Being a scapegoat is very traumatizing. They are invalidated, devalued, degraded, and punished by the abuser on a daily basis. This level of abuse fosters many emotional struggles, such as cognitive distortions, maladaptive coping behaviors, and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All of these struggles make escaping, healing, and rebuilding from the trauma of being a scapegoat feel nearly impossible.
If possible, a scapegoat should go no contact with their abuser to regain control over their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. This will allow them to develop healthy trauma responses and reconstruct their sense of self in such a way that allows them to live a happier and healthier life.
In this article you are going to learn about the benefits of going no contact with an abuser. We’ve also created a short video (see below) that outlines the characteristics of a scapegoat. It is important to be mindful of these characteristics when reading through this article to grasp a comprehensive understanding of the reason that going no contact is so important for scapegoats who are in the position to do so.
A Short Video About the Characteristics of a Scapegoat
Why Is It Important for a Scapegoat to Go No Contact?
It is important to remember that scapegoats are chosen because they accidentally trigger the suppressed negative emotions that abusers have, such as a fear of abandonment, jealousy, self-loathing, and a sense of inadequacy.
A simple example of this would be an abusive father, who grew up being told that he is weak by his father for expressing his emotions, using his son as a scapegoat because the empathy and compassion that his son shows triggers the abusive father’s fear of being weak.
In other words, abusers view scapegoats as a negative extension of themselves but they don’t have the emotional intelligence that is required to manage the negative emotions about themselves.
Instead, they use their scapegoat as a repository for all of their negative emotions so that they can attack the parts of themselves that they find unacceptable without damaging their fragile sense of self.
This level of abuse is going to destroy the scapegoat’s sense of self and ability to conceptualize their own perception of reality. As time goes on, the scapegoat is going to become dependent on their abuser to construct a sense of self.
This is so dangerous because while this is happening, the abuser is projecting all of the negative emotions that they have about themselves (e.g. shame, fear, sense of inadequacy, self-loathing) onto the scapegoat. What this means is that the scapegoat is constructing their sense of self out of the negative emotions that are being projected onto them.
This is the reason that going no contact is so important. The separation from their abuser is going to be difficult for the scapegoat just because their abuser has had so much power and control over them, but over time the scapegoat is going to be able to develop healthy trauma responses and reconstruct their sense of self in such a way that allows them to live a happier and healthier life.
Going No Contact Allows You to Develop Healthy Trauma Responses
A trauma response is the way that we cope with traumatic experiences. Unhealthy trauma responses will hold victims of abuse back from living a happier and healthier life because they’re much more likely to experience exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, and confusion.
It is important to note that just because a scapegoat has gone no contact, it doesn’t mean that they automatically have healthy trauma responses. Having a healthy response to trauma is something that needs to be worked on daily.
Sadly, scapegoats who go no contact are going to have plenty of opportunities to work on their response to trauma because it is common for scapegoats to notice that their abuser’s condescending voice still follows them around for years, sometimes even decades, after going no contact.
The four types of trauma responses are flight, freeze, fawn, and fight. When a scapegoat goes no contact with their abuser, they get a really good opportunity to work on developing healthy trauma responses.
A flight response is when someone literally or figuratively runs away from the trauma in their life. An unhealthy flight trauma response could be someone who oversleeps to escape the trauma in their life.
This would be a figurative form of a flight response. Or it could be someone who gets up and sprints out of the room every time they experience something that triggers their trauma. This would be a literal form of a flight trauma response. A healthy flight response would be to engage in a hobby or activity that one finds therapeutic such as sports, art, dancing, singing, cooking, or reading.
A freeze response is when someone responds to trauma by freezing up. A simple example of this would be if someone experienced something traumatic that made them feel like they couldn’t speak or move so they clam up in a traumatized silence.
A healthy freeze response would be one using deep breathing, relaxation skills, and/or meditation skills to slow down their thought process so that they can make an informed decision that keeps them safe.
A fawn response is when someone responds to trauma by using people-pleasing behaviors in an attempt to keep themselves safe. In abusive relationships, an unhealthy fawn response often manifests in the form of one neglecting their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs to make sure that their abuser is taken care of.
A healthy fawn response would be one increasing their awareness of their own emotions, validating both themselves and their needs, having empathy and compassion for themselves, and developing firm boundaries that protect their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
A fight response is when someone responds to trauma with an urge to have power and control over others. This is a very narcissistic trauma response that ends horribly for both the responder and their victim.
Unhealthy fight responses often look like physical fights and aggression, yelling, narcissistic rage, throwing things, and property destruction. A healthy fight response would be setting firm boundaries, removing oneself from a traumatizing situation, or even exercising (e.g. boxing, wrestling, karate, etc.).
Going No Contact Allows You to Rebuild Your Sense of Self
There’s a really helpful section that victims of abuse should write down for themselves from a book named The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. In this book the boy is leading his horse through the woods and says to the horse, “I can’t see my way through.” The horse replies, “Can you see to take the next step?” The boy says, “Yes” and the horse says, “Just take that.”
This is exactly what is required from scapegoats when rebuilding their sense of self after going no contact. Healing and rebuilding is a very long process that needs to be taken one step at a time in order to be successful.
In all honesty, healing and rebuilding a sense of self after the abuse that scapegoats experienced can be incredibly traumatizing. The reason for this is that the abuser has built the scapegoat’s sense of self out of all of their own negative emotions. It is horrible and abusive, but it is still a sense of self.
Healing and rebuilding requires the scapegoat to destroy the sense of self that the abuser created and replace it with a happier and healthier one. But this takes a lot of hard work over an extended period of time so scapegoats are often left without a sense of self for a while. This can be really hard to manage which is why taking it one step at a time is so important.
Once a scapegoat who has gone no contact has been able to develop healthy trauma responses, they are going to be free to reconstruct their sense of self. What this looks like is reconnecting with their goals, dreams, thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, direction in life, and core values. They are going to be able to work towards a happier and healthier life without their abuser’s condescending voice holding them back.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
If a scapegoat is in a position to do so, they should go no contact with the abusive people in their life. It is going to allow them to develop healthy trauma responses that keep them grounded throughout the healing journey and it will also help them reconstruct a sense of self that allows them to live a happier and healthier life.
With that being said, going no contact isn’t always an option. There are many victims of abuse who can’t escape their abuser. Our articles How to Go No Contact When You Have a Child Together, How to Go No Contact When You Live Together, and How to Go No Contact When You Work Together have a lot of really solid alternative strategies that vicitms of abuse who can’t go no contact with their abuser can use to protect themselves.
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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
Mandeville, Rebecca C. Rejected, shamed, and blamed: Help and hope for adults in the family scapegoat role. Rebecca C. Mandeville, 2021.