Thursday, May 19, 2011

Male victims.

Here's an issue that's been raised a couple times in the last few days: how does the feminist approach to combating domestic and sexual violence deal with male victims of violence?

I'm going to admit straight up, this is not going to be one of those posts where I have a strong opinion and defend it tooth and nail. I simply don't have the knowledge. Every side of this debate presents different statistics and evidence, and my personal experience (from ambulance and ER work) is heavily skewed toward female victims--partly because there's more of them, but also possibly because male victims report less often or because they're less likely to discuss it with a female stranger. So instead of getting into a persuasive essay, I just want to name some of the factors in play here:



This is absolutely a problem.
I hope nobody here would deny that men are victimized sexually and by their intimate partners, by both men and women, and it's not rare. While I've seen more female victims in my work, I've certainly seen plenty of men.

And male victims are in a uniquely tough spot. The establishment tends to make a joke out of them, question their masculinity, suspect them of being the aggressor when their abuser is female, and generally not be a big help. The feminist movement far too often takes a "sorry, not my department" attitude. And the most visible members of the men's movement are too busy yelling "BITCHES CUNTS WHORES" in their mothers' basements.

There aren't a lot of well-publicized, legitimate entities offering male victims advocacy and support, and that is unfair and, plainly, sucks.



Unfortunately, this is also a favorite argument of sexists.
"Men get victimized too" is true and troubling, but part of the reason many feminists are uncomfortable discussing it is that they've had the following argument five thousand times:

Fran Feminist: "One of the biggest difficulties for women escaping abuse is when they no longer have any support from friends and family by the time they're able to leave."
Frida Feminist: "Absolutely, overcoming systematic social isolation can be..."
Scott Sexist:"HEY! MEN GET VICTIMIZED TOO! WHAT ABOUT ALL THE WOMEN WHO BEAT MEN AND NEVER GET CAUGHT? WHAT ABOUT THAT, HUH?"
Fran Feminist: "That's terrible, but we're talking about..."
Scott Sexist: "HORRIBLE WOMEN JUST MANIPULATE MEN INTO SUFFERING THEIR ENTIRE LIVES WHILE WOMEN GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING THEY WANT!"

After a few of these, it just gets your hackles up. It's rare that these Scotts know about, much less support, any actual programs for male survivors; they just want to take over the conversation and make it all about debating the point that some women do some evil things, and using basic algebra, this cancels to "women are evil."

Unfortunately, the frequency of this kind of argument tends to leave feminists guarded and suspicious when Alex Actual Trauma Survivor shows up to the conversation. Thanks to Scott's fine work, Alex has to extensively prove he's not one of those guys before any productive discussion at all can occur.



More women than men are victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Because of underreporting on both sides, all statistics can be questioned, but I think it's pretty clear that this isn't a 50-50 thing. Acting like the world is currently 50-50 (and therefore, all protections and resources available to women are injustices against men) is a tactic of Scott Sexist--we're coming out of a very recent history of women being explicitly second-class citizens, and we're still socially in a pretty iffy spot right now.

Sexism works against men as well (see below), but not as often and not as reliably. A woman who beats her boyfriend may be given loopholes because of sexist preconceptions, but it doesn't give the woman a motive to do so, whereas sexism does give men motives to attack women. I mentioned above that violence against women gets more attention, and this isn't for purely political reasons--it's also because there's more violence against women.

Violence against men deserves more attention than it currently gets, but violence against women does as well.



Sexism is still a factor here.
Male victims of sexual and domestic violence don't live in some wacky backwards world where women are the dominant class and men are oppressed. Nor do they stand as proof that oppression is a myth and all abuse is just random violence between individuals.

Instead, they're victims of different stereotypes that turn out to be just as destructive. Instead of "a woman doesn't always have the right to refuse sex," they run up against "a man would never want to refuse sex." Instead of "women always make wacky accusations, don't believe her," they get "women aren't aggressive enough to hurt men, don't believe him." Instead of "it's okay for your husband to control you," they get "you're not a real man anyway if you let your wife control you."

The effects may be just as soul-crushing, but the mechanisms are different. Male and female victims, in the social/political context, go through different things, and for this reason can't always be lumped together.



So those are my thoughts, inconclusive as they are, on "what about the male victims?" I'm not comfortable with dismissing it as mere derailment, but I'm also not comfortable allowing it to derail. And ultimately, in that we can come to see men as vulnerable and women as self-responsible adults, it could become a shining example of how Feminism Can Help Men Too. I don't think it is now, because of the aforementioned "not my department" attitude. But it could be.

122 comments:

  1. I believe that I'm the first woman in my SO's life *not* to hit him in anger on occasion. He didn't understand why I was surprised when I discovered this, nor did he consider it a problem.

    I would expect a woman in his position to have someone express the "whoa, that's not ok" a whole lot sooner.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a good example of a case where the answer to MRA complaints against feminism is actually more feminism. Domestic violence against men is a different problem from domestic violence against women, with different complicating factors, but one thing that the two have in common is that they are both, in different ways, products of patriarchy. On the male side, this kind of suffering is a good example of how masculinity, like femininity, is an oppressive social construct.

    It's frustrating, because if MRAs had any intellectual maturity, they would realize that the nature of their concerns makes them natural allies with feminists. Instead, "men suffer too" has come to represent anti-feminist douchebaggery rather than anti-patriarchal solidarity.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that we may be getting toward the Feminism Can Help Men Too place in supporting male victims of domestic violence. When I've worked on DV hotlines, while most shelters are exclusively for women, and for good reason, I've always known where a shelter just for men was in the surrounding area. The last shelter I worked for had a men's hotline as well as a women's, and while it was more geared toward giving batterers a place to sort themselves out and get help, they were also set up to work with male victims. I don't think it's enough, and the shelter's I've worked at haven't seemed quite ready to give male victims the support they need, but it's a solid start.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm an "Alex Actual Trauma Survivor"—a woman raped me in my own bed when I was 19 years old—and I do indeed have experience with everything you mentioned.

    It's just not something I talk about—well, ever, I guess, but particularly not on feminist blogs. It's not the place for it. And yet... explicitly feminist spaces are pretty much the only safe environments for rape survivors of any gender online.

    (I've found spaces for male rape survivors, but they're all infested with those MRA pieces of shit who either want to use me to Disprove Feminism, or tell me what a pussy I am for "letting" myself get raped.)

    Anyway, the problem isn't that feminist spaces aren't more accommodating; it's that they seem to have a monopoly on treating rape survivors with compassion and understanding instead of judgement and hostility.

    There's a conversation to be had about male survivors—but not one shouted over the conversation about women, a separate conversation. A parallel one. Women survivors have poured their blood, sweat and tears into carving out safe spaces for themselves. It's time us men started working on our own.

    ReplyDelete
  5. A woman who beats her boyfriend may be given loopholes because of sexist preconceptions, but it doesn't give the woman a motive to do so, whereas sexism does give men motives to attack women.
    I agree with most of what you wrote, but this sentence seems problematic. I understand that the "get out of jail free" card isn't a motive for violence, but if female stereotypes motivate violence against women isn't it possible that male stereotypes motivate violence against men?

    ReplyDelete
  6. @ Bruno, I don't think the argument was that men attack women due to stereotypes about women, but that some male abusers are specifically motivated by the cultural trope that men are supposed to control their wives, even if they need violence to do so. I can't think of any similar memes about how women "should" get to control their male partners. Which doesn't mean that female on male abuse doesn't happen, just that it doesn't necessarily happen for the same reason. Although, there is the stereotype that men are big and strong and can stop anything from happening to them, so that might accomodate some women feeling like they can't hit their boyfriends because they can't "really" hurt a man. Which might be akin to what you were saying. Hmmm.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Feeling like they CAN hit their boyfriends, I mean. Whoops!

    ReplyDelete
  8. To the 10:49 anon: Amazingly well said. If the MRM was lead by people like you they'd be worthy allies, and they'd get some shit done.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "More women than men are victims of sexual and domestic violence... [I]t's pretty clear that this isn't a 50-50 thing. "

    I just want to point out that this depends on how you define "victim." There are several studies indicating that women are as likely to initiate domestic violence as men are. However -- because of the way that size and strength tend to be distributed among men and women -- when fights get physical, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be hurt than men are.

    I only say this to try to correct a widespread assumption that men are more likley to be the aggressors of domestic violence. (And this assumption admittedly does seem pretty reasonable to me: I do believe that men generally tend to be more aggressive than women. On the other hand, we've also evolved cultural and social [and maybe biological?] inhibitions to help deter men from violently aggressing against women -- "Boys don't hit girls" -- so perhaps the assumption is not so straightforward.)

    Having said that ... I'm honestly not sure how this factors into the way we address the problem. Bottom line is, regardless of who starts the violence, it's overwhelmingly women who end up suffering most of the physical hurt. "She started it!" doesn't excuse a battering.

    But on the other hand, if the solution is to take causes into account, then "who starts it" is definitely a factor that should be considered. Treating domestic violence as primarily a result of male aggression won't work if roughly half the time it's a male response to female aggression. FWIW.

    PS: I'm also aware that some "female aggession/initiation" might in fact be cases of violent, because desperate, reaction to non-violent but unbearable provocation. But then, that would cut both ways.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent post - It's a difficult issue to address because of the combination of "Not my problem" and "Scott Sexist."

    As Stevo pointed out, there is research suggesting that relationships which feature intimate partner violence involves both partners engaging in violence, which escalates until somone (usually the physically weaker partner) gets seriously injured.

    (I'm looking for references... I heard someone speak about it at the BPS forensic psych conference last year, but I can't recall her name and can't find my notes)

    I think this suggests that the vital message is simply "Violence in relationships is unacceptable." Obvious, I know - but the gendered presentation of the problem casts women as victims (and as such without agency) and men as perpetrators (who couldn't possibly be victims) - To an extent, it contributes to the normalization of male dominance in domestic relationships, and to the oppressive power of patriarchal stereotypes over both men and women. Victims are predominantly women, but I think the solution needs to be gender neutral. (Intimate Partner Violence is also not exclusively a problem that occurs between men and women)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Intimate Partner Violence is something that the queer community is addressing as well, finding ways to get that exact message out that "Violence in relationships is unacceptable", whether that relationship consists of a man and a woman, two men, two women...it doesn't matter. ANYONE can be a victim of domestic violence and as communities and a society, we should have the resources and awareness and action available to address the issue. Because it's not a women's issue or a straight person's issue or a poor people issue (let's not forget that many people assume it's those lower class or poor or minority people who have "those problem" even though it occurs in all strata of society), it's a human issue.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hershele OstropolerMay 20, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    I don't think the argument was that men attack women due to stereotypes about women, but that some male abusers are specifically motivated by the cultural trope that men are supposed to control their wives, even if they need violence to do so. I can't think of any similar memes about how women "should" get to control their male partners

    Women (are culturally supposed to) control their male partners by turning the sex tap on and off. So women needn't resort to violence, though by the same token they're not supposed to ask for what they want they way men are.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Stevo - The "who started it" argument bothers me, because in a situation where someone is being "punished" for their "transgressions," they may feel that they initiated the conflict because they're so immersed in the abuser's "you made me do this!" worldview. I'm not saying that this is always the case, just that it's something to be aware of when evaluating data.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Two points, and essentially I agree with this whole post, and this mirrors my experience in health care with domestic violence. One that the MRAs are very, very hostile to the idea that abuser and victim can be male roles in the same relationship, yet cheerfully point to domestic violence in lesbian relationships as somehow epidemic (there was a story going around about a woman who felt she couldn't go to a DV shelter because her lesbian lover worked there - heard that one yet? - usually used as a counter for pointing out women who can't go to the police). So when there is discussion about shelters for men, it always go to "because they have to escape those evil women who want all their money in child support!!" and the idea that men are perhaps victims of other men, well, that just flies in the face of demonizing women.

    Secondly, this "but women are shown to be as equally violent as men" item here - in short, no. At the very least, it is heavily debated that because a few studies showed that men and women either hit first or at different points threw a punch or broke a possession in anger, that the vast majority of the research is incorrect. A partner using violence in a pattern of intimidation and control that is escalating, and this for the vast majority is from men directed at women. These are the ones cutting phone lines, sabotaging birth control/school or work success, destroying outside relationships, threatening pets, murder. When we talk about domestic violence victims who need anonymous, underground shelters, we aren't talking about the couple that mutually sling a few punches when particularly aggravated - more than likely, both of them feel equally free to the leave the relationship. This is not to say that being violent in relationships is a GOOD thing, no, said couple really needs ways to deal with anger/disappointment this without bruises.
    But this remains: if this is how domestic violence breaks down, then absolutely there should be gender/orientation neutral directives about violence not being okay in relationships, about coping with your problems with other people by leaving or non-violent means, etc. while keeping resources (such as shelters) focused on where they are needed most. This means there are going to be a majority of shelters for women victims. This means a lot of awareness campaigns and whatnot are going to be focused on believing women about their abuse. And even if it is a minority of men that are the victims in this scenario doesn't mean they should be thrown out as "not my problems" - hardly. Nor does this mean that the MAJORITY of men are going to be violent, as sometimes seems to be the impression this discussion leaves.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Holly: The "who started it" argument bothers me, because in a situation where someone is being "punished" for their "transgressions," they may feel that they initiated the conflict because they're so immersed in the abuser's "you made me do this!" worldview. I'm not saying that this is always the case, just that it's something to be aware of when evaluating data.

    There's a difference between my partner getting angry at me because I didn't do the dishes, and then yelling at me about it, and getting all wound up, and then punching me, to punish me for my transgressions, and my partner getting angry at me because I didn't do the dishes, and yelling at me about it, and getting me so wound up that I punch them.

    One case is straight up victim-blaming "you started it" BS, them claiming that I picked this fight by not doing my duty. And the other is them starting it by railing on me verbally until I lose my cool and hit them. I dunno. Did I start that by not doing the dishes? Did they start that by yelling at me so much that I couldn't handle it any more? Did I start it by being the first one to get physical?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anon - I'd like to think that no one can verbally get me so wound up that I punch them. That's still my decision. (Also, speaking from personal experience, sometimes the "winding up" consists of frantically apologizing and cowering, which the abuser will recount as a totally intolerable windup.)

    That said, the second case is a good example of why data gathering on "who's the aggressor" can be a mess. Sometimes two people just fight like cats and dogs, and I don't even know who starts it, I don't know what to do legally, I just know they shouldn't be together.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anon:

    There's no such thing as justifiable verbal provocation for hitting your partner (or, you know, anybody really). I have a temper, and I've gotten into fist-fights, and I have literally never been in a situation where I was incapable of choosing not to hit someone. Unless you're actually defending yourself against an attack, the decision to deck somebody (be it your spouse, your sibling, or some random asshole in a bar) is always a decision.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Holly: I'd like to think that no one can verbally get me so wound up that I punch them

    Unfortunately this can happen. Not for everyone necessarily, but speaking as someone who used to struggle with anger management problems, this was a very real and frightening possibility. In situations where I was being verbally assaulted and had no ability to remove myself from the physical space, at a certain point I would snap and the anger would take over to the point that I was no longer consciously able to control my actions, and would lash out physically in a desperate attempt to end the verbal assault.

    It doesn't make the physical violence okay, but in such a case the person lashing out is not really making a decision to do so. They already need help (for the anger management, and possibly related psychological problems), and now are being verbally abused. The injuries from verbal abuse are not visible, but they're very real.

    All of which only furthers the point that trying to determine "who started it" isn't the most useful thing, when the real problem is there are abused people who need safe places to go and get help.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anon - in such a case the person lashing out is not really making a decision to do so.

    Yes they are. I'm sorry, but your arm muscles are your own. Someone can say hurtful things to you, but they cannot make a fist for you. The only way someone can make you hit them is if they grab your arm and do it.

    It may be that you can't control your anger, but your anger is still a part of you. (It certainly isn't a part of the other person!) People's actions may make you angry, they may make you desperate, they may make you hateful... but they can't literally make you do anything. That's all you.

    ReplyDelete
  20. aebhel: I have literally never been in a situation where I was incapable of choosing not to hit someone.

    Saw this after I made my previous comment (anon @ 2:41). It applies to this as well.

    I have been in that situation, and it is terrifying. Watching myself lash out at someone while having absolutely no ability to stop it is one of the worst experiences of my life. I never had any intention to hurt someone, and aside from those times have always been an extremely non-violent person.

    Does their verbal provocation "justify" my hitting them? No, but the point is it's not always a decision, especially not when the person is being verbally abused.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I don't believe "no ability to stop it." I mean, is this an "alien hand" situation, where you look over and it's moving on its own? Did you black out and wake up with sore knuckles?

    If that's the case, then something very weird is going on here, and furthermore it's going on in your own head, and is hardly a case of the other person "making" you do this.

    If that isn't the case, but what you really mean is "I chose to attack someone, but I didn't make that decision with a clear head," well, that's something else. It's still your decision. It might not have been a good decision, but it happened in your head. It didn't happen on its own and it sure as hell didn't happen in the other person's head--this isn't just a matter of ethics but of what's physically possible.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Or let me put it even more brutally - If you feel like hitting someone, under any circumstances, truly isn't your decision, then I never want to be in a room with you.

    Because if it isn't your decision, if it happens by fucking magic that happens to use your body, then how can you guarantee me it won't happen at random?

    ReplyDelete
  23. It may be that you can't control your anger, but your anger is still a part of you
    Yes, it is, which is why I sought counseling for it and over many many years of very hard work was able to end the problem. I own my responsibility for taking care of it. I would never claim the anger is part of the other person, or that they "deserved" me lashing out. It does not excuse the action. Still, I don't see it as a decision.

    A decision, to me, means consciously choosing to do something. When a psychological problem impedes on that, so that my conscious self has completely retreated into my head and is watching in abject horror of the actions of my own body, how can I make that decision?

    I am in no way trying to justify violence. What I did then was wrong, and the part of me that was conscious of the action knew it as well, but was unable to do anything to stop it.

    I can easily believe that victims of continuous verbal abuse may sometimes have the same experience, causing them to lash out physically against the abuser. It's still not okay that they hurt the person. But are they really the aggressor? They clearly need help, I would say both people need help, of different kinds. I would not say it's fair to blame the person who was being verbally abused for causing trouble.

    Honestly, Holly, I am not trying to create an argument. I agree with your post and the majority of the comments. But, when I read your comment that you like to think no one could get you so wound up that you'd punch them, it struck a deep personal chord and I wanted to share my experience. I would like to think that too, especially now that I've sought out the help that I needed, but I know it has not always been the case.

    ReplyDelete
  24. It may be that you didn't feel in control of yourself, but I guarantee you this: the person you attacked wasn't in control of you either.

    ReplyDelete
  25. the person you attacked wasn't in control of you either.
    I never said they were. I am sorry if I gave that impression.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ugh. I don't mean to devalue the struggles people have had with their anger but read this paragraph and try not to throw up:

    I can easily believe that victims of continuous sexual provocation may sometimes have the same experience, causing them to lash out sexually against the temptress. It's still not okay that they raped the person. But are they really the aggressor? They clearly need help, I would say both people need help, of different kinds. I would not say it's fair to blame the person who was being tempted for causing trouble.

    You always have a choice not to hit someone, violence is never an appropriate response to verbal abuse and there is always a better option. Now, if you are being physically prevented from leaving the situation, then perhaps I can see violence as an alternative to free yourself. Otherwise? Get. Out.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I do not want to derail this whole thread, but I do want to try to explain where I'm coming from, because I greatly respect you.

    I can understand why your reaction to my comments has been so harsh, but I also think you may be misinterpreting what I mean.

    Could I really truly not control my actions? I think we'd have to get a whole team of psychologists, and possibly some philosophers, together before we could hope to answer that question definitively.

    What I can tell you is, yes, it did feel like some sort of "alien hand." I did not black out, but I came close to it. I had dimmed vision and could not entirely tell what was happening until it was over. It was traumatic to the point that even thinking about it now, over a decade later, I feel shaky and have a lasting sense of shame. It left me with a deep feeling of guilt that stayed with me for years after the other person and I had moved past our individual problems.

    It won't happen again because I took responsibility to fix the problem in my own head. During the time when it was a problem, I can guarantee it would never have happened to you, because you are not someone who would verbally abuse me.

    I never, ever, meant my comments to sound like the other person "made me do it." All I meant to bring up is that a person suffering verbal abuse may react with physical violence, and it may, at least from that person's perspective, be unintentional.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I don't know what you consider "verbal abuse." I'm not in the business of berating people, but I do have kind of a smart mouth on me. How could I possibly know exactly what crosses the line?

    And more to the point, if you don't feel these were your actions, could you even tell me?

    ReplyDelete
  29. @Anon 4:01
    Now, if you are being physically prevented from leaving the situation, then perhaps I can see violence as an alternative to free yourself. Otherwise? Get. Out.

    As I said in my first comment:
    I was being verbally assaulted and had no ability to remove myself from the physical space.

    As far as your re-interpretation of my paragraph, how can you equate a statement about someone being verbally ABUSED leading to (but NOT justifying) violence, to a vastly altered argument that someone being sexually provocative justifies rape? What the hell is a "victim" of sexual provocation?

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've had experience with this, because as a trans guy, guess who can't enter those women's-only safe spaces for rape? I actually once spent time in a city where I could not enter any rape center without pretending to be a girl.

    In general, conventional feminist discourse on this actually enrages me, because by claiming it's not their problem, they are explicitly abandoning survivors of sexual violence, which... if that's part of feminism, I DO NOT WANT IT ANYWHERE NEAR ME. My feminism is about fighting ALL sexual violence.

    Also, sorry Anonymous. I tend to be of the belief that if you literally can not prevent yourself from committing violence towards others, that's why institutionalization exists.

    --Rogan

    ReplyDelete
  31. Let's go with a legal definition of verbal abuse:

    Verbal abuse may consist of shouting, insulting, intimidating, threatening, shaming, demeaning, or derogatory language, among other forms of communication.

    Or from Wikipedia:

    Verbal abuse (also known as reviling) is persistent behavior using words and/or mind games to instill self-doubt in the victim and to build the abuser's sense of dominance and control.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Does the magical hitty-monster that sometimes uses your hands read Wikipedia?

    That's a serious question.

    If you didn't do this, how can you tell me with any assurance whatsoever when it will and won't happen?

    ReplyDelete
  33. My god, people, I am not some kind of crazy lunatic who runs around beating people up for no reason.

    I was trying to keep it general because I think a similar situation could easily happen in an intimate relationship where one person is verbally abusing another. But seeing as I'm being interpreted as somehow attempting to justify violence and/or rape (apparently), let me be as clear as I possibly can.

    I was being insulted, intimidated, and shamed by someone for an action I didn't even do. I was physically unable to leave the space because I was literally surrounded by people who were egging on the guy dealing out the insults. I repeatedly told him to stop, and eventually I snapped and shoved him to the ground. The circle broke then, and I ran away from the situation as fas as I could. I found someone I trusted to talk to, and proceeded to sob out of guilt for the next two hours.

    I can picture a similar situation happening to someone who is stuck in a space physically, for whatever reason, perhaps it is a small kitchen, and who is being verbally abused (see definitions above) by their partner.

    Let me reiterate that this was over a decade ago. I was wrong to use violence. I own that. It was not a magical hitty-monster. It felt, from my internal perspective, like my body was moving on its own. I never made a conscious decision to lash out. Yes, it was related to a psychological problem for which I sought help, and which is no longer a problem

    So there you have the details. If you still feel unsafe around me (or that hypothetical person lashing out at their verbally abusive partner), or think I should be institutionalized, well, I don't know what to tell you. I'm sorry you feel that way.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Anon - Being physically unable to leave a space is a very, very different and more provoking thing than verbal abuse. What you did doesn't sound so unreasonable in light of being physically trapped. It's a very different thing than what it sounded like--which was "the things this person was saying made me hit them."

    However, analogizing this to domestic situations is risky. Being in a small house with an angry person is a miserable experience and may indeed be emotional and verbal abuse, but it's not comparable to being literally surrounded.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Holly & Anon:

    I don't think the Anon who needed anger management is necessarily lying about their "alien hand" experience. I've had a couple occasions where I've had so much adrenaline(?) going that I don't quite remember what I did afterwords. One time was when I was shoved in front of a large crowd and had to tell a story--I wasn't prepared and didn't remember anything I said afterwords because of the stress of possible humiliation. The second time was during my one and only fist fight: my anger was so great I developed tunnel vision, and I only remembered the incident in pieces afterwords. The person I hit was, basically, non-consensually telling me that I was worthless and enjoying my humiliation after I had trusted him enough to have sex, but that doesn't make my response any less fucked up.

    Does the fact that I had these "blackouts" mean that I wasn't, ultimately, the person telling the story/throwing the punch? Nope. I was still entirely responsible for my actions.

    In the case of the fist fight, though, I know that at the time I did not have the same personal boundaries, understanding of healthy relationships, sense of self, or anger management tools that I do now. At the time, it felt like a monster had come out of me. Now, if I was put into a similar situation I'd use words instead of fists, breathe deeply, or remove myself from the situation, because I know that my emotions and actions are mine and am self-aware enough to monitor them and know the limits of my temper. Past me would probably not have seen themselves as having that option. The Anon above might simply be inarticulate, but they seem to be getting lost around that point: that they're always involved in their own actions even though they make bad decisions/have poor self-control.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Initially, Hitty-Monster-Anon's posts came off creepy to me...and Holly, I do see what you mean about a person having a choice about hitting another person. But then I thought: sometimes a person does just "snap" mentally when they're under extreme stress, and does something they can barely remember afterward.

    A rape victim friend of mine once had PTSD kick in when a guy at a club kept aggressively hitting on her and trying to kiss her; she snapped, started screaming, ran to a corner and huddled there until a mutual friend gently collected her and took her to the hospital.

    If my friend's mental collapse had taken the form of hitting the guy instead of freaking out and running away, would we say that she "chose" to hit him and it's her fault for initiating violence?

    Conversely, can we say that my friend's actual reaction - screaming/running/crying - was a "conscious decision" because all of these things involved her brain telling her muscles to do them? Would it be at all fair to tell her that screaming in public is really pretty inappropriate and she shouldn't have done that?

    I know that accepting some violence as involuntary/subconscious constitutes going down a dangerous path - one where bona fide domestic abusers will try to be all "but s/he provoked me! I didn't know what I was doing!" (hell, they probably do that now).

    But but but...I dunno. It seems to me that the things someone does when they feel extremely threatened and freaked out might not be under their control, strictly speaking. I'm not sure. What's your take?

    ReplyDelete
  37. Perversecowgirl - I've certainly been in situations where I was so acutely distressed that I had to do something drastic and irrational, but I still feel like the choice of that "something" was up to me.

    I've also been in situations where I was speaking in my nicey-nice voice real quietly and moving real slowly in hopes that I could keep someone from exploding at me, and I do not believe that kind of explosion is involuntary--it's a form of very deliberate control.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Just read the post and comments and I do not think anyone has yet brought up prisons.

    Sexual violence in prison is epidemic. And most people in prison are men, disproportionately men of color.

    Any discussion of sexual violence needs to include talking about the prison system.

    ReplyDelete
  39. RE: BroadSnark

    I actually had not thought of that, and you make a very good point! Thank you. That's the only situation I can think of where anything analogous to rape culture exists for men, where rape is used as a "reasonable" punishment for behavior. It's really terrifying to me.

    --Rogan

    ReplyDelete
  40. @BroadSnark & LBT
    Agreed! And there seems to be a hyperpatriarchal element to it, where which side of the sexual violence someone falls on is highly intertwined with status and perceived gender roles/sexuality.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I believe the "hitty anon". Unsure what everybody's response to him was about. I mean, the skepticism, all that other stuff, I get. But at a certain point, teasing him about how he can type just seemed pointless, and actually a little cruel. Not sure if it was intentioned that way.

    Anyway, good post, Holly. Growing up, I've learned that anyone is capable of anything.

    ReplyDelete
  42. There is something important that seems to never get addressed in these discussions. How did the adult male and adult female develop their dysfunctions? Most if not all violent people(sociopaths excluded) were TAUGHT to be violent or for that matter submissive to it. Where did they learn this behaviour, well, Mom and Dad are probably the first people we need to look at. Even in a Domestic Violence situation it takes TWO to dance the dance. And yes, Im going to say this. If we expect the abuser(one perpetrating the violence) to know better then dont we need to hold the victim accountable for their actions too(staying in the enviroment). One of the biggest challenges when dealing with these scenarios is the FACT that both individuals were at one time VICTIMS also. I ask this, how do you know better if you have learned only one way for a good chunk of your life.

    This little poem is about racism but it does sum up perfectly how most of our dysfunctions are started.

    You've got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You've got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It's got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught before it's too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You've got to be carefully taught!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Tit for Tat - then dont we need to hold the victim accountable for their actions too
    No. We really don't. I'm not sure what "accountable" means in this context but I'm pretty sure that they've been punished enough and don't need any "well, you did hit her fist with your face" logic on top of that.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Holly

    Im talking about the beginning of the "teaching" of domestic violence. Is it not a male and female interaction? In other words, shouldnt both adults be accountable for their actions or non actions in regards to what it teaches their children. Remember this potentially goes both ways because both men and women could be equally abuser and victim.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I don't think you get it, TforT. I'm not saying "the man (or woman) should be punished."

    I'm saying "the abuser should be punished."

    I did not realize this was controversial.

    And I'd like you to define in real-world terms what you mean by "accountable," because all I'm hearing so far is "how dare you get hit in front of the kids!"

    ReplyDelete
  46. Ok, let me try to explain. I am a victim of domestic abuse. My wife/partner is found guilty and is punished accordingly. My children watched me be abused and because of this they are starting to learn certain actions. Because of my wife/partners actions she looses custody of her children. Soon after I find another partner and the cycle continues. Each time the physical offender is punished accordingly. Is there ever a time that I should be held accountable for putting my children in a violent enviroment that teaches them its ok behaviour? And if yes then should I lose custody of my children for my behaviour? Afterall, regardless if I am the victim, shouldnt I know better now that I am an adult?

    ReplyDelete
  47. Tit for Tat - No. This is such messed up logic. We don't punish people for getting abused.

    In addition to the incredible immorality of the whole thing, there's also a practical concern: what would this do to the reporting of abuse? Who's going to call the cops on their partner--already a difficult and risky thing to do--if they think they're going to be "held accountable" for their "part" in the violence?

    ReplyDelete
  48. Re: Tit for Tat

    I can only see that logic in helping people STAY with their abusers, because they fear losing their children! I would take being beaten for YEARS if it meant I could keep my kids.

    --Rogan

    ReplyDelete
  49. So let me get this straight. If you are a person who continues to pick abusers and you subject your children to that you should never be held accountable for that? Why, because you are a victim and not a responsible adult?

    ReplyDelete
  50. Hershele OstropolerMay 21, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Is there ever a time that I should be held accountable for putting my children in a violent enviroment that teaches them its ok behaviour? And if yes then should I lose custody of my children for my behaviour? Afterall, regardless if I am the victim, shouldnt I know better now that I am an adult?

    I think Holly et al are making the unwarranted assumption that you realize people don't get into abusive relationships on purpose. Since you are, to put it charitably, challenging that implicit assumption, I wonder if I could clarify by explicitly pointing out that people generally do not enter relationships with the intention of being abused, whatever the Eurythmics tell you.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hershele

    You are right, people dont generally enter relationships with the intent to be abused nor do many enter with the intent to abuse. But people do follow patterns. Most self abusive and outwardly abusive people do it because of a learned behaviour. If we expect abusers to be responsible for abusing others isnt it logical to expect responsibility from a parent who exposes their children to a abusive enviroment? The key is to remember that each person, both abuser and victim, was, and still is a victim. They both just express their dysfunction(victimhood) differently. It is irresponsible to only hold one accountable as an adult and the other not.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I'm pretty sure the abuser is the one who "exposes kids to an abusive environment."

    I'm also pretty sure you're a troll if you really think that people need an incentive to not be abused. The abuse itself works pretty well there.

    And your weird moral equivalence between abuser and victim is just... WEIRD.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Weird, yep that is a good description for anyone who is unwilling to look at the whole PROCESS of abuse. But I guess it does make it easier to discount me to label me a troll. So much for discussion. :(

    ReplyDelete
  54. Think in terms of motivation, TforT. Do you think getting abused is so fun that I'll do it on purpose, but if I know I'll get in trouble then I'll think twice? The abuse is trouble enough.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Holly

    Think in terms of dysfunction, then attempt to look at the new victims. Most notably the children. The abuse is only a symptom of a much larger issue that goes back to where does it start? If you hope to stop abuse then we need to change the patterns of BOTH abuser AND victim.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I'm all for encouraging the victims of abuse to get counseling, go to classes, do whatever it takes to, for lack of better phrasing, become more aware they they don't deserve abuse and don't have to accept it as their lot in life -- to see the patterns of thinking and self-imaging that they've engaged in previously that have left them vulnerable. Anything that might help a victim of repeated abuse avoid future abuse is a good thing.

    But once someone starts using victim-subject phrases like 'hold the victim accountable,' as opposed to 'help the victim learn' or 'offer the victim (insert counseling/self-defense classes/WHATEVER here)' and such, it sounds to me more like trying to split the blame than solve the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Jack

    You seem to be missing the fact that most abusers are also the VICTIMS of abuse. Where do you think they learned their dysfunctional behaviour? I agree though, we may need to share the accountability(though not equally) to truly solve the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  58. TfT --

    Perhaps they are. And I think some abusers may benefit from similar techniques of counseling and education (not all, however; I believe that some portion of abusers fully understand their behavior, and knowingly engage in abuse as a convenient means to an end, and just don't care about the good/bad right/wrong of things). I certainly hope that abusers who would benefit from such resources get access to those resources, for their own sake and that of future potential victims.

    But unlike (some) victims, abusers engage in behavior that's not just dysfunctional but also (usually) illegal, and ABUSIVE. By definition the abusers are still the ones choosing to cross the line and engage in abuse. That's the difference between making a mistake and doing wrong.

    Your concept of accountability, from my reading of your comments, seems to be more about assigning blameworthiness than responsibility. Which again, seems to me to be more like trying to split the blame than solve the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Jack

    You are entitled to view my comments any way you like but let me try to make myself perfectly clear. My word is is not "blameworthiness" it is accountability or responsibility. In other words if I abuse someone I should be held accountable for my actions. If that means prison time then that is where I should go. If it includes counselling then all the better. Now in regards to children it may be deemed that my abusive behaviour means I lose parental rights. This could be permanent or just until I am shown to no longer be a threat to their physical and emotional health. Here is an important thing to look at. If a victimized parent continually shows a propensity to pick abusive partners and allows their children to be around such behaviours, which are potentially emotionally and physically abusive, then they need to be held accountable for said actions. This is not about "blameworthiness", it is about the security of the children. Remember this is not gender specific, it is about the actions and consequences of adult behaviour. Unfortunately when it comes to domestic violence it is usually a cyclical thing. In other words it is learned behaviour that gets passed on down the line. The problem is, it is learned by both sides, victims and abusers. If we dont truly stop it at its starting point then the cycle wont stop. This means addressing multiple points of origin.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Hershele OstropolerMay 22, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    You seem to be missing the fact that most abusers are also the VICTIMS of abuse.

    In other words, we shouldn't blame abusers.

    If we expect abusers to be responsible for abusing others isnt it logical to expect responsibility from a parent who exposes their children to a abusive enviroment?

    In other words, we should blame abuse victims.

    I realize this isn't necessarily true on Zorbax, but most Earth people would regard having their children taken away as a punishment. That's part of the reason for the outcry when the Swiss or Australian governments, for example, take children away from parents deemed the wrong race or ethnicity -- part of it is the idea that there is a wrong ethnicity and part of it is punishing people for being it. I'm not sure what sort of alteration you'd expect in an abuse victim's behavior to not lose their children.

    Ok, that's a rhetorical device, I'm pretty sure I do know, but it's only slightly more realistic than "stop being Roma."

    ReplyDelete
  61. There's also two big honkin' practical issues:

    1) Taking someone's kids away for reporting abuse would strongly motivate them not to report the abuse. And abusers would know this. They would use it against their victims.

    2) If the kids are taken away from the abused parent, they obviously can't go to the abusive parent, so they're likely to end up in the foster system, which is a lot harder on them than living with a loving biological parent, even one who is bad at picking partners.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Holly

    This isnt about someone's "bad" choices. This is about a dangerous and harmful environment that an adult introduces their children to. It is no different than an addict bringing in drug dealers and other potentially harmful situations to their childrens lives. It also shows how self centered someone can be, for if they were truly a loving parent they would understand the degree of their dysfunction and offer to give up their children while they get help for their problem. Also, which is harder, watching your parent get beaten regularly or living apart while they get help? Honestly?

    ReplyDelete
  63. Try to remember that I am suggesting this for the parent who REPEATEDLY chooses abusers. The constant isnt the abuser as this person will change. The constant is the parent who makes the same choices consistently. This is not a one time situation.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Tit for Tat: Okay, then, how often is "repeatedly?" (sans caps because I don't feel like shouting).

    Twice? Three times? What if the occasions are years apart? What if the most recent occasion happens only after a long period of fear-induced celibacy -- "I'd like to try dating this guy/girl, but I'm afraid he/she would be abusive and I'd lose my kids. Better to be lonely and sexless 'til they move out." Because it seems to me like that is what you're starting to lead to.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Tit for Tat - It is no different than an addict bringing in drug dealers and other potentially harmful situations to their childrens lives.
    No, the difference is that the addict knew that those were drug dealers. Abusers can be very hard to spot.

    It also shows how self centered someone can be, for if they were truly a loving parent they would understand the degree of their dysfunction
    This is harsh as shit, man. I mean, okay, you're talking to someone who had a very abusive mother and maybe you don't know how deep that kind of thing goes, but:

    "I'm sorry I lost it, I'm just trying to help you with your dysfunction and it's so hard for me when you're so self-centered that you don't even appreciate it" is exactly the kind of thing I would hear after an explosion.

    I spent a lot of my childhood and adolescence believing this, believing that I was somehow broken inside, that I was the sort of person who had to be abused to knock any sense into me, and since even that wasn't working, maybe I was just completely worthless.

    To have this validated by the law, and validated in the most painful way possible ("sorry, but you really are dysfunctional, and you can't have your kids until you stop being the sort of person who gets themselves abused") seems unimaginably cruel.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I also note that you're the same "I'm just so concerned for their safety" guy who kept arguing that women should be careful how they dress so they don't get themselves raped. So that's kind of a pattern there.

    You're either this amazing idealist who thinks that people are always able to voluntarily choose not to be victims of crime, or you're maybe not arguing in good faith.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Holly, I think Tit for Tat and Anonymous are arguing from the same place. If you start by assuming that some acts of violence are committed uncontrollably by otherwise good people (I don't, but just assume it for a moment), then there's no point going after the perpetrator of said violence. I mean, we can lock them away after, sure, but we can't teach the would-be perpetrator anything that would help them avoid being violent. They can't control it and, furthermore, they are not some exception-to-the-rule sociopath: any of us may be capable of a similar break with reality. Anyone can potentially commit acts of uncontrollable violence. Therefore, such acts are as unstoppable as acts of God.

    In this light, a parent (or a mother, let's be honest) who repeatedly exposes her children to abusers (i.e., any other significant other) is as irresponsible as a mother moving to California and choosing not to buy earthquake insurance. You know the abuse could be coming; why didn't you prepare for it?

    I don't think Tit for Tat (and other victim-blamers') arguments necessarily come from a place of malice. Just, yes, a belief that evil is a force of nature, manifested randomly in otherwise innocent people. Those people have no choice over their actions because, by the time the evil spirit takes hold of them, they're no longer people but just faceless entities like hurricanes or tornados.

    ReplyDelete
  68. New Anonymous: But wouldn't treating "evil" as an "unstoppable act of God" encourage doing nothing to prevent it -- or help its victims? It seems a little bit blindly deterministic to assume that you can always see abuse coming -- there aren't scientifically detectable fault lines in the human population, so to speak.

    Again, as Holly reminded us just a couple comments ago, it's really effing difficult to tell if someone will eventually be abusive. They don't all wear stained white tank tops and sport unfortunate facial hair or whatever. Some of them are well-dressed, charismatic, and ultimately really, *really* good at convincing you that the bruises on your face (or psyche) are your own fault. It doesn't happen all at once; an experienced abuser knows how to gain trust and/or authority first. Dating an abuser isn't like moving to California and being surprised by the earthquakes. Most of the time, there's no warning that you're heading towards a danger zone, only hindsight.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Actually, I'm pretty sure what he mostly is is someone who cannot stand seeing someone "get away" with bad choices, like taking more than one abusive partner while having kids.

    From the standpoint of the children, it IS pretty awful. None of it is at all within their power to do anything about, they get all sorts of toxic messages and maybe abused themselves, and maybe- probably even- will go on to either abuse or take abusive partners because they have been taught that this is normal.

    The problem is that he doesn't seem to give a damn about all practical reality beyond "the mother dragged them into this, she should be held accountable for the damage done to the children!". Like the damage done to the mother, dropping the likelihood of reporting abuse even further into the toilet than it is already, or the fact that she's not doing this because being punched in the face is somehow rewarding for her.

    Or, as ever, the fact that the moral responsibility is STILL on the abuser, who is not a wild animal or even a criminal wearing their criminality like a badge.

    ReplyDelete
  70. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  71. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Zircon, like I said in my comment, I don't buy the original premise of my argument either.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Zircon

    Good point, what is the number? Im not sure but I do know there needs to be a number. As far as being lonely and sexless, that has nothing to do with your children. Maybe if people showed just a tad more restraint before they introduce their children to the new partner they might get a better idea of who they are? Just thinking.

    Holly

    I understand your pain, though I cant relate. My beatdowns didnt come from Mom or Dad, but I know the pain. I think it should be harsh(accountability), because, afterall we are talking about what a child is being introduced to(they dont have a say), regardless if their parent "loves" them. Oh, by the way, Im an idealist who knows this world all too well.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Labrat

    The moral responsibility is on the adults who are supposed to protect their children.

    ReplyDelete
  75. OK. Let's just give all adults psychic powers and godlike reflection then. It'll certainly be an improvement for people who were likely abused themselves over an assumption that abusive behavior is normal combined with societal pressure that single mothers are irresponsible failures who would otherwise have gotten a man to be a father to their children. It will solve things in a stroke.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Tit for Tat - I had a bad night at the ER. A woman came in with--well, sadly it's not uniquely identifying information, not remotely unique--a ring of bruises around her neck and a small child in her arms. She was shaking. Literally vibrating, and her voice was just this little squeak.

    YOU FUCKING GO UP TO THAT WOMAN AND TAKE HER CHILD AWAY. YOU TELL HER ABOUT HER "ACCOUNTABILITY" LIKE YOU'RE ALL HIGH AND FUCKING MIGHTY.

    You tell her that she should have seen this coming, that she could have avoided it, that she should have learned by now. You'll be the second person that night to say those things to her.




    What you are saying is not worthy of respect. It is not worthy of argument. It is not just absurd but evil. I'm not debating it on the "oh, but think of reporting rates and how do you define responsible" level any more. It's just fucking horrible.

    ReplyDelete
  77. @New Anon: Argh, sorry. I need to stay away from blogs when I'm tired. As you can see, besides misreading your remarks, I also repeated myself in my second comment -- because I thought my first one had not been posted for some reason. Embarrassing...

    @TforT: ...I was trying to point out that it is ridiculous to attempt to quantify this kind of thing...

    ReplyDelete
  78. Oh Holly -- that's heartbreaking.

    Also, strangulation is the biggest indicator that the next escalation is killing you. But the most dangerous part of an abusive relationship is when you try to leave.

    People talk like it's so damn easy. Abuse sneaks up on a person and when you notice it, it's too late. You're isolated from friends and family, you can't get to the money, if you have a job they know where you work and can get to you, easy; if you leave, you will be homeless, broke, and alone, except for your PTSD and your hungry little child. And all that's assuming you can even imagine leaving.

    Abuse victims need compassion, protection, and help. Not punishment.

    Cycle of abuse or no, abuse is going to continue as long as the cultural tropes enable it. Jealousy is romantic. Overprotectiveness is love. Boundary testing is routine and tolerable; defending your boundaries is discouraged. Social norms say you're nobody if you're not in a romantic relationship.

    And people abandon their friends, or lecture them, or blame them, or proclaim they should have their kids taken from them.

    And then what happens to these innocent kids? they go into foster care? A system already overloaded, already rife with abuse, and you're gonna dump thousands more onto that in the name of the innocent kids? How many foster kids have you raised?

    ReplyDelete
  79. Hershele OstropolerMay 23, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    This is about a dangerous and harmful environment that an adult introduces their children to.

    Yes, but that adult is the abuser, not the abuse victim, who, after all, is not choosing to introduce their children to the abusive environment. I don't know if that's somehow not getting through to you or if we're using the same words to mean different things or what.

    The way you're talking about this is similar to a lot of victim-blaming discussions of rape -- only the victim's actions are considered; for all there's lip service given to "and of course the perpetrator is bad too," he or she is treated as an amoral force of nature rather than a sentient and reasoning person who did a bad thing.

    What if the most recent occasion happens only after a long period of fear-induced celibacy -- "I'd like to try dating this guy/girl, but I'm afraid he/she would be abusive and I'd lose my kids. Better to be lonely and sexless 'til they move out." Because it seems to me like that is what you're starting to lead to.

    Hm. That would actually explain a lot, if T4T is suggesting that single parents should be punished for single parenthood or should be forbidden from loving anyone but their children, and thinks it would be more acceptible to phrase this as "well, they shouldn't get with abusers." T4T knows you can't spot abusers and therefore telling single parents "don't date abusers" is tantamount to telling single parents "don't date."

    ReplyDelete
  80. Hershele

    Is there ever a point when you question the sentient reasoning person? Like if they introduced their children to 8 different abusers. In other words their children watch their parent get beat on 8 different occasions by 8 new people. Is there ever a time when we question whether or not the victim is being reasonable? Not only that, do we ever question whether or not they are accountable for exposing their children to harmful situations? Victim or not these scenario's are just not right. I understand compassion and I feel for victims of violence but I feel more for the children. Holly, you can think its evil all you want. I just emphatically disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  81. I guess I don't have grounds to block you but I'm done responding to you.

    ReplyDelete
  82. It's not even because I'm angry (although I am, very). It's more because everyone has already said everything and you're just repeating yourself with ever greater self-righteousness. If you won't listen I'm done talking.

    Now go live your perfect life in the world where bad things only happen to bad people. Say hi to the unicorns for me.

    ReplyDelete
  83. So... if we can just get the abused victims to take their (deserved) responsibility for deliberately creating abusive environments, we'll finally be able to... punish them for it?

    And then we can perhaps punish them with... abuse? Except it'll be authority-mandated abuse, and maybe that's better than 'random,' individual-abuser-generated abuse, and it's better because... what? Does that mean we can tax it then, or something?

    Just throwing some stuff out there and seeing what sticks, trying to see if I can wrap my head around 'if-only-the-abused-were-held-more-strictly-accountable[and-punished]' concept that seems to be being sold here.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Holly

    Im not mad at you. I am actually confused from the comments at how it is only about the victim/adult parent. My point is about the children emotional wellbeing and the instances where the adult/custodial parent shows a consistent pattern of dysfunctional behaviour. Is it punishment to suggest that maybe some people need emotional help before they are allowed to continue to be a parent. Its easy to slam me as a uncaring human being, afterall Im not a victim of violence, right?

    ReplyDelete
  85. Tit for Tat said...

    I am actually confused from the comments at how it is only about the victim/adult parent.

    miette said...


    And then what happens to these innocent kids? they go into foster care? A system already overloaded, already rife with abuse, and you're gonna dump thousands more onto that in the name of the innocent kids? How many foster kids have you raised?

    Holly said...

    2) If the kids are taken away from the abused parent, they obviously can't go to the abusive parent, so they're likely to end up in the foster system, which is a lot harder on them than living with a loving biological parent, even one who is bad at picking partners.

    ********

    Nice try, pal.

    ReplyDelete
  86. whats with the assumption that all these biological parents are nice and loving. What about all the good loving foster parents? Nice try pal, for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  87. FUCK lost my last comment to a refresh goddammit.

    RE: Tit for Tat

    The foster care system is INFAMOUS for the abuse that goes on in it. According to Trudy Festinger, head of the Department of Research at the New York University School of Social Work, 28% of children are abused while within the foster care system. 28%. That's in Michigian. It's 21% in Lousiana, 25% in Missouri, and one in eight being sexually abused while in Arizona's state care.

    Surely, for all our differences, you can be horrified with me on that. Surely you can agree that that is APPALLING.

    With the system as it is, you would be throwing these children out of the frying pan and into the fire. This is a system that with all of its abuses are still massively underfunded and overloaded already, and you would be FLOODING this system even more! You would have to MASSIVELY overhaul this system first.

    Even if we completely ignore your insane philosophical basis, your theory is completely untenable economically. Where would this money come from? Who are going to raise these children?

    --Rogan

    ReplyDelete
  88. I agree, its appalling and horrific. Without a doubt those situations are completely off the chart wrong. My beef is that its assumed that the victim is better even when they clearly show complete dysfunctional disregard for their kids. Underfunded doesnt mean your insane philosophical argument, "better the devil you know" is right. Did you ever imagine that maybe in some of those instances the kids are already in the fire? Enough, I dont agree with you and you guys dont agree with me.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Tit for Tat:

    I can't fucking believe I'm even bothering to respond, but seriously, NOBODY CHOOSES TO DATE ABUSERS. FUCKING NOBODY. Those of us who have been in abusive relationships didn't do it for the goddamn fun of it. Abusers don't wear signs around their necks and announce their intentions.

    And in a more practical sense, how are you going to work this system? I'm honestly curious. If a woman reports her boyfriend for punching her in the face, you're going to respond with 'well, clearly you can't be counted on to provide a safe environment for your children, so we'll be taking them away.' Do you really think this is going to keep people with kids from getting into abusive relationships? Probably not; see above re: abusers not generally announcing themselves.

    What it will almost definitely do, though, is make damn sure that woman won't report any abuse, which leaves even fewer options for her to get herself AND HER CHILDREN out of that situation.

    And the foster care system is fucking broken. If you're going to seriously suggest shoving another couple of million kids into it, maybe you should think about seriously addressing that. But I do kind of get the impression that this is more about punishing those stupid bitches who get themselves hit than actually trying to come up with a practical solution to the plight of kids in impossible situations. So, you know.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Hershele OstropolerMay 24, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    My beef is that its assumed that the victim is better even when they clearly show complete dysfunctional disregard for their kids.

    Just to clarify: this "disregard for their kids" is getting into relationships with abusers, right? And if they simply didn't get into relationships with abusers, you'd be fine with that, right?

    So do you not understand why that's like saying "it's easy to win the lottery, just buy a ticket with the winning numbers"? Or do you understand that, you just don't think single parents should ever date but dimly realize it's not okay to say as much? Or do you hold stereotypes about abuse that severely restrict how you are able to think about it?

    ReplyDelete
  91. I *think* the way to interpret TfT's points in a non-horrible way is:

    "If someone repeatedly gets in relationships with abusers, there is something about them that a) attracts abusers and b) makes them vulnerable to abusive manipulation. We should fix that, for the innocent children."

    Anyone can end up in an abusive relationship. Some people either have really terrible luck, know really terrible people, have mutual attraction with terrible people, or have characteristics that encourage terrible people.

    In the stories I've heard from people who have had multiple relationships with abusers -- all of these are true. The first, you can't do anything about. The second is a function of where you live, your environment's social expectations, and often your economic situation.

    The third is an unfortunate thing that people can work on and change if they're really motivated, but it's mostly set by the time you're an adult. It changes over time, but not usually in intentional ways.

    The fourth is the only place where an abused person could conceivably have any responsibility -- but they're swimming upstream again social norms and their own psychological damage. And often against their friends and family; if a person who has never defended boundaries against casual intrusions starts to, well, the social repercussions can be severe. Like, homeless on the streets severe.

    It's not like normal people are very good at healthy boundaries either. They're just *lucky*. Since part of the grooming abusers do is to dismantle a person's ability to recognize boundaries and defend them, it's a tall order to expect them to suddenly be better than everyone else on pain of losing their children.

    I would like to see more counseling made freely available to abuse victims, including their children, to help them with the anxiety and the PTSD and their boundaries and how to have healthy relationships and everything. I think that would help. I also know that that in the world we live in, even that is a pipe dream.

    I also know that being separated from a parent, even an abusive or abused parent, is a terribly traumatic thing for a child.

    There is a cycle of abuse. But you don't change it by taking children away, you change it by *refusing to tolerate abuse* and by changing the social structures that support and conceal abusive behavior.

    Like... our society's entire construction of romantic love. Love == possessiveness and jealousy. Accept that, and you're already walking down Domestic Abuse Lane. Include the pursued/pursuer model of dating and gender roles and economic inequality and you might as well take an express bus. Most people get off at Hotel Dysfunctional Relationship, but it's only a short walk across the street to that seedy motel called The Door You Walked Into.

    ReplyDelete
  92. This is a good piece, and I agree with most of what is written, I just think you missed something in the section about the reliabillity of the statistics.

    What you missed, I think, is that it is often very difficult to recognize that you're in an abusive relationship, and even more so for man. As the often heard argument of women who stayed with their abusers for to long (He really does love me, I must have started it by not cooking the right thing etc.) shows is that it is difficult to accept that you are being abused. For women, fortunatly, there are a lot of campaigns aimed at showing that this is not ok, and a lot of support channels that can help in persuading a person to leave the abusive partner. The lack of these kind of campaigns aimed at men (or gender neutral campaigns) means that it is a lot ahrder for men to realize a relationship is abusive, and so it will be reported less.

    ReplyDelete
  93. Tit for Tat : I'd like to see if I'm clear on your position. As an example, there is a woman I know who, this past weekend, opened up to me about some reservations she's been having about her current relationship. In her past, she's had some issues with abusive men - physical and emotional - and her current situation has placed her in a relationship wherein she is, once again, being emotionally abused. She felt that she had no recourse, because the man and her son have grown very close, and she didn't want to hurt her son by taking the man out of the picture, so she'd been tolerating her boyfriend for her son's benefit.

    Are you honestly suggesting that she should be punished - or, as you put it, "Held accountable" - for not knowing that he would become abusive? If not, what aspect of this, specifically, do you believe she should be held accountable for?

    I do think that she should seek help. I think that it would do her a world of good to get a good therapist and work out some of the issues that she has gained from the abusive relationships she's been in. But as soon as we attempt to hold her accountable for her boyfriend's actions, we take the blame off the man who is actually doing something wrong, and putting it on her shoulders. I'm afraid that you'll be hard-pressed to find many people who follow Holly's blog that would agree with this line of thought.

    Also, just to throw it out there in case anyone was worried : I, and several others the woman in question knows, have helped support and assist her. She's kicked the man out, and she seems to be doing alright so far.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Tit for Tat,

    Wow, you started a shit storm, didn’t you? I’m belatedly commenting, but felt the need if only to provide you with a little solidarity. In the scenario you have described, I too hold the children’s welfare as the most important.

    Holly, I think your perspective is about as far from objective as can be on this one, case in point, comment @5/23 1:42am. Of course you feel rage at the plight of the woman right in front of you. It’s easy to dismiss the nurse that feels the same rage 20 years from now looking at that woman’s daughter with a child in her arms.

    I don’t always buy the argument that victims of domestic abuse can’t recognize abusers because they don’t walk around twirling their criminal mustaches. There is plenty of psychological evidence that victims often are in a pattern that they continue over and over again until they are killed or get help, or at least that is the prevailing wisdom I’ve heard for the last twenty or so years. It wouldn’t surprise me if the one-time abused scenario were the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps these patterns are not discernable to the victims, but personally, my patterns are often discernable to me, and to such an extent that I did a five year, self imposed celibacy, which gave me permission (from myself) to say no to would be suitors until I could figure out what was going on. Perhaps, with counseling, such patterns would become discernable like they did for hitty-anon.

    Now that I have defended TforT I have to say that I agree he is an idealist. But I think idealists are a necessary component to humanity. I don’t think removing the children would help anyone, not because of the potential danger for children due to unreliable foster care, but because it is a wholly traumatic experience for all parties even if the foster home is excellent, with a host of completely new problems and dangers (not to mention all of the impracticalities previously mention). But what if after an extensive pattern (8 was put forth) is shown the victim could be induced to counseling? And I’m not even advocating for that. I just don’t think that TforT is trying to blame the victim, and calling him a troll was just silly, along the lines of you-don’t-agree-with-me-so-you’re-a-troll.

    I guess I’m just trying to understand why this most reasonable blog possessing a diverse and intelligent crowd of commenters, has suddenly lost all perspective and gone straight for the jugular of a polite and articulate dissenter. It’s ugly from my perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  95. NoxiousNan - He's polite in the sense of not using all-caps or swear words. The ideas he so meekly expresses are anything but polite. Saying "gosh, I was just wondering, wouldn't it help people and do good for the world if we punished abuse victims further?" isn't idealism and it isn't objectivity. It's just trolling with a soft voice.

    I actually agree with you that abuse victims should get counseling, but I refuse to be sweet and smiley in my dealings with someone who wants to punish abuse victims for reporting the abuse.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Holly

    You have every right to disagree with me but to insinuate that I am victim blaming is patently false. If someone shows a consistent behaviour that puts their children in harms way then they should be held accoutable. This is not a suggestion for a one time event or even a 2 or 3 time situation. This is for the obviously dysfunction individuals who put their own self needs(sex, companionship) above the needs of their children(security, emotional wellbeing). I may feel the need to swear at you if we were debating in real time but on here it just doesnt motivate the same desire in me. I also believe that dependant on the situation it doesnt have to be permanent.

    ReplyDelete
  97. Hershele OstropolerMay 27, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Shoter T4T: "It is offensive and hateful to accuse me of victim-blaming. I'm merely pointing out that abuse is the victim's fault."

    ReplyDelete
  98. Okay, T4T:

    to insinuate that I am victim blaming is patently false.

    obviously dysfunction individuals who put their own self needs(sex, companionship) above the needs of their children(security, emotional wellbeing).

    So... what Hershele said. You don't blame abuse victims... you merely think that they willfully and knowingly take actions that will lead to abuse.

    ReplyDelete
  99. you merely think that they willfully and knowingly take actions that will lead to abuse.(Holly)

    We are not talking about willful and knowing individuals who are deliberately trying to hurt but that doesnt lesson the impact. That is why they are dysfunctional. We arent talking about rational, healthy individuals here. You cant tell me you have never met someone like this in your life? Stop thinking its about blame and just for a minute think about what it would be like for a child to have a parent who's brain patterns are that irrational.

    ReplyDelete
  100. Stop thinking its about blame and just for a minute think about what it would be like for a child to have a parent who's brain patterns are that irrational.

    I don't have to imagine! I was one!

    My irrational parent constantly told me, among other things, that she only hit me because I was dysfunctional and unhealthy and incapable of rational thought.

    ReplyDelete
  101. But you arent comparable as a child to the ADULT. That is a mighty big distinction, dont you think?

    ReplyDelete
  102. My point is that saying "people get abused because they really are broken inside and not fit to live like a normal person" isn't just blatantly wrong (both senses" "incorrect" wrong and "horrible" wrong), it's also something abusers tell their victims all the time.

    ReplyDelete
  103. But some people do put themselves in harms way because they are dysfunctional(broken inside). I knew 2 guys when I was younger who grew up getting beaten regularly by family members. They couldnt fight their way out of a wet paper bag, but you know what, they constantly got in fights with bigger, stronger people when we went out(many times unintentional). They always got beat. Why would someone do that? Is it rational, hell no. Now, I have no problem with the fact that they did that but I would definately have a problem if they had kids and still continued that pattern as an adult. Not all victims are completely rational with the choices that they make. Why is it unreasonable to prepose that they be held accountable if they show that proclivity to dysfunction? What if the common factor with some victims is themselves and not the abuser?

    ReplyDelete
  104. Wow. You should have done your part and punished those guys. Maybe beaten them up. That'd teach them to get beat up.

    Okay, I'm going to delete all your further comments. I feel this conversation has gone in the same circle too many times already. Goodbye, Tit for Tat. I will extremely not miss you and your gentle, well-reasoned way of saying "but she hit his fist with her face!" eight million times.

    ReplyDelete
  105. I won't not expecting an answer any longer, but TfT really didn't answer to the main question (asked several times): even without looking at the victim-blaming part, how could the mother ever be held responsible?
    If you tell a woman: "next time it happens you loose your child" you can be almost sure she'll never complain again, but that doesn't mean she won't be in harm's way.
    Or would you impose celibacy? Forbid her to marry or even to have sex?

    ReplyDelete
  106. Hershele OstropolerMay 28, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Kyrie, I think that was his intent, he was groping towards a socially acceptable way of telling single parents not to date, or at least a way that could be excused as coming from socially acceptable motives.

    ReplyDelete
  107. More feminists trying to co-opt the mens movement.

    The pretense of caring for male victims containing a veiled attack on their advocates and the promotion of domestic violence myths.

    The research that's there shows basic parity, with women being more likely to commit domestic violence.

    Dutton, D. G., Corvo, K. N., & Hamel, J. (2009). The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and practice part II: The information website of the American Bar Association. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 30-38. (A review article critiquing the American Bar Association's attempt to correct myths about domestic violence. Specifically authors state, ". . . female IPV is more commonplace than male IPV.")

    Dutton, D. G. (2006). Rethinking Domestic Violence. Vancouver: UBC Press. (A thoughtful and scholarly analysis of research and treatment in the area of Domestic Violence. Offers much insight, particularly to therapists and policy makers with regard to Intimate Partner Violence . Concludes that men are as likely as women to be victims and both suffer similar physical and psychological consequences of IPV.)

    The research there on rape also shows that women rape men as often as visa versa.

    http://feck-blog.blogspot.com/search/label/Raped%20males

    Feminism cant address male victims because 1) they are only interested in them for political reasons 2) the truth about domestic violence and sexual violence, that its not gendered, is dangerous for the feminism movement because it need that lie to justify and fund itself.

    ReplyDelete
  108. Anon - I posted your comment just because it's a great illustration of how little the guys of the current "men's movement" actually want to help.

    Do you think "feminist" is like a species, where anyone who has feminist blood acts in a predictable and consistent way? Can you not construct in your mind a theoretical individual who cares about both men and women?

    I also don't entirely get the point of playing with statistics that purport to show women are more violent. I oppose violence against men and violence against women, so I don't think it's a race. I also harbor my suspicions that the point of those statistics, as usually cited, is not "male victims need more resources" but "so you see, women are evil monsters."

    ReplyDelete
  109. Holly

    That is a collection of strawmen, ironically enough, its a similar collection of strawmen every feminist I have encountered in the comments section has used in every variation of the "lets care for male victims, their advocates suck" article that has appeared so far this week.

    And I wasn't playing with stats. women it appears in all the modern research are the dominant family abusers, both spousal and child. Feminism has a vested interest in keeping this out of the public realm, and has gone to great lengths to suppress the truth about DV for decades so the questions is can feminism be trusted to make male victims their issue?

    Also, this article that you are all publishing variations of, is more rooted in politics and nervousness about the mens movement, than it is victims, IMO.

    ReplyDelete
  110. The censorship is my point entirely, you are erasing the truth about partner abuse and their advocates from your blog, for self serving political gain.

    "Most visible members of the mens movement" = the minority of quotes from a minority of sites that mamboobz quote mines in.

    Feminists are too dishonest to be trusted with male abuse victims and female abusers and likely only paying attention because the years of running the feminist abuse culture are coming back to haunt.

    ReplyDelete
  111. Typical shaming language bullshit.

    'This is a real issue but before I explain why it's a real issue I'm first going to take the time to explain why the men's rights movement an egalitarian group that focuses on issues like these is worthless and should be ignored.'

    ReplyDelete
  112. OH HAI THERE MEN'S RIGHTS REDDIT.

    I like your priorities. Yell about evil women and feminists first, worry about actual men second.

    You guys don't give Shit One about men in pain, do you? ...Not while there are women who aren't in pain!

    ReplyDelete
  113. ...Also, I'm confused by my "political gain," as I am not currently running for office or even publicly supporting any candidates or ballot measures. I'm kinda just saying what I think here.

    I guess it's just the cognitive dissonance of "a feminist said something that I could sorta agree with, quick, figure out why she didn't really mean it!"

    ReplyDelete
  114. >OH HAI THERE MEN'S RIGHTS REDDIT.

    >I like your priorities. Yell about evil women and feminists first, worry about actual men second.

    You see it's shit like this.

    There was absolutely no need to take a swipe at the men's rights movement in your article. If you seriously cared about these issues you would have concentrated on it.

    I consider myself a feminist and a men's rights activist. And it's hard to convince MRA's that feminism can be an ally when feminists start talking about male injustices by first attacking the men's rights movement.

    All you are doing is convincing MRA's that there is no point in finding middle ground and working together for equality and that when other MRA's say that feminism is always going to be hostile to the idea of real equality they are telling the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  115. There's never a need to talk about all twenty or thirty assholes in the "men's rights movement," but they're sort of funny, in the way all trolls are.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm way in favor of rights for men. I just think that the "men's rights movement" has shit-all to do with that, and I'm yet to be proven wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  116. >There's never a need to talk about all twenty or thirty assholes in the "men's rights movement," but they're sort of funny, in the way all trolls are.

    >Don't get me wrong. I'm way in favor of rights for men. I just think that the "men's rights movement" has shit-all to do with that, and I'm yet to be proven wrong.

    This is kind of my point. Men are suffering from serious legal and social discrimination. You claim to care but spend your time attacking the only group that is solely dedicated to dealing with these issues.

    By doing so you not only create hostility but you also create the impression that men's rights issues are not as important as other issues.

    ReplyDelete
  117. You're not the only group doing anything, though. You're a fringe group that's far more interested in attacking women than in supporting men, and you don't actually do dick-all for men.

    I support people who support men. Not so much people who seem to only anti-support women. Which is, seriously, what the "MRA" label has come to mean.

    ReplyDelete
  118. Holly your post above is utter nonsense, strawmen and slander in the typical feminist style.

    What you chose for mra to mean to you via. manboobz and mra are two different things.

    You are more then welcome to keep concern trolling male victims with your transparent agenda to attack mens rights. You are only confirming your own movements stereotypes.

    ReplyDelete
  119. I've come to realize that there are about a hundred of you guys, tops, you only exist on the Internet, and you're such unredeemable human beings that there's no particular point in engaging with you when I could be talking to so many reasonable people instead.

    ReplyDelete
  120. I dunno about practical strategies, but it seems to me that women abusing men, men abusing women, women abusing women, and men abusing men arise from different assumptions made from sexist culture:

    In the case of men abusing women, it's the assumption that men are supposed to be manly and physical and aggressive, and that using words to communicate anger or jealousy will never work and and is utterly emasculating anyway. It's the assumption that women need to be kept in line and that they're the ones to do it.

    In the case of women abusing men, a lot of it comes from the assumption that women are incapable of physically abusing men and that real men never complain about anything anyways.

    I noticed this originally as a teenager when I saw a female acquaintance hit a male friend because she was angry with him and went 'the fuck are you doing? That's not okay'.

    My guy friends seemed confused and protested that it couldn't have hurt him. Irregardless of the fact that, yes, she could fucking well have physically hurt them, I had to explain that hitting others causes emotional and psychological harm as well. That acquaintance and I did not get along after that.

    ReplyDelete
  121. I agree that the issue of male victims of domestic violence should not derail discussions of domestic violence of women. Such derailments help neither group and tends to support the "status quo" which is "sweep the issue under the carpet" and ignore it.

    I am no expert from the outside, I am an expert from the inside. sigh. I am on my third marriage, the first two resulted in different forms of abuse, the third is well on its way. I am still struggling with the age old assumptions that the common factor must be me, that this must be my fault. In part I do play common role, through childhood abusive trauma I am not equipped to recognize a "normal" relationship. I deliberately broke the chain of abuse by refusing any and all violence, yet instead I find myself on the same side as that child I was so many years ago.

    but let me step back a moment so you know how the last two ended, in case you think I am blowing smoke here. The first ended with shaming and verbal assaults, mostly sexually degrading as she sought a replacement for me while she was still married. That marriage lasted four years, even though 6 months after she married me she told me she never loved me. The second lasted longer and ended much, much worse. As well as shaming and verbal abuse, I was taught to stand-still while her cat used me as a scratching post. Now she never hit me, so one could say there was no physical violence in the house. I think the many scars I carry might question that issue. Certainly the physical violence I endured is more classified as torture than domestic abuse.

    The problem is that where physical violence is often the net result of domestic violence against women, domestic violence against men uncommonly reaches physical violence. Verbal and emotional abuse being the beginnings of domestic violence is difficult to evaluate and nearly impossible to justify escape from. It's just words.... It's the prison that holds both women and men captive until the time is right for the escalation to physical violence. When this escalation occurs, a crime has been committed. Before this point, no crime has been committed. It's the lie that holds us in our prisons. Why does he stay? why does she go back? how does this keep happening? The questions themselves ignore the years of hidden verbal/emotional abuse that leads up to the final question. When you understand the volume of background that happens before that question is even asked, you'd probably already understand the answer.

    Logically I can look at the situation and the absurdity of it, but this is not a logical situation and it cannot be reviewed logically, especially not from the inside.

    The few men I know as victims support awareness of violence against women, even those too afraid to speak up about their own situation. We're the forgotten bastard child, the unwanted, the undesired. Our presence is an affront to male stereotypes and our cause is torn asunder when it is used to assault protection of women.

    Hiding behind the mask of anonymity is our only sense of freedom, which is both a burden and an awakening. We can find each other, speak to each other, support each other, even support women who are abused as we try to break down the stereotypes that hold us in our own prisons. But, we do witness how our presence can be used to hurt others too.

    We don't speak up, we don't volunteer information unless this mask of anonymity protects us. We do advocate help for women in domestic violence, if only for some portion of understanding to eventually reach us. There are no hot-lines for men and any man who has called one will tell you that the volunteers don't know what to do with us.

    But maybe, if the cause of domestic violence can shed enough light on the root, the underlying current of verbal and emotional abuse that leads up to violence in the home. Maybe, we will get some help also if only by shedding light into the darkness in which we live.

    ReplyDelete