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.



6 Responses to “why angie’s letter makes me uncomfortable”

  1. Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    I have to politely but strongly disagree with your opinion. Having been a “victim” of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, I think Angie’s letter hits it right on the mark.

    She’s not telling the woman she’s powerless, in fact, she says quite the opposite: “You may feel stripped … of your personal power, of your personal dignity, of the things that used to make you feel special before he made you feel like everything you do is wrong or bad. The only person who has the authority to give those things away is you. The only person who can restore those things, a bit at a time, is you.”

    Yes, you can and SHOULD call the police if you suspect abuse of any sort. But I went back to my abuser so many times, refused to speak up, let alone press charges, so many time. Calling the police might save her that one day, but for me, only by realizing that 1) I was not alone, 2) people waned to help, and 3) there were other women out there who have overcome sinilar situations, did I find the strength and courage to leave by abuser, and my “victim” title behind permanently. And I think Angie’s letter communicates exactly those things.

    • deepthoughttoday August 27, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

      Thank you for sharing, Jessica. As you are well aware, many victims go back to their abusers several times before leaving them for good. Kudos to you for finally breaking the bonds!

      Calling the police will certainly break-up that particular fight. Telling the abuser that you are taking personal responsibility to stop him, *regardless of what the victim says*, will also tone him down for a few days. The expectation is not that the abuse will stop completely or the victim would leave the abuser right away. The expectation is to keep chipping away at the situation and keep weakening his assaults, so that the victim can break the bonds sooner.

      If you are willing, would you please share what helped you realize that you are not alone and that people wanted to help? It might help a lot of us provide the right kind of support to someone we know is in danger.

      • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

        For the most part, I didn’t think people saw my pain. Those who did, looked the other way. People I trusted made excuses for my husband. I was criticized the one time I considered calling the police. How could I betray the trust of someone I loved? Family matters were family matters.

        The thing that helped me was someone much like Angie reaching out to me.

        A friend who I didn’t think had any idea what was going on came to me one day and told me that she saw me hurting, she knew some of what was going on, and that she just wanted me to know that she loved me, was on my side, and was there for me no matter what.

        I didn’t leave for almost a year and a half after that, but that was the seed that started it. “I do matter to someone. I am important to someone.”

        The long truth I found in that year and a half was that by staying, I was condoning his behavior. I was saying through action that this was the behavior I deserved. Through therapy, good friends, and a half marathon (I’d never run previously), I learned that I deserved better, and built up the strength & courage to leave.

        I never even would have tried without someone like Angie, though.

        • deepthoughttoday August 27, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

          Thanks very much for sharing, Jessica. If your friend had gone a step further and confronted your abuser, what could have been the possible outcome? Did anyone ever stand-up on your behalf? How did that impact your situation?

          • Jessica August 28, 2014 at 9:15 am #

            My husband followed me to work once, and though he was speaking in hushed tones, it was obvious that something wasn’t right. One of my coworkers confronted him, and he apologized and backed off immediately. Said he was way out of line, and left.

            Or rather, waited in his car until I left the building. He was much angrier at that point, and told me to get in the car, where he held me hostage. He didn’t even want anything at that point, just to rail against me for having humiliated him in public.

            For me, the abuse didn’t go away when he was confronted, it just got quieter and worse. The abuser, at least in my situation, didn’t have any more control over himself than I did. There were so many past hurts, angers, and fears that had built up our entire lives that made it impossible for either of us to see the right choices to make.

            My ex husband went to rehab and is in a twelve step program now, and is working toward becoming the man he wants to be, rather than the man he felt he had to be, just like I am. I don’t hate him, I even love him still, but I know that my willingness to be a victim was not only poisonous to me, but enabled him to continue to be his worst self, rather than seeking help.

            I’m not saying that any of this justified his behavior – there is never any kind of justification for the abuse of any sort of trust one human gives to another – but until he was able to face his problems, he was no more capable of stopping the abuse than I was of leaving the abuse.

            • deepthoughttoday April 13, 2015 at 8:13 am #

              Hi Jessica, thanks for sharing. How are things working out for you now? I have thought long and hard about your post. You are right, when confronted, the abuse could get quieter. What do you think would have happened if your colleague had not intervened that day? If your husband had been allowed to get away with his abusing you publicly, how would it have impacted his future behavior, and your future behavior?

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