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  • Sat, 29, Feb, 2020 - 5:00:AM

It doesn’t matter how nice someone's abuser was to you

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.

TAGGED IN

  • Abuse /
  • Abusers /
  • Sexual Assault /
  • Toxic Masculinity /
  • Domestic Violence /
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Comments ( 5 )

  • SharpDressedDyke's picture

    SharpDressedDyke - Wed, 2020-03-04 06:54

    When women are the abuser and their victim is also a woman the same dynamic may happen, though it is not guaranteed. I had this experience during my divorce.
  • seth's picture

    seth - Sat, 2020-03-07 09:41

    Each is separate. The good ways someone treated someone doesn't discount the bad ways they treated someone else, and the bad ways they treated someone doesn't discount the good ways they treated someone else. We just have to respect and understand that we aren't always on the same end of things as someone else is.
  • TessC's picture

    TessC - Sun, 2020-03-08 03:31

    I too had this experience with a woman. She happens to be the CEO of a well known company, so I see her everywhere, which is painful. I've had friends say, "yeah, but it's such a great company." It's almost worse than if it's a man!
  • SAChoirgirl's picture

    SAChoirgirl - Tue, 2020-03-10 04:32

    One of the many terrible things about being the victim of an abusive woman is that people who should know better will argue that it's so important for gender diversity that this person's position not be disputed. It really sucks when someone you trust goes out of their way to support your abuser, apparently for the greater good. I don't want my abuser harmed, and frankly I think she needs support to learn to do better. But I need support too, and right now I feel like I'm disposable to people in more powerful positions.
  • Random's picture

    Random - Mon, 2020-05-25 03:44

    "And this is overwhelmingly a gendered issue." - it's really not. Maybe it is with people in power since there are still more men in charge than women, but holy crap the abusive women are out there, and they are abusing men, women, and children as well. To say it's overwhelmingly a gendered issue is either naive or it shows that feminists are unwilling to criticize women.
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