Guest Post: Illness is Illness, Not Excuse

I’m in a class for work all day, but fortunately I have friends who also have well-conceived opinions, so this is a guest post from my friend Lisa Tyler. Lisa is a college student at the moment and well versed in social justice theories as well as one of the smartest people I know. The headline is mine, but the rest is hers. Enjoy.

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I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of people would agree with the following statement: abuse is not okay. Most people would go so far as to agree that it is a vile, inhuman practice that should be stopped at all costs. So why do we have so many people (even people who would claim to agree with those statements) that are willing to defend abuse, enable its occurrence, and blame its victims? We will never get rid of abuses if there are people still defending them. Personally, I find the enabling of abuse as damning as the practice itself. If we stop enabling abuse, stop victim-blaming (and in conjunction slut-shaming), and begin to hold abusers accountable, we can put an end to abuse, or at the very least lessen its duration for the victims of such treatment.

Let me be VERY clear on something. No victim asks to be abused. They do not incite the treatment brought down on them (unless using  themselves as a shield to intercept abuse already directed at someone else). Blaming a victim does nothing except reinforce the abuser. Abusers don’t just hit, or rape. There is a mental aspect to abuse that steals the power and choices from the victim and places it in the hands of the abuser. Victims are broken down, oftentimes to apologize and defend their own abusers. They are made to feel inferior. They fear. By directly or indirectly stating, or subtly implying the victim’s guilt, they are kept inferior. They internalize that inferiority to their abuser. Abuse
(and rape is included here) is about POWER. It is about anger. It is about hate. You take away that power and the victim stops being a victim. They are able to break free. This break from the cycle of abuse should be encouraged. Far too often it is the abuse that is encouraged instead.

I will admit: I have a temper. As a child, I was impulsive enough to let it get the best of me, and from time to time I was known to lash out  physically. Here’s the thing though: I GREW UP. I learned that
violence is not an appropriate response. These days, the most you’ll see me hitting is probably a pillow. I was a victim of abuse. I learned all about using your size, strength, and threat to intimidate someone. Though I was abused sexually and not beaten, I knew the threat of violence if that abuse was uncovered. I learned that this was not an acceptable way to treat other human beings.

We can step up and take a stand for the victims by telling abusers that there is no excuse for their actions. We can give power back to the victims to make choices for themselves. We can tell sympathizers that they are wrong. We can tell enablers that they, too, are wrong. We can tell victims that abuse is NOT their fault. They can choose to end it. They can tell someone. They can get help. We can teach them that they can live without the threat of violence and that they can learn ways to handle
situations without using it themselves.

Yesterday, I received word from a friend that her husband (who is a friend of mine as well) has lost control. He is bi-polar and we are unsure if at this time he is being monitored and correctly medicated to manage his disease. She was in fear for her life. His behavior was violent and erratic. He has held down and beaten the family dog, had grabbed and thrown her around, and most frighteningly had poured gasoline on the kitchen floor a lit it ablaze while she was standing in the room. He was threatening to kill himself if she left (another abusive mind game placing onus on the victim). When she initially attempted to reach out for help and contacted his family, they laid the blame on her telling her that she “couldn’t hold it against him. He’s bi-polar,” and, “though I don’t condone hitting a woman, I can see why he would.”

Firstly, if you sympathize with someone resulting to violence, you ARE, in fact, condoning it. Secondly, though mental illness is serious, if someone is a danger to themselves or someone else, they should be seeking professional help. He is bi-polar, true, but that is not an excuse for him to be abusive.

There is NO excuse for abusive behaviors.

I understand that it is difficult loving someone who has mental illness and needs help. Denying that they need help is not helping them. Allowing them to victimize another person is definitely not helping them or their victim. At that point, your enabling is spreading the disease of abuse on top of the disease they are already combating.

You know the saying “to the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world”? We each have the power to give the world back to someone just by being there and choosing the right side. We need to stand with the victims and against the perpetrators of abuse. Show them that abuse has no place in the world and we won’t sit idly by and let it happen. This is NOT a call to arms. It’s a call to peace. It’s a call to justice. It’s a call to LOVE.

FYI- The following are all excuses and need to be refuted (by all means, not an exhaustive list, just the most common):

1. He/She didn’t mean it.
2. He/She won’t do it again.
3. He/She didn’t know what he/she was doing.
4. He/She wasn’t in his/her right mind.
5. He/She is sick.
6. He/She wouldn’t really do something intentionally mean.
7. He/She wouldn’t do that.
8. He/She is incapable of that.

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