*chokes on water*

“12. the survivor’s needs are always more important than the perpetrator’s needs”

on a list of “Oppressive norms of anti-abuse discourse that I would really like to see deconstructed, challenged and outright demolished

Really?  Really?  What, you think there are too many people supporting survivors?  That’s what we’re worried about?

There were some worthwhile things on this list and then I got to this and it just gave everything a cast of “abusers are the REAL victims here!”

Anyway.

1. — yeah, that one’s a problem

2. — um

3. — yep, faulty

4. — mm

5. — yep, wrote about that

6. — yeah not good, although I do question why public shaming is on the list with murder and imprisonment

7. — well.  I know this is just a brief list without elaboration, but book recommendations would be good.

8. — eh yeah that’s patronizing like people can’t know what’s best for themselves and doesn’t really account for other reasons someone might stay, like the abuser having control over their finances or the possibility that they’ll kill them, but instead you went with #9

9. — who cares

10. — mm yes that can be a problem when the list lacks detail/explanations, like uh, this one

11. — admittedly abusers can take advantage of faith in these so it’s worth being careful

13. — I mean, that’s not really what I focus on, but, what are you suggesting?

14. — see #5

15. — mm

So some good things and some iffy things and then just, #12 blows it all out of the water.

 

Advertisements

12 responses to “*chokes on water*

  • epochryphal

    hehe i thought you would have things to say.

    so important context imo, without digging into op’s privacy: we’ve had a lot of conversations about mental illness and specifically ocd and bpd, and how the experience of them (and especially in the context of anti-abuse discourse) can lead to some horrific internalized if-i-do-or-even-think-x-i-am-abusive. some scrupulosity high-level stuff. and being a survivor does Nothing to assuage that, and there’s no room Anywhere to talk about it, because the second you say “i worry i’m abusive” it’s spotlights and shying away just in case, regardless of your survivor status.

    so like. 12 struck me also as poorly worded, because yeah i’m okay with prioritizing survivor needs always. …but i think the actual point is, perpetrators (and again especially those who are also survivors, that’s like, #1 focus here) do have needs, and helping them does benefit survivors and community, and yet it’s seen as betrayal and diverting scarce resources etc.

    like yk, the awesome group Philly Stands Up that worked with perpetrators, but had to close due to lack of resources. and it feels so self-defeating to frame working with perpetrators as bad or always less important/valuable.

    so i think that was 12.

    which is why 9 is important, especially in the context of 1, again. if survivors can be perpetrators and we care, but abusers never change and we don’t care, then why allocate resources to anyone who isn’t a pure-true-certified survivor? (and this is where i see a particular narrative around, if you absorb abusive behaviors to survive while being abused that’s natural and excusable and you’re not abusive yourself, as long as you deprogram and stop quickly after you get out. which is a particular interpretation that favors casting Real abusers as unchanging, and abuse as uncomplicated.)

    basically i think #1 is #1 for a reason and lends a lot of meaning to the others.

    and i always come back to individual vs systemic. generic-you the individual don’t need to care about your abuser or any abuser changing; no moratorium to forgive, etc. but on a systemic level that becomes extremely isolating and fragile and exile-based and lock-them-up-forever and, well, unsustainable.

    (and yeah for 6, public shaming is often a very effective form of ostracism online.)

    :0 does that make more sense? trying to open up space for, specifically survivors-who-are-maybe-or-definitely-also-perpetrators is really hard to do without hurting other survivors, but i think it’s incredibly important, and so yeah working on things like this is good.

    • Coyote

      I always have things to say, my not-man.

      “we’ve had a lot of conversations about mental illness and specifically ocd and bpd, and how the experience of them (and especially in the context of anti-abuse discourse) can lead to some horrific internalized if-i-do-or-even-think-x-i-am-abusive.”

      That would make for a more interesting and valuable post than this list imo.

      “so like. 12 struck me also as poorly worded, because yeah i’m okay with prioritizing survivor needs always. …but i think the actual point is, perpetrators (and again especially those who are also survivors, that’s like, #1 focus here) do have needs,”

      See, you can say that without saying there’s ever a time or place when survivor needs shouldn’t come first. You can say perpetrators have needs, we may want to provide for those needs, etc. without saying survivors shouldn’t always be prioritized. And that distinction is… important.

      Anyway I was scratching my head trying to imagine what #12 could even be talking about if not just straight abuse apologism and was like ??? maybe disability acomodations ?? but even then I don’t see why that would lead you to a statement like that.

      “which is why 9 is important, especially in the context of 1, again.”

      Eh, so. Coming at this as… someone who *has* changed a lot, in various ways, from the person I used to be, in ways that relate to harming people — an easy example being: I used to be way more homophobic — I don’t… feel an investment in “abusers can change their ways” b/c people believing in that language really hard wasn’t a part of how *I* changed. I do believe, in general, that people can change and moral worth isn’t a fixed personal property and I’m not a Calvinist etc. etc. and I believe in redemption arcs. That stuff is important to me. But I also don’t see worth in bringing that up specifically in the context of talking about survivors staying with people who abuse them, or in encouraging people to believe that “this person might become a different person” is an o.k. fair reason to remain in a relationship with the person they *are* /right now/.

      Like, in a more morally-neutral example: if someone befriended me with the secret hope that I would stop being interested in video games and societal politics & that I might one day develop a sudden obsessive interest in bycicles and Renessaince art, and I found out about that? I would be annoyed. And generally speaking, I don’t think people should enter or remain in relationships where they’re hoping the person they’re shipping themselves with will eventually ~change, b/c if the person they are *now* isn’t someone you want, then that’s not a worthwhile relationship.

      And for abuse survivors who are in a position where it’s so, so easy to just hope that the mistreatment will eventually tone down… I’m more worried about adding fuel to the fire for those people than I am about some person with a crummy value system (hi, past me, and for all I know, current me) not being… believed in(?) enough.

      “and this is where i see a particular narrative around, if you absorb abusive behaviors to survive while being abused that’s natural and excusable and you’re not abusive yourself, as long as you deprogram and stop quickly after you get out.”

      Interestingly enough, I haven’t seen much/any of this.

      “and yeah for 6, public shaming is often a very effective form of ostracism online.”

      I hear people say that, and I have to take it on faith that it can be true, but my experience with “public shaming” online has mostly just been… stuff like me trying really hard to make a dent in the trust people have for harmful ace blogs. Which… maybe has had some impact? ….but not one on par with the notion of exile or anything. Honestly when I can’t get people to have a dialogue with me I feel like “hey everybody, jsyk this person has done XYZ” is the only tool left at my disposal.

      • epochryphal

        :) (man that really DOES look insincere these days. sincere tone of smiley….)

        it’s been a long time since this friend has talked on this subject other than in a rambly-journal fashion, so i was excited to see this more promo-able, conversation-starter material. and it really has been a year or two or more since we really got into this topic, and restorative/transformative justice, and its shortcomings and barriers etc. it’s nice to talk about again.

        altho i will say, i’ve seen a fair few posts about how those “people with mental illnesses can be abusive and it’s not an excuse” posts can really easily tip into anti-bpd anti-symptom stuff, and resistance is seen as abuse apologism, and ever talking about “i’m worried i’m abusive” (even with a million qualifiers like “everyone assures me i’m not” and “here’s exactly what happened from multiple viewpoints”) gets some hardcore backlash, folks driven off tumblr, etc. so yknow, reasons why that stuff is less visible/public.

        i think we agree on the distinction of always prioritizing survivors. tho i will throw in, that becomes a, you can’t ever focus on perpetrators ever because then you’re not prioritizing survivors. even focusing on folks who are both (or scared of being both). so i do think that saying “always prioritize survivors” gets misapplied into “never focus on perpetrators (even if they’re also survivors),” and that’s a huge problem. i think that’s a big part of 12.

        ahhhh i see, okay yes, 9 in the context of — was it 8, about not Expecting survivors to leave/sever ties? yeah that’s. a good point. definitely being careful not to encourage Trying To Change people, or Waiting and Hoping. and that’s a big big thing.

        for me, it’s sort of…i’ve watched my abusers change. and it freaks me out to know they’re better, and that whenever i talk about them no one will believe that? like i get to talk about my bad experiences with them. but talking about how i /know/ they’ve improved, is, is seen as wishful and triggering and dangerous and disruptive. and it makes me less believable and trustworthy and valid. which Sucks.

        i’ve also changed, and gotten better at boundaries and internalized ableism and other things, and…yeah, it wasn’t about “abusers can change” but it /was/ for me about, learning about unintentional harm, and horizontal harm, and being able to improve, and not constantly beating yourself up for messing up because that doesn’t help anyone. a lot like guides for white guilt, and for gay folks hurting bi folks, and so on. and realizing that, hey, crap, somebody might conceptualize of a past relationship with me as harmful or even abusive, even if i wouldn’t, and that’s scary as hell but i *am* doing better and have been trying my best and it’s not always enough but it’s where i’m at. (thanks ocd therapy.)

        mmm…as for the ace advice blogs, i think there’s a difference between “Callout: X is An Abuser” being widely reblogged and the person getting bombarded with suicide-baiting (and op being silent about that)…versus, yk, what you did, “here’s me trying to converse with X about an issue, here’s why these responses aren’t sufficient, X has taken on a position of power/authority.” if that makes sense. and there’s also the “you have to believe me because i’m iding as a survivor” and the history of that getting preempted by abusive folks making a callout post First to discredit the other person. and it becomes a popularity contest and is super shitty. (seen this one wayyy too many times.)

        ofc tumblr is a very particular microcosm.

        • Coyote

          guh, not the mental illness thing… *rubs hands down face* I think there’s kind of a pendulum there that always starts with having to dispell the idea that chronic abuse = product of mental illness & if someone has a clean bill of brain-health, they’re safe and alright VS. okay but now we need to clarify that the nuerodivergent folk can be abusive also VS. watch out not to stereotype! VS. but don’t assume that just because someone’s mentally ill they’ll be safe for you! etc. etc. etc.

          One of those things that to me seems so simple if it weren’t for all these loops we go in and the mess it makes.

          “tho i will throw in, that becomes a, you can’t ever focus on perpetrators ever because then you’re not prioritizing survivors.”

          ehhhh. I don’t see them as that mutually exclusive. I mean, where there *are* limited resources, sure, but otherwise? Yeah that seems unnecessary as a conclusion, agreed.

          “ahhhh i see, okay yes, 9 in the context of — was it 8, about not Expecting survivors to leave/sever ties?”

          Yeah. Since that’s how the OP explicitly framed it. Thanks.

          “for me, it’s sort of…i’ve watched my abusers change. and it freaks me out to know they’re better, and that whenever i talk about them no one will believe that? like i get to talk about my bad experiences with them. but talking about how i /know/ they’ve improved, is, is seen as wishful and triggering and dangerous and disruptive. and it makes me less believable and trustworthy and valid. which Sucks.”

          Oh, yikes. Yeah, that’s not fair.

          “but it /was/ for me about, learning about unintentional harm, and horizontal harm, and being able to improve, and not constantly beating yourself up for messing up because that doesn’t help anyone.”

          Good things.

          e.e I forgot that suicide baiting was a… thing. Yeah not a supporter of that.

    • Sieketya

      I could be wrong, but my understanding is that even outside of the context of mental illness, it is *extremely common* for survivors of abuse to believe that they themselves are abusive. Because abusers often *do* cast themselves as the victims. So yeah, that attitude of “if maybe at all possibly you were once abusive ever you should just die” is… probably not good for almost any survivor? Ever?

  • luvtheheaven

    I have written up my long reply right here: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/re-chokes-on-water-2/ Sorry I had a bit too much to say. You guys really got me thinking, I guess!

    Also Sieketya, yes, I hadn’t thought of that but it’s a really good point.

  • Arrela

    I think. I don’t know.

    Okay, context: I have a cluster C personality disorder and am possibly autistic.

    I am terrified of being abusive. Terrified. Every time a “signs your partner is abusive” list crosses my dash I examine it closely from every angle to see if maybe I fit some of the criteria.

    (I usually fit maybe one of 15 criteria if you squint and close one eye. I remain equally convinced that I’m an abuser and a terrible human being.)

    Threatening your partner with suicide is abuse, definitely, but what about telling your partner you’re feeling suicidal? Like, sure, your motivation is not manipulative, but the effect is more or less the same, right? What about needing near constant reassurance and comfort? That’s probably manipulative, right? Having frequent breakdowns? Crying a lot? Asking your partner to stay up late and comfort you when they have work in the morning?

    A close friend of mine got out of a, let’s just say hurtful, relationship last year. She was very broken down. Her ex had frequent breakdowns where she told my friend “I’m an abusive monster and you deserve so much better than me you should just leave me but if you did I would kill myself”. Now on the one hand that had a terrible negative effect on my friend, on the other hand that was this person’s emotional reality. She was saying these things because she was struggling and that was how she felt, not because she was evil or wanted to hurt or manipulate my friend.

    I think the break up was probably a good thing, and my focus was on supporting my friend, because she was the one I was friends with, but I feel genuinely sorry for this person as well and I think she deserves all the support and help she can get. Labelling her an abuser and my friend a survivor doesn’t really help either of them. Punishing this person doesn’t help either of them. Helping and supporting this person from early on might have helped both of them.

    I don’t know, I can’t seem to write anything coherent here. But I think. I think dividing relationships into “good” and “abusive” is harmful and doesn’t help anyone, I think humans frequently hurt each other just because we’re humans and we have issues, not because we’re evil, and I think people who have hurt people are often deserving of help and support, and I think sometimes a hurtful relationship might be made better by giving that person help and support.

    Mentally ill people are obviously still responsible for our actions and need to take precautions to avoid hurting people, probably.

    I’m not really reaching any kind of conclusion here, sorry about this rambling.

    • Coyote

      You know, not that you need to *keep* this feeling, but it seems to me that being terrified of being abusive is a pretty good sign that you have some good values — of the kind that are helpful for *not being abusive* (because you value not being abusive). & bear in mind, being abusive isn’t (in my dictionary) the same thing as being annoying, or being socially incompatible with someone, or otherwise doing something that someone objects to.

      But anyway yeah those lists can be really unhelpful and sometimes seem very… “this featured in my abuse, so therefore it Is Abusive” — when really… almost anything can be twisted into an abuser’s weapon, depending on the context and the framing and what experiences lead up to it… Like, as an example, for me, one of the things that really stung coming from the Ex-Friend was when he would ask “Is this because you’re ace?” even though in a different context/relationship that could be a perfectly acceptable question. The string of words themselves are not some absolute sign of abuse — it’s a lot more complicated to explain how the context made it feel underhanded, mean, and manipulative.

      “Threatening your partner with suicide is abuse, definitely, but what about telling your partner you’re feeling suicidal? Like, sure, your motivation is not manipulative, but the effect is more or less the same, right?”

      Nope.

      “What about needing near constant reassurance and comfort? That’s probably manipulative, right? Having frequent breakdowns? Crying a lot?”

      As we’ve been discussing, those can just as well be signs of having been abused.

      “I think the break up was probably a good thing, and my focus was on supporting my friend, because she was the one I was friends with, but I feel genuinely sorry for this person as well and I think she deserves all the support and help she can get.”

      That makes sense, yeah.

      “But I think. I think dividing relationships into ‘good’ and ‘abusive’ is harmful and doesn’t help anyone,”

      Incidentally! I talked about a similar idea (not liking that binary) over here.

      • Arrela

        “You know, not that you need to *keep* this feeling, but it seems to me that being terrified of being abusive is a pretty good sign that you have some good values — of the kind that are helpful for *not being abusive* (because you value not being abusive).”

        Maybe, but I actually think it also does the opposite. Because of this fear I am much more likely to corner my girlfriend with something like what my friend’s ex used to say. The self-hatred and insecurity makes me more likely to hurt other people, the feeling that I am inherently an abusive person makes me hate myself more, ergo more likely to drag others down with me. Does that make sense?

        About threatening suicide etc:

        Obviously I agree that there is a line somewhere between “You can’t leave me because if you ever did I would kill myself” and “You should know that I am feeling rather suicidal these days and could probably use some help” – but where exactly is it? You can probably end up making a partner feel like they can’t leave you without ever having as intention to do so. I’m not really asking for you to draw a line for me here, just trying to say that 1) it is not a given that a desperate person in distress would come down on the right side of the line and 2) a lot of the discourse on emotional abuse makes a lot of mentally ill people feel like we should probably just not talk about our feelings, just to be safe. That’s probably not ideal either.

        • Libris

          cosigning Arrela here, these feels suck and it is a complex thing.

          Another related thing I think may be relevant is that, as epochryphal mentions, there’s a narrative of ‘you may have abusive fleas if you’re a survivor and that’s okay as long as you get rid of them really quickly’, and one of the things that sticks with me about that is that – fine, I would love to, but no one tells you how to? People assume that you’ll just learn how to socialise properly by talking to people – but I’m autistic and had a shitty childhood; I can learn how to make people happy by talking to them, but not how to socialise in a healthy way.

          And I realise that this is a problem, because mostly the only people who notice that this is a needed resource are not in the place to provide that resource. But it’s a frustration which seems generally relevant.

          Also I just really want to highlight ‘a lot of the discourse on emotional abuse makes a lot of mentally ill people feel like we should probably just not talk about our feelings, just to be safe. That’s probably not ideal either.’, because yes, this.

          • Coyote

            “People assume that you’ll just learn how to socialise properly by talking to people – but I’m autistic and had a shitty childhood; I can learn how to make people happy by talking to them, but not how to socialise in a healthy way.
            And I realise that this is a problem, because mostly the only people who notice that this is a needed resource are not in the place to provide that resource.”

            Hmm… Do you know of any writing on this? I mean, now I’m wondering whether or not I know any of the kind of “how to socialize” things you mean.

WP account not required to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: