myths about family scapegoating abuse

5 Myths About Family Scapegoating and Recovery

This has been a very difficult week for me personally, and an even more difficult week is to come. Without getting into all of the details, both of my dogs are very ill (with differing symptoms) and because I live in a rural area, they will each need to be driven to a specialist two hours away for further diagnostics.

Given that writing an article is not possible this week, I decided to do my first 15-minute YouTube video in which I speak to FSA adult survivors directly about some important recovery issues, and that’s what I’m sharing with you today. The link to the video is at the end of this post. If you find it helpful, I’d love to hear from you in the comments (here or on YouTube) so I know to keep doing more psycho-educational videos like this one. I’m also working on adding captions to the video for the hearing impaired, but as this can be an involved process, it may take awhile for me to get those edited and inserted.

Speaking of pets: For many of us who are family scapegoating abuse (FSA) adult survivors, our animal family members can be extraordinarily important to us. They can provide us with unconditional love. They accept us as we are. They allow us to love and care for them. For some adult survivors of FSA, animals gave us our first experience of safe connection. Those of us who grew up feeling unprotected and vulnerable might feel protected for the first time in our lives via a loyal canine friend (I know this was true for me). So when we lose our animal companions, these losses can hit us hard. This is one of the topics I hope to address in a future article (FSA adult survivors and their connection with animals), and I appreciate that several of you have written to me to suggest the same.

Regarding our human connections: I wanted to take a moment to let you all know how much I value our connection here – your kind comments and words of support and encouragement regarding my book and my FSA research these past few years – and now, my new FSA Education YouTube channel – mean more to me than you could possibly know.

I also appreciate hearing that my new FSA public service announcement as well as the FSA Affirmations video have been helpful or felt very healing to so many of you. (If you haven’t seen these yet, you can check them out on my YouTube channel). This type of feedback lets me know where to put my time and energy in regard to the type of free resources I offer to FSA adult survivors and interested Mental Health practitioners.

Regarding today’s video offering: It has been my experience (after assisting FSA adult survivors in their recovery for the past twenty years; immersing myself in the data collected from my FSA research; and going through my own FSA healing process), that the five myths I’ve identified and am highlighting via this video can impede one’s full healing from this most painful form of family abuse. You may not agree with me that these are all myths and/or my views may not reflect your experiences or reality. I therefore encourage you to “take what you like, and leave the rest”.

WARNING: If you find this video triggering or upsetting, I suggest you take a break from it and watch it another time – or not at all. If you found something of value from it, please ‘like’ the video via the ‘thumbs up’ so YouTube’s algorithm pays attention to it and features it in searches so that other FSA adult survivors might see it. You may also subscribe to my new FSA Education YouTube channel (tap the bell after subscribing to be notified of new video releases).

You can access my 5 Myths video here.


Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Rebecca C. Mandeville coined the research-supported terms 'family scapegoating abuse' (FSA) and 'family scapegoat trauma' (FST) and is a recognized thought leader in understanding the consequences of being in the family 'identified patient' or 'scapegoat' role. She also created the FSA Recovery Coaching℠ process. Her best-selling book, 'Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed', is the first book ever written on FSA. Rebecca serves as a YouTube Health Partner via her channel 'Beyond Family Scapegoating Abuse' and is also active on Instagram and Facebook.

12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Dear Very Helpful Roxanna

    On reading your write up I was triggered to recall lines of poems & quotes like….

    Success by Ralph Waldo Emerson….

    “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded”

    ….and his famous quote…

    “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else that is the greatest accomplishment”


    The Desiderata…. by Max Ehrmann…

    “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interest in your own career, however humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time”

    So for the record Roxanna…you like Rebecca…should know that I “just one person” have & do breathe easier just knowing you exist & therefore you ARE successful & HAVE succeeded…!!!

    Please continue being yourselves & doing what you do. Despite how one may feel we are not alone in our experience when we are sharing ourselves with each other!

    Thank you & keep up your great work!

    Love Respect & Peace

    Jane x

  2. I do a WHOLE LOT of research in regards to the way that families can emotionally traumatize us. I am no exception to this.

    One might think and believe, as I used to think and believe, that when the family is not only big, but also filled with people who work in behavior and therapy, that those people are the very last ones, given their training and licensing, and in some cases, ordination, would be the ones who would have a terribly negative impact on our lives.

    I am Hawaiian, and it is no secret that we are raised with our cousins, no secret that our aunties and uncles become another set of parents. This was the truth of me, of my childhood, and at this stage in my life (52) it is very easy for people to dismiss the fact that what was planted in our heads and constantly we were reminded of, at least in my family, was that we were akin to stupid little adults who had no say so and were demanded a whole lot of. We were expected at that time to do as we were told, to hold and express no opinion about how what we were told affected us. I will state right now that the one energy that was prevalent when I was a kid was that we were all here on the fast track to death and so we better do everything that we can, that the adults in our lives at that time told us was what we needed to do, OR ELSE !

    When I grew up to do what I do (astrology and life coaching), it was because I also knew that it would be a lifelong thing, healing from my childhood, that would be the very thing that would and will and does allow me to tell other people that they are so not alone in that FEELING, even as it is no longer a physical reality. Physical or not, it is a reality for a lot of us. I was told by the licensee in my blood line that I am not good at what I do because she did not see what it is that I have done in order to help other people, even going so far as to laugh at me.. She told me that i would fail, that what I was doing was wrong, and that there were no people who needed my kind of help (the sort that tells people they are not alone) and that I ought to just give up. I will never do that.

    These people used EVERY BIT of their religion, their wants and needs and desires, and everything else they could, including their vitriol when we “Failed” them, in order to make us feel like what was being projected on to us was absolutely our doing, even though we knew otherwise. Even as this was the truth, what is also the truth is that those adults in our lives at that time in our lives were WRONG for using our being naive so that they could get their way out of us. When things did not go their way, it was nothing for us to hear that it was because of something that we, as kids, did or did not do.

    This is the reason that I feel like I do from time to time and why it is that I feel like those people did me no kind of good, even though I know that at the same time, they may have also been feeling like I do, all the time, and just had no idea that it was totally the way that they were brought up by other clueless individuals.

    Thank you for writing this book and making those videos – they will become a very important part of my own research.

    1. Hi Roxanne, cultural insights are so valuable, particularly when talking about family scapegoating abuse (FSA) – thank you for educating us on what you experience in HI. I am sorry that your work and your contributions – as well as your passion to serve others – was dismissed by that licensed family member. You obviously rose above this and aren’t going to let anyone stop you. The person who had the greatest impact on my life to this day (nearly 40 years later) was a poet. The wisest person I have known or will ever know. And no higher education – just profoundly in touch with archetypes and eternal truths. I wish you well in your future endeavors in the healing arts.

  3. it is hard to share love with fsa, harder to give than receive, any vulnerability to someone not loving us back that reminds of the abuse we don’t want and had no voice to say no to is threatening; not having had a voice and now to have one but not be able to find the words to express no is the challenge. Love itself is what anyone wants. To push love away is self-injuring, yet it becomes a poor solution.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Fred. I have experienced the pushing away response too and agree with you that it is self-injuring (although perfectly understandable). I have been no contact with my siblings for five years. Working with a therapist has eased the anxiety and pain quite a lot, and still it is hard for me when I feel vulnerable to a friend or my husband or my children. When anxiety over whether I will be loved back rises, the pain is physical, a stab in my chest, and it takes real time and effort to calm myself. Pushing people away when I actually want to be closer is my habitual response in moments of intense anxiety. Healing may take the rest of my life, but at least I am no longer being abused, at least now healing is possible.

  4. Oh my goodness! Your comments about having pets added a new recognition about my survival. Yes! We had kitties and a series of dogs I played with. Then when I was about 10 we got 2 puppies that were siblings, so my sister & I each had our own. That doggie was definitely my companion.

  5. Someone asked on the YouTube page whether a person can be scapegoated by a husband and adult children. I definitely was scapegoated by my abusive “ex” and was even aware before I married him that my family of origin had set me up for it. On a deeper level, though, I had been so convinced that I was always “wrong” that I set aside my better judgment and married him anyway.

    1. Yes, it definitely happens. And you are right, so often “we go to what we know”. In families, one parent might ‘teach’ the children to scapegoat their spouse via their own scapegoating behaviors, and even reward or encourage this type of behavior toward the other parent. This may or may not tie into a family projective identification process. I hope to get an article about this as well. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      1. This definitely happened to me. My husband (now ex, thank goodness) joined in with my family scapegoating me when it benefited him. It was before I knew about FSA. In hindsight it makes so much sense. At the time it was devastating. Rebecca – You’ve helped me so much. I’m so sorry about your dogs. I understand that pain. Sending love your way.

        1. Thank you, Star. So many things make sense once you understand family system dynamics that play out in FSA. Glad you found my work and that it has been helpful in your recovery. And my dog is better today! Waiting for lab results but it may be a blown disc in her back – she is much better once we got her on anti-inflammatory meds. Crossing fingers!

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