I freely confess that, last night – going to bed at 7.30 pm and cocooning myself in a King Sizex duvet – my mood was grim, my smile absent and my tank all-but empty. Little incidents, on top of the accident last week, have chipped away at my physical confidence, and allowed me access to unhealed scar tissue (metaphorically) which needed to be removed so that fresh blood could cleanse the site and proper healing could begin.
I have, as stated many times before, weak boundaries when it comes to other people’s behaviour and attitude towards me. I have come to call this my weak filter in that it is a sieve which lets the detritus through as well as the good stuff.
This weak filter has a serious downside, however: It causes the abused, time after time, to blur the boundaries of good sense and to allow people who have sided with the abusers – and, indeed, the abusers themselves – to Limbo-dance back under the door of their lives. Why? Because the filter is not strong enough to say, ‘They have wronged me. They can bugger off!’ Instead, they go into a melted huddle of self-doubt, thinking, ‘What if I have read this wrong? Why can’t friends like both of us?’
In a mutually-agreed divorce/split up, it is, I think, possible to remain on good terms with both parties because sides do not have to be taken: The relationship has just run its course. However, when a marital ending involves some form of abuse, sides cannot be avoided – and, in the end, it does come down to this : One person’s word against the other. In other words, people are being asked – however unfairly in their eyes – whether they believe that Person A was abused or whether they actually think he/she insane, demented, a Drama Queen/King and making it all up. There is no other alternative. There is no way of marrying (pun deliberate) these two starkly opposing viewpoints. There is no way of remaining on more than superficially good terms with both if one is a friend or member of the wider family. There is no way of remaining close to the abused on paper if you actually side with the abuser’s way of seeing him/her – and vice versa.
For too long we allow other people to tell us that we are wrong, that it is possible to avoid taking sides. Those who side with the abuser, and give the abused sparse and superficial engagement, do not count as true friends any more. Their decision to take the easy way out indicates, to me, that they never were strong foundation friends anyway.
An element of ambivalence is possible in many relationship breakdowns. It is easy to see, in other words, that both were at fault, both contributed to the problem. But abuse is far more black and white, isn’t it? Either Person A abused Person B or he/she did not and Person B is a deluded liar. The bottom line is this: Those who side with the abuser are tacitly saying that, in their view, the abused is lying, deluded, mentally ill and losing his/her marbles. Why the hell would anyone who has been abused want such people as friends, eh? Why the hell do so many people escaping abusive relationships delude themselves on this subject for so long?!
The last thing I want to say is this – and it is stark: All abusers claim that they were provoked and will often warn their prey, ‘Don’t provoke me or else!’ But don’t we, as sentient human beings, have a duty to control our tempers where possible – and to admit that we are in the wrong when we lash out at another?
Condoning abuse because you want to believe that the abuser is incapable of such behaviour is still an act of implicit permission and approval. It is the kind of attitude which, all over the world, allows abuse and worse to continue. It is saying that it’s acceptable to behave in cruel, controlling – and, in some cases, violent – ways – or, perhaps even worse, that certain sections of society (women, children, people of different colour, belief and sexual orientation) deserve such treatment because of who, and what, they are.
It terrifies me to think that there is, apparently, this inherent and unspoken carte blanche at work in our world: That somehow it is acceptable to make abusive comments, or launch unprovoked attacks, upon the LGTB community, women, people whose religious beliefs do not accord with our own. That, in some sick and twisted way, this does not count as bona fide abuse and is seen, by some, as just desserts. That, to belong to a certain sub-section of society is reason enough to be attacked. That blame is cast upon a whole religion, or nation, for a war that happened a thousand years ago. And, finally, that the ultimate provocation is triggered by who or what you are rather than anything you have said or done.
As long as we, corporately and individually, are fudging this issue, and saying, ‘That’s not really abusive because he/she/it deserved it…’ we will continue to allow abusers into our homes, schools, churches, workplaces and positions of extreme authority. As long as we see charm of manner and good looks as proof of decent character and integrity, we will miss the paedophiles who crawl into our children’s beds at dead of night. As long as we blame the abused and protect the abusive, the darkness will continue to grow. As long as we allow the weapon of ‘reasonable’ doubt to win, on the grounds of fear (of giving offence; of getting it wrong; of enraging the mighty and powerful), the current level of wide-spread abuse will continue to flourish and expand.
Abuse is abuse. Nothing warrants it. No provocation is sufficient excuse. It is wrong.