Archive | August, 2014

why angie’s letter makes me uncomfortable

25 Aug

I recently read this post on Upworthy, titled “She Could Hear Every Word He Said Through The Open Window, So She Started Typing“. Somehow, this post made me uncomfortable and I started typing. Here is what I think is wrong with the post. It is written by “Angie” to “woman”, sympathizing with her, an abuse victim. It places the onus of stopping the violence on the victim and is letting the abuser get-away scot-free.

Every time you sympathize with the victim, you take away their sense of control and power. You tell them their situation is sad and worthy of sympathy, that they are helpless, and defense-less. And most unfortunately, you are telling them you have nothing more to offer to them other than sympathy. It makes the victim feel that they have no options and are fighting a lone battle.

When you tell the victim that your hear and see the abuse, yet you do nothing, you tell the victim that they are not worthy of standing-up for. You tell the victim that you are afraid to confront the abuser and they are on their own. Your words sound hollow and empty and meaningless.

Many years ago, there was an abuser who routinely told his wife he was going to work, and would climb back onto the patio of their second floor apartment through the first floor fence, and spy on her. Many neighbors saw him climbing back on to the patio through the fence. Yet, no one confronted him or called the cops, or even the apartment manager, to report a seeming intruder in the apartment-complex.

“Mandatory reporters” in the form of doctors, psychologists, school staff – all threaten the victim to leave the situation or they will report *her*. No one confronts the abuser, that they know about the abuse and will report *him*. Placing the onus on the victim to leave her abuser, adds greater responsibility on her without providing her support. It adds a greater fear on her to not let the signs of abuse show, and further isolates her.

Angie, your letter to “woman”  is well-meaning, but you wrote to the wrong person. I am a great believer in the saying “If you see something, say something”. Confront the abuser. Tell him you can hear him through the open windows and doors and the paper thin walls. Tell him you don’t care whether or not the victim complains about him or tries to protect him. Tell him that you are watching him, his every move, and will not let him set a bad example for your children or spoil the environment for the upcoming generation. Tell him that you will report *him* if he doesn’t straighten-out his act. It will be *his* Visa/Immigration that will be revoked, and it will be *him* who will lose custody of the kids. 

Step in front of her and don’t let him hit her or abuse her or demean her. Show the “woman” in your story how to stand-up to her abuser and be a role-model for her. Show her that you are not afraid of the abuser, that he is not worthy of being afraid. Do not allow the abuser to hide in plain sight. There are no doors that cannot be broken down. Show the victims that they are worth standing-up for, and pledge to step in and place the onus to stop where it belongs – with the abuser.  

There is a lot more you can do than type, don’t let the opportunity slip away. Knock on his door and tell him to cut it out or take her with you into your own home. Call the cops that he is disturbing the peace. Build a trail of reports so that when she feels ready to leave him, your reports and your witnessing are there to support her. Not with your words and sympathy, but with your actions.