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Why Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA) Merits Global Attention

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In the intricate tapestry of family dynamics, there exists an overlooked, devastating phenomenon concealed in shadows – Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA). FSA is like a silent, insidious stalker that preys upon vulnerable family members, leaving deep scars that often go unnoticed and unrecognized. In this article, clinician and researcher Rebecca C. Mandeville addresses why FSA warrants our collective attention, and what we can do to begin to effectively address it as a society.

FSA’s Impact on Individuals

Scapegoating in families occurs when one family member is unfairly singled out, blamed, and shamed for the family’s problems or dysfunction. In family systems marred by multigenerational trauma, addiction, financial troubles, and/or mental health issues (including narcissism), one family member becomes the ‘scapegoat’ via pathological Family Projection processes, resulting in their bearing the weight of the family’s collective blame and resentment.

But that’s only the beginning of the story when it comes to family scapegoating dynamics.

The consequences of being scapegoated by one’s family-of-origin are profound and enduring. Imagine growing up feeling like you’re inherently flawed, unworthy of love, and destined to fail. How about having your sanity questioned and being called “crazy,” “emotionally ill,” “mentally ill,” or “a liar” by family members when you dare to challenge a false family narrative? Or being told that you’re “difficult” or “too sensitive” or “can’t take a joke” when you are the target of cruel jokes and sarcasm?

Having to had to endure such behaviors throughout childhood and at times into adulthood, child victims and adult survivors of family scapegoating behaviors will often battle low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, complex trauma symptoms, and a persistent sense of alienation from others, which can affect them life-long.

How My Research on FSA Began

My journey into the heart of FSA began with my own personal experiences and observations. Later, as a licensed Family Systems therapist and University Professor, I encountered numerous clients and Grad students grappling with the aftermath of being scapegoated within their families.

The effects of scapegoating on children and adult survivors sparked a curiosity that eventually propelled me into years of rigorous qualitative research, culminating in the identification of the dysfunctional systemic phenomenon I eventually named Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA), as described in my introductory book on FSA, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed: Help and Hope for Adults in the Family Scapegoat Role.

In publishing my introductory book on FSA, my primary intention was to emphasize that scapegoating in families can in fact be a form of individual and systemic psycho-emotional abuse that can have a devastating impact on child victims and adult survivors.

It is also important to note that FSA is not always ‘just’ psycho-emotional. It can be physical as well. For example, I’ve had reports of adult siblings physically assaulting the scapegoat target, including being pushed down stairs or lunged at and beaten. My article on Family Mobbing highlights some of the more aggressive aspects of FSA that were shockingly prominent in my original Family Systems research.

Scapegoating can also occur as a result of sexual abuse, whereby the perpetrator needs to ensure their victim is not a believable reporter should they ever “tell the (family) secret.”

FSA Gains Global Attention

My research on FSA has brought global attention to a form of abuse that often thrives on secrecy and shame. By unraveling the dynamics of FSA, I have been able to identify patterns, risk factors, and interventions to support FSA adult survivors in recognizing what type of abuse they are suffering from – and needing to recover from.

The FSA research studies I’ve conducted to date have also revealed alarming prevalence rates of FSA across diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, underscoring the universality of this issue. It transcends cultures, races, and socioeconomic statuses. Therefore, continued global efforts and collaboration are essential to combat this pervasive issue. Whether it’s in suburban America or rural India, the trauma inflicted by FSA leaves indelible marks on individuals and communities alike.

Today I’m pleased to share that my FSA research tools and methodologies are being used around the world – most recently as far away as Zambia, where an FSA-related study is currently being conducted among University students there. Knowing that my work on FSA is now having global reach and impact will hopefully reassure adult survivors of this long-neglected, under-researched form of systemic abuse that what they have long been suffering from is at last being recognized within the Mental Health field as well as in Academic circles world-wide.

Advocacy and Support for FSA Adult Survivors

By bringing FSA into the spotlight, we empower adult survivors of this form of abuse to speak their truth, seek support, and break free from the cycle of shame and abuse. Advocacy efforts and support networks play a pivotal role in raising awareness, providing resources, and demanding policy changes to protect victims impacted by systemic familial abuse.

My website, Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA) Education, has for many years now offered a lifeline to those grappling with the aftermath of FSA via the FSA resources I provide, which include my FSA Recovery Coaching℠ services, free educational articles on FSA, and a platform for advocating for adult survivors of this type of familial abuse via the written contributions of interested Clinicians and FSA adult survivors.

I also now offer a Community-focused Substack, Family Scapegoating Abuse Education, where FSA adult survivors who opt to upgrade to a paid subscription can engage as a community via comments, discussion threads, and live chats.

In the journey toward healing and justice, let us not turn a blind eye to the silent suffering experienced by children and adults experiencing the devastating impact of FSA. With education and support, adult survivors can break free of the shackles of toxic shame, betrayal trauma, and traumatic invalidation and begin to heal from the devastating impact of being ‘rejected, shamed, and blamed’ by their family-of-origin.

Whether you’re a survivor, a treating clinician, or a researcher interested in FSA, the time has come for us to stand together and raise our voices to work towards a world free from the shadows of insidious systemic abuse in all its forms.

Together, we can break the chains of FSA and build a future where the damage caused by this form of familial abuse is recognized so that survivors can have access to appropriate resources and treatment modalities, including treatment for complex trauma (which, per my FSA research, many FSA adult survivors unknowingly suffer from).

As we champion the cause of FSA on behalf of adult survivors around the world, let us heed the call to action and ensure that the voices and stories of FSA adult survivors resonate far and wide, ushering in a future where every individual is seen, heard, and valued within the sanctity of their own family.


Watch My YouTube Channel on How the Term Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA) Came To Be

Fsa Term Scapegoat Rebecca

Check Out My Book on FSA, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed

Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed book on FSA

PSA why family scapegoating is abuse

Watch My Public Service Announcement Video on FSA


If you’d like to add your voice to this conversation, feel free to do so via the ‘Comments’ section, below.

Copyright 2024 | Rebecca C. Mandeville | All Rights Reserved

19 thoughts on “Why Family Scapegoating Abuse (FSA) Merits Global Attention”

  1. Ruby

    As a scapegoat myself(severe scapegoating), I like to attend Al-anon meetings. It addresses dealing with toxic behavior. Not just those who drink excessively, but, also those who abuse others, like Narcissists. They have a behavioral addiction that we must deal with.

  2. Megan

    Rebecca’s work has validated my reality and gave it a name and is essential to understanding why you were scapgoated and how to make healthy boundaries and heal. So many scapegoated daughters want answers, they don’t know why they’re being treated this way. Trying to figure out why they do it causes trauma and the negative internal mantra. Rebecca’s work and her research really breaks down the abuse and actually answers those questions why. When I read her book I knew I had found out why all the abuse and side effects and trauma from abuse wasn’t my fault and there’s a way to heal and move on and be happy.

  3. Vanessa DS

    Thank you so so much for being a voice on this! This gives me hope for future generations! I’m the scapegoat of my family, and after discovering the dynamics I can clearly see that this is generational on both sides of my family. And who knows how long it’s been going on. I’ve been no contact for almost 15 years with my siblings. This was the first time I’ve heard mention of physical abuse from siblings. That is very validating. When I left a domestic violence relationship with my ex and father of my children, he was able to turn everyone against me, except my mom, the enabler. They fought me in two courts to try and take away my two children, and place them in the hands of their father, whom my family never cared for all 7 years we were together. I left 3 months pregnant, and with our then 3 year old son, the day I walked in on my ex molesting him. The evidence against him was overwhelming. Two positive forensic interviews at almost 4 years old. It was the biggest shock of my life. And I’ve been trying to make sense of it all these years later. God protected my boys. And I worked with Him to heal myself, and forgive all of them. But none of it made any sense until 3 years ago my 3 sisters put my mom in a home while my family and I were on vacation out of state. And didn’t let me know where she was. Even her siblings called mine and weren’t given an answer.
    I was again questioning what and why this second betrayal was happening. They knew from our mother what deep relationships my children share with her. They were 10 and 14. It was then that I came across an article on the full dynamics of family scapegoating. I didn’t make it even halfway through a list without breaking down. Suddenly I had answers to so many things and situations I’ve struggled with my entire life! And the healing started. Even all the many symptom of CPTSD are eroding and have almost all fallen away. I have had such a beautiful blessed life since I left our abuser, but it was still lived in crippling anxiety, often at a non functional level until 3 years ago. Putting the dynamics into perspective I still often remember memories that never made sense. But do now! I had fought so hard to correct my family’s understanding of me and my intentions. At almost 50 this year, my fight is finally over!

  4. Hannah

    Once again, I agree that this deserves global attention. It affects children anywhere on the gender spectrum, but cultural patriarchy and misogyny affect girl children and anyone not clearly male with a double whammy and cultural scapegoating of women ( stoning or disowning if they love the wrong person, numerous witch hunts in Europe, colonial America, etc. ) continues throughout life. When boys are scapegoated it disempoowers them to distance them from masculinity. It’s all so misguided and it’s a wonder there are healthy relationships out there …and sadly not as many as we think. We become good at pretending and adapting, yet wonder if it’s our fault. The solution to ending multi generational trauma seems to me
    to come down to this: a choice we make when we feel uncomfortable.
    1. (Functional) I ask myself what am I feeling? What triggered it ( someone’s behavior, my memory, a tone that reminded me of another time, etc)? How did I interpret that, and could I see it differently? Do I need to speak to someone about how they acted or spoke to me? How do I do that with confidence? Am I ready to speak my truth or write it down in a private place Or maybe I could check with others who were present ( and not part of the scapegoating system) how they heard or observed it. In other words, I learn to identify, own, and express my feelings and process them
    or
    2. (Dysfunctional and ineffective)I try to divert my attention and that of others by scapegoating someone else, passing on the discomfort and creating more suffering.

    My spiritual path has helped me to feel much freer by giving my mind the space to process and realize the consequences of my choices. I don’t need to show loyalty to someone in the past who put me down or harmed me by acting like them. I’m free. That’s my choice, even if I return to begin all over again. It’s a practice for me.
    And I was able to make sure my mother ( who scapegoated me constantly because she didn’t have the resources to observe herself and make better choices around her considerable pain) had what she needed as an elder. I chose that because I had to live with myself later and her behavior was on her. (Note: Just because I was very successful doesn’t mean it didn’t undermine me. But it didn’t stop me. And I knew it was wrong even when I was very small. Physical abuse made that crystal clear. I had good instincts and a mind, and I used them. And neglect made it clear to me that if there was going to be a change, I had to make it. I spent a lot of time out of the house and got a scholarship to get away to another state. My state university discriminated against women even though we paid the same taxes to support it. I wish I had those taxes with interest, and I wish I could have invested what I spent on therapy. I’d be wealthy! )

  5. photoambrosia

    As I uncover the different layers of undesirable and debilitating conditioning that has been thrust upon me without my consent or previous acknowledgement, and as I delve into my subconscious mind, where every crippling thought is stored, sometimes when darkness falls upon me and I am sure I am lost, I fire up my trusted ‘Rebecca- D’ torch, and her light shines the way for me- everytime!!
    Rebecca IS good medicine!!

  6. Leslie R

    How about a person who is Loyal? Loyalty was the highest you could go in my family. Therefore, nothing mattered besides keeping it all together. Family units must agree with each other. Otherwise, the staesus in the family will disintegrate. You are to endure. This is your primary duty. I still believe the loyalty thing. Love your comments.

    1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

      We know in Family Systems that all families live by silent ‘mottos’ (and sometimes they are not so silent). Loyalty to family above all else (aka “blood is thicker than water”) is one such a motto. Part of healing from family dysfunction and abuse is to recognize these unspoken mottos and ‘contracts’ so as to release them / transcend them and by so doing, become empowered to fully heal. I have a video on 10 unspoken ‘rules’ that support FSA which you may want to watch here: https://youtu.be/IfpqW3328HA

  7. Dara

    I lived this and it was invisible to identify, unlike if I was hit and had bruises. If I wasn’t so strong I wouldn’t be here (which was their goal). Instead I had a very successful life, but not as far as relationships go. If your own family does this to you, how can you really ever truly trust others. Incredibly, something amazing and unexpected (for the time) helped saved me. When I was about 11, my narc mother thought it would be a good idea to take me and my older brother (golden child) to a therapist for children. We would all three be in the session together. (Her goal was for the therapist to confirm I was the problem.) After talking to us, the two of them started in on me and my only response was just to sob. ( This was around the mid- late 70’s btw) The therapist asked my mother and brother to leave the room and while I cried, she got down on her knees in front of my chair and said powerfully multiple times , “It’s NOT YOU, it’s THEM!” I didn’t tell my mother what happened and she never brought us back there. (Impressive for the 70’s, but there was no name for it). One of the last times I ever spoke to my mom ( in my 30’s) after being away for years, she started in about how it was me, etc. I smirked at her evil face and told her what happened at that session!!!!! You should have seen her face!!!!!!! They had still been doing mean things to me from a distance, but I finally told her this and went no contact. We were no contact for about 20 years. She died last year and left everything to my brother. I would do it all again exactly the same, but I was really impacted by that. I thought maybe somewhere deep down she would see the truth. It is the first time in 20 years my peace has been stirred up. I am ok and finding your work as i was going through this these months has been beyond validating and healing. I wish there was a way for schools to be made aware of the signs in a similar way they look for bruises on children and report it. I feel that is the only hope for the very young. Your book and advocacy has truly helped me and so many others. Thank you so much❤️

  8. Aubrey T

    Thank you Dr. Mandeville for your courage to lead this conversation in FSA mental wellness healing & prevention. I would like to see even bolder strategies that might accelerate the movement for better outcomes. For example, more questionnaires, surveys and assessments that would challenge all family members in a ‘family of origin’ system to participate in an anonymous process that will without doubt identify the challenges within. Anonymity participation might graciously avoid naming and shaming lead mobsters and their accomplices and get more buy-in. Love to hear your thoughts?
    And I’d love to participate in the evolution of such a concept.
    Cheers!

    1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

      Yes, this would be wonderful. As I said in my most recent video, I wish there were 10 of me. My hope is that more doctoral students will become interested in researching on FSA; word is slowly going out and more people are contacting me from all around the world for Permissions, etc, so hopefully such studies will be available one day. Your suggestion is a most worthy one.

  9. Carolyn

    I am a survivor of ancestral trauma and family scapegoating. The current situation in the family with my first grandson has led me to create a website, listed below. Maternal ‘grandmothering’ had been nonexistent for four generations, differences in opinion regarding medical care has led to family split/divorce in my generation and has had devastating results in my first grandson and had created more shame and blame.

    My response had been a creative outlet – Storytelling and patient education.

  10. Lavada

    I am so glad FSA information is being circulated around the world. Hopefully, in time, FSA abuse will be a criminal offence in which victims will finally have a voice and justice. But even more importantly, knowledge will help prevent FSA abuse from happening in the first place. Thank you Rebecca for your commitment and dedication in addressing this horrific form of abuse. It gives me, the family scapegoat, hope.

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