PSA links: Abuse, and taking care of yourself
A few days ago, I ran across a couple of truly excellent PSA-type posts concerning abuse. If you have ever dealt with this, you may find them triggering; they gave me the shakes for several hours, but from enough important things to think about that it was totally worth it.
More will most likely be coming on this–and the lengthy process of breaking down the “But it’s not really bad/abuse at all!” illusion/encouraged self-lie, so that you can actually recognize what you are dealing with and have some chance of not having to deal with it anymore–but I did not want to only bury these links inside a long post. They deserve attention on their own.
This one has a lot to say about this cluster of victim blaming excuses–which people are also prone to using on themselves!–along with some depressingly spot-on reasons that people do stay with the jerk(s). I recognized more of myself than I was expecting in this list, which I am not pasting in here because you should go and read the whole post. (#20, in particular, will set you up for any number of the rest.) But, the conclusion:
The one thing that isn’t on the list, anywhere, is “the victim is just weak and stupid.” Victims of abuse come in all types and lots of them really are flawed in big and small ways–but their reasons for staying with their abusers are not “just stupid.” They’re complicated, insidious, and saddest of all, sometimes right.
Usually I end these “long-list” posts with a cheery little “add your own!”, and while that invitation remains open (sadly, I’m sure there are tons that I missed), I’m going to add something to this one:
If any of these sound like you–even if they sound like you in a “yeah, but” sort of way–even if your partner never laid a finger on you physically, it was just some yelling–even if you’re a man and she’s a woman and it doesn’t work like that–even if you swear your situation isn’t abuse because–call this number:
It’s the National Domestic Violence Hotline and they will talk to you. They are not going to call the cops on your partner (or you). They are not going to tell you that you have to leave your relationship. Calling them is not a commitment of any kind–you can always call them and decide to stay in your relationship after all. All they’re going to do is talk to you, give you an outside perspective from people who are trained to recognize and deal with abusive situations, and help you find resources for getting out of your situation if you decide that you want them.
That is within the US. In the UK: Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
The two organizations behind that both specify that they help women and children–very likely with cis implied–and I do not know of anything more inclusive, unfortunately. 😦 (Please help with that, anyone who might know more?)
For people who live elsewhere, here is a pretty good-looking-from-a-glance “Global list of abuse hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centres and women’s organizations, plus domestic violence information in over 80 languages.” (Including additional resources for people who are covered by the hotlines already listed.)
I never sought official help when I was living with emotional abuse (again, see #20), and I know that a lot of the general population doesn’t even see that as “real abuse”. (Which is about as helpful as not regarding a lot of sexual violence as “rape rape”, yeah. And is coming from a lot of the same denialist attitudes and normalization of violent/controlling behavior, IME.) But, I would expect that the folks who deal with this kind of thing professionally, and have seen how real abusive situations play out and have good reason to know just how serious this shit is, will take it seriously and try to help you figure out how to deal with an emotionally abusive situation.Nobody deserves to live with Emotionally Volatile Bear. (Who can have an ugly side, oh my yes–to the point that I wonder why so many people seem to think it’s cute.) This one can easily turn into “Person politely disagrees with something I say/do/enjoy, they hate me–Must attack”. And, indeed, you are not crazy if you more than occasionally become afraid that EVB is going to swipe your head off–even if they have never lifted their paw to do so. Especially if you have watched them do it to other people. Which leads to the second post, from the same blog:
This one, with its comments, can stand on its own. I am planning to write more about this one later, but ouch!
The third, from a different blog, is one I bookmarked because I know I need this set of reminders frequently:
With their decimation of the welfare state and public services, this government is implicitly repeating the messages of my abusive ex and everyone else who seeks to abuse and oppress others. My health doesn’t really matter, my happiness doesn’t really matter. My relationships with friends and family don’t really matter. My dreams don’t really matter.
And obviously, I have to do something about that. Two things. One thing speaks for itself. The other is rarely spoken about but is actually more important. It is the cornerstone of every struggle for equality and social justice. It is a necessary condition for making a difference.
Looking after yourself is radical political activism.
It’s radical because this is a message you are unlikely to receive anywhere in the media or from culture. You may receive messages advocating material self-interest. You may receive messages advocating a healthy lifestyle, but very often these messages come with a dose of shame and angst for your inevitable failure to follow all available advice. If you watch television, read the news or step outside in a built-up area today, you will receive lots and lots of messages. None of them will tell you that you matter and you need to look after yourself. Many of them will suggest reasons why you don’t really matter.
The only people likely to give you this message are your friends and family. They might not – they might not think it even needs saying. But even if they do, you may be inclined to think that they are over-invested, that they think you matter more than you actually do. But they don’t. They’re right. You matter at least as much as that…
Looking after yourself defies your enemies.
Very few people or organisations are actually invested in our suffering, but there are certainly those – including our current government – who are invested in our powerlessness. Political injustice is so often a matter of attrition rather than victimisation; things are made to be difficult not so our lives fall apart (that’s collateral damage), but things are made difficult so that we give up. And it is entirely understandable when people do.
It is radical political activism that we take steps to keep ourselves in a position where we can cope with our own battles, have as good lives as we possibly can and hopefully have some energy left over for contributing to the bigger picture. We need to work on living the lives we want, even when we’re still fighting for the right to live them.
There is a lot more. And it is all excellent and very, very, relevant. I just cried a little bit again rereading the post.
(The most recent post there is also very relevant here: “Clare’s Law”, Domestic Violence and a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.)
BTW, this touches on one of the big reasons that I may keep sounding repetitive on certain subjects here. Especially if you have been harmed by them on various levels, the same set of harmful behaviors and ways of dealing with everyone and everything around you can become painfully obvious on different levels of social organization: from personal relationships among individuals, to within and between various human organizations, to relationships within and between nations, just to name a few. Abusive, bullying behavior is abusive behavior. The personal is, indeed, political–and things do not have to be the way they are, whether it’s an abusive personal relationship or an abusive relationship between/within states. Cycles do get set up on all these levels, but they can be broken.
See also: Rising Violence Against Native Women Has “Colonial Roots”, which did pop up when I was trying to find that piece on the BIA. It is all connected. As just part of the patterns in this case (bolding added):
On both an institutional and individual level, native activists see racism driving patterns of abuse.
They point out that Indian populations are disproportionately saddled with key risk factors for domestic violence that are also tied to the historical marginalization of tribes, such as substance abuse and economic disadvantage.
Meanwhile, racial bias surfaces not only in the victimization of American Indians but also in the profile of abusers. According to federal surveys, the majority of violence against Indians, including intimate-partner violence, involves non-Indian offenders.
Within the native community, Juana Majel Dixon, an activist with the Pauma tribe of California traces abuse by Indian men in part to “the dominant-society influence on our males.”
To Dixon, who experienced an abusive relationship in her twenties, “genocidal policies” of the US government have aimed “to destroy the tribal society and its family units.”
My own family was not subjected to boarding schools and similar official abuse, but there is still multigenerational trauma going on. (In a lot of the East, pressures were different, but by golly were they still there…) When you’re dealing with unbalanced, violent people/institutions which have succumbed to the wétiko to varying degrees, it’s going to have effects on your own behavior and outlook, unless you work hard to fix some of the damage. And this kind of thing is not limited to Native people. My next planned post should include something about these various levels of cycles–and choosing nonviolence when you have learned to try to solve problems with violence–on an individual level. There are also so many levels on which learning to emulate Emotionally Volatile Bear works in other people’s interests a lot more than your own. You don’t have to continue doing that, either.
Frustratingly, I can’t locate a now-classic piece on the similarities between the BIA’s behavior and that of an abusive partner (too spot-on, and it’s not just the BIA!), but here is an excellent quote from zuky:
This is why I call it “Gangster Culture” (apologies for self-quoting, I know, I know, but I just have nothing to add right now): “We live in a society whose leaders speak of killing and humiliating their enemies with barely-concealed chest-thumping and juvenile macho posturing. We live in a society whose budgetary priorities demonstrate a violent obsession with body-shattering weaponry and a distinct lack of interest in the health and well-being of human beings. So I agree with those who are saying that it’s time for all of us to confront the virulent culture of violence and misogyny and crime that is polluting our world. And it begins at the top: with the corporatist kleptocracy of the US government, the global gangster state which dominates and exploits through violence and intimidation and the hoarding of wealth, granting favors to loyal subjects, issuing threats to the unruly, and killing rivals. If we can eradicate the culture of violence and misogyny and crime at the top of our society, then just maybe we’ll have a shot of eradicating it at the bottom too.”
The longer piece linked to, which this is quoted from, is excellent. And, yeah, it’s not just the US, either, OTT as its behavior is and easy as it is to scapegoat (not that this writer is doing that). So much easier if it were… 😦