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In this article, I invite you to a joint journey and not necessarily simply to the depth of the marital relationship in the relationship between the victim side and the attacker side. Most of the time we are used to putting the emphasis on the effect of the attacking party on the attacked party, and sometimes we choose the opposite emphasis.


Sometimes it seems convenient for us   to divide the parties into the aggressor side and the attacked side, controls and is controlled, conqueror and conquered, into victim and attacker we are used to a dichotomous language with linear logic.



Not an easy challenge ahead of us because I am going to create a meeting between the victim and the aggressor. I open a dialogue between them, and offer continuous movement between them and deny the attacked party a state of fatal immobility - I try to enter in a second article before the acquired and chronic impotence takes over the relationship.


I'm trying to wake up the 'victim' from the sacrificial spell.


For years I have been treating men who behave violently, at the Glickman Center for the Treatment of Domestic Violence in Tel Aviv.   I have treated battered women in a shelter for battered women and their children, and decades of guiding men's circles,   At first it was clear and orderly to me who is the violent side and who is on the victim side, who is in control? And who is the one being controlled?


For many years I accepted the dichotomous division into aggressor and victim. I also accepted, the assumption of separate treatment on the attacker's side   and separate treatment on the attacked side. I cooperated with  the split, and it's fine.

In the traditional gender discourse, it is customary to create a dichotomous division between attacker and attacked. And of course and as expected, usually the man would be in the role of 'attacker' and the woman would be in the role of 'victim'.


Looking back on my childhood, my mother and father and my family taught me throughout my life, about the relations between the sexes, and for the sake of the matter - about the relations between the 'Minister of Defense' who has the short fuse (my father) and the 'Minister of Education and Welfare' who lacks the fuse (my mother).


The division in my nuclear family was supposedly very simple and clear in the question   Who is the aggressor and who is the victim?. 


But in this article I try to mess up the convenient and artificial order.   invites you to see my parents as joint 'victims' of a culture they were born into that instilled fear and anxiety in them. A culture that places the male son  in a position of ruling lordship where the father of small children  is prevented from converting the needs of dependence and love towards the alienated rule of male control and anxiety. And in contrast, my mother,   was encouraged from her childhood to give up her ambitions to advance in the public sphere, and was tamed to give up her emotional needs within relationships.





Every day in the therapy groups I hear from dozens of men who behaved violently the familiar narrative - 'A woman builds a woman destroys', 'I'm here because of my wife', 'This is what she asked for'   and more_cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b- 136bad5cf58d_ A host of victim narratives.


In this article I offer another direction to refer to the victim side of the relationship. I want to turn the attention to him.


It is important to emphasize - the article is not about women as victims. but on a defense-attack mechanism called 'victims'. (occurring in men and women)


I argue in the article that, paradoxically, a therapeutic approach that does not also transfer responsibility to the victim in the marital relationship and helps him examine its destructive effect on the relationship, leads   to the freezing of the patriarchal gender order.


One can of course see the discourse about the existence of aggression in the position of the victim as a discourse deprived of empathy, stricken with a judgmental tendency towards him. However, it is important for me to emphasize that in this article I am not dealing with the phenomenon of violence against women as a social phenomenon,   and from that it is clear that I do not intend to justify or reduce the responsibility of the aggressor for his violence.  


The article obviously does not refer to situations of rape or street violence. or violence by parents towards their children. And it would be dangerous to listen to him from this place.


The article aims to describe ongoing dynamics that occur within marital relationships.


My goal in this article is to propose a different way of thinking in the therapeutic approach to the victim position, which is of course valid for both women and men.


Also, I do not intend to propose a symmetrical or egalitarian structure between the attacker and the victim of the attack. 

taking off...


In recent years,   couples suffering from violent behavior, which included a repertoire of disrespect, humiliation and aggression, came to my clinic. Watching the "choreography" created between the couple during the therapeutic session -: how do they fight? How do you attack? How do they complement? - changed many of the prejudices I had   in the field. These encounters prevented me from the natural tendency to produce a dichotomous division of aggressor and victim.

The negation of the polar division between attacker and attacked gave birth to an alternative approach, which leads to see the whole of the couple, as well as the whole found in each of the parties, that is, in every attacker there is a victim, and in every victim there is an attacker.   


It seems that the split between the two parts of the equation, attacker and victim, only serves the fear of looking at the whole, and especially moving from a place of blame to a place of taking responsibility.


In other words, the very dichotomous division we make into a complex reality, determines the violent role system. I claim that the therapist must teach the one who is in the 'victim' position precisely about his aggression and this recognition of the victim's aggression is paradoxically   an empowering action for him.


In order to heal a marital relationship affected by violence, we need to get out of the traditional gender linguistic matrix, and we are required to create a new language.

Working with women who suffer violence from their partners and with men who suffer and are hurt by their violent and domineering behavior, I saw how difficult it is for each side to define themselves in social terms - 'battered woman',   'violent man'. Both sides seem to have united in their opposition and I believe that this opposition touches on a real essence that must be strengthened - they do not want to see themselves as labeled and unable to move within the relationship.

Sometimes without noticing it, we the therapists can help the couple to freeze in a clear division of roles, thus we help them to deepen their sense of helplessness in their ability to heal the relationship.


At the same time, I have met many men who behave violently as well as women who suffer from violence, who chose to identify only   with their own victim narrative.

I find many men   who behave in domestic violence who tell their story as a story   with victim narratives in which the man usually tells about the tantrum, as an act of self-defense against the woman's aggression.


Out of all the years that I have been treating men with problems of violence, I have come to a simple conclusion - that victimhood functions as a defense mechanism that preserves the status quo in the man as affected and not as influencing. Sacrifice is a defense against one's responsibility in relation to the reality of one's life. Is it different from female victims?

I will try to describe and explain the complexity of the victim position through the participation of a 'violent man' in one of the groups.

The guy studied law and was accepted as an intern at a large law firm, as an intern   with the founder of the company.   The attorney   set an hourly wage and a certain amount of hours for the intern, the intern agreed and began his work, all according to the law.


After several days   the senior lawyer   asks the intern, in addition to his work as an intern, to serve as the lawyer's driver for the period since his driver's license was revoked, the intern agreed, more days pass and the employer asks the intern Let him send his children to kindergarten, and let him come to do renovation work at his house.

The intern agrees. The first month ends, the intern is waiting for a salary, the employer does not pay the employee a salary   the employee is not compensated.


The second month at work begins, the intern suffers from financial problems, his debts multiply, his roof is literally leaking, and the electricity in his house threatens to cut off, the employer asks the intern to come and complete hours arranging files even on Saturdays, to work overtime, and the intern does and is silent, the second month ends, and the employee's salary is not is paid and the employee does not compensate here and does not ask for anything, inside the employee's thoughts are raging, the intern feels exploited and humiliated.  This goes on for another month, the employer's rudeness worsens, the employer curses the employee, and humiliates him in front of customers, the employee bows his head and continues to work like this for half a year, if we look at the employee we will notice that his back is bent and his face Off, if we look at the employer we will notice that his back is bent and stiff and his face is gray  off.  

Who is the aggressor here?


After all, it is clear and visible that the boss behaves with violence, rudeness and malicious bullying.


But what language will we use to describe the intern's behavior?


Doesn't the intern's consent to be in such an abusive relationship teach something about the intern's aggression towards himself?


But  is it possible that the intern is also attacking the employer for allowing such relationships to exist? That is, there is a mutual relationship between them.


When an intern cooperates with this oppressive structure without protest or a clear boundary, he actually worsens the employer's 'disease', when he indulges the employer he actually makes him more and more approachable and tyrannical. I am not claiming symmetry in this case. But I claim that there is a reciprocal relationship between them, a mutual addiction.


I am putting you   now into two violent houses, where no hand was ever raised physically. And I again invite to expand the question   Who is the one behaving aggressively?

Imagine a family dinner, the father, mother and children sitting around the dining table. The man came back nervous from work, the woman tried to cook food for him that he would like, the man tastes, his face shows disgust, the woman looks at the man, the man throws the plate with the food on the   floor, the plate breaks, the food splashes. The woman gets up and quickly takes a broom and cleans the floor with practiced movements, the children are frozen. Their shoulders lifted a little. There is a gentle tremor in their bodies, their breathing has changed to short and flat.  The man spreads a layer  thick of butter on bread, as a protest against the unpalatable food and eats quietly with faces trying to be sealed. The children eat quietly and have difficulty swallowing.  The mother tries to smile, the mother tries to laugh, the children laugh forced laughter, only the family dog barks like a stranger has entered their home. The next day the woman goes to her mother-in-law and learns to prepare food for the man in the hope that he will like it.


After all, it is clear that the man behaves with severe and degrading violence that should not be treated with any kind of patience or understanding.


But what about the woman in what language will we refer to her?

Along with empathy and compassion for her, is it possible to consider and suggest to her that perhaps her passive and lecturing behavior is aggressive?  


If for a moment we hold the word aggression without panicking.  Is it permissible to ask in the situation described, the question - is the woman aggressive towards herself?


Perhaps, by the woman's consent to these degrading relationships she is betraying herself and creating a life of worthlessness for herself?  


Perhaps, from another direction, does the lecturing behavior   of the woman, rewards and encourages the violent control of her partner, thus causing the worsening of her husband's disease of violence, what language shall we use to describe this pattern?


Is it possible to consider that by agreeing to live such a life she exposes her children to severe aggression, are there deep questions about responsibility?


The woman in the example tries to sweep and create a virtual reality for her children that everything is fine, that life is beautiful and thus   doesn't it provide them with a healthy experience of recognizing the reality in which they live, maybe this is a position that attacks the actual reality?  and helps the couple not hold their own parental responsibility?


Does  without meaning to,  educate her children to aggression, to gender concepts  distorted and, to the lack of recognition of violence and the provision of legitimacy _cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b -136bad5cf58d_for aggression.

I agree that the word aggression for this behavior is outrageous, after all, the woman is bound within a family-political-economic structure where the game is neither equal nor symmetrical. And the more patriarchal the family culture, the more the woman   is imprisoned to the point of actual danger to her life if she dares to break through this 'prison facility'. I don't really   judge her.


But a second before we close the listening door.  At the therapeutic level, at the level of interpersonal relations between the man and the woman, is it not necessary to observe its dramatic effect on what is happening? A second before they freeze her   motionless under the word - 'victim'.


Is it possible that we will agree that her behavior is defeatist, that the mother suffers from severe and painful self-abnegation, or will we agree that she has a deep sense of inferiority,   and that her approach to dealing with violence in her family is fundamentally wrong, and She may have difficulty Deep in setting boundaries and protecting herself and her children. And we may even agree that the way she willingly relates to her partner's violent control disease causes it to worsen.


In what words will we describe these destructive patterns that will empower that woman?


And what will happen if we give up pity, and from a compassionate and assertive position we help her   to reconnect with the emotion of anger, we help her make friends with the aggression and assertiveness that exist in her, maybe this will give her the strength to break the 'cycle of violence' to which they are addicted?

It is clear that the word aggression needs to be changed to another word, but what is it? Victims are on the other side of aggression, but it seems that there are   between them   areas of meeting, overlap and cooperation.

It is possible that at the linguistic level a completely different nomenclature is required for this. But I find   that the use of the word aggression clarifies and intensifies parts of the behavior of   the victim, it helps him think about himself and reconstruct his own narrative as an influencer and not only as an affected._cc781905-5 cde- 3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_


Let's meet another couple.


A woman routinely calls her partner during his work. The man was sitting and therefore did not answer. Five minutes later she calls again. The man did not answer. Three minutes later she calls again and the man did not answer. The woman sends a text, the man does not respond.  The woman calls again  and the man does not answer.  A minute later the woman calls again, leaving an angry message on voicemail.  The man suffers greatly from this behavior and so does the woman. If he is not available  - the woman   will attack him   with harsh words.   The story ends with this   that the woman drives to the man's place of work, shouts and the man is silent in shame. After the event, the man chooses to be available for his wife all the time, even if he is in the bathroom or in an important meeting - he will be available for her.

Who is the attacker here?


After all, here too it is clear that the woman behaves in a domineering violence towards her partner? Are we clear about the victim position in the man?


The woman is not aware that she is having anxiety attacks, and therefore does not take responsibility for them. The man is unaware that he is making an alliance with his wife's anxiety attacks. By agreeing to be the soothing side, he turns himself into his wife's anti-anxiety medicine.  The use and dependence on this 'drug' will increase and will begin to manifest itself in other areas of the couple's life. This is a destructive addiction. None of the parties in the relationship should be in the position of calming the anxieties for fear of the angry outburst of the anxious party.


Not only are they both victims of violence, but they both become a dual system of aggression, because not only is one the one who suffers from aggression, but the other is its most loyal agent.


In this case the wife attacks her husband by refusing to see him as a subject with independent needs unrelated to their relationship. On the other hand, her partner, through his   passivity, attacks not only himself, but indirectly also his wife and hence also their marital system.  By renouncing his needs, he reinforces his wife's selfishness and severely damages the marital system.

In conclusion...

The addiction to the victim position that I encounter on a daily basis in my therapeutic work with men and women  is one of the elements that preserves the patriarchal marital-family status quo. It seems that both men and women tend to take comfort in the victim narrative. 


The responsibility of the victim in these situations is one - to strongly refuse   this distorted couple dance, not to agree to the possessive worship of the attacking party, to stop pleasing and rewarding the attacking party,   not to take responsibility for The fears and anxieties of the attacking party, and not being in the role of an anxiety-reducing pill in the marital system.   


Otherwise, this pattern will create a dangerous and violent sado-masochistic marital dependency, and will create an illusion in the attacking and controlling party that everything is fine at home. This is   a situation where the victim, in his own passivity, hides the actual reality from the eyes of the attacking party, out of fear of his outburst.  This passivity is destructive. It fixes the attacking party in its position and weakens the 'attacked' party in its ability to produce change in the relationship - acquired helplessness. 


The attacked 'victim' needs to wake up no less than the attacking party, and take immediate responsibility for agreeing to the current division of marital roles.  It is important that the attacked/victim side understands that where there is fear love does not grow. The attacked party must begin to deal with his fears, his difficulty in setting boundaries, his wrong perceptions and beliefs towards relationships and intimate relationships. To learn how to love and accept oneself deeply and unconditionally and to establish oneself as a subject whose desires, opinions and essence must be taken into account.  


The victim must deal with the deep aggression towards himself, which is hidden in his submissive behavior.


Where one party in the relationship takes all responsibility for himself, he frees the other in the relationship from taking responsibility for his part.

Many people are afraid to take real responsibility for their lives and behavior. They choose the path of blaming the other, searching for a sense of harmony that will come from outside them.


We protect ourselves from change through the hope that the other will change and adapt for them.  I meet many people, men and women, who stay in violent relationships out of a sense of hope that one day the other will understand and change. How tragic, how sacrificial and above all purposeless.


The choice of a violent life based on relations of use and control over another, is a choice of a way of life that has a simulated feeling and experience of certainty, stability, and control.


This is a game with clear and strict rules. There are clear rules in a relationship and family, there are a lot of predictable mistakes that can be made in this game, and there are also known punishments in advance, a life of violent routine, which, as strange as it may sound, has a kind of security.

The attacking party will continue to accumulate within himself   mental tension of various kinds, will return at the end of the day to the human property that he mistakenly thinks he owns, will throw himself on the attacked party. The sense of trust and basic security, listening and empathy in the marital system will go and crash,   in a process that is very predictable. The sexual attraction   will ebb and flow, something that will worsen the mental and physical tension that will accumulate.   The attacking party will accuse the attacked party of emotional distance, stinginess, lack of passion, without taking responsibility for the effects of his violent and disrespectful behavior on the intimate space that the couple shares. 


However, when the controlled party cooperates with the controlling party, then both agree to play on the same playground, both agree to the rules of the game, and choose together for years to play a repressive game devoid of creativity and joy.


As the years pass, both will be bruised both mentally and physically in a tragic alliance that is difficult to dissolve.


Just creating a new language between the tired ends of the patriarchal culture in both men and women, who are already tired of being addicted to the marital blame games - "Is it hard?! Be in my place for a whole day, and then we'll talk...".


Men and women who choose to come out together from the shackles of the patriarchal culture that causes men to convert their needs of dependence and love into control and rage. And for women in general who forget their own assertive power and independence.

Format for bibliographic citation (APA):

Ashman, T. (2010).The aggression in the victims - an attempt to reconstruct the victim narrative [ [electronic version]. Nadela on 24/10/2010, from the website  articles -


Towards a new reality, a new alliance between the sexes, which produces an egalitarian dialogue and peace between opposites.


From victims to responsibility - thoughts about victim behavior and covert aggression

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