Why do we protect abusive people? I have to ask myself this even when I know the answer. Why? Because abused people are bullied, brainwashed, and gaslit into believing they are at fault for their abuse. But this can be hard to spot because abusers are super manipulative. They use words that seem innocent when they are actually quite damaging. Abused people get stuck in this cycle of constantly asking themselves what they did wrong. Abusers want their victims to blame themselves for the abuse.
These last two weeks have led to a crescendo of understanding. It’s been hard to get here, but I’m seeing things so much clearer now. A lot of events have compiled into my sudden ‘ah ha’ moment. But most has come from witnessing online abuse recently and making a different decision in how I deal with it. The other big understanding came from the state training I’ve been in, where we’ve learned a lot about spotting signs of abuse, recognizing the types, and therefore, what to do about it. As a state employee, I am now a mandated reporter.
What does that mean? Let me share…
“In many parts of the western world, mandated reporters are people who have regular contact with vulnerable people and are therefore legally required to ensure a report is made when abuse is observed or suspected.”
Even ‘suspected’ abuse I have to report. And it is with anyone. Not just people in my care. But anyone abusing someone else, I must report. What this means for me is that I have to have a deep understanding of abuse and its effects. I have to be able to determine who is the actual abuser, who is gaslighting to make the other person feel it’s their fault.
Oddly, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. It’s all in the person’s wording. That wording has just been hard for me to really hear until now. There was confusion because I too am someone that always feels like I should have worded something better, that maybe I did something to deserve what’s happening. I was predisposed to abuse and the specific wording that leads to self-blame.
Abusers rarely question their behavior. Because it’s all about projection and blame for them. These types don’t stop and say, “Yeah, I didn’t handle that well. I hurt you. I apologize.” Nope…
Some of this I did understand, but because abusers are so manipulative, it’s often hard to hear the nuance in their statements. Something as subtle as a shift in one word can make the difference between someone upset and wording something poorly and a person abusing and gaslighting. Literally, one word or even the person’s tone while the exact same words are spoken can make a difference.
People that abuse make statements that deflect blame and responsibility. I used to think it was just pride in folks, but it’s not. It’s intent. It’s abuse. It’s gaslighting. When they get caught, they will flat out ignore direct questions that will implicate them with any sort of fault. They will talk around those questions and refuse to answer. It’s ridiculous. As if we’d just forget that they are refusing to answer this one question that implicates fault on them.
Another thing they’ll say when they can’t get out of ignoring or denying is, “Mistakes were made.” But that statement is ONLY ever said in regards to the abuser. The abuser would never say that about the other person because that would imply the other person simply made a mistake. And for abusers, they can’t handle the notion that someone else might have made a mistake. That is only reserved for them. This is a huge difference in people that don’t mean to say something harmful and those that absolutely mean to harm with their words.
Let me give an example: Let’s say you’re listening to a podcast that has women’s only shows. If a man said, “Hey, I see you’re all about giving women a voice. That’s great. One big concern I have is toxic masculinity and how it affects men, those identifying as men, and therefore, everyone in a man’s life. Would you be interested in hearing how this affects us?” This is an approach to find understanding and gain representation for all. But if the person said something like, “Oh, I see. You have women’s only podcasts. Where’s the men’s only podcast?”
The ‘seemingly simple’ observation and question isn’t about finding representation at all. It’s about manipulation. It’s about shaming the women hosting and coming on the women’s only show. It’s about saying ‘that’s not fair!’ and is no different than ‘all lives matter!’. The speaker wouldn’t be looking for representation, but instead, a means to start a battle. An online war where he could then attack these women, call them ‘mean girls’, bully, harass, and do it all under the guise of ‘but I’m just looking for equality’.
In the past, I might have seen his approach as being fair and fighting for equality. Now I see it as manipulation. A reason to bully women he deems as being ‘unfair to men like him’. People that want equality don’t use manipulation in their words.
The hardest part with abusers is that when you stand up to them for the first few times, when you begin setting boundaries, they lash out. Aggressively too. This was all in the training I’ve been in too, so it’s official state guidelines I’m going by.
I can’t even say how many times I’ve had someone start off talking sweetly, sharing, then I start to hear the manipulation creep in. The shift from a person asking how I feel as opposed to telling me how they feel and then saying, “Don’t you agree?”
Asking someone how they feel isn’t manipulative. Asking, listening, and seeking to understand is healthy. But stating your opinion heavily and then turning to someone and expecting them to agree, that’s manipulative. It’s pressuring behavior. Then when the person doesn’t agree, turning to hostile behavior, pointing your finger at them, standing over them, raising your voice or flat out yelling, all of these tactics used to bully someone into agreeing, illustrate abuse.
Even looking at bullying online is tough. Tonight I read something saying ‘just don’t feed the trolls’, but that doesn’t work when someone is flat out harassing you. Tagging you in social media, blogging about you, posting about you, tweeting about you constantly… That’s abuse and knowing you could run into your abuser at a convention is scary and intimidating. Especially if that person is a bit on the unstable side.
I’m seeing abuse clearly. The training has helped a great deal. But also recognizing this person’s abuse online and seeing so many others step up and call him out for his harassment and abuse is so helpful for people that have been abused.
One thing I love about what I saw unfold this week is that when victims were questioned as to how they’re being harassed by this bully, not one of these people said, “You’re a victim blamer!” Instead, they offered their proof. I’m coming to see more and more that abusers, like the one harassing people right now, like to claim that others are victim blaming while supplying NO evidence to their claims. While actual victims have no problem bringing forth their documentation. These are the little things that make me see these abusive types so clearly.
Evidence is evidence, and asking for some shouldn’t cause someone to jump to ‘You’re victim blaming!’ unless, of course, the one making that claim is the abuser. In that case, projection is all they have. Asking for evidence and having discussion should be welcome in order for the truth to be known. But abusers fear this. So they spout victim blaming.
An example of victim blaming is telling a woman she got raped because she had on a miniskirt. Victim blaming isn’t about asking for evidence of the rape. If a rape victim goes to the hospital, there is a reason a rape kit is used. This isn’t calling the women a liar, it’s to gather evidence.
Why would someone fear evidence? There are only two reasons I can think of… One, because the evidence doesn’t align with their claim and instead, implicates them, or two, there is no evidence at all because the scenario in question is flat out fabricated.
I didn’t learn until yesterday that I am a state-mandated reporter. So now, not only do I get to call abusers out, but it’s my job to report their abuse and harassment via proper channels to be investigated.
I’m so thankful for screenshots, email backups, and detailed records!
Seeing abusive behavior clearly is going to change my life once again for the better. To see the manipulation, to see the projection and deflection, to see the blame and bullying statements, this is going to help me, and others, in the future.
Not only do I have the tools to understand abuse now, but I have a responsibility to track evidence and report it. So, as a reminder, when someone blocks you, they’re setting a boundary. If they tell you not to contact them, they’re setting a boundary. If you tag them, blog about them, and continue to contact them even if only by email, you are harassing that person. You are crossing their boundary which means you are the abuser…