about ultimatums and manipulation
so, there’s a difference between setting a boundary and threatening to break up with someone if they do something you don’t like. Even if crossing that boundary means breaking up. (The same goes for friend break-ups, or disowning a relative, etc.)
And this is really tricky and I can’t 100% articulate the difference. I sort of go on instinct and trust myself about that. But one main thing is, is it a pattern? If someone is threatening to break up with you for multiple different things that are not abuse, that’s a red flag. And this is tricky because abusers will try to convince you you’re abusing them. Or will do seemingly neutral behaviors that you have now coded as an indicator of future abuse.
Are their “boundaries” really vague or subjective such as “You’re too negative”? Or are they oddly specific? Or unpredictable? Do they actually significantly impact your partner/friend/relative/etc.?
These are all questions you can be asking yourself but ultimately, from my experience anyway, you have to go with your instinct.
Does anyone else have any input on this?
— The Revolution Starts At Home, p110 (via dendroquiver)
My friends Bill, Weronika and myself got together last winter and wrote up these questions for the consideration of our “community”. Folks in Guelph were dealing with a lot of issues of sexual assault/reinforcing rape culture like many anarchist scenes often do, and we wanted to get people thinking about these things. They were written from an anarchist/radical perspective, but can be applied broadly. They’re a bit like a continuation of the consent questions from the support zine, among others (Click here to read the consent questions).
Obviously there are no “right or wrong” answers to these, but this is stuff we all need to be challenging ourselves, and our friends about. We need to be having more active discussions, and hopefully this is a way to spur those discussions.
I’ll likely be putting these in zine format sometime soon, so if you’ve got any criticisms, concerns, suggestions or anything else, let me know!
How do you define consent?
Does consent need to be verbal?
Do you believe your friends are capable of crossing someone’s boundaries?
Do you believe you are capable of crossing someone else’s boundaries?
How do you define rape?
How do you define sexual assault?
Have you ever not believed a survivor or been reluctant to believe them? If yes, why?
How do you define ‘rape culture’?
What are behaviours that can perpetuate a culture of rape besides the act itself?
How do concepts like rape culture relate to other systems of power?
How does rape culture relate to anarchism?
How does it relate to living in a community?
Is it appropriate to establish hierarchies of oppressive behaviour (ie. Rape= very oppressive, calling a survivor a liar=not very oppressive)?
What are the advantages or disadvantages of these hierarchies?
Whose interests do they serve?
How do communities respond to those who defend oppressive behaviour?
How does defending oppressive behaviour fit into a hierarchy of oppressive behaviour?
What does the word “survivor” mean to you?
What are the advantages/limitations of this word?
What does the term “support” mean to you?
How does your personal relationship with a survivor affect how you support them?
Do you need a personal relationship with a survivor to support them?
Is it possible to support a survivor without communicating with them?
Have you ever felt reluctant to communicate with a survivor about their experiences? If yes, why?
How much information do you need about a survivor’s experience to support them and/or hold a perpetrator accountable? How do you go about getting this information?
How does the way you support a survivor affect the way other people support a survivor?
What would you risk to support a survivor?
What would make you hesitate to support a survivor?
Would you hesitate to support a survivor if it caused you discomfort and/or social awkwardness?
In what ways can your own needs serve or contradict those of a survivor?
What does the word “perpetrator” mean to you?
What are the advantages/limitations of this word?
What does “accountability” mean to you?
Who defines what it means to be accountable?
How does your personal relationship with someone affect how you hold them accountable?
How does your personal relationship with a survivor affect how you hold someone accountable?
Do you need a personal relationship with a survivor to hold a perpetrator accountable?
Do you need a personal relationship with a perpetrator to hold them accountable?
How does the way you hold a perpetrator accountable affect the way other people hold them accountable?
How are your own needs served by choosing to hold a perpetrator accountable or not choosing to hold them accountable?
How does power (both systemic power and other forms of power, ie. How long someone’s been in the community, popularity, roles as organizers, band members etc.) affect accountability?
Consider the power you hold in your community. What are the ways you use this power to leverage accountability?
What are the ways you use power to undermine accountability?
What role do anarchists usually play in power struggles (ie. Rich versus Poor, Police versus the community, settlers versus indigenous, etc.)?
In instances of power struggles between a survivor and perpetrator, do anarchists play the same role? If not, why not?
What would you risk to call someone out?
Take a moment to consider our spaces (both the more permanent spaces like our homes, and the more temporary spaces we create such as events, actions, social places). How do we use these spaces to confront rape culture?
Do we confront rape culture differently in different spaces?
How do we make space for survivors?
What pushes survivors out of spaces?
When perpetrators use our space, how does this affect how survivors use our space?
How does having perpetrators in our space affect support for survivors, whether survivors are in that space or not?
How is our organizing affected by rape culture?
How does our organizing acknowledge and confront rape culture?
Does our day to day organizing confront rape culture outside of crisis situations?
Why do we often wait until our organizing is disrupted before acknowledging situations as a community issue? Whose interests does this serve?
What is your own history of abuse/assault, and what privileges are you afforded/not afforded by larger systems of power? (Don’t answer this one out loud!)
In what ways is ‘survivor’ an oppressed identity?
What are the privileges of not being a survivor?
How does privilege or the lack thereof affect someone’s role in a rape culture? How does it affect how they give support?
In general, who do you see taking on support roles in your community? Does the answer confirm or contradict the answer to the previous question (how does privilege or lack thereof affect how someone gives support?).
Within a rape culture, what does solidarity mean?
Take a moment to consider how communities respond to oppressive behaviour (both radical communities and otherwise). In this respect, how do radical communities differ from the more dominant culture?
Who in the community defines this response?
How are communities affected when people respond to oppressive behaviour by referring to it as “a personal matter” between the people directly involved?
How are communities affected when people refer to oppressive behaviour and its consequences as “drama”?
How do your reactions to oppressive behaviour reinforce the justice system?
Do you need evidence?
Do you need to “hear both sides of the story”?
Do your answers to the previous two questions contradict or reinforce your ideas of consent?
How do your reactions to oppressive behaviour reinforce prison culture?
How do you hold perpetrators accountable if you reject prison culture?
How does a community’s response to a specific instance of oppressive behaviour affect how it can respond to other instances of oppressive behaviour?
Are there things a community needs to respond appropriately to oppressive behaviour? If yes, what are the community needs and the potential barriers to those things?
What does the term silencing mean to you?
What might keep a survivor from asking for things they need or want?
How, as a community, do we reinforce those things? How do we undermine them?
Do the answers to these questions make you reconsider how you answered the question ‘who defines the response to oppressive behaviour’?
What does the term ‘survivor autonomy’ mean to you?
Are there limitations to survivor autonomy? If so, what are they?
Are there ways to disagree with a survivor’s response without undermining their support or silencing them?
What are the things that inform whether you ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with a survivors response?
What is the purpose of voicing your agreement or disagreement? Whose interest does it serve?
— The Revolution Starts At Home, p.109 (via dendroquiver)
I mean, it had to be 22 paragraphs long. He couldn’t be straight forward and concise. The only way he could even remotely convince me that I deserved or provoked what he did is if he had 6 and a half pages worth of manipulation and victim blaming.
And a lot of times he didn’t convince me, even after all of that. I questioned myself and I believed that he believed it. And I believed that he thought he was doing the right thing and therefore that I could reason with him. And that was all he needed. He didn’t need to convince me, he needed me to doubt myself while giving him the benefit of the doubt. Enough to continue the relationship and try to work things out.
And then he’d agree to work on not being abusive in a way that was obvious, something that took place once every few months, while I’d continuously work on every nitpicky detail he had to complain about. I didn’t listen to him enough, I didn’t ask him enough questions, I argued too much, I didn’t read his numerous essays that were all a different way of saying everyone chooses to have their feelings and is blinded by their beliefs and they could change their bad experiences if they just believed something different.
and the next fight would be, “Look at all this progress I’ve been doing, I haven’t made you afraid for your physical safety in months. But you, you still argue with me and don’t listen to me and don’t ask me enough questions because you’re so self centered.”
His progress was measurable and objective, mine was subjective to his whim.
This is an example of how all the relationship conversations went with my abusive ex. And, I’m really excited that I found this email. It’s one concrete example of how those conversations took place. Here I analyze excerpts from the unnecessarily long message I received from him.
He starts out addressing some of his more mild behavior that I mentioned towards the end of my email to him here:
His first paragraph in response acknowledged he does expect more from me than he gives. Later in the paragraph, he explains that he never asked me to believe his opinions about me when he repeatedly called me selfish and cruel. He asks me to help by pointing out why he’s wrong about me, how he came to feel that way about me, and what he can do to change it:
so, a ways in, he has not yet mentioned the most important aspects of his behavior that I brought up at the beginning of my message or even anything related to the incident that took place:
But he paints the appearance of trying to be reasonable. He admits he can make some changes, giving the appearance of accountability. But then he places the responsibility on me whether or not he makes these changes. And he places the responsibility of the consequences of his actions on me. He never asked me to believe what he repeatedly drilled into my mind. So right away, he’s setting me up to accept some responsibility for what has happened in the past before he addresses the recent, obvious abuse I brought up.
excerpt from paragraph 2:
Here he is still not addressing my main concerns. He’s using the things I brought up that he can easily reframe, slowly chipping away at my belief that I am the one being abused, and flipping the conversation around to be about how I treat him, not how he treats me. His feelings, not mine.
He does this first, by not even addressing his actions mentioned in my original, less pertinent complaint (him repeatedly telling me I’m selfish, etc. while telling me I’m the one with the negative attitude about him). Instead he addresses his opinion of me. Then he declares the “real problem” is how unfair I am. He was able to yet again, turn this around and to be about his feelings and blame me for his actions of verbally chipping away at my self-worth.
He does not use concrete examples but uses vague terms like “patterns” and his opinion that “I’m unfair” as evidence. I am now the one on the defensive, and it distracts me from the real issue. Not only that, I’m defending myself against vague concepts of which I don’t even know what they refer to. This allows him to easily make the conversation confusing for me, and keep the conversation about my actions and his feelings, getting even further off topic when I respond. Additionally, by painting me as a person who is unfair, it makes me question whether I’m being unfair or not. I don’t believe that I am, but now the doubt has been planted.
All of this lays the foundation for the next (literally) 20 paragraphs so that he is finally able to address his outrageous behavior in such a way that I now question whether it is my fault and he is the victim.
[Trigger Warning: Discussion of violence and abuse against people with mental illness, particularly intimate partner violence]
Some of you may have seen an anonymous message I received yesterday from a person with mental illness who has been experiencing intimate partner violence. Unfortunately this is far from the first correspondence of this nature I’ve received through the zine, and unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me. People with mental illness are are at the same time both a population stigmatized as ‘violent’, ‘unstable’ and ‘dangerous’, but actually more likely to be harmed than to harm:
- People with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime.
- People with ‘severe mental illnesses’ (Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder or Psychosis) are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.
- People with mental illness (across diagnosis and gender identity) are more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence than the general population.
- Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality for women of childbearing age worldwide, with the main contribution being from the mental health consequences of abuse.
It’s not always that intimate partner violence itself triggers mental illness, there is also overwhelming evidence that people with existing mental illness are more likely to be victimized by an intimate partner. This relates to evidence suggesting that people with other disabilities such as physical and learning disabilities are also more likely to experience intimate partner violence.
I’m hoping to write an article in more detail on this issue to be published online. If you’ve been following the zine for a while, you’ll know that I have lived experience of mental illness, a pretty strong academic background in mental health research, and I really value lived experience as an evidence base (like, above all other evidence).
With that in mind, I don’t have first-hand lived experience of intimate partner violence. If you do and identify as mentally ill and wouldn’t mind me incorporating quotes from you into my article, please get in contact. All communications will be under the assumption of anonymity unless you express a preference otherwise. I welcome any comments or insight you may be able to share with me but here’s some ideas, each of which may vary in relevance to you depending on your experience:
- Do you feel like there’s a direction of causation for you? (Did your experiences of intimate partner violence predate your mental illness or the other way round? Do you feel like your illness has made you more vulnerable to exploitation?)
- Are there any ways in which you feel that being mentally ill changes your experience of intimate partner violence? (Does or did your partner ‘use your illness against you’ e.g. suggest nobody would believe you if you report your abuse or exploit it as emotional or psychological manipulation? Do you feel more or less resilient than if you weren’t mentally ill?)
- If you are a survivor of intimate partner violence, was your mental health a barrier to finding support?
- Has your abuse ever been noticed by a mental health / health care provider? Were they helpful?
- Do you feel that abuse survivor services are sensitive to or appropriately equipped to deal with your mental health needs?
If you are currently experiencing abuse and need signposting for support services, would like advice, or just someone to listen, please get in touch and I’ll try my hardest to help.
Thanks and love, xo
tw for intimidation and verbal abuse
the high level of anger i reached that night[when I towered over you, screaming, calling you slurs, repeatedly telling you to shut the fuck up while you were restricted easy access to a doorway, it] was a kind of wakeup call to me. i cannot go on causing and experiencingthat kind of damage in my life[to you], and it seems that i can’t spend my time with you without something happening which is deeply upsetting to me[I have not been refraining from behaving in a threatening and emotionally abusive manner]. because i do not feel that you are cooperating with me[you are not responsible] in resolving the conflict[my abusive actions], the only reasonable choice - for both of us[me] - seemed to me to be not staying at your house[holding myself accountable, changing my behavior, and leaving you the hell alone.]”
it’s no longer vague in order to minimize how abusive his actions were or how they affected me while subtly blaming me for…I guess being there?
possible trigger warning for abuser logic
back story: I found the old emails from my ex-abuser and I’m laughing at how fucking ridiculous he is
I’m so glad I found this shit! He is so fucking aldjflsdjflsdkjf
I can’t wait until I have time to actually make a proper post about this but here’s a quick excerpt:
“the high level of anger i reached that night was a kind of wakeup call to me. i cannot go on causing and experiencing that kind of damage in my life, and it seems that i can’t spend my time with you without something happening which is deeply upsetting to me. because i do not feel that you are cooperating with me in resolving the conflict, the only reasonable choice - for both of us - seemed to me to be not staying at your house.”
I am laughing so hard rn!