Something I wish more people knew and accepted about abuse survivors is that they— we— often have complicated relationships with our abusers.
Very often, abusers are friends, family, or otherwise entwined in a survivor’s social or familial system.
Some people like to think that, if someone was abusing you, you’d whistle a halt to it right then, tell everybody about it, cut the abuser off, and then keep the abuser cut off.
It very often doesn’t work like that.
Survivors are often afraid to come forward.
Sometimes they’re afraid of their abuser; sometimes they’re afraid they won’t be believed; sometimes they’re afraid of the fallout if they WERE believed.
I know that I didn’t come forward because I assumed I would be blamed.
I was a weird kid, and I was very often told I was a weird kid.
I assumed that if I told anybody about the fact that I was being abused by my babysitter, everyone would assume that this is just the sort of weird thing that Glenn says, who knows if it’s true.
But then on the other hand, I had no idea what to expect even if I WAS then seriously. This guy’s family lived across the street. His parents (or his caretakers, anyway, I have no idea if they were his parents or his grandparents or what) were elderly. What was going to happen, would he be arrested? Would he have to move? Would we have to move?
It all seemed overwhelming— a hassle and a headache for everyone involved.
And I didn’t want to be the cause of MORE hassles and headaches for the adults around me than I already caused.
It seems that I often see the accounts of abuse survivors questioned because they didn’t
“behave” like we assume victims “should” behave.
Sometimes they continue to have associations with and relationships with their abusers, for a variety of reasons.
One of the reasons why a subset of people disbelieve the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them as kids was because those men continued to have friendships and professional connections to Michael Jackson for years after they say the abuse happened.
As if that means anything.
Any more than my reluctance to cause the adults around me hassles and headaches means I wasn’t abused.
There is no playbook for how abuse victims “should” act in the aftermath of their abuse.
You cannot tell, by looking at a relationship from the outside, what happens between two people behind closed doors.
When I eventually DID tell my parents what had happened to me, several years had gone by. The guy had moved away from our neighborhood (I think he moved away from home, either for school or a military career).
The fact that people don’t reveal their abuse within a certain time frame doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
There are lots and lots of reasons why people don’t disclose they’re being abused.
Abuse happens in all types of families, all types of systems, and all types of cultures, and to people of all genders.
The most compassionate thing any of us can do when we’re told of abuse is to set aside our preconceived notions about what it does or doesn’t mean to have been abused.
Survivors are not looking for your judgment or your pity.
Whether you think an abuse narrative is “credible” or not, literally doesn’t matter.
Whether someone fits your personal notion of someone who “probably was” or “probably wasn’t” abused, literally doesn’t matter.
No one is interested in your thoughts about how “likely” it was that abuse did or did not occur.
Anyone’s judgment about the “likelihood” of an abuse narrative being “true” has literally no bearing on whether that abuse did, in fact, happen.
There are lots of supposedly “unlikely” abuse victims out there.
And there are lots of abusers who don’t fit into many peoples’ idea of what an “abuser” looks like.
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