August 2012

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Domestic Abuse Support- You're Doing It Wrong

There are definitely triggers in here regarding descriptions or abuse, inappropriate confrontation of abuse, and victim blaming.

Some Things You Shouldn't Do When Confronted with Abuse:

1.) "it's horrible that it's happened to hir. It could never happen to me I would never take that but I feel bad for hir." Can I just say I hate people who have to self insert in these topics. Who cares if it would or wouldn't happen to you? Why/How is this conversation about you? And as the conversation is obviously not about you, why do you feel compelled to warp it and make it about you?

Beyond that, how condescending. Great way to other someone else while giving yourself a pat on the back.

Read in between the lines what you are saying is: "Oh those people who fall into violent relationships, they aren't like me. They have confidence issue. They aren't smart enough to spot the obvious pattern. They are desperate for affection. They have a messed up childhood that predisposed them to be someone else's punching bag. They are crazy irrational people, who may not deserve what they get but don't really do anything to prevent it either. They are lesser people who better people like me have to save some how."

At this point, it should be clear that what might have been a shocked, confused, or instinctively defensive response seems to validate, confirm, and reinforce the abuse a victim/survivor has suffered from hir abuser. Because one thing a victim/survivor does do really well is read in between the line about how people negatively view them.

Also try to remember that while people talk about warning signs they don't happen all at once or in order or in any way that seems to connect to abuse at first or maybe at all. Abusers can be very patient people. They will build trust and relationships with their targets. They will slowly work their way into someone's life. Before there is physical abuse or if there never is physical abuse a lot of the things abusers do seem benign or misguided at worst. We've all had an over protective friend or family member. Where is the line between one and the other? When you are gradually worked into such a relationship there may never seem to be a line.

Focus on what real. Whether you'd fall prey to abuse is another conversation for another time and the implied how did it happen to this other person, is also currently unimportant (and may never matter depending on how that person chooses to recover). It's terrifying to think that these relationships are random disasters that happen to anyone but you'll be more useful to a person if you do.

2.)"Ze deserves better. I mean ze's pretty/handsome." I actually lost it when I heard this from a twenty-four year old at work. I yelled at her and she was very defensive. Insistent that it was a compliment and that what I'd say that no one deserves abuse full stop and what she said were the same thing. The intention might have been the same, hell she might have thought that she was improving the statement by adding a compliment to the mix, but what the statement says to others isn't the same at all.

First off, it implies that looks is the only thing that goes into the equation regarding abuse. Good looking people don't deserve to be hurt, but if you're average to ugly it's open season. While you're talking about one instance of violence you know about, there's probably someone else there who's heard "you're ugly, you're stupid, you're and this is what you deserve". Whether that person has left or is still involved, you've just sided with hir abuser.

You may be confirming or reminding a victim/survivor of what their abuser has said or implied. They may have told them they were hideous and this affirmation of their looks may come off as one more lie you tell to try to break up their relationship.

However, the abuser is just as likely to use good looks as validation for abuse. They're worried their partner is good enough looking to leave them so interaction with others makes them crazy. They know others want what they have and the restrictions are for the survivor/victim's protection. They have to mark him/her so that others know he/she is taken. The survivor/victim might be pretty now and ze might not always deserve the treatment their abuser perpetuates but they are going to age and isn't their constant faithful love worth dealing with bad treatment, after all whomever they find will treat them this way eventually anyhow.

If confronting someone or talking about them without their presence focus on the whole. They are human and deserve better. If you want to make mention of positive and valuable traits, hit several and try not to connect these traits to worth or deserving but just general items you appreciate and respect.

3.) Don't confront a person in a public forum about your suspicion or rumors. Meeting in a public place might be comforting, meeting with close friends and family could be helpful. Confronting someone in front of casual acquaintances isn't helpful.

Your intentions may be good. You meant to show that strangers care more about hir than their abuser. You might thought that so many people showing support and readiness to help would be moving.

What you've done, especially if the person hasn't directly confessed to you, is further diminish their sense of power and control. Whether a veiled reference or a direct line, you've told strangers something very personal that maybe that person would have liked to have better control over distributing the information. You have cornered the victim/survivor into a public announcement where they must confirm or deny the "charges" you've laid out. If you're wrong or if you're right you have just opened hir life and relationships up to public scrutiny and dialog.

You might know these people but ze does not. Maybe some or most of them agree with hir abuser. Maybe these people don't agree but have still judge hir as less because of the event. Maybe they just don't want have everyone see hir as a victim and single faceted forever no matter what else they do or are.

Beyond this your appeals will sound like those of hir abusers. You are using the pressure of the group to get hir to leave the abuser and really how is that different than what the abuser does to hir? It's a different kind of power and a different demand but isn't hir place the same? How are you better than them? Why are you more trustwothy?

4.) Don't try to change the world in one day. So you think person x is in an abusive relationship and you want to help? You don't do that by telling them they are in an abusive relationship and they must leave. It might be true but it isn't going to help. This person is probably used to demands and threats. They are used to it all being dumped on them which is what it seems implied when you tell someone you are in a bad place and you must get out of it of your own accord.

Baby steps see if the person will acknowledge they are in a bad way. If not talk to them about your concerns and why you feel that way. Explain that this treatment upset you because they don't deserve it and no one would deserve this treatment no matter what they had done. Don't expect tearful confessions and immediate break downs. Don't really expect anything in particular just be ready to react.

If or when ze sees that there is something wrong with their relationship, see what they want to do about it. Counseling, confrontation, escape, advice, perhaps nothing- it's all on the table. Help them with what they want help for and try to support without pushing. Remember that nothing can happen until they are ready for it to happen. And frustration, hurt, bullying, and other strong feelings you have are not going to do anything. Your reactions are natural but not necessarily helpful.

/End Rant.

I don't want to share what brought this on.   I just am upset and at a loss about how to deal with it in the real world, so here I am speculating on all the way people are wrong instead.  Insert proper
melancholy.

Comments

I think I love you for writing this. Well done.

Abusers can be very patient people. They will build trust and relationships with their targets.
I wish more people would get this. "I would leave at the first hit." Well, it most often doesn't quite work that way. And not all abuse is physical either.

Anyhow, hear hear!
I really wish that people would understand that abusive relationships don't start with someone hitting them it doesn't always even include being hit.

Sometimes I think all those skits meant to outline abusive situations have done a disservice to the general public. They give the perception that everything happens all at once, that there is always violence, and due to the nature of these skits they can't show an abuser building trust and a strong relationship while undermining other relationships a person has.
My sister was in an abusive relationship for ten years, and the first step her abuser took -- the same first step nearly all abusers take -- was to undermine her other relationships, and to systematically take the legs out from under her sense of self worth, discretion, and perceptions.

Abusers have their game down to a science, and that science is brainwashing, nothing less. Torturers in prison camps used the same techniques of control, deprive, confuse, and create dependence to break their prisoners that relationship abusers do. Charlie Manson, Jim Jones, Hitler, et al used the same formula, and made it work on dozens/millions at a time.

Interpersonal abuse is a powerful thing. And it really can happen to anyone with a weakness. And we all have weaknesses.