Your friend, your idol, the person you follow on Twitter is an abuser. You’ve known this for a long time, but you’ve turned a blind eye. Maybe he hasn’t set his sights on you. Maybe he hasn’t raged. It’s just that person over there and doesn’t affect you. You feel uncomfortable. You don’t like looking at it. You don’t like reading about it. Why doesn’t she just shut up already?
I’ve already discussed victim shaming, but let me reiterate what that is and why doing it hurt all victims1.
Victim Shaming involves telling a victim that her2 experience really isn’t that important or really wasn’t that bad. It involves finding a million reasons why the victim should just stop talking about what’s happened. It’s telling the victim that it’s her fault and if she’d just done what was expected of her then none of it would have happened. It’s talking over her experience, minimizing it, defining it for her and moaning that her experience makes you uncomfortable.
Why does that hurt anyone who’s experienced abuse? Because they see what you’re doing, what you’re saying, and talk themselves into remaining silent. This gives the abuser strength and validation to continue his dirty work– either on his current target or on another victim. Instead of feeling shame and getting help, he’s validated in his actions. And it keeps others from speaking up.
“If it was that bad, why didn’t she speak up sooner?”
She’s protecting his goddamned reputation or remembering what it was like to love him or telling herself that it was her fault. She’s holstered the one weapon she can really use to help prevent this from happening again because someone decided her experience just wasn’t that serious. You made her feel like she just wasn’t legitimate enough for you. It really doesn’t matter why she didn’t speak out sooner, because there are a multitude of reasons. I’ve never asked because it doesn’t matter. And asking her to answer this question is invalidating her experience.
I could sit here and type story after story about my own experiences. I could tell you for days why this issue is close to my heart and why I don’t give a fuck about past grievances. I could whip out my virtual victim “dick” and measure it right against yours. Shoot, there’s a good chance my scars out scar yours. I could do this:
Except I won’t. I won’t minimize what happened to someone else because it doesn’t fit my definition or because it wasn’t as extreme as getting punched in the throat. I’m not going to write a screed about why a victim should shut the fuck about what happened to her. But I’ll happily and most definitely write about the people telling the victim to shut up or OH MY GOD ROMNEY WILL WIN THE WHITE HOUSE.
First, seriously? It’s a Twitter personality. Give me a fucking break. The day tweeting wins elections is the day people stop actually, you know, voting. Oh, and guess what? Progressive politics includes standing up for the victim– whether it be against someone taking away their fucking Medicare or trying to manipulate them into calling them just to “talk”.
.@vdaze And if my mother dies as a result of this drama, it will one of the saddest cyber romances in history
.@vdaze My mother is despondent over reading your manipulations. You’ve hurt many people just “to get even”. Call me & we can end this.
Secondly, it didn’t happen to you? Good. It happened to someone else. It’s happened to multiple someone else’s. It didn’t fit your definition? Too bad, because it fits into a definition or two of abuse.
Do you recognize anything in this list?
- Denial: Manipulator refuses to admit that he or she has done something wrong.
- Rationalization: An excuse made by the manipulator for inappropriate behavior. Rationalization is closely related to spin.
- Minimization: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalization. The manipulator asserts that his or her behavior is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else was suggesting, for example saying that a taunt or insult was only a joke.
- Selective inattention or selective attention: Manipulator refuses to pay attention to anything that may distract from his or her agenda, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it”.
- Diversion: Manipulator not giving a straight answer to a straight question and instead being diversionary, steering the conversation onto another topic.
- Evasion: Similar to diversion but giving irrelevant, rambling, vague responses, weasel words.
- Covert intimidation: Manipulator throwing the victim onto the defensive by using veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats.
- Guilt tripping: A special kind of intimidation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.
- Shaming: Manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. Shaming tactics can be very subtle such as a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm. Manipulators can make one feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.
- Playing the victim role (“poor me”): Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.
- Vilifying the victim: More than any other, this tactic is a powerful means of putting the victim on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intent of the manipulator.
- Playing the servant role: Cloaking a self-serving agenda in guise of a service to a more noble cause, for example saying he is acting in a certain way for “obedience” and “service” to God or a similar authority figure.
If you don’t recognize anything in the above list I’m sure someone can give you specific examples of every single item in that list. Every one.
I’m going to quote myself here, because this so obviously bears repeating a second time:
“So, let me be very, very clear here to the people who are telling us– and specifically her– to stop talking about this. When you tell her to stop talking about it, you are telling her to shut up and you are attempting to shame her into silence. That makes you part of the problem. That makes you his enabler and that makes you supportive of the abuse.
Does that make you uncomfortable? Are you angry now? Good. You deserve to feel that way. Imagine what the victim of the abuse feels like when you tell her that her experience is not worthy of your tender little eyeballs. When she sees you validating the person who abused her. It’s precisely people like you and your reaction to this that more people don’t come forward. Go sit in your corner, cover your eyes and pretend the only ugly that happens in the world happens to people you don’t know. No one’s stopping you from hiding to protect your delicate sensibilities.
But we will not be silent. We will not ignore it. We will stand up and say that this is enough. Abuse is a real issue that affects real people and, guess what, Sherlock, those real people are probably people you know. So, you can sit down and shut up now. Hide away deep in the crevices of the internet where real life never seeps in and your only exposure to real ugly is in a link your friend posted. The rest of us, those strong enough to actually look at what happened to Jessica and others like her, will stand with the victim and see real life the way it actually happens. And we will be very, very angry about it.”
Maybe you’ve been getting DM’s or emails or talking with the aggressor on the phone and so feel compelled to speak out on his behalf. Let me explain something to you– and him– he doesn’t get to define the conversation. I don’t care how many of his supporters whine about it on their blogs and on Twitter. If you cared about your friend, if you care at all about victims at all, you will convince him to be quiet and you will convince him to get help. Victims of “real” abuse3 have seen what he is capable of and we– we, motherfuckers, because I have survived some of the worst abuse you can fucking imagine– recognized it immediately and were triggered. I hate to be the bearer of sad news for your tender little hearts, but this falls right into the perimeters of “real” abuse.
Now, you can whine that all this talk of abuse and bullies and victims is dangerous to Obama’s election chances, but you’ll be arguing out of your ass. This is a legitimate issue for millions of people and, guess what, it’s not going to stop people from voting one way or the other. The aggressor does not matter to this election. His tweeting does not matter. His “insightful” observations do not matter. That is a form of psychological manipulation that you can see in the above list. You fell for it. Congratulations, you just allowed yourself to be used against his victim. You just allowed yourself to engage in victim shaming.
Now, don’t you feel proud of yourself?
You should look inward a little and ask yourself why you felt compelled to speak out against an abuse victim. Why you felt obligated to denounce her as someone who’s just creating noise to detract from a presidential campaign. Why you felt it was your duty to stand with someone who is capable of manipulating even you4.
- This post is not going to address cyberbullying. [↩]
- I’m using “her” only because it’s easier. I understand that men can and are victims. [↩]
- As you and your comrades call it. [↩]
- And, no, I don’t feel used by Jessica, so save that shit for someone else. I have my voice and I have chosen to use it. You don’t like it? Too fucking bad. [↩]
I like geeky stuff, politics, squirrels and monkeys.