All posts by Blain

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.


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.

A Beginning.

It’s been a long time since there has been a beginning here. Lots of water has gone under the bridge. This site started as just a collection of abuse-related links in my bookmarks page on lynx, back when there weren’t very many. When I learned how to make web documents, I made pages for all of the sections of my bookmarks page, and I wrote little introductions to the topics for each section. Every document had my name in its title, because it would give the page some identity — who made it, and what it was about. This one needed to be different than most, because there was really no ground-level information about abuse written for people involved in it in those days. Continue reading A Beginning.