Destructive Blame–the–Victim Emotions: They Stick Like ‘Krazy Glue’

By Jeanne Sarson | Nov 29, 2011

Over several 100 individuals have responded to our questionnaire, ‘What are your thoughts'.[1,2] It is made up of a list of violent acts that victimized persons speak of enduring. Respondents are asked to decide that if many or all of the listed acts were inflicted onto one person would the respondents consider the violent acts to be abuse or torture. In other words, would the person so harmed have suffered abuse or non-state torture?

Derogatory name calling and put downs were included in the list because these are constant tactics of perpetrators. These two forms of verbal attacks were included because of the long lasting emotional fallout these cause. When ‘slut’, ‘whore’, ‘cunt’, are hurdled at a person with malaise along with screams of being ‘good for nothing’, ‘bad’, and ‘can’t do anything right’, to list but a few examples, the intent and purpose is to do harm. Consideration must be given to the reality that these verbal attacks are heard over and over and over, for years and years, and years. These verbal attacks sink into the emotional core of the victimized person causing Self-esteem destruction. These wounds are the hardest to heal. Self-destructive emotional wounds have the tendency to stick to the core of one’s thoughts and emotional feelings about one’s Self like krazy glue, creating the potential to unconsciously jump in to sabotage the victimized person’s lack of belief in their potentials, in their Self-confidence, in their beliefs about them-Self.

To illustrate how this works I have drawn the following little story script. I’ll set the story line:


Scene 1: Entrance. Image your-Self walking across the stage to deliver a speech to 1000 people seated in the audience.

Scene 2: Catastrophe. You stub your toe and fall flat on your face in the middle of the stage; your speech papers go flying.

Scene 3: Embarrassment. Gathering your-Self up and sorting out your speech papers you walk to the podium. Your emotional embarrassment is visible because you blush; your cheeks and neck are beet red and your body flushes with this emotion of embarrassment. Therefore, you are aware emotional feelings such as embarrassment can produce a variety of physical sensations. Over the next few days as you think less and less about the catastrophe the embarrassment emotion and accompanying sensations fade.

Scene 4: Five years later. Back on the stage in front of the audience you retell your catastrophe story. As you retell you can feel the emotional memory of embarrassment rising to the surface of your skin, you may even blush a little. Although the emotional memory is not as strong as it was initially the emotional embarrassment has stuck—much like krazy glue.

This is how derogatory name calling and put downs work—they cause destructive emotional responses that stick like krazy glue. This is why torturers use these blame-the-victim tactics; they know these verbal and emotional attacks cause Self-destructive consequences in those they dehumanize. Just image being forcedly stripped naked, being stared and laughed at; being whipped, burned, punched, kicked, and at the same time being called ‘good for nothing’ and a “useless piece of meat’. And, at the same time image being raped, gang raped, gun and knife raped, and when the torturers are ‘finished’ being thrown aside like a “bag of garbage”, and told you “deserved it”—the words of many women retelling of their non-state torture suffering.

Torturers forcedly use these blame-the-victim tactics because they realize that if those they torture internalize these emotional Self-harms then they may/will eventually believe that they did indeed deserve to be tortured, that they were/are to blame, that they were/are bad, therefore become so ashamed and guilt ridden that they will never tell on the perpetrators. This of course is what the torturers strive for—they strive for the security of silencing those they victimize. This feeds the torturers’ ego that they are superior and untouchable, and free to continue to function with impunity.

Societies support perpetrators when the culture takes on blame-the-victim attitudes. Such attitudes are enforced by questions such as: Why did she stay? The question should be: Why did the torturer do what he/she did? Acts of torture are planned and intentional. These acts are not random.

It is possible for victimized persons to heal blame-the-victim wrongful destructive emotions and attitudes they were forced to internalize; initially this healing demand is constant but with attention these wrongful destructive emotions can be undone. Society can help. One simple step is to challenge the “Why did she stay?” message by asking aloud, “Why did the torturer do what he/she did?”

Some answers are:

1. Because they have great pleasure exerting absolute power and control over another human being that takes the victim into a state of captivity;
2. Because they derive great pleasure mixing many forms of physical torture with forms of sexualized torture;
3. Because they have great pleasure seeing the terror in the eyes of those they decide to torture;
4. Because they have great pleasure exerting domination by taking those they torture to near-death; 
5. Because they have great pleasure in enforcing servitude and/or a state of slavery in those they torture; 
6. Because sometimes they can/do force those they torture to perform other crimes, for instance, drug trafficking, involvement in sexualized exploitation such as torture-pornography and/or pedophilic pornography, or into being victims of human trafficking from which the torturers derive money or other benefits. 
7. And if there is more than one individual perpetrator such as a family/group of like-minded perpetrators they develop a voyeuristic bonding which lends justification to their acts of non-state torture in the private/domestic sphere.


[1] To view the questionnaire see: feel free to participate by completing the questionnaire. 

[2] A sample of the questionnaire and responses is included in this paper, see: Sarson, J., & MacDonald, L. (2009, Winter). Torturing by non-state actors invisibilized, a patriarchal divide and spillover violence from the military sphere into the domestic sphere. Peace Studies Journal, 2(2), 16-38. Available


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