It happens every time.
In 2017, when Harvey Weinstein was first embroiled in his numerous sexual assault charges, it was Lindsay Lohan of all people, who took up the charge.
“He never harmed me or did anything to me. We’ve done several movies together. I think everyone needs to stop. I think it’s wrong. So, stand up.”
When presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg was asked, a few weeks ago, about the numerous non-disclosure agreements he’s had women sign, he pointed out how many women have been given management positions in his company.
“I’ve been nice to some women” Elizabeth Warren correctly translated.
When men abuse women, there will always be someone who comes out of the weeds and describes ‘what a nice man he’s been the whole time I’ve known him’.
And the truth is – I’m happy for these people. They were in the presence of a shark that chose not to bite them. But their lack of bite marks doesn’t disprove that other women were wounded.
And this is overwhelmingly a gendered issue. While not all abusers are men, obviously, it is almost exclusively men who receive this type of benefit of the doubt. We just don’t like to change our opinions on guys we generally like. It’s much easier to play devil’s advocate, especially if the alleged victim is some chick we hardly know.
But victims of abuse will often heartily agree; their abuser was lovely to everyone else. Often, that’s a key element of their ability to abuse – their supposed charm. When they are ‘lovely’ to everyone who knows them, it’s even harder for a victim to come forward. Who’s going to believe you? Who’s going to take your side? And if he’s abusive to you but kind to his friends and colleagues – doesn’t that mean there’s something wrong with you?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is fuck no.
Abusers are not lovely people – and the violence they impose upon their victim is not the victim’s fault. Ever. You cannot turn someone into an abuser by spilling a cup of coffee, or not making their dinner on time, or denying them sex. They chose to behave that way – and no one else is responsible for that behaviour, much as they will say it’s your fault. Put it this way: does he hit his colleagues if they make a mistake in the office? Does he strike people in the street?
The way abusers are spoken of in the press betrays a frightening naiveté on this subject, and we desperately need to get better at reporting on violent crime. We need to pivot away from the ‘good bloke who snapped’ narrative, like yesterday. We need to pivot away from describing abusers’ successful careers, what doting fathers they were, or how nice they were to their friends.
At best, it’s poor reporting. At worst, it’s openly cruel to victims of abuse. And that includes the people currently facing abuse. They will be watching how this latest story unfolds. They will be taking notes. And if we tell them to stay in the shadows, many of them will.
When we claim that an abuser was a ‘good bloke who snapped’, we reinforce the idea, whether subtly or bluntly, that victims are somehow to blame. And that’s bullshit.Support Villainesse