Monday, October 1, 2012

October 2010

In case you didn’t notice, Poppets, I missed my article last month. I’ve been a professional writer for almost a decade and last month was the first time I’ve been late for a deadline, let alone missed one. One of my sisters – the one married to the asshole, not the one married to the great guy whom I adore – is getting divorced. Now, while this would usually be a source of great celebration, it wouldn’t’ve caused me to miss a deadline. What made me miss my deadline is the fact that she is getting divorced because her (soon to be ex) husband sent her to the hospital, thus forcing her to admit what many of us have known for years: he’s not just an asshole; he’s an abusive asshole. And that caused me to miss my deadline.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and usually that means I talk with you about the fact that domestic violence does indeed occur in our community, and what to do if you are a victim – from admitting it, to getting help. This year, though, given what I just watched my sister go through, I want to talk to you about the important things you can do if someone you love is a victim.

1.      Do not victim blame. The question isn’t “why did you stay?” The question is “what can I do to help?”

2.      Let the victim take the lead. Your friend has managed to stay alive for the entire length of the relationship. Do not underestimate that skill. The time between the victim choosing to leave and the actual split can be the most dangerous of their lives. Encourage your friend to leave the abusive relationship, but don’t assume you know more about their danger than they do.

3.      Once the split has taken place – truly taken place, physically, legally, and logistically – encourage your friend to tell their story. Silence is and has been the abuser’s tool, not the victim’s. Help your friend shatter the silence, and relearn how to stop telling the lies that protect their batterer. On a related note…

4.      Remember this happened. Telling your friend to stay calm, not rock the boat, or my favorite, telling them to protect themselves by protecting their abuser, is indescribably disrespectful. Anger should not blind us, but it can be motivating. And domestic violence victims have plenty of reasons to be angry. Denying these is like denying their experience.

5.      If you can walk the fine line between empowerment and blaming, do so. After all, your friend can make different choices now. Can avoid another abusive relationship. Doesn’t have to let history repeat itself. At the same time, they are not to blame for this relationship. If you can walk this line, great. If you can’t, don’t even try. Just let it be meaningful that they have gotten out of this relationship.

Your friend, your loved one – male, female, transgendered, or cisgendered – did nothing to deserve this. They are not the bad guy. The person who abused them – emotionally, verbally, mentally, sexually, and/or physically – is the bad guy. And if you remember it, you can help them remember it.

Poppets, if you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, email me. You can reach me through The Betty Pages or Call the NW Network in Seattle at 206/568-7777 or Skagit County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (an officially safe space for LGBTQ peoples) at 888/336-9591. Just reach out to someone. You aren’t as alone, or as hopeless, as you feel.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you – and each other.



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