Thursday, December 12, 2013


Today I read an incredibly important post by Franklin Veaux of the blog More Than Two.  Veaux is a blogger in the poly community, and he was talking about the importance of ethics, and specifically of not allowing abusive behaviors to thrive in one's community.

I'm not going to repeat his arguments; they are brilliant and eloquent, and should be read in the original. However, I do have a few words to say in support of them.

There is no neutral ground when it comes to abuse.

Abuse doesn't keep happening because a few people over there in a dark alley are abusing their partner/friend/a complete stranger.

Abuse happens because of all the people who refuse to believe that *their* friend could have done such a thing.

Abuse happens because of all the people who silently look away.

Abuse happens because we don't WANT to see it.

Abuse happens because we ostracize the victims and anyone who says "Hey, he/she's an abuser", and let the abusers themselves remain.

I hate the man who abused me, and the one who assaulted me in my apartment hallway when I was walking home from work.  I hate what they've done to me.  But you know who I really hate?

I hate all the people who thought something might be wrong when Max was hitting me, threatening me, harming and terrorizing me, but did nothing because they were his friend too.

I hate the people who avoid us so that they don't have to hear our side, so that when they're questioned they can uncomfortably dismiss "the issue" with "I don't really know what happened".

I don't hate them every day, but I hate them every time I'm reminded that a victim's right to safety is considered less important than "setting a bad precedent".
How the hell, I ask you, is excluding a known predator a bad freaking precedent?

Listen up.

There is no neutral.

That's not just my opinion; abuse is traumatic, and trauma has specific properties.  Being near the person who abused you can be exceptionally traumatic.  

An abuse victim can't go to your party or game night or larp and feel safe if they know their abuser might be there. They can't speak openly to you about what they're going through if they think you might not believe them because you "refuse to take sides".  What kind of friend is it that you can't trust with your problems?  What kind of friend doesn't want to protect you from harm?

When someone says "he abused me" and his partner says "I didn't", there are only two possible truths: He abused her and is lying about abusing her (which he has every reason to do because it gets him off scot free) or he didn't, and she's lying about being abused (which she has little reason to do because it gets her a lot of pain and grief, and possibly ostricization).

Saying you're "neutral" means that you think the victim may be crazy, or lying, or worse, and think you can still be friends with her while thinking that. Would you want to be friends with someone who thought you were lying about something that important, especially if it meant that they were also still interacting with the person that hurt you? You either believe the victim or you don't.  If you don't, then get the hell out of the way, but don't pretend to be her friend.  If you do, stand up beside her.

If you claim not to know who's telling the truth, and so take the abuser's side by acting like nothing happened, you're going with the flow - that's what most people do, after all - but against the statistics; MRA bullshit aside, they tell us that most abuse reports are valid.

So, yes, you have to choose.
It sucks.
You know what else sucks?  Being abused.

For those of you out there who say that you are empathizing with the abuser because he has needs too, understand that you're not doing anything new or brave.
You're not brave for standing with someone who's hurt their partner for years. "Seeing his side" isn't an act of courage; it's the status quo.  It's 12,000 years of history.  It's women in Pakistan who still need 4 witnesses.  It's the Steubenville rapists "having their futures torn from them".
You know, because they didn't actually participate in the tearing by, say, raping someone.

And it's almost every case of domestic abuse, because he's always a "great guy" who "has a bit of a temper" or "drinks a bit too much".  No one wants to see anything else.

So, it's not courageous to protect the abuser, no matter how much positive reinforcement you get for it from people who want the "problem" to go away.
Courage isn't going along with everyone in ignoring the problem and then patting yourself on the back for how well and truly you've ignored it.

Try taking a stand against people - many people, not one person - who call you crazy for saying that their friends abused you or others you care about. Listen to people whom you once thought of as family call you illegal and immoral, call you a bitch and worse, act like you're crazy and unreliable, just for telling the truth? Who alternately cajole and threaten, anything in order to shut you up?

Try doing it alone, with little support outside of your immediate family.

Try watching your hope that these people you thought so much of would prove worthy of your respect and admiration die a prolonged and bitter death.

Try it when it's not just internet people in a little echo chamber.  People you know.  People you loved.  Loved.  Past tense.

And more than that, look at the courage of the thousands of women and men and trans folks and others who are out there every day facing abuse, from partners and strangers and stalkers and bigots.  The courage it takes them just to keep going is more, I guarantee, than most people ever have to muster.

I say try, and I do mean it.  You should try.  We all should.

Join us. Stand against that tide.  I'm not perfect, and I've done it.  I know others who've done it.  You can do it as well.
I wish to hell I never had to, that no one ever had to; standing up to this sucks too.  I won't lie, it is likely to lose you some friends, and that hurts like hell, but we need you here, on the front lines, every day.  If you don't stand up in your communities, in your families both natural and created, in your tribes and circles and groups, nothing will ever change.  It's not enough to say "abuse is bad".  We need to say "You are abusing your partner, and that is bad".  It needs to happen on the uncomfortable, messy microcosm.

This needs to end.  We need to look at abuse and call it by its name.