Non-survivor privilege and silence

While it shouldn’t be a privilege to escape abuse in this life, there are trappings of privilege for those who have been so lucky. I know it’s an odd thing to say, and it’s a realization I’ve been slowly moving toward since childhood, but it works like this:

  • Once you survive abuse or violation, you have a knowledge of the human capacity for nastiness that others around you don’t share.
  • It is your duty to keep them blissfully ignorant at the expense of your own soul.
  • When they chatter on about how disgraceful it is for a child not to be on speaking terms with his family, you are a rude asshole if you remind them that the abuse rate in the US and most countries is staggering, so maybe the child had good reason.
  • When you’re the child they’re complaining about, no one will take your side if you try to explain to them six ways from Sunday why it’s much, much better for everyone that you have no contact with your parent/family/ex-husband, or eventually give up and tell the person to mind its own business.
  • If you try to tell your friends that their latest crush shows signs of being violent or abusive, they’ll hate you. If you turn out to be right, they’ll hate you more.

And so on, and so forth. Honestly, if I go through every example, I’ll get too depressed to finish the article. Most of them come from personal experience.

And this – more than anything – is why I hate human beings. Because out of those of you who’ve had the good fortune not to be abused or violated in your lifetime, maybe 1 in 1,000 can be bothered to muster sympathy for those who have. Oh, if you see an abused child on Oprah you cry your heart out, sure. But I’m talking about putting the feelings of a survivor ahead of your own when they’re right there in your face.

When they’re someone you know; someone very much like you. When you get that crumpled feeling in the gut that it’s only random chance it was them and not you, and your first instinct is to explain away why it happened to them (and could therefore never happen to you). Or deny that it happened at all. Or have the awkward sympathetic moment you find yourself trapped in, but immediately pull back to superficiality with this person you once called friend.

When you make some ignorant comment about abuse and someone corrects you with a story from her own experience and your first instinct is to prove her wrong, maybe the “greenest” thing you could do for the environment is become part of it already. Yeah, I’m so gosh darn mean, but goddamnit, this needs to be said.

Those of us who’ve experienced abuse, rape and other violations don’t keep it quiet because we’re ashamed. Or because it’s intensely personal. The main reason we keep it quiet is because we know how you’ll treat us if we tell you. We know you have a culturally-granted privilege to remain ignorant. To not know, and therefore not to be responsible. Not to bother. Not to think about it.

And certainly not to do anything that might help stop or at least curtail it somewhat in the future.

But you are responsible. If you’re not aware that statistically a certain percentage of the people you know must have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse at some point in their lives, you are helping the perpetrators of those crimes keep working in the shadows. Because as long as you imagine the problem doesn’t really touch anyone you know, the problem stays hidden.

I saw on a forum the other day some people discrediting a study about rape statistics. “If this study is true,” one poster said, “then about a fourth of the women I know must have been raped at some point, and that’s just not true.” How can anyone think that because a fourth of the women he knows haven’t told him, “Oh, by the way, I’ve been raped before” they must not have been? The answer is: they can’t. They’re beating the knowledge to the punch. They’re shouting in every way they can, “You will not drag me kicking and screaming to the realization that life isn’t fair and I’m one lucky shit not to have suffered worse than I have!”

He might as well help round up victims for abusers. He’s perpetuating the unfairness by perpetuating the silence.

As long as you’re more concerned about your right to be in la-la land denial than someone else’s right not to go through hell, you are fighting on the abuser’s side.

The fact that this is a privilege you are granted through the culture which dictates that abuse victims should lie rather than tell Nice People an uncomfortable truth says something odious about the culture. We are a culture of abuse. We believe strongly in the rights of the best-funded 5% to rule over the less-funded and harder-working 95%. We convince ourselves it’s only natural if certain people, defined by such superficialities as gender and skin color rather than important traits like capability or good judgment, should rule. We convince ourselves that cleaning lady who works two jobs just to make ends meet couldn’t possibly have had the cure for cancer locked in her brain behind a lack of education, so no big loss of potential there!

It’s all part of the same thing. As soon as you decide it’s okay for some people to carry double and triple burdens so that others may carry nothing at all, you have decided abuse is pretty neat and you’re all for it. And if that’s the case, all I’m asking is that you shuck off your privilege and take responsibility for the decision you’ve made and the side you’ve taken.

Ignorance is not “nice.” It’s not “good people.” It’s not “I was just trying to have a nice dinner party, why’d she go and bring up a thing like that when all we were doing was saying how gosh awful wonderful the person who abused her is and how much we’d all like to see him elected God.” Ignorance is the hammer in the hand of oppression.

Comments

  1. Scarlett says

    Becoming a survivor of abuse and addiction opened my eyes so wide to the culture of abuse. My ex was emotionally abusive (it’s more subtle than verbal abuse) and was the one who helped drive me to the addiction… yet mutual friends WHO HAD WITNESSED HIS ABUSE found it so easy to say ‘she left him, she’s a bitch’.

    It hurts when I hear blanket statements of ‘I have no sympathy for a woman who stays in an abusive relationship’. Dude, the beauty of an abusive relationship is that it’s creeping. You put up with more and more and excuse more and more. You can’t just say ‘if I was treated the way he treats her, I’d leave’.

    The funny thing is, all the strong people I know are survivors of abuse and/or addiction. (Usually one causes the other.) I just wish people were more open to the idea that abuse can happen to anyone… that it’s not just something they must have done.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    And if you believe that “relationships are work” and only lazy people throw in the towel early, a lot of that abuse can masquerade as “compromises.” Women aren’t educated on where the line between compromise and taking crap should be drawn.

  3. says

    For myself, I know there seems to be this constant condemnation of “man-hating feminists” – because as we all know no woman in this world has a reason to hate men.

    I read their stories of abuse and survive and it curls my hair six ways from Sunday. How can I pretend that there’s something “wrong” with so many women who hate men? There is reason, there is reason, there is reason. And there but for the grace of Whomever go I, because heaven knows I’ve narrowly avoided a few awful situations not on some magical skill or by “trying” hard enough, but because I am *lucky*.

    For what it’s worth, I can never condemn anyone for not talking to their parents. I just wish that more of the people I know hadn’t been forced to grow up in abusive situations.

  4. Scarlett says

    If by ‘relationships are work’ you mean ‘*I*’ do the work’, then that sounds about right. I went to bed last night thinking about how LUKCY I actually was because I have several friends with backgrounds in abuse and several mutual friends who knew from the way he acted in public that he treated me badly.

    The thing that really frustrates me is that people often don’t get how creeping abuse can be. We had a great relationship for two years, but after we became engaged, he became more and more unreasonable until he was calling me selfish and not speaing to me for several days because I wouldn’t cancel plans with a mate just because he got a whim to see me. Duh, of COURSE I wouldn’t have gotten involved with someone had they behaved like that after a week. But when it creeps in over two and a half years, and you throw them being diagnossed with mental illness into it? Then it becomes a lot harder to recognise andwomen/people are not stupid for not recognising escalating behavior.

  5. MaggieCat says

    For what it’s worth, I can never condemn anyone for not talking to their parents.

    For me it’s not my parents I had to cut off contact with, it was every other relative I have. At this point the grand total of people I’m related to that I speak to more than once a year? 2. My mother, and on occasion her sister. (Who’s not as screwed up as most of the family, but has given me the silent treatment for pointing out that her mother treats me the same way the Spanish Inquisition would a heretic.) There were 2 more, my father and my great aunt, but they passed away.

    Not a speck of behavior that most people are referring to when they say abuse, just a systematic destruction of everyone’s self esteem and independence if they have the temerity to imply that my grandmother isn’t the grand high poobah of the universe. If anyone dares to criticize her however, there are immediate tears and you get attacked for being mean. I spent many years as a child trying to figure out why I didn’t really like her and feeling guilty about it– she told me she loved me all the time and bought me lots of things, which to a 5 year old is generally awesome– but never seemed genuinely interested in me and really disliked my dad, who I adored. You know on Everybody Loves Raymond, the way Marie treats Debra? It was almost exactly like that, except directed at a kindergartner who couldn’t defend herself. If you don’t want to be what she wants you to be, she has no use for you.

    I eventually figured it out around 12 or so, and why I didn’t much like my other relatives while they were around her; they’d been indoctrinated years ago and had lost any will they may have had to fight back because it was easier just to indulge her. (I once overheard a psychiatrist who I saw for several weeks telling my parents that I was the most stubborn person she had met in her entire career. Just going along wasn’t really a viable option for me.) The only person who ever successfully stood up for me against her was my father, my mom tried but she’d grown up with that woman and just from what I’ve gathered her entire childhood was my unpleasant weekends turned up to 1100. Everyone else wanted to know why I antagonized her. By being myself.

    And it’s got to be a cycle that’s only partially been broken: the reason my GM left home and joined the army was to get away from her mother and 2 out of 3 of her sisters are waaaay worse. Now that my great aunt has passed away, I’ve only seen my GM when my grampa’s brother and his wife are in town because she’s the nicest person on the face of the Earth so my GM has to be on her best behavior. (The most startling thing in the world: to walk into that house and get a compliment that was genuine and unaccompanied by a resounding backhand. I stood there blinking for some time with no idea what to say since my reflexive defensive response wasn’t needed.) When other people talk about nice and ‘grandmotherly’, after the instinctive recoil I have to carefully switch my association to my late great aunt, one of my GM’s younger sisters and the only vague concept of the idea I can even imagine.

    And I can’t convince a single person who hasn’t seen it in action repeatedly that it’s true. Because if you aren’t related to her, she’s actually kind of impressive. This is a small town Midwestern Catholic girl who joined the army as a teenager in the early 50s, who was a feminist before it went mainstream, supported civil rights, has worked for the fire dept, owned a business, and held elected office. And in all fairness was one of the people who backed me up when everyone was pushing me to have an extremely invasive surgery that I cancelled because I’d gotten a very bad vibe about it due to a series of prep screw-ups. (The other was my dad. First time they’d agreed on anything in over 20 years, I think.)

    I’m aware that from a lot of people’s perspectives I got off fairly easily. And that there are far, far worse things out there. But if I hear one more person who’s seen her repeatedly rip me to shreds in public for not fitting in with the rest of the family or slightly disagreeing with her tell me that I’m “too sensitive” and need to try harder, I’m going to snap.

    When someone mocks you for crying after they’re the one who made you cry, there’s something not right about that. Late last year I was upset about something and my mother mentioned that she almost never sees me cry, short of a funeral. That’s because I learned not to.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    @Anna, that’s an interesting point. I sometimes think it was strangely fortunate that I saw early on how my dad’s mother abused him, and he in turn abused me. That made it clear to me that it’s not a flaw in one gender or the other. But if you grew up only seeing abuse from men, and saw that the world prizes men and puts them on top, it would be frighteningly logical to hate men.

    @Scarlett, it often is one person doing all the work. I think relationships are supposed to involve both parties working? *sigh* And you’re right about how it creeps up. Sometimes it’s an overnight Jeckyll and Hyde switch, too. Some men maintain a facade of niceness until you move in/marry them/invest yourself in some way that makes it not so easy to break up and leave, and then BOOM you meet the abuser.

    @Maggie, that IS my definition of emotional abuse. You’re probably right that it’s not most people’s, but I think psychiatrists would back me up on that. Hell, systematic undermining at work can be considered a form of harassment. For all we know, your grandmother was heroically well-adjusted given what circumstances she came from. But her treatment of people – and their response to her (gah! drives me crazy, because if just a few people would stand up, people like that might actually back down) – was all wrong (except in the isolated incidents you mention).

  7. MaggieCat says

    their response to her (gah! drives me crazy, because if just a few people would stand up, people like that might actually back down)

    Oh in this case she would, but she’d then go all passive aggressive and make everyone else’s life completely miserable. I got to see it first hand when I turned 21.

    In early February of that year I had completely smashed my ankle and the surgeon put me on strict bed rest for 3 months. In mid-March my father died. 2 weeks later she was visiting, gave me a check for my birthday, and then did the same manipulative bullshit she always does and “jokingly” commented about cancelling it when I disagreed with her over something unbelievably trivial. I snapped. Maybe it was the large doses of narcotics, maybe it was the fact that the only person who’d been as horrified by her treatment of me as they should have been* had just died and left me to fend for myself, I don’t know. I’m not very proud of it but I did. Went off on the rude snitty comments she’d made about the state of the house, told her that you’re supposed to give someone a gift because you love them not so you can control their behavior and, since I wasn’t allowed up the stairs, locked myself in the bathroom until they left.

    She spent nearly a year treating me the same way you would a dog you’re not entirely sure isn’t rabid, which was great. But she made my aunt and grampa positively miserable, and my mother when she could get a hold of her. (Which is when my aunt gave me the silent treatment. Oddly my grampa didn’t and I think in fact became more chatty.) Since then I see her either at Christmas or Thanksgiving, never both, and then mainly because even though my mom knows it’s healthier for me to stay away there’s still a part of her that doesn’t want her kid to be alone on holidays. She doesn’t mention it and in fact assumes I’m not going, but I can deal with it now that my GM can mostly hold the evil in for one day a year.

    I still have the check, uncashed of course. For the record the cost of my freedom was $75. Not sure you can put a price on the first hand proof that the scariest of bullies from my childhood could be a coward.

    *(Dad had declared at Christmas that he was never going to her house again after one of her tirades directed at me. Turns out he was totally telling the truth. Heh.)

  8. Scarlett says

    Maggie, a constant issue I have is people don’t get emotional abuse. My ex routinely put down things I liked doing and was working towards, and it was usually wrapped up in a pretty bow of ‘you can do better than that’. (My bright red dyed hair looked skanky, and I had more class than that. Journalists were all crooks, and I had the intellect to aim higher than that. My friends were users, and I deserved better than them.) I didn’t realise how subtle and insidious it was until I started dating a close friend who knew what he had put me through and made a massive effort to be supportive and understanding to help me undo some of the damage my exes abuse had done to the way I viewed relationships.

    I don’t know exactly how to define emotional abuse – I think it’s different to verbal abuse because in my case at least, he never yelled at me or called me names. I think emotional abuse, like all abuse really, is about undermining someone’s independance and faith in themselves.

    With my ex, a close mutual friend of ours – who was far closer to me than she was him – talked a lot about how he was so upset about me leaving him and what a difficult position she was in, caught between us. Did it occour to her that if he had any speck of maturity or responsibility for his actions HE wouldn’t be putting her in the middle like that? So what if he was upset – was I supposed to stay with him forever more just because he *needed* me? Was I meant to sacrifice my happiness and sanity so he he could have things *his* way? I wonder now how much of it was *her* not wanting to think that maybe this great guy who’s a close friend of her husbands was an emotional abuser… nope, far easier to think of me as the bitch who left him :(

  9. says

    It’s actually one of the things that bothers me about the cult-of-motherhood. Some people did not have good mothers – but if you’re estranged from your mother, you’re a bad person, becasue a mother’s love is endless and all mothers everywhere are perfect and wonderful.

    And, frankly, my mom totally is that. But so very many people I know did not have that, and the cult of motherhood makes it even more difficult for people to talk about their abuse at their mother’s hand. Whenever I talk about Don’s mom’s latest attempt to weasle back into his life and treat him so shabbily again, someone always comes along and says “But, she’s his mom, and she obviously loves him!” Cuz, you know, people over the internet who have never even talked to *me* about it, let alone Don, can totally tell that by the few comments I make here and there on the subject.

    Cuz, you know, moms are ever perfect.

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    My mother is made of awesome, but both my grandmothers were abusive people. It’s really sad that we’re in denial about this because it ensures that at least some sons of abusive women will grow up to be abusers themselves – that’s how the cycle works (or at least that’s certainly how it worked in my family).

    Re: Scarlett’s comments about insidious abuse that sounds so nice when you try to explain it. That’s one of the most frustrating kinds of emotional abuse to deal with because it’s so hard to explain. People say, “I’m sure he meant well” and “you’re reading too much into it”, but that type of abuser is a master of disguising digs as faux compliments. When you try to retell it, it sounds like you’re a spoiled fool who expects too much from the poor guy. That’s what my dad was so good at – any single one of his tricks sounded innocent enough. And I could never get anyone to listen to ALL of them at once so they could see just how hopeless the pattern was.

  11. Scarlett says

    A friend of mine commented recently that my ex must have really loved me if he can’t stand having me or my current boyfriend around EIGHTEEN MONTHS after we broke up. But I don’t see that as love – or at least, it’s a child’s love for their parent – the kid still expects the parent’s world to evolve around them and screams and cries when it doesn’t. It’s not the love of a grown person.

  12. Andrea says

    Getting out of an abusive relationship is one thing…but staying alive after that is another.
    I found out that the “after relationship” bit is harder than escaping it.
    My past relationship was so emotionally and socially abusive and i can even say brain-washing.
    After the break-up all i got was “She is such a bitch, I loved her!” And a month after i moved home so I can be away from him for good (did not tell him my new address) I had him climbing my bathroom window and physically abused me. I manged to call the police and be saved. He denied all of it. I had to take him to court. Yesterday I won the court case and he is being sentenced as we speak.
    I thought that finally everyone is going to see that i wasn`t the one to be blamed for breaking up with him. But NO…i`m still the one in the wrong. If i tell someone about what happened all i get is “You sure know how to pick your boyfriends!”
    People…this is not the case…this kind of abusive men…do not have written on their foreheads “Abuser” … they have very subtle signs of abusive behaviour, that are very hard to notice.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    I feel for you, Andrea. I’ve heard that something like 85% of domestic homicides occur when one party is trying to leave the other.

    I speculate that part of the reason why people react as they do to stories like yours is that they desperately want to believe they can tell a psycho pretending to be a good person from an actual good person. If they can explain away (to themselves) your story by assuming you knew the guy was abusive and got together with him anyway, they can hang onto their false assurance.

    The sad truth is, many psychos are excellent at hiding their abuse behind a facade of niceness. They even buy into their own facades, which is probably what makes them so believable. It doesn’t even require that one be young and naive to “fall” for their acts: they are consummate actors.

  14. DragonLord says

    I think that the biggest problem people have with being confronted by victims of abuse is that they have no idea how to empathise with them. It’s so far out of their experience that they have no idea of the depth and scope of hurt, loss of confidence, lost of self-esteem, etc. it leaves behind. All they hear is 2-5 words and they then have to compare it to the media, news and anything else that they may have seen. However the abused is wondering why they can’t see the damage that the event(s) have caused. IMO the reason that people that have been through abuse are called survivors is that like survivors of a disaster they have experienced something that no-one who hasn’t experienced abuse themselves could hope to understand.

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      I don’t think they have to understand the event to feel sympathy, though. Empathy means feeling what another feels, which I agree is impossible if you haven’t been through it. But sympathy is simply CARING what someone feels, being willing to listen even if it’s uncomfortable, not shutting them down with a lecture. Surely that’s not too much to ask.

      • DragonLord says

        Not for me, but then if it was I probably wouldn’t be posting on a blog like this (or if I was, getting well thought out replies back).

        However, knowing how most men are (or at least my experiences of how they are) brought up, I think that any form of caring that doesn’t involve rough justice (where’s that guys head so that I can bash it in with that wall over there) is something that is fairly carefully polished out over the time are children. They also tend to be brought up in a way that suggests that there is a solution to every problem, and if someone has a problem that they’re letting you know about then you need to help them find a solution.

        As such sympathy and caring come very close to empathy for the simple fact that the abuse, and it’s effect on the survivor, needs understanding in order to try to come up with a solution.

        I think that the other thing that makes a lot of people shy away from topics like abuse is fear. After all most of us live in a rose tinted bubble where atrocities only ever happen because of stupidity or somewhere far away (on the news),And the media has given us many different images of what an abuser/victim looks and behaves like. Anything that threatens to burst that bubble, and make people feel less safe about themselves, their family and friends, is automatically filtered and glossed over because most people need their illusions, and they need to feel in control of their own lives.

        On another level I suspect that to give sympathy, you also have to care for a person on a more than superficial level, and I think that sometimes it’s hard to find people that are willing to let down their guard that much.

        Sorry if it seems like I’m rambling.

      • says

        No, it isn’t.

        When I talk about the psychological abuse I went through as a Christian, I know it makes all the Christians I come in contact with uncomfortable, but the really amazing ones are willing to be uncomfortable and listen to me. Even though I think those people are amazing and brave, I also don’t think it’s too much to ask and I do get angry with the Christians who won’t listen to me. (Or pretend to listen but then dismiss everything I say by claiming I didn’t try to love God hard enough.)

        • Jennifer Kesler says

          (Or pretend to listen but then dismiss everything I say by claiming I didn’t try to love God hard enough.)

          That, btw, is one of the ugliest things a human being can do – tell a formerly abused child, “It’s your own fault – shoulda loved God better.” I honestly feel anyone who thinks it’s okay to think that should off themselves immediately. They are worse than the abusers, IMO. Some abused kids fortunately realize their abusers are crazy, and they must just endure until they can get away from the abuse and be around nice people. But when you get a response like that from Christians, you get the idea maybe *everyone* is as batshit as your abuser was, or at least on his/her “team”, so to speak.

          They can seriously compound the original damage.

        • Patrick McGraw says

          Behavior like that fills me with rage like little else. It’s so far removed from the Christianity I grew up with that it feels like … well, the best analogy I can make is that it feels like I’m suddenly on Earth-3, where the Justice League has been replaced by the Crime Syndicate. And you and many others had to live there.

  15. Anne says

    I think I failed one of my friends. We’re still really good friends, I hang out with her all the time on slumber parties now.

    But a few years ago, about four, when we were sophomores in college together she was raped by a guy in our japanese department. She came to me the next day. I was, of course, shocked and horrified and sympathized with her, and cried with her and held her, and I asked her what she wanted to do and told her I would be with her the whole way through. She didn’t want to do anything. She said she had already taken a shower, that she’d been over at his house watching movies with him, so it’s not like he abducted her or anything. Listening to her, I saw the logic in not seeking criminal charges or punishment through the school. It made sense–did she really have a case? No, I thought, believing everything CSI and society had told me about rape. She’d gone to his house willingly, went into his room willingly. He was horrible, but she saw no way to do anything about it.

    We talked for hours.

    And then we never talked about it again.

    I transferred that year, and she went to Japan for a good portion of the three years we spent mostly apart.

    I don’t know how much she still thinks about it–if she wants to bring it up with me, she will, but I don’t want to bring it up if she’d rather not.

    Where I failed was initially. I didn’t keep up the precedent of talking to her and letting her know I was there for her in that context.

    I didn’t understand rape the way I do know, even though what I know now is still peripheral. I should have been more enraged at the boy. While I think supporting whatever decision she chose was the right one, I wish I was more knowledgeable on how to deal with things if she HAD wanted to go to the hospital or police or campus affairs. Though knowing what I’ve learned more recently might sadly make me hesitate to try to persuade her TO go that route.

    I dunno. :(

    • Raeka says

      I don’t know the exact nature of your friendship, but I wouldn’t be so certain that you’ve failed your friend completely –recently a very close friend of mine revealed to me that she’d been date-raped a year or two ago.

      I wasn’t involved in the recovery process, as we both live in different states and I’m just not close by very often, but one thing we talked about was the fact that my friend, very adamantly, did not want to be known as That Girl Who Got Raped.

      I mean, there really was no big reason for her to not let people know (she did in fact tell a complete stranger who asked her about her rapist because she was interested in him –she was SOOO grateful to my friend for telling her about her experience), as she is surrounded by an incredibly supportive group of friends and family, and she seemed to have been dealing with the whole situation really well.

      But it was just really important to her, and her own identity, to not be That Girl Who Was Raped, even if there was no bad fallout –and perhaps a bit of good– to having that fact be more widely known.

      My point is, you might be helping your friend in that you just give her a sense of normalcy, an identity outside of this terrible thing that happened to her. You say you still hang out with her all the time, that you’re still involved in her life –and it may simply be that her life has moved on.

      I would strongly encourage you to get a second opinion on this, but it seems to me that it wouldn’t be inappropriate to, just once, respectfully, bring the subject up, saying ‘I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable or bring back bad memories, but it seems to me that you’re really happy with your life and yourself –and I just wanted to check that you got the support you needed three (or whatever) years ago…’

      Even if it does make her uncomfortable, I don’t think she can fault you for checking in on her welfare –as long as you can do it in a way that emphasizes you don’t think of her as A Victim, but merely a good friend who went through a really rough time and seems to have persevered admirably –but that you can’t help but make sure.

      …You could also consider looking for a website/group/forum dedicated to rape victims and pose your question there –I’m sure they’d be happy to help you : )

      • Jennifer Kesler says

        This is great. I had been debating how to respond to this comment, but I’ll just second what Raeka said here.

      • The Other Anne says

        I can’t believe I didn’t see this before now!

        Thank you, very much, Raeka.

        I will check around and see if that is an appropriate action to take at this time and how to do so.

        I hope I see her soon, actually! We’ve both been traveling the last couple months and both of us have plans to move away from CO…to different parts of the world.

        <3 Thanks, Jennifer, for commenting here and bringing my attention to it, and Raeka, for really really assuaging some of the guilt I've been feeling and giving me a suggestion as to how to approach it with her, if I ever do so.

  16. Stogucheme says

    I understand what you’re saying. I was raised in a very ‘don’t spoil dinner’ type atmosphere, so I’m constantly apologizing to my friend for telling them about my problems (though they say I don’t have to- I’m really lucky). Discussing it just makes me feel like a bother. Thank you for this article.

  17. Cinnabar says

    I have a question, to anyone who can help me out.

    How do you explain what emotional abuse is like to someone who seemingly has no experience with it and has no idea what you’re talking about? Are there any articles online which describe it in a way that’s understandable to non-survivors? Something that explains how it is a real thing that actually happens, and not something you’re imagining because you’re “over-sensitive” or “misunderstanding the situation” or “too picky” or any of the other hundred million excuses. How do you explain that there IS a difference between a normal feeling of, “I hope xe doesn’t mind that I’m running late” or “I hope xe likes this gift I got them” and literally shaking with fear and panic because if xe finds out you did this thing that you’re not sure they approve of, then a fucking volcano will erupt and incinerate you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it or calm it down until xe’s satisfied; and that things like this happening are NOT a normal part of relationships?

    I recently tried to tell a friend about having experienced emotional abuse and… well, it was a painful reminder that I’ll probably always have to be an island, because people just don’t seem to get it. To her credit, she actually listened to me and finally accepted that it was a real thing that I wasn’t making up, but not before trying to tell me all those things I said above and gently suggesting that my connecting with and reading the stories of other survivors online was *making me feel worse*. (She immediately believed me when I said that NO that wasn’t true AT ALL, but it sucked that it even came up.) I know she really wanted to help but didn’t know how, and frankly I was pretty incoherent in trying to explain it because it hit too close to home.

    I don’t blame her in the least. Emotional abuse simply isn’t part of the cultural narrative and most people don’t even register that it exists, sometimes not even when they experience it themselves because it’s always framed as your personal problem – your own insecurity, an inability to adjust or relate properly, misunderstanding the True Good Intentions(TM) of the person abusing you, whatever BUT IT’S YOUR FAULT. If I’d said “He hit me” the response would have been an immediate, “GASP! What a horrible bastard!” (He didn’t, thankfully.) People may not *know* what it is *like* to be in a physically abusive relationship, but it has at least settled into the public consciousness as “A Bad Thing”. (A generation or so ago this wouldn’t have been true, and with some people, in some places, it isn’t even now.)

    I told her I’d try and find some resources online which might explain things better than I could, but I can’t think of any right now that fit as “Abuse 101″. I’d really appreciate any help on this.

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      Oooh, that’s a tough one. I arrived at the conclusion many years ago that it was hopeless. It wasn’t that they didn’t understand what emotional abuse was. It was that they simply weren’t willing to understand that THEY KNEW SOMEONE who had suffered it – or that because emotional abuse leaves no “fingerprints”, they didn’t know how to begin to determine if a claim was real. Maybe I was just hearing this stuff on talk shows (my experience of it was before the internet existed) and making mountains out of molehills, right? (Once you’re out of an emotionally abusive relationship and can tell people, “My [whatever] was emotionally abusive” in a calm manner, they question you a lot less. It’s when you’re actually in the situation, at your most vulnerable, that they ironically choose to doubt – because you’re so “emotional”, maybe your judgment is compromised.)

      That said, if you want to explain emotional abuse to someone in hopes they will ever ever get it, I think a page of links on emotional abuse on Hathor might be a good idea, so I’m collecting some here to get started. If anyone else finds any, please post them. The whole article at http://www.experienceproject.com/question-answer/Can-Someone-Explain-To-Me-Examples-Of-Emotional-Abuse-From-A-Man-To-His-Woman/87611 is a must-read, every single word, but these two paragraphs are great examples of the subtlety:

      Instead of “lying” to a partner, an emotional abuser may “forget” significant promises he made to his partner – especially if forgetting that promise will hurt her. He may also “forget” things so that he can let her know that things that are important to her are NOT important to him. This tactic can take the form of making a special dinner for her, containing shrimp when he has known for years that she is allergic to shellfish, so she can’t eat it, or buying a feather comforter for their bed, when he knows she is allergic to feathers. He will claim that his lapse was due to “forgetting”, when in fact, it was a passive-aggressive ploy to trick the partner into believing he was doing “something nice”, get her hopes up, and then bring her down with the fact that she could not enjoy this “gift” of his after all… It is a passive-aggressive slap-in-the-face.

      Another emotional abuse tactic is to reject activities that she suggests and then do them with other people – letting her know that he is doing them with other people – establishing control and implying that she is not worthy of doing the activities with him, but other people are.

      Hmm, that’s all I’m really finding, and it is AWESOME. I should probably write an article on how to determine if your friends’ claims of emotional abuse are true or not, from the perspective of people who have no idea how to recognize a “crime” that leaves no fingerprints. Since that is a legitimate issue.

      • Cinnabar says

        Thanks! That link really is awesome! 😀

        Luckily I escaped a lot of the things the author describes, but a BIG one was the “no respect for boundaries” thing while constantly telling me, “I respect you, I’d never push you on anything”, blah blah blah. Ugh.

        I don’t think anyone will really understand what it’s like to be abused unless it happens to them (and I can’t wish that on anyone), but maybe if we keep talking about it all the time REALLY LOUDLY and don’t stop, then they’ll HAVE to admit that it’s real. Just like rape and domestic violence.

        • Jennifer Kesler says

          I’ve actually experienced/witnessed MOST of what the author describes, and that link was actually very healing. These experiences are so fully denied by almost every person, every instance of culture, every everything, that sometimes it’s a huge relief just to find someone else in the world who acknowledges it. And then they always acknowledge *so exactly* the same things (because these behaviors are born of warped psychology that’s actually incredibly predictable, once you understand it), that it’s kind of staggering. Then I end up wondering, how the hell are only the people who’ve been through it aware of this? Even some psychologists don’t get it.

          ITA with your last paragraph. I think we CAN simply outshout the naysayers, and then get at least a respectful acknowledgment. People don’t really need to fully understand. They really just need to *understand* that unless they’ve studied it or experienced it, they DON’T understand and should bow to superior knowledge. That’s enough.

          • Cinnabar says

            OH that feeling when you hear or read another person describing their experience and you’re like, That’s how I feel too! I’m not alone! It’s so liberating! That’s another reason why it’s so important to talk – you never know who around you needs this very lifeline. But *ugh* I WISH it didn’t feel like walking through a freaking thornbush every time you try to do that. It’s bad enough to go through it, then kinda get the courage to open up your wounds to someone, then to have your experience derided and diminished right to your face is just… thorn-filled icing on a crap sandwich with a complimentary salt rub thrown in.

            WHY are humans so utterly incapable of basic understanding on such a huge scale? Clearly it’s *possible* or we wouldn’t be here discussing this very thing. Most people just don’t care enough to do it. How defective IS this species that we *fundamentally* cannot seem to see fellow humans as being equal to and as important as ourselves? >:(

            • Jennifer Kesler says

              WHY are humans so utterly incapable of basic understanding on such a huge scale?

              There’s a concept of “emotional intelligence” you may or may not be familiar with. It’s an exciting niche within the psychology/neuroscience field because it deals with the idea that empathy is a smart adaptation for survival – if you think about it long-term. Someone with a high emotional IQ can care about others without drowning in their suffering. They don’t go around abusing or hurting, and they feel guilty when they cause inadvertent hurt, and the guilt motivates them to make amends. According to Daniel Goleman and other thinkers/researchers in the field, people with higher emotional IQs are more “successful” in evolutionary terms – surviving, and creating a community in which the next generation can thrive – than the people we typically think of as successful.

              It brings me some comfort to think of it this way: we are a very young species. We are not NEARLY so sophisticated as we think. We have a lot of room to develop and improve. So yes, people suck in all sorts of ways – now. But in some thousands of years? There’s every reason to think we could get better. And in the meantime, there’s the hope of getting people with higher emotional IQs into influential positions, which could at least make some things about our lives better.

              • Cinnabar says

                That is interesting to consider. I like the idea that we’re growing towards being better as a species. It makes sense in a lot of ways too. I mean women are kinda almost people now in more parts of the world than before, and we’re generally more okay with them queer folk than we were a few decades ago. We also have things called “Human Rights” and “War Conventions” which countries are atleast expected to adhere to. Maybe there’s hope for us after all! 😀

                Hopefully when highly advanced alien civilizations make contact, we might have made enough progress to not come across as blithering, cannibalistic protozoans. xD

      • Raeka says

        Wow. That really spells everything out.

        On another note, I think stories/movies depicting emotional abuse can be very helpful as well –I think there’s a difference between reading the dry run-down of what it is, and actually seeing, feeling the situations. Of course, stories like this are damn hard to find, since our culture does its best to pretend emotional abuse doesn’t exist. But its possible you could post on some other feminist forum site asking for examples.

        And if your friend refuses to believe that what you’re showing her is emotional abuse, you can point her towards the forum where OTHER PEOPLE AGREE with you : ) I think part of her thick-headedness might simply be that you are the first voice she’s heard asserting that this exists. Repeating yourself, and showing her other people saying the same thing might help push back against the years and years of bad cultural messages.

        • Jennifer Kesler says

          ITA agree about movies (it’s why I became a screenwriter in the first place). Delores Claiborne can explain a lot, but the abuse in it is very physical – not sure it would work for this purpose.

          Gaslight is a good one, if you can get someone to forget the big plot and concentrate on what he’s doing to her, because that’s a textbook emotional abuse ploy: distorting a partner’s sense of reality and making him/her question his/her sanity.

        • Cinnabar says

          I think part of her thick-headedness might simply be that you are the first voice she’s heard asserting that this exists.

          Oh, absolutely! I know that’s the reason. Hell *I* didn’t know what emotional abuse really was – even having experienced it myself – until I hit feminist spaces on the internet talking about it and then I was like, “OMG THAT’S MEEEEEEEE!” and suddenly everything made sense. Also my friend doesn’t spend much time online at all, much less seeking out those kind of spaces, so it would be a totally new concept for her. Top that off with the fact that society subtly impresses upon you that women and girls just do not know what’s happening to them or what’s good for them.

          She did genuinely want to know about it though, so I want to explain it as well as I can.

          • says

            To help explain this stuff to your friend, I wrote this (I also put it on my site- just click my name). You can show it to her, if you want. Warning, it’s a head trip:
            An oppressive feeling.
            A guilty feeling.
            If I do not live up to his expectations, Bad Things will happen.
            He only has my best interest at heart, and he’s never hurt me.
            If I want to spend time with him, it has to be when he isn’t busy, and
            when he’s watching TV or playing a game. Even then, I have to be careful
            to be silent.
            He needs to do all this stuff for work so that he can pay the bills. What isn’t for work is for stress relief from work.
            If I want anything from him, I have to earn it.
            He is the one supporting me, after all.
            If I get into an argument with him, he brings up stuff from my past.
            He has a right to bring that up; it did happen.
            If I tell him something, he doesn’t remember it.
            He’s a busy man; I should remind him if I want him to remember.
            If I tell him that he does something that bothers me, he writes it off as unimportant or promises to change and doesn’t.
            He shouldn’t have to change who he is just so I feel better; it’s my trivial problem anyway.
            If I am in an argument with him and become emotional, he does not care about a word I say from then on, unless he wants to use it against me at a later time.
            He is right when he says I’m too emotional; I probably don’t even realize what I’m saying, and I shouldn’t have ever said it so it’s not like he’s at fault for bringing it up.
            If I tell someone that I am being emotionally abused, they don’t believe me.
            After all, I never said anything before, and I didn’t leave him.
            -The Logic of the Abused

            • Cinnabar says

              Thanks Eme, that is so spot on! Whenever a description of abuse hits very close to my experience, I feel like I’ve literally been emotionally gut-punched and this list totally did it.

              • Jennifer Kesler says

                I want to use this as a sort of jumping off point for a side discussion.

                While I recognize Eme’s remarks from a LOT of abuse survivors I’ve known, I just want to add that you’d need to write probably 10 similar pieces to get close to covering all the different ways abuse gets experienced.

                For example, sometimes you know the person you’re dealing with is abusive, irrational, unfair and without conscience, and you don’t take what they say to heart. But for one reason or another – ranging from physical threats to financial manipulation or even stalking – you can’t simply get rid of this person. So you seethe with rage. Your self-esteem is okay. You feel good about yourself. You know you deserve better. But it’s out of reach because you’re like a soldier in a siege, or a prisoner. You get hypervigilant. You may have violent fantasies that you feel guilty about. You worry you may be turning into a monster, because you KNOW if he does [a certain really, really bad thing], you will kill him, and no one will believe you, and you’re just waiting for that day. You sense that it can’t but end horribly – either he’ll kill you, or you’ll kill him, unless fate intervenes. And you wish it would kill you because at least then it would be over, and if you’re a child, you can’t see things getting any better anyway.

                That sort of thing would be another profile. Some of the feelings are very similar, but the reason I bring this up is: some of the most frustrating and alienating conversations/relationships I’ve had were with fellow abuse victims and I never understood why that was. But I think it’s that abuse is NOT just one experience, and we don’t all face it with the same personality or the same resources. For example, some abuse victims find comfort in religious faith, and I found great comfort in NOT believing that an omnipotent god set up a world where such shit could happen not only to good people, but to babies who hadn’t even had a chance to “deserve” it yet. That can create a conflict, if your friend and you don’t both realize you’re coping with the same common enemy, and how you choose to cope is less important than that you save your ire for those who really deserve it.

              • Cinnabar says

                @ Jen: That’s a great point! We need to get out as many different narratives about the effects/responses to being abused as possible, because sometimes you don’t even recognize that what’s happening to you is abuse unless you hear about it from someone outside. “This isn’t okay, and you’re not alone in what you’ve been feeling,” can be a really powerful trigger for getting out.

                “Soldier in a siege” was exactly the way I reacted to a particular ongoing abuse during my childhood – I could tell that things weren’t right, but I was too young and underconfident and the possiblity of there even being an “out” was simply not there to my mind. To protect myself, I turned into a stone; completely emotionless, because if I betrayed any hint of feeling it was used to stomp me down even more. Nobody else could see what was going on. They just thought I was shy, quiet, or plain old unfriendly and snooty. It was different from how I reacted to abuse that happened later, after I’d learned how to feel emotions again.

                I’m still trying to piece together fragments of memory to get a more coherent picture of the situation, but for the longest time I believed that the reason I cut off that person from my life was because “Oh you just had a silly fight, you’re so immature and can’t work out your problems!” like everyone was telling me instead of the fact that she was toxic, abusive, and had deliberately battered me emotionally for years to feed her own self esteem issues. Not that I’d ever reconsider what I’d done, but it took me years to figure the “abusive” part out and stand up for my decision.

      • says

        I came back to this article here on WP today looking for the link above – one of the best I’ve read on this subject. (belated) Thanks for linking it!

    • Patrick McGraw says

      “True Good Intentions (TM)”

      I know that feeling very well. No matter how much they hurt you, it’s YOUR fault for getting upset because of the True Good Intentions (TM) behind their actions.

  18. says

    @Cinnabar
    …you’re welcome and I’m sorry? I didn’t mean to emotionally gut-punch you. …if I post any more pieces, you probably shouldn’t read them if they’re that bad…I’m so sorry!

    @Jen
    I agree with what you said completely. I know someone who witnessed abuse towards their sisters as a child. (In that situation, they were made to believe that they were unable to help their siblings.) Sometimes they can be very…misinformed. It can be difficult to speak with them occasionally.
    What I think would be helpful was if everyone that wanted to would write a piece from their own experiences. That way many view points will be included. We could even compile it here: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!topic/p-and-m-awareness/oUGIOcJ9q7c
    (If you don’t want to join, just email your piece- with the name you want credited- to me and I’ll post it for you. My email is emeguta@gmail.com )
    Like the idea? Hate it?
    Oh. My friend pointed this out to me, so just in case it was otherwise assumed: I wrote that piece from my own experiences. I did not get into character, do research, etc., in order to write it.

    • Cinnabar says

      No no, don’t be sorry! I meant that as a compliment, that it describes the experience so closely… Ack, I didn’t word it well enough, sorry. >_<

      • says

        Okay…and don’t worry about your phrasing; it’s fine. By the way, do you like my idea of compiling pieces as I described up there? Do you think anyone will go back into that headtrip for that? Anyway, glad you…?liked?…the piece…

        • Cinnabar says

          I think it’s a good idea! When talking about abuse or violence (sexual or otherwise) there’s always the possibility of someone getting triggered. But you shouldn’t let that stop you from talking about your experiences, just put a trigger warning on it if you feel necessary.

  19. says

    I had an example of this come up in my class the other day. We were discussing a criminal justice model that turned over the trial and sentencing to the affected community, and had the stated focus of bringing the offender back into the community. This set off a hundred alarm bells in my head, all screaming “keeping it in the family = Penn State, Catholic Church, and US Military”. But when I brought up the seemingly obvious example of a father beating his son and how the community would value the father over the son in that case, my professor and some of my classmates honestly thought the community would pitch in to help the child.

    Then my professor flat out told me I was being too cynical and I shut down. Spent the rest of the class doodling in my notebook. Cynical, my ass. When my father started abusing me in the middle of one of his parties, all his friends and neighbors left the party and went home. Didn’t tell him to stop hurting me, didn’t call the cops. They were uncomfortable enough that they didn’t want to watch, but not enough to actually do jack shit to help me. And I’m “cynical” because I know this can happen.

    Side note: the people arguing against this model were all four students of color, the only disabled student, and myself, the only out queer. Everyone arguing for it appeared to be White, able-bodied, and straight. Gee, I wonder what the common denominator is here?

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      I have absolutely no tolerance for this kind of willful ignorance. Your prof is presumably an educated person, but clearly very, very deeply ignorant on this subject, and had no business saying anything about it. I’m sorry, but what an ass.

      Point your prof to my Hilary Adams article, and to this link where she discusses her shock at how many people came forward with similar stories, including the part where no one believes/supports the victims because the abuser’s friendship is more socially valuable to them:

      http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/mvc95/im_hillary_adams_the_girl_in_the_judge_william/

      And you can tell him I relate to her so thoroughly, it’s depressing. Then you can tell your prof about NPD and ASPD, which most abusive parents have, and how those disorders account for about 2% of the population. That’s two people in every hundred. And most of them will have kids, just like most of everyone has kids, and they will always be abusive parents because they have no incentive not to be and the disorders predispose them to be. I have an upcoming series on NPD, too. And you can point your prof to this comment, because I would gladly email this person myself. It’s just not okay for people to teach, without a shred of research to back them up (and it wouldn’t), that people mostly support victims.

      People blame victims and support abusers EXCEPT when someone from a lower class (say, a black man) abuses someone of a higher class (say, rapes a white woman). It’s all very clearly determined by the social status, and this is so obvious if you, like, watch the news. The person with the higher social status gets the social support – and abusers are almost always smart enough to pick on people of lower social status because even THEY can figure out what your prof is too dense to have noticed.

      Sincerely,
      Someone who doesn’t even have a degree, but does have the ability to observe, and like, read, and like, wait until I’ve researched something before I open my mouth to proclaim about it

      PS – If you don’t want to show your prof this, I’d be happy to write an article using your prof as an example of the sort of “aiding and abetting” that we have to silence in order to correct this massive social issue, and then you could send him or her to that

  20. Casey says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    I hope you’re either able to confront your prof. in private about this egregious ignorance or maybe write to the school administrators about it OR post fliers around the school exposing Prof. Fuckwit for what zie really is. (maybe it’ll even cost them a job! okay, this is making me a little TOO vindictive…)

  21. says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I definitely can’t point him to anything with identifying information – my major is a small department, he knows all my professors, and I can’t afford to make a splash. However, something that points out the extreme ignorance of his position would be a huge help. 😀 For my peace of mind at least, and hopefully for his future students too.

  22. CowtownGirl says

    First, thank you for this site. Non-survivor priviledge is perhaps the biggest hurdle in coming to peace of mind for me; I believe it leads to crazy-making of the abused. My very closest friends often poke holes in my memories, and have actually said I may be “pyscho” and “dwelling”. I no longer discuss my trauma with them. Even my bf doesn’t want to listen, he just talks over me with his own issues.

    I had written a two page reply outlining my abuse, but instead of making this into a victim impact statement I’d rather keep my head clear and focus on the discussion–non-survivor priviledge! Growing up in a toxic, isolated, working class industry town (in Northern Canada–I mean isolated!!) I’m not sure how I have held onto my own truth. Self-esteem priviledge should be another topic! Those with secure attachments could be another one! Every day I reference myself to people who seem intimidating and ‘normal’ and terrifying, they have the ability to stand up for themselves. If I am challenged by them, even in conversation, how will I come up with the correct response? Will they negate me? This is no way to live, and I have been fighting hard to be heard. My therapists are very validating, but at $170/hour it is becoming obvious I cannot keep treatment up. So I am writing a book about abuse and truth, and have been researching neuroscience to understand what parts of our brains are responsible for our understanding of truths, and how these parts become stronger as we heal more. Anyway, a bit of food for thought, sorry if I went off topic but this is an exciting discussion for me!

  23. ang says

    Superb article. That is exactly what one experiences as a survivor, starting from childhood. Thank you for giving this a name, “non-survivor privilege”

  24. Jonathan Culp says

    You name a real and awful truth, but as an abuse survivor who has cycled through denial myself, I would also challenge you to acknowledge within this analysis the truth that ignorance is not the only road that leads to this particular dead end. Sometimes its a self-preservation strategy for people who have been abused themselves. And of course, some of those people follow this denial where it leads and become the next generation of abusers. This is not in any way to forgive this behaviour, or to deny the reality of non-survivor privilege, but I feel like these facts need to be on the table to understand what’s going on here. We are not our own category of human beings – sometimes the enemy is us. Thanks so much though for starting this conversation.

  25. Jennifer Kesler says

    Jonathan Culp, when you’re talking to someone about a four year old article, “challenge” is too strong a word. What you talk about is something I’ve come to understand well over the past several years, as I’ve discovered just how many of the silencers are themselves victims with issues. A year ago, when Hilary Adams revealed footage of her family court judge father beating her and clearly enjoying it, I was surprised how many people commented in response on various sites, “I was beaten as a child, and I turned out fine. She’s just selfish.” Denial, perhaps, but there’s also a sense of envy there. And now it makes more sense to me why I’ve been actively hated by other victims – I thought they just didn’t like me, but it was that I worked on repairing the damage instead of going into denial, and they couldn’t or wouldn’t.

  26. Lily Grey says

    Thank you. So much. This has made more sense than anything else I have read in a very, very long time. I feel like I am constantly facing this, thank you, thank you.

  27. Dollywitch says

    I’m a victim of emotional abuse/bullying rather than anything physical, so this article doesn’t specifically apply to me. But I relate to it so much nonetheless, and attribute most of my negative experiences in recent years to this. People don’t want to hear about the dark side of humour nature(even when they regularly show it themselves). The problem with this is that a lot of the time this problem can be a cultural one that can be solved if people address it. This “dark side” is often due to cultural insensitivity or lack of responsibility – people not feeling they need to be in any way moral, which can create an environment where rapists and bullies thrive.

    So while some people might have the point of view that this would just make more people feel miserable, it might actually get people to do something about it.

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      This article addresses ANY kind of abuser survival, not just physical. You are definitely included!

      And I cannot agree MORE that there’s so much we can do to improve this problem by improving the culture.

  28. George M says

    So my brother says to me a couple of years ago ” you need to let go of all that stuff that happened in the past, move on, forgive them.”

    He received more abuse than I did (he was younger when it started so had longer to wait until his escape). So I start kicking myself, asking why I cannot let go and pretend it didn’t all happen. If he can do it, what is wrong with me that I cannot?

    So when I read this article, I felt better. For fuck’s sake! I was abused! I am right not to forgive. I am right not to forget! Are we not our own worst enemies, we victims of abuse, when we forgive, when we forget? We are saying it is OK to abuse others. We are encouraging them.

    And besides, every time he is tells me Satan has hired the CIA to spy on him, I wonder how much he has really “let things go”. Somehow it is OK to be crazy but not OK to be angry.

  29. Jennifer Kesler says

    George M,

    FWIW, when I finally got some therapy, the therapist immediately zeroed in on how I pitied my abuser for being less than human rather than being angry with him. She encouraged the anger, and you know why? Because it was popping out in other areas of my life where it didn’t belong. It’s like grieving – you can’t just say, “Well, let’s just be glad for the good times and move on.” You can’t just forgive. You HAVE to move through the process of anger.

    And the good news is: once you acknowledge that anger at a time when you’re safe from your abuser, it eventually expends itself. You retain the sense of outrage, but not all the heavy feelings that go with it. Once you let yourself feel all that anger, you master it. You can summon it as needed when you’re dealing with bullies, or you can channel it into something constructive (that’s why I write these articles). You can use it to fortify yourself, but only when you need it.

    I’m not going to criticize ANY victim’s recovery method – if forgiveness really works for some, that’s great for them. But it is definitely not for everyone, and that advice is coming from the field built to study human emotions and behavior. They know what they’re talking about.

  30. says

    Thank you for this. You describe so well and honestly what an abuse survivor has to face often – if not daily. TR

  31. AndDespiteHerMedicinalCompound SadlyPiccalilliDied says

    A few years ago I posted a link to this post on my fb, along with a
    comment about how “This could almost have been written by me”. At the
    time I had a spot of Stockholm Syndrome and had made the mistake of
    befriending an old school teacher of mine on facebook; this particular
    teacher, when I was in her class, had ignored my attempts to alert her
    to the fact that a sibling and I were being physically and emotionally
    abused by our mother, and basically said that she didn’t believe me;
    and she’s never taken true responsibility for it or attempted to do
    anything to redress the damage.
    Anyway, her comment on my fb link to this post said:
    …”You still sound so angry. This can be got over as it is better to
    be calm and reasonably sublime than angry and revengeful. Take it from
    me, I have tried both”.
    Now, I had not said a thing about revenge and I didn’t think my
    comment accompanying the post was particularly angry sounding… So
    there’s only one conclusion to come to about that; and that is, it
    spoke volumes about her guilty conscience, and her paranoia that I
    would someday figure out the lengths she went to to avoid
    accountability (with the help of one or two of her colleagues) once it
    emerged that her silencing tactics had worked all too well in that I
    didn’t speak out for months after my stepfather began sexually abusing
    me because I was convinced I wouldn’t be believed or taken seriously…
    This goes to show that, when it comes to child abuse, “Bystander
    Apathy” and “Emotional Invalidation” are inextricably linked and, in
    fact, come from exactly the same place.

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