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Outing an abuser? Social Justice? Philosophical meanderings.


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#1 Kokoca

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 11:24 AM

I had an interesting discussion with a few friends yesterday that left me with a lot of things to ponder. I thought I'd throw some thoughts out there and see what you think.

The discussion centered around the idea of outing abusers. It was centered around a policy of a social networking website that has a policy of deleting any posts that might be accusing other people of abuse. The website's operators have taken some heat over this but they are adopting a policy of "innocent until proven guilty" and recommend that anyone with a greivance with someone else should go through the proper authorities rather than venting on a public forum.

Some folks feel that the website's policy is not appropriate. That, in fact, suppressing the voice of victims is worse in some ways than the original abuse.

I have some problem with that objection.

First though, let me be clear: I agree 100% that we have to be talking about abuse in all forms. Discussion how it happens, why it happens, what it does to people and what to do about it are all really important. If we don't talk about it the court systems and police and abusers will never "get it".

I have a really big problem with the objection to the policy of deleting posts that "out" abusers. I'm trying to ferret out why I have that objection. Part of it is fear: because if I can publicly name names and make accusations, what would stop my abuser from trashing me on line. And then who on the website is going to sort out who is right and who is wrong? I was thinking about some people here who's abusers have gone to their churches and workplaces and families in an effort to damage their victims even more. I can't see how allowing them to post on a public forum could be at all helpful. And I'm pretty sure that if a social networking site allows people to name names and point fingers, it is going to be the abusers that are the most vocal.

Putting it in my personal perspective, my Ex has said a lot of nasty things about me and has tried to trash me in my local community. I don't see what would be served by me acting in a similar manner and walking around telling people she's an abuser. It would just make me look bad and probably ratchet up her behaviour another notch.

This objection got me into some hot water with a few friends because they see it as a moral obligation. And I understand this: some abusers are dangerous and I understand the desire to serve the public good and make sure that nobody else runs afoul of them. There is also a feeling that the proper authorities never really help anyway; they get told by police and courts that the abuse they suffered is not really abuse or not seriously enough or that they shouldn't have been doing whatever it was that triggered the abuse.

I just don't think it is that simple; it isn't like the abuser is going to see his/her name on-line and think, "oh, yeah, well I'd better be good then".

Then again, if outing abusers was normalized, if abusers knew this was going to happen, I wonder if they'd think twice?

Stepping aside from the personal feelings it triggers, I think this is an interesting discussion. How our social justice and legal systems evolved and where they are going is an important thing to understand.

Any thoughts?

#2 library_lady

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 09:10 PM

Hi Kokoca,

I'm just curious - what do you think about using media files to support one's accusations of abuse, even if such evidence is considered inadmissible in court (in other words, it might be recordings made on a cell phone without both parties' consent or photos of damage done to a house or object)? I've seen a few such postings on Youtube of abusers' verbal tirades, but I've been surprised there aren't more. Maybe I just didn't spend enough time exploring.

Would the social media site you mention accept people's accusations if they were backed up by evidence, or do they just delete everything carte blanche?

I'm asking because I'm honestly curious about your opinion, and I'm interested in opening the discussion up. I'm on the fence about the whole issue, personally; I'm leery of what my abuser might do to retaliate if I chose to go the whole "exposure" route when I do finally end my marriage. And believe me, I've fantasized about doing what Kim Basinger did to Alec Baldwin when he was rash enough to leave a damning voice mail message verbally abusing their daughter. I just don't think I'd have the cojones to actually carry through....

#3 posso

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 11:40 PM

k,

I don't see how "outing abusers is normalized" could happen. How much credibility do you give to anyone who's ranting about another person on FB or a discussion group? It's quite possible the rant is carried out by a good person, sincere and scrupulously truthful. Hmm. It doesn't seem more than 50% likely, though. Maybe less than 50%, because so many times neither of two opposing positions hold water. (It might be worth a google search for something like "lawsuits for defamation of character on facebook.")

As you indicate in the original post, without having some personal familiarity with the accuser and the accused it's difficult or impossible to know who's telling the truth just based on posted comments.

Everybody knows there is a lot of misrepresentation on the internet. We're all growing new levels of skepticism all the time. In the catbox there is a certain predisposition to believe people's stories when they come here. (Valid, too, I think. This is partly because the way people come to a site like this is usually from a google search about verbal abuse or a related term. They likely do this because they've been abused. It's also partly the way true stories tend to ring true.) That said, there have been a few real psychos here. A couple of people spent apparently all their time on abuse sites just jerking people around, getting some kind of bizarre gratification from having people believe stories that were made up, copied or paraphrased from others' "effective" presentations about themselves.. Such people give themselves away before long, because they're unable to maintain credibility with their self-entertaining exaggerations, inconsistencies, pronounced tendencies toward conflict, etc.

I think the value of participation in a group like the catbox is in what can be learned about causes, effects and remedies for abusive relationships, not with some kind of written-out analogy to mug shots of abusers.

To the question you raised, I think your friends are misguided and you're correct in objecting to the idea that outing abusers in something like discussion groups is feasible.

#4 almadecasa

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 06:17 PM

I liken the covert abuse that happened in our home to that of a bully on the playground-- the one that torments and teases but never gets caught. With all the rage (literal and figurative) around anti-bullying these days, I'm surprised that we don't start by examining ourselves and instead demand that our children see/hear presentations intended to teach assertiveness, identification of abuse and proper protocols for reporting said abuse.

Putting it in my personal perspective, my Ex has said a lot of nasty things about me and has tried to trash me in my local community. I don't see what would be served by me acting in a similar manner and walking around telling people she's an abuser. It would just make me look bad and probably ratchet up her behaviour another notch.


I struggle with this too. . . I didn't file paperwork for a legal separation just 'cause we couldn't get along. I was being abused. I asked him to stop. He refused. But to tell this story publicly paints him in a poor light-- and me in a poorer one for "complaining."

I have an acquaintance who also got out of her VA/EA r'ship. . . and now has turned her anger into something productive by starting a movement to keep love alive. It's broad, the way she advertises and promotes. . . and she doesn't name her own story in print. . . but offers it verbally when asked. I think I'd like to do more with helping other women too, I think.

#5 Kris

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 08:07 PM

I just don't think it is that simple


Yes, I think that sums it up well!

In theory, it seems like it could be a good thing to "out" an abuser... kind of like reading reviews on amazon.com so you know before you buy (since you're not seeing the item in person) whether it is any good. And when you read those reviews, of course you take them with a grain of salt: different people have different expectations, different people have different tastes about things, different people have different intended uses for the item. But I know I do oftentimes turn to on-line sites to try to get reviews or impressions about things I'm looking for, especially if it is a big purchase.

But the problem with doing the same kind of thing with people is that unfortunately I think there is a very different dynamic that can get out of hand... sort of the kind of dynamic that is the focus of the book Lord of the Flies. Sometimes people can be very mean and judgmental, especially on the "anonymous internet" and I think that a lot of the negativity that goes around is not necessarily deserved but can be almost a mob-rule kind of thing. Even before your post, I was talking to a colleague who has a daughter who just entered high school about how glad I am not a kid growing up in this day-and-age of 24/7 social media and the increased peer pressure that seems to bring about. I guess I was lucky to grow up in an area with a school where there didn't seem to same kind of peer pressure and bullying that seems to be so prevalent in schools in the last several decades. And this problem with bullying was happening even before the advent of social media! So adding social media to that mix seems to just fan the flames of whatever influences seem to encourage unkind treatment of others, maybe because there is no "re-set button" period time like there would have been when there was a distinct break between separate school days.

So I've focused more on what is happening in middle school and high school in my answer. But my feeling is that adults can act just the same sometimes... and again, this ability to say things either anonymously or, even if there is identification, to be able to say them not face-to-face to others can result in a disconnect from social cues that might clue the speaker (writer) in to the fact that he or she might be out-of-bounds.

Although I can understand the rationale that a victim deserves to be heard and that other potential victims deserve to be forewarned, the reality is that it is very hard to objectively determine who is really the victim. I would bet that nearly all of our abusers that we write about here on this board probably view themselves as the victim!! So who gets to decide who is the "real victim"?

So let's take us here at the CatBox as examples. We support each other, we commiserate with each other, we give each other advice that we hope is helpful and we often hear back was. But I just mentioned that our abusers think they are the victims ... so for the sake of argument, let's just say that whoever is the one who "gets to decide" who is the "real victim" decides that in my case I was the abuser and my stbx was the victim, that yes, actually I do have all of the "issues" that my stbx is sure is responsible for our relationship's demise, so it really was my fault that this relationship went down the drain. (No, I don't think this is the case; but for the sake of argument, let's say it was!!) So would it be fair to him, the poor victim who had been contending with all of my "issues" doing the best he could if now he also had to deal with a public bulletin board that had identified him as an abuser?

No, I think it is much better if I come to this board to get help but I do not reveal any identities, because I need to always be aware that I am trying to be as fair as I can be and as objective as I can be. But still, I will always view things through my own filters. I will make a conscious effort to try to see things through others' viewpoints. But the fact is, I will never be able to know how successful I am in that endeavor.

If my stbx decides to go out and look for a "new victim", I need to realize that it is not my job to try to protect the world from him. And I also need to understand that it's possible that if he embarked on a new relationship, that particular person might not have certain characteristics I had that made it impossible to have a healthy relationship. Perhaps someone who didn't have codependent tendencies and who knew how to establish and maintain boundaries would be more successful. So what right do I have to go out and try to post that he is not good relationship material when I really, truly have no way of knowing that that is actually true for all potential partners he might get involved with?!!!

As far as my history goes, yes there were red flags that had I been more aware of, I could have reacted differently -- either not gotten involved at all, or set my boundaries and see what happened. But honestly, I can only know that he acted abusively in the particular dynamic that we found ourselves in. I do think it would be presumptuous of me to assume that everyone's experience would necessarily be just like my own.

So I'm not sure if I've made any sense here ... it's hard to articulate what I am feeling about this! But I guess the short answer is that I don't think it is a good policy to use the internet to try to ostracize others. It just seems like a recipe for a lot of negativity that really could get out of hand.
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#6 claudifred

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 07:20 AM

Then again, if outing abusers was normalized, if abusers knew this was going to happen, I wonder if they'd think twice?



My XH doesn't think he is/was abusive. He would still behave the same, and just be appalled that I would "twist it to make him look bad and post it for all to see." (Ask me how I know... :) )

#7 cocomama

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 10:15 AM

Claudfred if my M wasn't my H's first I would swear you were married to him first. Good point made.

Edited by cocomama, 15 June 2012 - 10:16 AM.


#8 Kris

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 02:20 PM

On a horse bulletin board I sometimes frequent this youtube video was discussed. I guess "outing an abuser" does happen. So far the responses on the board are four in favor, one opposed!!



#9 Kit Kat

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 11:25 AM

Kokoka ~ I am writing this based on experience. It is not a good idea to "out" an abuser becuz as you say, it will just increase their anger and they will retaliate. I tried this on many occasion during my time with Metal Man. I have called his mother, his brother, his psychiatrist and a couple of our friends (more his friends than mine) and told them what he does to me. Of course his mother didn't believe me! As for other people, they couldn't believe he would hurt me like that. During one of our breakups, I told the authorities and that his young son was a witness to the abuse. They in turn notified Children Services and his son was taken away. This was a constant pattern with us. And when I walked away from him in December, he was terrified that I would do something again! So he called his psychiatrist and friends to "warn" them about me. He never took responsibility for his actions and always acted like HE was the victim. I thought about calling people but I didn't. Becuz it didn't get me anywhere before. He also threated my life and told me "If you do anything to ruin my life, I will report to the authorities that you raped my son and you will go to prison". I know, a scare tactic.

Sorry to ramble on but while we all just want to make our abusers suffer the most horrific torture and tell the whole world about the cruelty we had to endure, it's never a good idea. Becuz we would be lowering ourselves to their level. I learned that the hard way!!

#10 Kokoca

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 12:32 PM

Hey, everyone, thanks for all your opinions and observations.

Sorry it has taken me awhile to respond. Work has been absolutely mad recently and there have been gardens to grow and songs to sing. Which is all good but there is limited time in the day...




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