People who hurt others — who hit, who touch, who yell, who control — we know they are liars. They lie and act and put on a show that they are regular, kind people. But we know they lie.
Someone once said to me, “There’s nothing I can do to help my sister. All she does is lie to me. I’m tired of it.”
There’s something you need to understand about victims and lying. Victims often lie for several reasons. First, it’s a defense mechanism against their abuser. We learn to say the right things, even when we have to lie. Whatever it takes to appease the abuser. Sometimes it’s something ridiculous, like what might have happened to the last glass of tea (“I didn’t drink it. It went sour. I wanted to make some fresh for you.”), and sometimes it’s more extreme, like saying you didn’t see a family member that the abuser has told you not to see.
Lying helps victims stay out of harm’s way, and yes, it sometimes backfires, but what typically happens is, the victim becomes a better liar.
Secondly, victims lie to the outside world for many reasons. Perhaps the abuser makes the victim do so, or maybe the victim doesn’t want anyone to know he or she is being hurt, or even that his or her decision to be with that person has turned out to be a bad decision.
Victims will also lie because it helps with coping. If things don’t sound as bad as they are when talked about, the victim can convince him or herself that everything isn’t that bad.
When stuck in a life of abuse, with seemingly no way out, victims will do whatever it takes to survive. That means a lot of lying.
If they want out, you think, why don’t they just tell you the truth?
If it were that simple, they would. But victims fear their abusers. Abusers make threats that they often follow through with. The victims know this.
I was once arrested for my ex-husband and still kept my lips zipped and denied – and lied! – to the police officers because they didn’t have him in custody. And even if they had caught him, I knew he’d get out one day and know I spoke up. I’d be in trouble.
Fear keeps victims silent, and when victims aren’t silent, they are possibly lying. To maintain self. To keep their dignity. To survive.
It’s not about you. Don’t stop wanting to be there for them. Don’t let what you know is a lie stop you from being the person they can turn to, even if all they share is one big lie. When they’re ready, you’ll be there to hear the truth.