PTSD Spirituality: Big Lie #3: PTSD Victims Asked For It and Deserve It

The third big lie about PTSD is that someone, somehow, chose to contract it.  This view argues that we somehow deserve our PTSD.  Two versions of Big Lie #3 one might hear are as follows:

Of course she got raped, didn’t you see how she was dressed!?

All soldiers today are volunteers, so what did they expect?

I have heard people express both of those sentiments and you may have heard this sort of thing as well.

The Third Big Lie is Un-Christian and Blasphemous

These declarations are used to avoid our responsibility to the Common Good, our responsibility to one another.  It is used to deny compassion, it is used to take delight in other people’s suffering, and it is used to justify not compensating or providing healing for those who are wounded.  What it really comes down to, when we say such things, is that we play God with other people’s lives.  We decide if they are worthy of our compassion.  This is not only un-Christian, it is explicitly anti-Christian and implicitly blasphemous.

It is un-Christian because it denies compassion to others and denies their human worth.  It reverts to the tribal priorities that Jesus refuted in Mark 3:31-35.

It is blasphemous because we pretend we are God.

Multiple Flaws Infest the Third Big Lie about PTSD

Of course, the Third Big Lie about PTSD has several flaws.  Some of the flaws are biological and economical, others are spiritual, and as usual, Compassionate Deficit Disorder makes yet another appearance on the PTSD Awareness Stage.

Compassion Deficit Disorder, Yet Again!

Once again, we see Compassion Deficit Disorder raise its ugly head.  The individual who thinks along these lines is saying that the person who got traumatized brought PTSD on themselves.  In this cold-hearted view: Since they brought the victim brought distress upon themselves, we don’t have to show compassion or help them heal.

The Compassion Deficit Disordered person will say:

Women should know better that to dress “provocatively” – it will lead to sexual assault trauma and PTSD. 

Young, unemployed, people should know better than to volunteer to be a soldier or Marine – it leads to traumatic experiences and getting PTSD.

What is the payoff for this attitude?  As in the Big Lie About PTSD #1 and the Big Lie About PTSD #2, we discover people who believe that with the right rhetoric, the right excuse, they can be released from our responsibility to help people who need compassion and healing.

This position means they can abandon those who need care and feel good about it at the same time.  It means they can “save money” by denying people the treatment and compensation they deserve.  The religious chanting of their “small government” mantra means we don’t fund suicide intervention or adequately treat the mangled bodies of our servicemen and women.

Given the country has failed to take proper care of the physically wounded (just Google “Walter Reed Scandal”), it is small wonder they have turned their backs on the psychologically and spiritually wounded.  If your god is money, then it’s quite the bargain.

Eventually we quit asking for help.  If we are damaged severely enough and blamed strongly enough for our wounds, then we can conveniently commit suicide and save even more dollars for the tax payers.  Every PTSD related suicide is another sacrificial offering to those who embrace Compassion Deficit Disorder.

Simply put, people with Compassion Deficit Disorder want us to give up hope.  They just want us to go away and die somewhere, but not too close to where they might see our body (it might remind them of their policies and how people further up the chain may view them and their own families as expendable).

Do Soldiers Deserve PTSD Because They Volunteered?

Most soldiers enlist for the economic incentives attached to military service: socialized medicine, early retirement, and college tuition and stipends.  They did not enlist to contract PTSD and the opportunity to get run through the VA grinder and be denied a rarely given disability payment.

Ever since Richard Nixon abolished the draft we have had an All- Volunteer military force.  Some folks state that would-be soldiers should have seen the PTSD as a job hazard and not complain when they get it (Yes, I have heard that one, too).  Oddly, the ones who promote this line act as if all the PTSD cases from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam only affected the volunteers and not the draftees.

I could inform the person afflicted with Compassion Deficit Disorder that some people have entered the military out of desperation to get medical care for family members.  Indeed, I’ve known a few people who enlisted so their family members could receive the socialized medicine only available to the military and members of Congress (as that same Congress strives to deny complete health care to the rest of us).

In the deepest recession since the Great Depression, some enlist because there is no other work that pays close to a living wage available to them.  Many people enlist so they could earn college benefits.  And, some enlist out of some call of patriotism, or escape from their family, or as a challenge to see if they can hack the military life.

Some even enlist for the attractive retirement package or to qualify for American citizenship.  These are all good reasons to enlist and I am glad that these economic benefits are offered to our nation’s military.  But they are all economic reasons for joining and in no case does anyone join up so they can get PTSD and a “free ride” with the VA.

Regardless, if someone volunteered or not for military service:  Don’t their lives retain a basic fundamental value?  Should we not care for them?  Volunteering for military service ought not to strip us of the ability to feel compassion for the soldier or veteran with PTSD.  Every life has value, even those of our service members.

In case the last paragraph is not self-evident, we will examine a hypothetical case of “What if they do deserve it?” later on in this essay.

Are We Just Hound Dogs Going Woof Woof?

There is a biological flaw to the third big lie as well.  It applies to the statement that when a woman dresses a certain way that she should expect to get raped.  And, if she dresses with that expectation, then she must really want to be raped if she dresses like that.  So if she gets PTSD, well, she earned it…probably wanted that, too.

The idea is that if a man sees a woman baring a lot of skin that he then cannot help himself: He has to attack her – as if it were a law of gravity.  It is as if we are puppets and have no control over our actions or responses.

We are not so hormonally uncontrolled that we must rape someone because they dress a certain way or are seen walking around outside without a male escort.

Yes, I do wish some folks would wear a few more clothes.  But even if they were nude, it does not license someone to sexually assault them.

Even if someone purposely dresses in a provocative manner, I don’t have to drag them off into the bushes under the delusion of some sort of hormonal imperative.  I am the one who chooses my actions; I need not be a slave to hormones or poor fashion sense.

We are not dogs, unable to pass up any breeding opportunity. 

If we deny people PTSD care because of how they dressed when they were assaulted, then perhaps the more bestial elements lie within ourselves and not within the rapist.

If all human beings are Children of God,

                  then they remain so no matter how they dress. 

We are not biologically pre-programmed to sexually assault someone once they have enough of their body exposed to us on the street or at a party.  If someone displays themselves over abundantly by not wearing enough clothing, perhaps I should avert my eyes or leave.

But What If They Do Deserve IT?

There are also spiritual flaws to the third big lie.  We can see this by setting up a hypothetical case and then comparing what Jesus would do versus what a member of the Taliban (or any American who suffers from Compassion Deficit Disorder) would do.

 Here we go!

                              What if…

What if someone has engaged in behavior that results in PTSD and they should clearly have just known better?

What if they made an obviously stupid decision and get PTSD from it?

I will leave it up to your imagination just what that particular action might be, but let’s just suppose we all agree that it was really stupid, they knew it, and they did it anyway.  Then what?  Can I then finally have permission to deny them compassion and healing? Can I, huh? Please! Can I?

Enter Jesus and the New Testament

For the Christian, we are not called to evaluate how someone started to suffer; rather, we are called to help those who are vulnerable.  And, if you are suffering, then you are vulnerable.

Indeed if we wish to live out true religion, as James 1:27 tells us, then we need to live pure in the world and care for widows and orphans.

In the ancient world, taking care of “widows and orphans” had a literal and a symbolic sense.  Literally, it meant those without parents or a husband (since this was written in a patriarchal environment, adult males are not included in this literal sense).  But symbolically, widows and orphans represented anyone who was vulnerable, regardless of gender, age, marital, or parental status.  This is what James writes about and it is an idea also found in the writing of various Hebrew prophets.

So, biblically, if someone is vulnerable, if they are suffering, then

                    true religion obliges us to help them. 

If we deny them, then we choose to toss away the scriptural injunction to love one another.  For those who put money over people, this is a no-brainer.  But for those who think the Bible has something to say about how we live, then if we deny compassion then we deny biblical teaching.  It is another situation where we find implicit blasphemy.

In John 8:2-11, Jesus forgives the woman caught in adultery.  Under the law at the time she could be stoned to death.  The Gospel account indicates there was no doubt of her guilt.  The violence addicted and self-righteous people would urge her legal execution by stoning.  Jesus saved her life, even though she was caught in the act, guilty, and they even had a law on the books clearing the way to kill her.

Taliban Lack Compassion

Currently the Taliban and al-Qaeda stone women who are caught in adultery (for some reason they don’t seem to stone the men).  To deny people who are vulnerable any compassion, to deny them forgiveness, rates right up there with displaying the same attitudes and behaviors we see in the Taliban.  Do we really want to be behavioral soul-mates with the Taliban? Yikes – I hope not!

Jesus Chose Life and a Chance at Renewal

Jesus opts not to have the woman killed.  Rather, he saves her life, and at the same time he does not condone her crime of adultery.  He tells her not to sin again.  Through compassion and respecting the sanctity of life (including the life of a sinner) Jesus provides the woman an opportunity to lead a new life.  For more on this, see the Compassion of John 8.

To be Pro-Life means more than only honoring the sanctity of life for the unborn and the innocent. 

To be Pro-Life also includes respect for the sanctity of life of those who suffer, are rendered helpless, and who sin. 

Thus, Jesus provides the answer to our question about what if someone knowingly does something stupid and/or enters a situation that is harmful.  Jesus calls on that person to abandon the lifestyle that brought about the sin and he honors the sanctity of their life.

An honest Christian (indeed, any person) should also strive for the attitude Jesus displayed here.  Rather than revel in being able to kill someone we all agree did wrong, we should endeavor to preserve life, not invoke violence, and allow that person to explore a new life.

One of the fundamental teachings here is that we, like Jesus, can’t deny compassion to someone even if they brought the bad situation on themselves – as did the woman caught in adultery.

In John 8, Jesus forgives the Woman Caught in Adultery.  Even though she is clearly guilty, Jesus has compassion on her.  Jesus admonishes those who are eager to punish her or see her killed for her crime.

In Sum: Compassion does not have to be denied someone who has become traumatized simply because we may not approve of how it happened.  For the Christian,

this moment becomes an opportunity to discover if they are Christ-Centered or merely Self-Centered.

The Three Big Lies about PTSD Cause Further Alienation

If we refuse compassion to people who suffer then we dehumanize ourselves.  And, we further dehumanize the person we should have had compassion upon.

The PTSD-Identity tries to convince traumatized people that no one cares about them, that they are simply meat to be chewed, digested, and disposed of.  When we deny that PTSD exists then we help the PTSD-Identity convince the wounded and afflicted that their lives have no value.  If someone is traumatized and contracts PTSD, then we should show compassion.

We should not squirm and try to make excuses why we don’t have to care about people who are not related to us.  If we embrace the big lies about PTSD, then, we become accessories to alienation and dehumanization that may terminate in suicide.  And, we are better than that.  Money and low taxes do not have to be our gods.

Life has value, regardless of how it became damaged.  

Your life matters.

[I apologize to those who have written me or sent questions to which I have not yet responded.  Sparing you the expensive details (the bills are starting to come in); I had another “medical adventure.”  That combined with my disabilities and work commitments have forced me to place last the very people whom I should place first, the traumatized and those who care about them.  I am grateful for the understanding that many have shown to my limitations.  Lately, I get a couple good hours a day and that is usually spent trying to earn a living or attending to healthcare.  Hopefully, with summer around the corner, I can be more responsive to those who write or ask quesions.]

Semper Pax, Dr. Z


  1. While I did not contract PTSD through military sacrifice, but rather through sadistic childhood abuse, I have been told may lies and tried to commit suicide several times as a youngster. The lies I have been told were, among other things, you bring this on yourself. I have refused to brush it under the rug, I have refused to allow the lie to win and have been told by everyone in my very large family that it is my fault for refusing to let it go. If I would stop thinking about it, stop dwelling on it and for the love of all that is good, stop talking about it then I would be ok. It is my fault because I choose to think about it. I choose to dwell of it and while I am held accountable for not pretending it didnt happen, the perpetraters of the abuse are not to he held accountable at all. It has been an extremely frustrating journey. But there is hope. There are those who care. Most importantly there is salvation and mercy available to us all from the Lord above. God bless you for also being willing to speak.

    • Hello Dawn,
      We can’t brush the traumas and resultant PTSD under the rug (as much as some of family might want us to do). It is plain wrong and it is unhealthy. People want us to abandon our own history and story by never speaking about what has occurred to us. If we do that, the memory forms like a toxic cyst, breaks and we get even more thoroughly poisoned.

      To be made aware of your suffering, both then and now, means those who tell you to be quiet have to make a compassion decision. Most people want to avoid those decisions and will bob and weave to avoid the reality of your story. Our tragedies as well as our joys are part of us. We are stronger because we survived the tragedies and did not become the same kind of abusers like the ones who abused us. By talking about it, you help the abuse cycle to cease.

      While not exactly the same as your suffering, you may want to look at Jessica Stern’s book, Denial: A Memoir of Terror. I am supposed to review this book and have been reading small smidges. I find it very powerful and affecting, so if you do read it, do so with some caution. But she seems to suffer a similar sort of denial that you described.

      However we got our PTSD, we have all made sacrifices. When others deny their validity it only makes the pain of the original suffering that much worse. I appreciate that you have not let this go.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z


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