All posts by Blain

Time to Stop propagating fear about Stranger Danger, and Registered Sex Offenders

This article from the Child Rescue Network points out some of the problems with the “Stranger Danger” message.  And has some better ideas of how to make children safer:

 

We must teach our kids how to recognize potentially dangerous situations and provide them with specific action plans on how to react if the need arises.  We must also stress the critical importance of instilling a since of confidence in our kids and give them an understanding and respect for personal boundaries.

To which I will add:  This can and should be done without scaring the hell out of them.  The popular mythology of the dangers of sex offenders plays along with the Stranger Danger message to create massive concern about Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) settling into neighborhoods.  It presumes that there are no active unregistered Sex Offenders (SOs) in that same area, and that the RSO is especially dangerous.  However, RSOs, having been adjudicated, have the lowest rate of recidivism (reoffense) of any category of criminal.  For those wanting to see evidence as to that last sentence, I would suggest looking over this article (downloading the full article) for a very academic approach to the subject.

The truth is that the biggest threat to anyone, especially children, is not some stranger in the bushes with a ski mask.  It’s someone you know, like and trust.  Because those are the people you will give access to your life and your children, and you are less likely to report when they do something wrong because you like them and don’t think they are bad people, because no ski mask and no bushes.  So you’re more likely to blame yourself or your children than you would if this was done by a stranger.

The most extreme example of parental exaggeration of Stranger Danger came while I was cashiering.  A customer with her child got to the front of my line, and, as I usually did, I tried to engage the child in a conversation if possible (shopping is incredibly boring for children, and the conversation can help preserve the peace  if successful, or the shock of having a big, tall adult paying attention to them can shut down a fit right as it’s getting ready to start).  The child didn’t respond, so I tried again, and, again, no response.  The parent indicated that her child doesn’t talk to strangers, indicating that that was without regard to context or circumstances, thinking that that made her child safer.  Instead, I see a child scared of most of the world around her, because most people in the world are strangers, and none the more safe for all of that fear.

Changes coming.

The time has come to make some changes around here.  Structural changes in what this site/blog is.  The site has been around sharing a different approach to abuse recovery for more than twenty years now.  And it’s going to stay around doing that job indefinitely.  But under the brand of Abuse-free, and that brand is going to be applied to a whole new effort I’m going to be making to help reach people currently involved in abusive situations to help them find their way to safe and abuse-free lives.  This is going to involve more than just sitting on a website waiting for people to find me.

I’m planning to form a non-profit under the brand Abuse-free, which I will engage in fund-raising activities for.  The money will go toward funding healing opportunities for underserved populations that the mainstream abuse community has ignored, largely because they defy the narrative the mainstream abuse community subscribes to.  My purpose isn’t in fighting or refuting that narrative — it’s in reaching beyond it to help all people experiencing abuse.  Abuse-free isn’t going to be anti-feminist, if anybody’s wondering.  The feminist movement created the mainstream abuse community, which has brought attention to this issue, creating what infrastructure and support has been created, and that’s been a major effort that has helped people and saved lives.  Without that, this site, my recovery and Abuse-free wouldn’t exist.  I view that with gratitude.  But not enough gratitude that I’m going to join them in turning a blind eye to the people and situations they have ignored.

The next step in the effort is going to be to create the Abuse-free Podcast, which will begin with me reading in the information found around here, and then growing into whatever else comes along.  I expect to create some new material.  And to respond to questions and comments from listeners.  I plan to start recording on this in the next few weeks, and then editing them together and publishing them when I’ve got enough for a handful of episodes.

Somewhere will come the creation of the non-profit, and then will come the plans for the fund-raising.  I’ll talk about them here as they progress.  I will need your help with this.  Nothing much from any one person.  But the point here is to reach many, many people, some of whom can help with the effort, and some of whom will be helped by the effort.  So, the biggest piece of help we can receive is in reaching people.  There is no special need for those people, although those who are used to helping with charitable efforts and fundraising can be particularly helpful with the fundraising and building up of the agency.  If you have access to any of them, please reach out to them, but also just reaching average folks with no special connections.  Abuse is a problem that reaches many, many people.  So, anyone you know could benefit from this information, and could benefit the effort by helping to reach people and maybe make small contributions of funds.  Enough small donations can add up to a large donations.

This is about ending the cycle of abuse.  This is going to take all of us.

All God’s critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws or anything they got now

I’m a big fan for those who just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got.  They make the world go around.  As George Bailey would say, ” they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this [world].”  Let’s help them and the rest of us do so in a world where abuse of all kinds are forever unacceptable.  What do you say?

Ask Blain: How do I get X to Y?

This is the beginning of something I’ve wanted to try for a while now — a suggestion column.  Like an advice column, but generally made in the form of suggestions.  If you want to ask me questions that have some relevance to abuse, email them to me at askblain@blainn.com and I’ll post them here with my answer.  This one might take care of quite a few of them, however, as it’s the form of the most common question I’ve gotten over the years: 

Q:  How do I get X to Y? (where X is a particular person the asker cares about, and Y is something they think X should do)

A:  For all X and Y, the answer is the same:  You can’t.  They will or won’t Y by their own choices, and for their own reasons, so even if they do Y, it won’t be because of anything you could possibly say or do.  This is hard to accept when you are quite convinced that Y is very important for X, and that everything would be better if only they would Y.  This is very dangerous thinking, and can lead to abusive behavior and destroyed relationships.  Respect X’s autonomy as a human being — this is very important if you want X to grow and heal out of an abusive relationship.

The Myth of the Monster Abuser, and the Immaculate Victim

You’ll recognize this one quite quickly, I suspect.  This is the one where the abuser is always horrible, always abusive, and probably ugly, while the victim is some angelic being incapable of ever doing anything wrong, and as innocent as the wind-driven snow.  This comes from the over-extension of some true principles — abuse is ugly and horrible, and those who are abused aren’t responsible for their own abuse.  But the way the myth works out is that one subscribing to it can talk about how much they hate abusers while giving free passes to many abusers because they don’t fit up to the stereotype.  A couple of examples of where this can go astray is the case of noted film director Roman Polanski, whose sexual assault of a teen-aged girl was described by comedien Whoopi Goldberg as “not rape-rape,” or the recent under-sentencing of a child molester because the judge thought the case didn’t fit the profile of a molester.  Real molesters, like all abusers, are human beings.  They aren’t monstrous — the abuse they commit is monstrous.  People we know and like commit abuse, as do some of us.  Too many of us.

But what about the Immaculate Victim?  Avoiding victim-blaming is a good thing, but the problem with this one is that if the one who was abused can be shown to not be perfect, then they aren’t really worthy of sympathy, and their abuse can be ignored.  Sometimes, abused people make bad choices, including, sometimes, being violent in response to violence perpetrated against them:  fighting back.  I don’t advocate fighting back, as retaliatory violence is still voluntary violence that isn’t self-defense, which I see as a bad thing in all cases.  But being in an ugly situation can prompt the best of us to make bad decisions, and those who have been abused need our support and help, not our judgment and condemnation.

The purpose of these myths is that they enable us to ignore abuse that we see.  What we want to do is to not have to see it, because it is ugly, and if we see it, we might need to do something about it.  Doing something about it is the better choice, because that’s the only way we change things.  And the first thing we need to do about it is to be clear with ourselves about what we are seeing, and that it is abusive (when it is).  After that, we can refuse to collude with the denial system that those involved may be caught up in, and support them in making good choices to break out of the abuse and into healthier abuse-free lives.

Help Wanted

Howdy.  I’m looking for some people who can help out with things to make this a better and more useful resource.  This means those who actually care enough about the place to do such extraordinary acts as follow what goes on here, specifically those who are reading this post.  This means you.

1.  Roundtable members:  I want to have a group of people who are willing to engage in conversations on abuse-related matters, so we can post the conversations around here.  We might have those conversations via email or threads around here that aren’t open to everyone.  I’m open to input on how to do that.  The required qualifications are that you are human and can read and write.  I want people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, including service providers, advocates, survivors, abusers, and civilians (those in no way associated with the world of abuse other than an interest in it).

2.  Promoters:  I would like people to share this resource with others in their circles.  The FB group for the blog is nowhere close to the 100 likes required to increase its visibility.  That can include not only sharing the link to the blog itself, but also reading through the posts here and sharing any that you find interesting.  I know there aren’t many at the moment, but getting the roundtable going should help provide more material to post that can hopefully lead to more conversation.

3.  Commenters:  I would really like people to respond to the posts and pages around here with comments (available at the bottom of each post or page).  First-time commenters’ comments have to be hand moderated (currently by me), so they won’t appear right away, but once I’ve released your first comment, your comments will be released immediately.

4.  Permas, Mods, etc.:  I would like to see this grow beyond me.  When the site first went up, and it had more traffic than it does today, people submitted their stories, and those stories are still available.  But it’s been a long time since anybody submitted a story.  And I don’t even get email about the site much anymore.  As things grow here (which I hope they will), there will be need for other people who can help out as Permas (Perma-bloggers, or those who regularly produce posts here), Mods (Moderators, who can release comments from new commenters and delete inappropriate comments, including the large number of spam comments that are submitted here), and I would like to create a podcast based on conversation like what I’ve described in the Roundtable point above.  Podcasts have proven quite effective in reaching large numbers of people who don’t necessarily have time to actively follow the posts on a blog.

I don’t expect anything here that would take more than a few hours a week for the foreseeable future, but some of these roles are more responsible than others.  This is life in the New Media, where reaching out virally to involve more and more people is how you create useful content to help people.  Letting me know what you’d like to do in a comment below with your real email address would be a great way to start being involved.  Thanks.

Superbowl PSA on Abuse

This is an interesting PSA, but I’m wondering what it’s supposed to accomplish.  Perhaps informing people that people in abusive situations might have to communicate in less-than-clear ways to reach out for help, so those they reach out to might need to be prepared to meet them half-way to understand what they’re saying and asking for.  If so, I agree, and it’s why I put information on my Main Abuse Page for those who find friends in the lists of questions.  There is need for people in general to know more about the realities of abuse and what can be done about it from their various roles.  Education is useful, but difficult, because everybody seems to think they know everything they need to about the issue.  But they don’t.  If they did, the problem would be solved.

It’s nice that the NFL is sponsoring this.  They’re clearly responding to the high profile abuse cases that have been in the news this past year.  They want to be seen as taking the problem seriously.  Which is nice.  I just wish the message they were promoting gave people useful information they could use to better respond to abuse situations.  I like that nomore.org is encouraging people to be ready to talk about abuse of various kinds, but I find their PSAs on NBC interesting because I am someone who loves talking about abuse of any kind at any time with anyone willing to have the conversation, because I want to destigmatize the topic and help circulate useful information so that people are better able to address the abuse they have contact with.  Thus, I’m here.

The problem I see the NFL being in is that everybody wants to be seen to be on the right side of the issue, but the only consensus there is about the right side of the issue is that everyone is opposed to it, and dislikes abusers.  But that last part just perpetuates the problem — sorry.  I’ll write more about that before long.

Mythology v reality in domestic abuse

As I prepare to begin responding in this space to news stories about domestic abuse, I’m finding things I need to talk about before I can get back into current events on the topic.  Some of them I’ve already talked about around the site, but I need to say some additional things about them.

It’s been quite a time since I’ve written anything new around here.  I’ve had more experiences, and my approach has developed in some particular directions.  As always, I’m about challenging people’s assumptions and presuppositions about abuse and related things.  But I’m seeing that I’m going to have to do so in ways that might piss off people who might have been allies in the past.  My priority here is in being about the realities of abuse as a way of helping people involved in abuse come to grips with what their options are to find their way into abuse-free life.  I am particularly concerned about those who want to use the issue as part of a political agenda.  Not just because I’m probably on the other side of the aisle politically from that agenda, but because I think it’s too important to help people find abuse-free lives to burden that process with anything else that might get in the way of safety, recovery and healing.

The mythological view of domestic/relationship abuse begins with the term “domestic violence,” which you may have noticed that I avoid.  I do so intentionally, because I think it gets in the way of clarity.  It implies that all that matters is violence in the home, which I do not at all agree with.  When I was in ACT, they taught us that “Abuse is any actions, words or attitudes which hurt, threaten or humiliate others,” and that goes far beyond violence that happens in the home.  In the work I’m going to do on adolescent relationship abuse, the term gets in the way, because the abuse there isn’t necessarily happening in a home-life context, and may not include violence.

Beyond that is the standard expectation that DV means men beating women.  As my main page has made clear since I wrote it twenty years ago, anybody can be abusive, and anybody can be abused.  No one is demographically immune to abuse.  I have taken heat many times for challenging the assumption that this is a gendered issue.  This is a place where I see political agendas getting in the way of fixing the problem.  I once sat in a meeting with DV Perpetrator Treatment Providers where one of the providers boasted that he referred women convicted of DV for victim services “all the time.”  It wasn’t the first or last time I was appalled by statements made by treatment providers who put their agendas ahead of the needs of those who came to them for help.  I was later able to cofacilitate a program that helped women convicted of DV address their own choices and behavior so they could learn to live abuse free.  We did not assume that they had never been victims of abuse, nor that their victims were angelic beings who could do no wrong — just as we did not assume thus in the men’s program.

And then there are the Urban Legends related to the issue. LIke the one that there are more 911 calls on abuse during the Super Bowl than any other time of the year. I’ll be shortly writing about a PSA the NFL will be running during the Super Bowl, which I suspect is based in belief in that UL.  Or the one that English Common Law allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick no bigger around than his thumb, and that’s where the phrase “rule of thumb” comes from.  That one is silly because Common Law provided no particular penalties for a man beating his wife with a bigger stick than that — women were their husbands’ property until relatively recently in the English legal system (still are in many parts of the world), and because “rule of thumb” as we use it has nothing to do with violence.  It has to do with the practice of measuring with the distance between the tip of the thumb and the first joint as an inch, or a rough and ready measure, which is more like how we use the phrase.

Those are all that come to mind at the moment, but I might talk about others as they come up going forward.

Adolescent Relationship Abuse

I’m considering putting together a presentation I can take to schools having to do with abuse among adolescents in romantic relationships.  This comes after running into stories of teens who were in abusive relationships without realizing that they were, because they didn’t know what abuse looks like.

So, I’m looking for some ideas about what kinds of information to include in such a presentation.  I’m thinking the questions from the introductory page here is going to be a good place to begin, but I would — that’s how I’ve built the site to work from the very beginning.  I think the questions build clarity, which is the most important thing to me.  When people have clarity about what in their lives is abusive, they have something to work with in terms of finding help.

But I’m definitely up for input.  I’m also looking at building the blog here as a place people can come for onging and updated information on abuse recovery, and I”ll be looking for people who can provide articles and also who can bring questions on abuse for me to respond to.  So, the few people who are aware that this is here are requested to help point people here, so that people who could benefit from the information here (I intend that to be anybody, not just those in identifiably abusive relationships) are exposed to it.

Thanks.

On Emotional Abuse, learning to see Abuse, and what can be done.

This is from a conversation I was having with a friend on Facebook, who had posted a link to some information about emotional abuse.

Once upon a time “emotional abuse” was code for “abuse done by women,” because, evidently, someone thought women couldn’t throw punches. So, in some of the older literature, you might find it framed that way.

My position is that the payload of all abuse tactics is emotional in nature. Being hit (and worse) hurts physically, but that heals. What hurts, and keeps hurting, is that someone you trusted and cared about (and who said they loved you) wanted to cause you pain. That’s what undermines your sense of self — not the punch itself, nor the harm that brought to you physically.

I once had an abuse advocate refer to emotion abuse as a “secondary character flaw.” I told her that I had heard many women who had been physically abused (some quite seriously) say they would rather be hit than to experience verbal and emotional abuse. She didn’t like that.


When <generic> you first gain an understanding of what abuse is and what it looks like, you see it everywhere. Because it is everywhere. It comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. And, when you drop the denial that it’s not really abuse when people you like or you do it, then it’s really everywhere.

A really helpful piece is when you recognize that it’s everywhere, that you can’t stop it, and it’s not your job to stop it. Then, you can let go of the need to crusade, and can be useful to people who are ready to accept help. You’re not going to save them. You’re not going to set their world on its ear. But you can be an ear that will listen, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to tell them “It’s not right,” and to support them when they decide they want to make some changes. And, then, to still be there when they give up and back-slide, and, then, when they want to try again.

There are no quick fixes with people. And nobody gets fixed all the way. We all bumble around, doing the best we can get ourselves to do, and, while we fail frequently, it still works out. Not the way we might have imagined. Not the way we really wanted. But better. Progress. Still good. Good enough for who’s getting it. And the world is better than it would otherwise be.