Silence is the Abuser’s Greatest Weapon
Last week, I wrote a post called Ethical Responsibility: STI Edition. As I type this out, I’m sitting in Planned Parenthood waiting to go in for STI testing. As anyone who is sexually active, it is our responsibility to be regularly tested and share those results with partners. Today I’m a little nervous thanks to my former partner having genital herpes and neglecting to tell me about it. I’m sure it’s fine, but still. He deceived me. He deceives others. As I’ve written about in other posts, the abusive nature of this man doesn’t end there.
But if I talk about it or try to warn others to protect their hearts, souls, and bodies from this man, warn them about his lack of integrity, I risk being branded a “scorned woman” seeking revenge or whatever. Society protects the abuser. Why is that?
Last year I published a post “When Does Silence Become Complicity?,” where I revealed for the first time a series of incidents that happened when I was in college with a professor.
Yes, how cliché.
But why is it so? The lecherous middle-aged professor exploiting the relatively innocent, intimidated co-ed. It’s cliché because of the sheer number of times it happens. Just like the married/unavailable wo/man whose SO “doesn’t understand” him/her, s/he “hasn’t felt loved in years.” Or the charming, convincing narcissist who is so skilled at manipulation, s/he traumatizes wo/man after wo/man. Breaks heart after heart, caring for no one but him/herself.
Liars. Cheats. Abusive, damaging narcissists. Self-centered assholery focused on getting laid no matter what. Deceit. Coercion. Drugs.
Abuse runs rampant.
In part because the targets and survivors of such treachery are told to stay quiet. Are shamed into staying quiet.
“It’s not your place.”
“Just let him be and be glad you got away. He’s someone else’s problem now.”
“It’s time for you to heal. Don’t worry about them.”
“You’ll have to relive it all over again. Just focus on healing.”
“It’s not worth the trouble.”
“You’ll ruin their career/marriage/reputation. Don’t be vindictive.”
A friend of mine pointed out that our patriarchal (fairly misogynistic) society has taken the power of gossip away from women.
I think she’s right.
In this, as in all ethical dilemmas, there is a fine line between processing to friends and warning others. Between telling your story and slandering another human being.
Slander, by the way, is “oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit.”
If what you are saying is the truth, then slander likely will not enter into it, unless the abuser has a lot of money and can get a lawyer just to be spiteful, which people of that calibre might do. One person’s “truth” can offer differ from another’s, however. Then it becomes the “truth” that can be proven in a court of law, if it goes that far.
Perhaps this is how abusers are protected by society: the fear of litigation (in an overly litigious society) on top of the fear of having to relive the traumatic events over and over again. Of being continuously trapped in the abuser’s nets, unable to escape.
Another example of how our society protects the abuser: if someone gives you an STI due to nondisclosure or outright lying, you have absolutely no legal recourse. None. Zip. Zilch. It is not against the law to knowingly transmit or expose another to an STI.
What the fuck?
Also, due to the covert nature of emotional abuse, it is often not documentable, unprovable. Sometimes the only “proof” is the damage shown by the target, which can all too easily be written off as the target’s mental instability or issues, even if they weren’t present before.
So how do we, as a society, deal with moral issues such as this?
This past weekend at Aetherfest, I had a fabulous conversation with Jaymee Goh, Magpie Killjoy, and other lovely people after a panel on Social Issues in Steampunk, and the concept of being held accountable by one’s community came up.
I love this idea, and I think this is possible. In fact, I’ve already seen it action in both the Steampunk community and my local Polyamory community, and it works well.
In my local Poly community, there have been people who have been “straightened out” by community education and pressure, evolving from inappropriate, boundary-crossing creeps to valuable members of the community. Those who have STIs and do not disclose their positive status are quickly ostracized.
In one instance, a man was “run out on a rail” after two of his “crazy” ex-girlfriends compared notes about his abusive, exploitive behavior. And I hope that it will happen again with a new member. Ladies, I’m here if you’d like to compare notes.
Don’t stay silent about abuse. Speak up. Stop it from happening again.
How do you think we, as a society, can deal with these moral issues? Protect ourselves and our community against the abusers without bringing more pain and trauma along with it?
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~ by omgrey on May 9, 2012.
Posted in Lost in the Aether, Romance & Relationships, Trauma & Recovery
Tags: abuse, author, broken heart, emotional abuse, fear, grief, healing, heartbroken, honesty, intimacy, love, misogyny, narcissist, non-monogamy, o.m. grey, olivia grey, open, open marriage, passion, physical abuse, relationship advice, relationships, romance, sex, sexual abuse, shattered, silence, verbal abuse