Non Monogamy as a Survivor – Part 2: Community

Trigger warning for rape, sexual assault, emotionally and sexually abusive relationships, victim-blaming etc.

In this post, I’m dealing with the issue of abusers within polyamorous communities. I’m well aware this is a highly contentious and even taboo subject. I’m talking about it because these conversations need to happen. Please comment, please share your views and thoughts, but please be respectful.

Community, in its various forms, can be a really big deal for a survivor of any kind of abusive or traumatic experience. Community has the power to rally around and pull somebody through, giving them the kind of vital safe space that is needed for recovery. However, it also has the potential to severely retraumatise a person, or at least hinder their recovery.

What happens if the survivor and their abuser were or are part of the same community?

The issues here are huge and varied, and I can’t hope to touch on all of them. The first dilemma is likely to be whether or not to tell people what has happened. To tell everyone, someone, no-one?  Do you try to warn anybody that your abuser gets involved with, let them know so they can make an informed choice, or not? Do you shout from the rooftops about what happened, or do you just keep quiet and keep out of their way if you’re ever in the same space?

Keeping silence can be devastating. It can leave a person feeling utterly alone and as though nobody understands what they have been through. It can be even worse as they watch their abuser carrying on with their life and spending time in shared communal space. 

But what happens if the victim does decide to speak up about what has happened? In the perfect world, they would be believed and supported. In the real world, it’s all too likely that they will be ignored, silenced, shouted down, or in some way blamed. How should we, as a community, react when somebody says that they have been hurt? Particularly if it was by one of our own?

There are no right answers here, and certainly no easy answers. Communities like to think of themselves as being very safe, and so do not want to believe it possible that they have people capable of such atrocities in their midst. 

‘Oh no, not him! He’d never do that! It must have been a misunderstanding!’

This is a classic response to people who don’t want to believe that somebody they know and probably like might be capable of committing such a horrendous act. But referring to an accusation of rape or abuse as a ‘misunderstanding’ is textbook victim blaming. It suggests that the victim has blown their experiences out of proportion or exaggerated them. It’s easier to believe the perpetrator. It’s easier to pretend nobody we know could be capable of such things. But rapists aren’t lurking out there in the dark in back alleys and bushes. They’re right here in our midst. And that’s a much more frightening reality to deal with.

‘But what if someone bandies around false accusations to get back at someone they broke up with?’

While I’d agree this is a possibility, I’m certain it’s much less common than many people would like to believe. People break up all the time, and no-one understands this better than non-monogamous communities. Most of us don’t go around saying our ex-partner raped us if it isn’t true.

‘Isn’t someone innocent until proven guilty?’

Well, yes. In a court of law. Our community is not a court of law. I’d like to say that in these circumstances, you believe the victim. Regardless. But it’s not always that easy, is it? What if the accused is your friend, your partner, a pillar of your community? Proof can be difficult-to-impossible for a victim to provide, but the thing is…. I don’t believe they should have to in this situation. Not being believed or being expected to provide undeniable evidence is a form of retraumatising. It effectively puts the victim on trial in place of the perpetrator.

One of the truly awful things that can happen to a victim in this situation is they could end up losing their community, right at a time when it is most needed. If they’re ostracised for making an accusation, or have to deal with a lot of fallout or aftermath or simply not being believed… . But silence can lead to feelings of helplessness, disempowerment and even guilt. Pretending nothing bad happened can be just as damaging as telling the truth. Sometimes, in this situation it can seem as though there is no way for a survivor to win.

What can we do, as a community, about these issues? They’re huge and they’re painful and still shamefully taboo, and there are no simple solutions. But we owe it to the survivors within our community to talk about these issues and try to find the answers.

What do you all think?

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33 thoughts on “Non Monogamy as a Survivor – Part 2: Community

  1. Thanks again for raising these subjects. Given that they happen (which obviously doesn’t make me happy!) I am so glad to see they’re at least being talked about.

    Are you aware of the things going on about speaking out about abuse in BDSM communities and the work being done at Consent Culture and Safe/Ward?

    … Most of us don’t go around saying our ex-partner raped us if it isn’t true.

    Yeah, exactly. I think that people talking about this subject often ignore or are unaware of exactly what is done to people who speak up about rape. Claiming that someone raped you isn’t a walk in the park, like you describe in your post. Usually it means retraumatisation and being ostracised yourself, or even driven out of the community entirely.

    And it doesn’t even guarantee a legal or even communal punishment for the person accused either; usually quite the opposite. Since communities – including alt-communities – love to defend and embrace rapists, they’re not likely to do any less for a hypothetical “falsely accused” one.

    • missamaranth says:

      Thank you. Yes, I deliberated for ages about raising this or not and I’m still a bit anxious I’ve opened a huge can of worms with this one, but it needs to be talked about.

      I’m aware of Consent Culture and Safe/Ward, it sounds really cool. I really hope they do an event near where I live.

      That’s the problem. Those who speak up are often punished more than the people accused. The problem is, as it says in the post, that it’s easier to believe nothing happened. Believing the victim requires a community to act, whereas silencing the victim allows the community to go on living in blissful ignorance.

      I wish I knew what we should do about it. I’m hoping at least talking about it helps to bring the issues more out in the open.

  2. angelica says:

    *Hugs*, if hugs from someone you don’t know are welcome, and supportive thoughts yr way both for going through and writing about this shit.

    I find myself repeatedly returning to this post – http://flipfloppingjoy.com/2009/09/15/1915/ – from Flip Flopping Joy on the tendency of communities of all kinds to support abusers over survivors (triggers for not-in-detail descriptions of abuse, and I find the descriptions of awful community dynamics really upsetting):

    “society tells us that being called a rapist or an abuser is like one of the worst things to be called. that it is a stigma that would haunt a man for the rest of his life. but for the most part. it doesnt. men shrug off that label, like a silk scarf slipping off the shoulders.”

    It and the comments go a fair bit into possible reasons for these responses, but don’t get far in working out how to remedy that.

    • missamaranth says:

      *hugs* thank you.

      Thanks for linking to the article. I’ll have a read of that, it looks interesting. That quote is, all too often, completely true – and they get away with shrugging it off because the rest of society, generally including alternative communities, shrug it off as well.

  3. I don’t know. I’ve started these conversations more often than I can remember but I don’t know if anything ever changed.

  4. Glenn says:

    What a great post, thank you for raising the issue!

    I think that the response depends on how potentially dangerous (in physical, emotional, or mental abuse terms), the abuser is, and how well you believe the potential next victim would handle said abuse, or attempted abuse.

    I think i’d suggest talking past experiences with the abuser through with somebody totally un-involved, but who would be willing to pass on at least a note of warning.

    That way, you would not have held it all in, and the next person would not get the impression that some crazy cat lady is just jealous of an ex, and is on a revenge trip etc.

    That’s the trouble with the small and cozy poly community i guess. When things do go wrong, there’s no escape, and things have to be dealt with somehow.

    Just my tuppence worth of thought.

    G.

    • As far as I know, abusers are generally pretty skilled at pre-empting communication between their ex’s and their current targets. Often they will tell their current partners stories about their ex’s which make the ex seem unreliable/vindictive/even abusive(!) ahead of time, stories which also have the extra bonus effect of putting pressure on the current partner to be “better than that mad woman” and also demonstrate the abuser’s ability to “be the bigger man” through how condescendingly he speaks about his ex.

    • missamaranth says:

      Hi Glenn, and thank you!

      I think that depends how you define ‘dangerous.’ And it’s almost impossible to predict how someone would handle an abusive situation. People have said to me, ‘you’re such a strong person, I can’t believe you’d let someone treat you like that!’

      That said, there are – as I keep saying – no easy answers to this. And perps go to great lengths to protect themselves. I don’t believe my abusive exs’ new partners would listen to me for a moment if I tried to tell them the things those exs did to me, because I’m sure they’ve heard stories about how ‘insane’ and ‘unbalanced’ I am.

      In an ideal world I’d try to say something anyway, but I think the cost/benefit just isn’t worth it….

      • Nomad says:

        People who say “I can’t believe you’d let someone treat you like that” are also engaging in another form of blaming the victim.

        Besides, you were fourteen years old when you got into a relationship with a perp. How does one expect you to even know better at that age, much less have the “strength” to prevent it??

      • missamaranth says:

        Yes. This! All this!

        “Why wouldn’t you leave?” “Why didn’t you stand up to him?” it’s all another form of victim blaming and suggesting that if only the victim had behaved differently, it would never have happened to her. (It’s another flavour of “well if you go out dressed like that, what do you expect?”)

        Your second point is true too. How does _anyone_ know better at that age and even several years older? How does anyone know better, whatever their age, if they haven’t experienced what a good relationship should be, and haven’t been told what abusive behaviour looks like? We’re all taught ‘if your partner hits you, that’s abuse and not okay.’ We’re very rarely told that sexual or emotional abuse can be just as damaging, or even what constitutes abusive as opposed to normal couple behaviour.

        Thank you for being the good relationship for me that helped restore my faith in love. I love you xxx

      • Glenn says:

        I guess the physically life-threatening or injurious violence is what springs to mind at first thought.

        But for someone who is (trying to choose right words), open to love/mentally vulnerable/dependent/addictive personality etc. It could be just as dangerous without the physical part, no?.

        Withdrawal, depression, self-harm, suicide. It’s taken me over 3 years to “get over” a bad non-violent abusive secondary relationship. I shudder to think of the mental torture someone else would go through if they had nobody else to support them or put things in perspective. :-(

        Although i’ve not met many other poly folk, it makes sense to me to believe there are a lot of us that are more vulnerable than the average mono person.

        I think the key is to try and have good friends/family for support before entering into another relationship in the first place. Easily said, i know.

      • missamaranth says:

        Absolutely. Non-physical forms of abuse can be just as damaging. ‘Mental torture’ is a pretty good description.

        I don’t know whether poly folks are more likely to be vulnerable or more likely to be survivors than non-poly people.

        Good family/friends are important. As is self-care and sometimes professional support in dealing with the trauma. But recovery is a long, difficult and painful process. I’m really only just starting to emerge out of the other side of it myself. Hence this post.

  5. Glenn says:

    I admit to being naiive when it comes to this complex manipulation stuff, so there’re probably a lot of flaws in my logic.

    But i think as long as you try to warn somebody or tell a trusted 3rd party, at least your own concience is clear from having done the right thing, and i think that’s all you can hope for.

    I have been the recipient of an abusive relationship (thankfully not violent, or physically abusive, but violating none the less).
    I never crossed paths with the next potential victim, but if i had, the only thing i think i could have said is “be careful”. And left it at that.

    Every situation is going to be different, and i don’t think any of us know for sure what we would do unless it happens.

    As poly/non-monogamous folk, i think the “be open minded” rule applies as much to this as to anything else.

    • missamaranth says:

      I think you’re right that we can’t know how we would handle this until we’ve experienced it. And even then, one experience will differ from the next, even if they happen to the same person.

      I’m sorry to hear of what happened to you. There are many types of abuse – and a situation can be abusive without there ever having been any physical violence.

  6. Byghan says:

    I have never been part of a poly community but I have been/am part of a community that is inclusive of queer, poly and kink relationships and has had its problems with abusive people.
    Firstly I must stress I have been very fortunate in my relationships, secondly it is worth noting that I have seen a variety of responses to dealing as a survivor with abusers and as a community to allegations. Within my community I have seen silence and outcry, ostracism and complete refusal to even acknowledge a problem. I have noticed that whilst a survivors response is dependent on their personal circs/background/trust in their friends, the response of the community in general depends on the centrality (or otherwise) of the abuser/abusee and what might be lost by believing one or the other.

    Without going into detail, the only abuser I have seen truly ostracised moved through a number of women, picking those with low self-esteem and convincing them that they were ‘at fault’ for his advances before separating them from friends etc. The earliest women in the chain gradually banded together to discuss experiences before eventually not just suggesting he was bad news to women around them but actually openly going into details. Yet I believe that if the same guy hadn’t provably stolen money it would have blown over after time and his actions ignored.
    Others, physically and emotionally dangerous people, have been tolerated on two pretexts – either the individual was “ok in my experience” or the accuser was “a bit unstable”. Often both were true, the abuser is a pleasant person in society and their accuser is not emotionally steady perhaps because of abuse, neither are the same as lying!
    The community has on the whole chosen to let their world carry on unimpeded but individuals make up the community and each individual who says I don’t agree encourages others.

    As for what to do..keep on speaking up.
    I don’t know that communities need to believe survivors because I do believe that whilst false accusations are rare confusion and rumours are common and innocent until proven guilty is important – but so is trust and if there is any reason not to trust someone it can spread. What is important is giving everyone a chance to be believed, yes abusers are often manipulative and convincing (in my experience- frighteningly so) but understanding that what goes on behind closed doors could be different to your experience is the first step to caution and change.

    In poly communities the issue is compunded by the idea that someone might use their relationship status (as well as other crapitude) to fool or attack their lovers but our advantage is that we have other people who look out for us because they love us…

    • missamaranth says:

      It’s so sad and so wrong that victims are being ostracised for speaking up about what happened to them, while abusers are allowed to continue on with their lives and their place in community.

      It’s very common, as you say, for people to use the ‘they seemed okay to me’ defence to justify not believing a victim or not doing anything. The way somebody is in public space and the way they are behind closed doors are often very different. Even now, I look at my abusive ex and the way they interact with others and occasionally ask myself, ‘am I going mad? Did I imagine it?’ The thing that’s scary – for all of us, whether we’ve been victims or not – is that we usually can’t tell. What’s dangerous about abusers is that they pass as nice, normal people. The ones who don’t set off the ‘creep’ alarm are the ones who get away with it over and over.And, yes, making the victim look unstable is a classic tactic as well, to discredit their story and make the abuser look like the reasonable one.

      I think ‘keep speaking up’ is a good start, and half the reason I wrote these posts. The more people speak up, the more communities might start to see how damaging it is when victims are disregarded and abusers are allowed to continue on with no consequences. Not only is it horrible and potentially retraumatising for the survivor, it undermines the safe space that non-normative communities strive to provide.

  7. Dragonmamma says:

    Just to say I have read this as promised and find myself in extreme dificulty about this. Obviously abuse is wrong and should be not only activelty discouraged but also actively condemned. So far , so good. But I have always held that the belief of “Innocent until proven Guilty” was one of the best tenets in our society at large. But as you say this then puts the burden of “proof” (often impossible) back on the victim and denies them the chance to be protected and healed by the community at the very time when that is needed the most.
    I suppose that most minoritycommunities are very defensive about their status and regard an accusation against one of their members as damaging to the whole, and in some ways it is.
    Equally it is blindingly foolish to assume that just because you are an alternative community every ,member will be as pure as snow.
    So , yes, I can state the arguments and clearly see the problems, but as to answers………..
    The only thing that springs to mind is to include in the initial set up of the community a strategy for dealing with these sorts of problems. Sort of Constitutional Rules idea. This would mean that accusations and the way they were dealt with SHOULD have an objective framework rather than a subjective one and might make the situation easier to deal with.
    Mmm I like what I have suggested here but somehow doubt its efficacy , human nature being what it is. But none the less it might be worth considering.,
    Of course this also doesnt make for any help with existing situations, but it might be possible to approach it through the “Remember when A said they had a problem of abuse with B and we didnt quite know how to handle it? Perhaps in future we could…..”
    Apart from that I can only offer to those of you who read this blog and understand the pain its autho has suffered, the same virtual support and hugs that I extend to her. Those of us who have never been put in that sort of situation should be alive to the distress and destruction it can cause and be ready with solid support when it can reasonably be offered.

  8. missamaranth says:

    Thank you for this. I completely agree with you and it’s one of the main things I’ve really struggled with when thinking about this stuff – and probably one of the reasons the community doesn’t have any protocol in place to deal with this. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is really important to our society as a whole. No-one can just accuse someone else of something without it having to be proven. But – both in a legal sense and a community sense – putting the burden of proof on the victim is likely to just traumatise them even more. I think this is one of the reasons so many victims don’t report or even really talk about what has happened to them.

    If only there were easy answers. If there were, I suppose we wouldn’t need these discussions.

    I think your idea of having something in place to deal with it is potentially a really good one – especially for spaces or groups that claim to be ‘self policing.’ But what it could be and how it would work, I really don’t know.

    Thank you for reading these and showing support. That’s really important and awesome and appreciated!

  9. fire_kitten says:

    There are 2 aspects I struggle with.

    The first is a matter of terminology…I have in my head a very specific definition of the word “rape” and another definiton of “abuse”. When accusations are made I want to be sure I understand exactly what a person stands accuse of, and if any mitigating circumstances exist. While I’m not asking

    • fire_kitten says:

      Cont…
      I’m not asking for “proof” but I do want to understand the full circumstances before u am expected to act on unaccrptable behaviour – It’s hard to know how to obtain that clarity without re-traumatising a person.

      Let me give an obviously “at the extremes” example…pedopheilia /underage sex – its illegal to have sex with someone underage – yet to my mind there is a world of difference when the couple involved are 16 and 15 and very much in love, and a couple who are 60 and 10 when there is no informed consent from the 10 year old. But in both cases an underage person is having sex – or to use different language “an older person is sexually a abusing a minor”

      This is similar to the “innocent until proven guilty” discussion.. For if I act on an accusation of rape I am standing (in a small way) as jury for the accused rapist – I want to be sure I have my facts correct (and that what I call “rape” is what we are dealing with) before I “pass judgement” – yet how can I without asking for details – which is intrusive at best, and most likely traumatic.

      My second concern is on the wider issue of punishment /reform. I’m of the opinion that it is possible for someone to act terribly to another person, to reflect on it, and to change their behaviour as a result. In such a situation what behaviour is appropriate to an ex-abuser ?

      The victim’s history has not been changed – so is our behaviour to the abuser punishment for past acts, or should it reflect their current behaviour? If we keep silence we treat the past as invalid… Yet if we ostracise the abuser we are more likely to drive them back into destructive patterns. A question complicated by the fact the abuser may be “on best behaviour” to lure in a new victim,or they may truely believe “this time is different”

      I guess what I am getting at is for the victim we should not stay silent..
      But dor the abuser we need (and want ) to take the best course of action. But knowing what is. “the best course of action” is hard.
      I’m open to suggestions -as I’ve not clear thoughts on the right answer.

      • IMO:

        Supporting a person who tells you a survivor doesn’t involve any kind of “jury” behaviour. You can acknowledge that a person experienced something as abuse/rape without interacting with the perpetrator at all.

        You also don’t need more information than the survivor gives you. They’ll tell you what they want to tell you, and that’s what you act on. They may tell you a sanitised version of the story because they’re afraid you won’t believe them, or they may dare to tell you the whole thing.

        And I’m sure some abusers do change. The amount to which the possibility of abusers “getting better” is talked about is way out of proportion to the number who are doing it, though. The staggering majority of abusers a) don’t change and b) are experts at appearing to have changed.

        Usually there’s a trade-off between keeping open the possibility of an abuser’s “redemption” and acting to prevent them from abusing more people. That trade-off’s a no-brainer for me.

      • missamaranth says:

        That is true – I think being supportive doesn’t necessarily need to involve DOING anything other than bearing witness and hearing and believing their story.

        I’m yet to see anyone who I know personally to be an abuser actually change. Of course, my data on their current behaviours and relationships is limited, but I think ‘changing’ begins with acknowledging what they did was wrong. And I am certain none of my past abusers even recognise what they did as abusive behaviour. I still want to believe people can change their behaviour and become better people as a result. But keeping them in our community under the guise of ‘they can change’/’they made a mistake’ seems like a dangerous gamble. How do we KNOW? I know from bitter experience that the way someone seems in public space and the way they behave behind closed doors can be almost unrecognisable as the same person. They seem so nice, they’re pillars of the community. That’s what makes them so dangerous.

        I don’t know. I just don’t know. I wish there was any easy answer to this.

      • missamaranth says:

        All really good points – thank you!

        Yes, absolutely. The ‘undderage’ example you give is really good. Two things which, legally, have exactly the same definition… but in reality are absolutely worlds apart.

        I think you’ve really hit on something there with the ‘acting as jury’ thing. We need to know something before we act on accusations…. yet how do we get the information we need? It seems impossible. And even then, what exactly are we actually supposed to do?

        The punishment/reform thing is something I really hadn’t considered much, so thank you for that. It’s true that someone can certainly change, realise their past behaviour was wrong and never do anything like it again. In this case, I don’t know what the best course of action is. Ostracising them just goes down the ‘punishment’ route and, yes, is likely to lead to them doing the same things elsewhere. But letting them continue because ‘they’ve changed’ trivialises and basically ignores the very real trauma of the victim. In my (admittedly fairly limited) experience, abusers don’t change their behaviour once they’ve seen that they can get away with it.

        Not staying silent is really important. But beyond that, I just don’t know what the best courses of action are…

      • Nomad says:

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, especially about the bits that you struggle with. I don’t know if I have many suggestions, per se, but I do have some responses.

        With the first matter that you bring up, I don’t see any way that we can protect the accused abuser or rapist without invalidating and possibly re-traumatizing the victim or survivor. As such, when somebody tells me that they have been raped or abused, I believe them without the need for proof or clarification.

        Side note: This is not the case when somebody tells me that a person has raped or abused somebody else, mind you. If Alice comes to be and tells me that Bob raped Cindy, then I feel free to question the story, ask for facts, evidence, whatever. Since Alice was not raped, I cannot invalidate her rape experience. However, if Cindy tells me that Bob raped her, then I believe her. Period. Full stop.

        I realise that this policy does leave open the possibility of me believing a false accusation and acting on it. That said, I have known far more people who have been raped and abused than I have known people who have been the target of false accusations. Likewise, I have seen vastly more harm caused by actual rapists and abusers than I have seen harm caused by false or misleading accusations. I don’t see a way to perfectly balance protection for the accused rapist with protection and support for the survivor, so I choose to go forward with a policy that gives my support to where I have seen the most damage done. I am not a court of law and, as such, do not feel that there is any reason that I should be bound by the same standards. I do not have the power to deprive a person of their liberty or lock them away. I agree that evidence should be shown and “innocent before proven guilty” should apply in those cases… but it feels to me like it is cruel to place a similar burden of proof on a survivor for a case where those penalties are not a possibility.

        Interesting aside: I note that you and I are doing a bit of a flip here from what would be expected (i.e., stereotypical) gender responses. You favour gathering more information before “judging”, whereas I am happy to accept without proof. No real point to make here; just an interesting observation.

        I will post this now, before it gets lost, then respond to your second concern…

      • missamaranth says:

        Yes – the ‘false accusation’ thing is a very commonly cited argument against ‘always believing the victim,’ but I think it happens much less than a lot of people (particularly abusers themselves!) would like us to think.

        “I am not a court of law.” <– yes. Exactly. And neither is our community, which is a really important distinction to make when it comes to 'innocent until proven guilty' standards. Like you, I know a _lot_ of people who have been raped or abused. I don't think I know any who have been hurt by false accusations. Abuse is a lot more common than we want to think it is. False claims are much less. Chances are, whether people want to believe it or not, the victim is telling the truth.

        I understand perfectly well, if I come out and say exactly who did what to me, the difficulty that I'd be putting people in. Someone they know, like and trust being accused of such things? Surely not! I can understand why they wouldn't want to acknowledge and believe it. But it breaks my heart knowing that, because the fact is that it IS true. And the doubts and even plain disbelief I know I'd be faced with invalidate my experience. As I've told you, even now I occasionally question myself, wondering if I am in fact just completely insane and delusional and imagined the whole thing.

        *sigh* gods, this stuff is so difficult…..

      • Nomad says:

        Moving on to the punishment/reform question:

        Here you are basically highlighting the divide between punishment intended to prevent enabling repeat offense and punishment intended as retribution for offenses already committed.

        I see this as a concern in only a minority of cases, as most perps that I have known show no sign of changing heart. That said, here is how I would address this concern:

        If a perp gives no sign of being repentant, I would see no reasonable recourse besides ostracizing the person and drumming them out of community. Anything else is effectively the community condoning such behaviour. There is still the question of what more can be done, as simply kicking them out leaves them free to go elsewhere in search of new victims. So perhaps even more than ostracization is required.

        If a perp does appear repentant, there is the question of authenticity. It is easy to say, “Ooops, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” Doesn’t mean that they are sincere. In these cases, however, I see no good that can be accomplished through retribution or vengeance. As the saying goes, “An eye for an eye leaves us all blind.”

        However, there are options besides “forgive and forget” and “eye for an eye”. Are you at all familiar with the concepts of “restorative justice” (sometimes called “reparative justice”?) If not, I would urge you to google it. I was introduced to this concept during the years that I worked as an Anarchist activity. Restorative justice is an alternative to the prison-industrial complex that is a tool for state repression. Rather than imposing pre-determined punishment to satisfy some abstract sense of justice, the victim and the offender enter into dialogue that focuses on repairing the harm that was done. According to the citation from the Wikipedia page on restorative justice, this technique “shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.” If a perp has truly had a change of heart, I would encourage restorative justice, rather than simply drumming them out or ignoring what has already been done.

        On the other hand, if a perp fakes repentance and is found to commit repeat offenses after restorative justice measures have been taken, then I think that we are back to the case of the unrepentant and should act accordingly.

        Those are my thoughts. Comments?

      • missamaranth says:

        In principal I agree with you.

        In practice…. I don’t know.

        (Please remember that I’m approaching all of this as a survivor myself. I can’t take an objective viewpoint on this stuff, because it’s highly emotional and triggering and real to me, and I fully acknowledge that.)

        “If a perp gives no sign of being repentant, I would see no reasonable recourse besides ostracizing the person and drumming them out of community. Anything else is effectively the community condoning such behaviour.”

        Yes. I absolutely agree with this. The problem of what else to do, if anything, becomes a more difficult issue. The only thing I can think of is trying to get justice in the legal sense…. in which case we are back to square one with ‘we probably have no proof.’ I’m wondering what your thoughts are, if any, on what ‘more than ostracization’ means?

        Occasionally I guess someone probably does truly see the error of their ways and change for the better. How we would go about deciding this, though, is also something I’m struggling with. And even then, what their victim experienced was very real and they might still find it traumatising to be in community space with them.

        The restorative justice thing is really the part I struggle with. As I said, in principal I absolutely see how this could be a good thing for everyone involved, if the perp is truly repentant. HOWEVER, as a survivor, I really don’t think there’s anything my former abuser could do to ‘make it up to me.’ I don’t think I could bring myself to enter into a dialogue with them. In short, there’s nothing they could do to repair the damage. As you know, I had to go through an absolutely horrible process including therapy, psych meds, vast amounts of leaning on the people I love, magickal work and just good old fashioned TIME to get through it and start to repair the damage that was done to me. That said, I am certain my abusers haven’t had ‘changes of heart’ or even believe what they did was wrong. If I truly believed they’d realised what they did and were repentant, I might feel differently. I just don’t know…

  10. That first line, 2nd para, was meant to be: “Supporting a person who tells you *they are* a survivor”

  11. Allie says:

    A well written, touching, pointed article. As a survivor myself, I am touched deeply and very pleased to see this sort of thing being talked about.

    I have frequently mused about how, as a community, we can help our own heal from abuse. PARTICULARLY when the abuser is part of the community. Most people seem to default to neutrality on issues, which can simultaneously be just and cruel. So often I muse about these things and feel unable to come up with a real solution to it, especially when looking at it from a third party perspective. These things are so hard to deal with, and even harder to talk about.

    • missamaranth says:

      Allie, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m really glad you found the piece useful!

      I agree. There is, unfortunately, no absolute answers on this one. I default to believing someone when they say they have been a victim, without exceptions. However I’ll admit even this approach – which I do believe, personally, is ‘right’ – is not without its problems!

      Until we come up with the answer, it’s so important to keep having these conversations.

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