed society with its continued errant action. The entire experience left me embarrassed to have had the courage to bring it up, only to be ignored. Hell, I’m mopping up this mess every time I advocate for a disabled person in court. It is likely that NCVLI has trained these courts that exclusion of affected issues is acceptable.
MEN CAN BE AND ARE OFTEN VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. This needs to be screamed. Men need to be held. Men need to be nurtured out of this trauma. At the very least, men need an equal access seat at the table of discussion on this matter. The violence of feminist radicalism exacerbates this problem by deftly and constantly invoking Victim Exclusivity Entitlement. FUCK THAT. It’s time for this to be reconciled.
Women do not have exclusive rights of entitlement to claim being victims of DV or SV. And yet, there are years of VEE that have left men outside of the walls of survivor rights resources.
Another Example of VEE - PTSD
PTSD was introduced to the DSM-3 in 1980. It was associated generally with wartime trauma and its aftermath.
The current DSM-5 still has PTSD listed, and the progression of understanding is that PTSD can be sourced from events other than military battlefield experiences.
In my own life, I was beaten severely as a child, and I had other childhood traumas that I generally avoid discussing publicly. I've carried response patterns of PTSD forward through multiple adult sources, and I've been diagnosed with C-PTSD, or complex PTSD.
I've lost count of how often, when discussing PTSD, and disclosing that I am affected by it, the very next question is often "What branch did you serve in?" or "Are you ex-military?"
This form of VEE encapsulates the idea that if you're not military or if your trauma is not based on military experience, you're not allowed to be diagnosed with or assert PTSD.
It is embarrassing when someone asks these VEE type questions, and my usual and customary response is “Do you believe that military persons are the only persons who have PTSD?”
There are many sources of trauma. The late Dr. Karin Huffer spent 30+ years of research on how the legal system abuses litigants, and the PTSD that sources from what she termed “legal abuse syndrome”. She was my friend, mentor, and professor.
Just recently, I have been advocating for a client whose attorney in Connecticut, perpetrated multiple abuses on his disabled client. This happens everywhere, and it is usually swept under the rug. (Not on my watch) From my observation point, judges are comfortable in being abusive to disabled litigants, as a general rule. This is repugnant to justice, which is why I find my life’s purpose in changing this construct.
My goal in life is to call out these abuses, shine the light on the cockroaches that cause them, and exterminate the very idea that the abuses should continue.
VEE In Personal Life
An example of VEE in personal life is when siblings grow up together in abusive homes. Although trauma may be more severe for one or another of the children, the experience of having to observe this, coupled with the fear of further potential harm, could plausibly be very traumatizing to any sibling that may have experienced less physical harm. This presents as mental trauma, and ALL of the people that experienced this, in whatever way, should have the ability to work through to healing.
Saying “well, I was beat, and you weren’t” could be a form of VEE, because as children, watching a traumatic abuse is horrifying. There are all kinds of voices in one’s head that arise. Will this happen to me? I’m all alone. I don’t know what to do. The trauma response is a nightmare, for BOTH the one being physically abused, and the sibling that may experience less physical abuse, but has to observe this activity without a way of escape. While both are horrifying, and there may be differing levels of experiential trauma, all parties traumatized deserve to walk through the healing, and the first step is to say “Yes, you deserve to be heard, held, and healed.”
The final thought on this presentation is that the world needs more compassion. Especially now.
There are other examples of VEE that I will save for later articles, but we need to realize that claiming exclusivity of entitlement as a victim is disempowering to others, if it minimizes or excludes their ability to be validated, and seek healing and/or a path forward.
Stop for a minute and realize that everyone around you is dealing with something. Connecting with acknowledgement and pursuing change can go a long way towards healing.
I encourage you to call out Victim Exclusivity Entitlement and work to be more inclusive in your processes and practices.
As Certified ADA Advocate, and also as Victim/Survivor Rights Advocate,
P.D., JAY V SHORE