You Are The Second Abuser

One of the “advantages” of being a writer who writes about his traumatic experiences with mental illness  is that many people open up to me about the pains they’ve gone through.

I am simply amazed at how many people have gone through horrific trauma in their lives. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met who have been raped, abused, manipulated by moral crooks, gone through moments of mental instability (to say the least), or been through other traumatic moments.  It’s come to make me realize just how much is hidden underneath the existence we’ve come to think as “normal.”

I actually find their opening up to be amazing, not a negative thing.  Any trauma can be addressed.  Any pain can become a source of growth, even if the scar always remains, even if every time we touch it we wince.  And opening up is a sign of that growth.

But there is something else I’ve seen, something that has caused me enormous pain among that beauty.

The world still has not become a safe place for them to be open.

I often imagine to myself a world where my friends felt comfortable enough to share their pain with the world (if they so wished): a world that would understand, or try to understand.  A world that would embrace them.  Care for them.

What a beautiful world that would be.

That’s not the world we live in.

We live in a world where 68% of rape victims don’t accuse their abusers.  Why?  Many reasons, but a big one is the very real feeling that the world will shame them if they come forward.

Jailed-rapists December 2014

And you know what?  Maybe they’re right to feel that way.  From college campuses to the world of celebrity to religious communities, there seems to always be a backlash against those who come forward.  Whether it be about rape, abuse, or any other trauma.  

And so the people who speak up are thus doubly brave: for overcoming their own shame, and being willing to confront the shaming of the world.

The reaction to the abused speaking up, of course, has improved steadily for decades now.  Awareness, more people speaking out, and general societal education has improved so much.

But what is old still remains.  What is entrenched is still deeply embedded.  The reaction, whether it be the vocal minority, or an entire community, is one of utter fear and paranoia.  Anger, vitriol.

A person speaks up about abuse, and they are accused of everything.  Accused of lying, trying to profit off of someone else.  Accused of trying to start a “lynch mob.”  Accused of being the actual abuser.  In more sheltered societies, they are actively intimidated, attacked, and ostracized.

This is a reality, not something I am making up or imagining.  My friends who have spoken up, those brave souls, have all in some way experienced this.  One only needs to search Twitter for the word “Cosby” and you’ll find this in droves.

It does not matter if the person they speak up against is a celebrity or simply a man living his life.  It does not matter if they’re accused of rape, manipulation, physical abuse, or anything else.  It does not matter if the abused does not even mention who has abused them.

“We are not the judges!”

“You have no proof!”

“Why didn’t you speak up earlier?”

“Innocent until proven guilty!”

“You’re evil, a liar, you’re out to get something.”

No matter how much progress we’ve made as a society, these voices ring loud and clear, are legitimized by others, or simply silence those who want to support the abused.

I’ve often wondered what I would say to such people if I ever confronted them, was ever faced with them.

I think I would say this:

Do you know how much more pain you are causing?  Do you know how much these people are going through?  How much they had to overcome in order to finally speak up?  Do you know how small of a minority they are, how unlikely it is for someone to say anything at all?  Do you realize that this is part of their healing process?

I would say: you are the second abuser.

No one says we have to take an abuse victims’s claims at face value.  But they, most often, are not speaking up only in order to be believed.  They are speaking up in order to be heard, to attempt to be understood.  To start turning the world, “society,” into a community of support.  They want to help others like them.  They are not vengeful, they are healing.

And your voice, it does not have to be the way it is if you don’t believe.  Accusatory.  It can be questioning.  Open.  Thoughtful.  Interested in being educated and entering the mind of someone whose experience is so far removed from your own.

I would say: You do not need to act the way you do.  You choose to.  You are choosing, knowingly, to hurt this other person.  Maybe you are afraid of facing a world where abuse, trauma, and manipulation are the norm for so many, so you’d rather turn the abused into the abusers.  Maybe you truly think such people are out to destroy the world and others.

Whatever your justification, your shrill voice is the knife in the dark that attacks when a person finally decides to come into the light.  You should know that.  You should know that your words are not without power.  They are extremely powerful.  And their power is what has caused the abused to be silent for generations.  Their worst nightmare is reliving their past abuse and then being told that the dark voices in them are right, that they deserved it or that they were really the guilty party.  Or to simply be unheard, misunderstood.  Better to hold it in, better to hide it, they think.

I would say: Even if 99% of the abused speaking out were lying or misguided, that would mean there is a chance that they are honest, that they are right for speaking up.  That means that your words are hurting someone more than you an possibly imagine.

Hoepfully the juries, judges, and laws will catch up with the world, will provide the closure victims need and the safety to speak up.  One day.  But they do not, not for many.  And someone’s guilty or innocent verdict does not change their need to be understood, heard, and accepted.  It does not change the fact that they may want with all their hearts to protect future victims of those who have escaped the justice system.

And most of all, most of all, it does not change the fact that we have a responsibility to make a space for them to speak.  Whether they be flawed, perfect, angry, emotional, calm… it does not matter.  They must be heard.  They must feel safe.  It is the least they deserve.

I would say: society does not need to be this way.  The world does not need to be this way.  And it starts with you.

  • Zerach Moshe Fedder

    Bless you Elad for speaking the truth

  • MeganC

    Thank you.

    • MeganC

      Posted on Give her Wings via FB.

  • Abby

    in my opinion the responsibility for this lies with the false accusers. The reality is that there are people who make false accusations. That is a fact. And we all know that most people assume (and publicize) guilt before any investigation is done whatsoever. Imagine if you were accused. Would you not want people to jump to your defense? In my experience this is where it comes from. We have gone from shoving everything under the rug (obviously not good) to the very opposite extreme, where people are so quick to accuse and believe every accusation, that it has, tragically, become a very convenient way to ruin someone’s life. the accuser is hailed a hero, and if it turns out it wasn’t true, well, no one really talks about that, but the accused’s person’s life is ruined for good. The equally tragic offshoot of this, is that people with legitimate accusations may not necessarily be believed immediately. But it the false accusers who need to be held responsible for this.

    • There will always be false accusations for any crime. For any sin even.

      Would you say the same if there was a stigma when it came to theft accusations? Or assault?

      Of course not. These simply aren’t as stigmatized, and so false accusations aren’t seen as the CAUSE of people’s disbelief. Because there isn’t a disbelief generally speaking.

      To say you’ll wait until the day that there are no false accusations is to essentially say you’ll never do anything. To say it is the fault of false accusers is to perpetuate the stigma of people speaking out. As I said, even if 1 in 100 is only telling the truth, the people who shreek in anger and accusations against the abused are responsible for the pain they may very well be causing.

      Last note: it is absurd to say that we’ve gone “the other way” as a society. Please feel free to see the statistics above, the statistics just about everywhere else, the examples of how abuse victims are treated. Please. Actually look. Just because there is a very covc group

      • chiligirl2001

        I agree… the blame lies solely with society, not with the false accusers. Society would rather point the finger at the victim and say “well, he’s respected, you shouldn’t have been drunk, dressed like a slut, be so flirty blablabla” than actually accept that somebody they know (intimately or through the media) could be a perpetrator. Why?? Because we raise our children in a “rape culture”. We think it’s cute when he pulls her hair because “he likes her”. We think it’s funny when she pushes him off the swing to show that she likes him. Oh, he snapped your bra strap? No big deal. What, she said no? Just don’t give up or steal a little kiss, secretly, that is what she wants. We need to teach our children from an early age about personal space, body safety and respecting the word NO. We need to teach them that everybody is equal and it’s not okay to push somebody because they are a girl/boy. Only then will this get better. NO is a complete sentence and if you are too incapacitated to clearly state NO, you are too incapacitated to clearly consent to sex, therefore you help that person and not jump her bones because they won’t remember.

        • chiligirl2001

          sorry, this got so long but I am a survivor and I was NOT and still am not believed by my family and this is something I am very passionate about.

          • Alex Blair

            Please don’t apologise….you helped me with what you wrote.

      • Gloria Ann Blount

        By any chance are you suggesting that a claim of violence against someone should be automatically believed without any proof provided? As a woman, I hate the idea that abused women don’t speak up. I had a co-worker who kept her abuse a secret. Her husband came to our place of employment and murdered her; that’s when we found out that she was being abused. She never looked as if she was being abused, had she told us, would we have believed her? With all the lying about being abused; maybe not, I don’t know. I also know a man whose life and career was permanently ruined because he was falsly accused. There was a promising college football player who was recently released from prison after serving five years for a rape that he did not commit. The accuser grew cconscience and admitted she lied. Therefore, yes, I believe this is why we tend not to believe a person was abused without concrete unequivocal evidence.

    • WickedW0lf

      Thank you! As a loved one of someone who was falsely accused and a CSA survivor. I have to say the results of false accusation was far worse than my experience and affected far more people. And was a slap in the face to me. I WILL speak up for those falsely accused and for the rights of all accused!

      • chiligirl2001

        so what you’re saying is that you will from the start believe that the victim is lying because of that. I really hope nobody in your family will ever be raped or violated because they can’t come to you with that ever and that’s sad. Like I stated above, false accusations are very rare, especially in sexual and in child abuse. Most times, they are labeled false accusations because the victim doesn’t want to testify or pulls back because they feel violated again. If your loved one was falsely accused, I am sorry but that doesn’t mean all accusations are false and all rape victims and abuse victims are liars. That’s a ridiculous stand to take.

        • WickedW0lf

          What I’m saying is, I support the Constitutional Presumption of Innocent for all accused, no matter what they are accused of. We can’t start picking and choosing which criminal accusations it’s okay to that away from.
          and yes, false accusations are rare. However, the percentage is higher when it comes to teens that are angry with a step-parent or parent or an adult who makes a claim that abuse happened years ago while the were still a child, particularly if they feel they have something to gain. This makes it all the more important to keep those protections for everyone.

    • chiligirl2001

      False accusations are extremely rare. I can dig up the numbers if you want me to, I have them somewhere. We like to jump on “false accusations” so we as a society don’t have to deal with perpetrators. It’s just easier to see point fingers at victims and make them the bad guys.

  • Yes. People minimise intimate partner abuse, they say “it wasn’t really rape”, “it was just words”, “maybe they are lying” – and it can go even further “kill her” – even in the United States, they are not even listened to, given a fair hearing, just condemned, please see https://freejodi.wordpress.com/about/why-jodis-testimony-is-plausible/

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  • “Accused of being the actual abuser.” <—- Got this from my dad when I said I was going to call the child abuse hotline number I had just seen on a commercial when I was a kid.

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  • Steph

    Thank you SO much for writing this. This has been SO healing for our family to report behavior. Even if he WASN’T convicted. The ostracizing and hateful telephone calls from our “eternal family” wounded us far more than anything the teenager did to one of my children. We weren’t in a cult, but boy some of the “cultish” behaviors came out after we “disobeyed” them and talked about the behavior to the local authorities. Our FORMER church family is no longer a part of our lives. I saw a side of people the likes of which I hope I NEVER see again.

    God has moved us into healthier circles, where we can see much Godly fruit in the kingdom. Why does this happen? We tend to think it’s about “US VERSUS THEM.” It isn’t at all. It is US VERSUS SATAN. We need to unify. If our justice system works as intended, someone makes an accusation, the accused can face the accuser, and the truth comes out swiftly and justice is served. I think a quick meeting between the judge, the victim, and the accused would benefit justice greatly. Instead, the process takes forever, and the court of public opinion perverts justice every time, and PRIDE gets in the way…and earthly justice isn’t swift, but I know vengeance is the LORD’s, and HE knows all truth…

  • Bluezlover

    Thank you so much for posting this as I have had a lifetime of being called a liar or a bee ach for speaking about my sexual abuse from my older brother. My mom even kicked me out of our farm that we started together as she was in sinful denial, My brother years later told her maybe I should be institutionalized for my lies, She finally said, I choose to believe the victim then after decades of me and others trying to get her to see the light. She mostly protected the victimizers. It was sick, I work with children and adults for many decades now, and find the friends and family many times are the next abusers in their life. IT is not right and it needs to be addressed in our society, And this is what I say to all the ones that say “what if a innocent is accused and has to serve time?” Well, there is such a small amount of that going on that God will have to take care of them, as we cannot let the majority get away with it. They almost all say they are innocent right? SO, we have to use common sense, facts, proof, investigation techniques and protect all the innocent we can, AMEN? Thank you again, Sharing on my abuse pages on fb.

  • Yams

    So what do you suggest? We just automatically believe all rape accusations? This flies in the fact of our entire criminal justice system.

    • WickedW0lf

      yep. I’m with Blackstone when it comes to “better that 10 guilty go free, than one innocent be made to suffer in prison

    • Kavod And Kaved

      Wow, I had no idea that rape accusations were the sole scope of this article. Silly me, I got the impression that ALL types of abuse were the topic and that we were being asked merely to take their accusations seriously, not lynch people without trial.

      • Yams

        One of the things this article is saying is that pointing out that there is no proof is abusive. No. It’s not abusive to ask for proof.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this article. As a survivor, it
    brought me to tears. But I’m so grateful that there are ppl like you out there that understand because there are very few who stand by us.