What happens when the rose-colored glasses break

DV: Why You Should Care

We all see those social media posts raising awareness for things like cancer, autism, or other disabilities. The same goes for fundraisers for local or international tragedies. Sometimes we share them ourselves – usually only if it's something we've personally been through, or know someone going through that particular situation.

What if I told you that every single person reading this message personally knows at least one person who has experienced or currently is experiencing domestic abuse? In fact, you probably know quite a few people silently suffering from this pandemic and you don't even know it.

Or you do.

Maybe they've tried to tell you. Maybe you have your suspicions. Maybe they've tried asking for help just to get dismissed. Because you don't want to get involved. Your life is much more comfortable staying out of it, right? Maybe you avoid the topic because some of the stories you hear are similar to some things you've done in the past. Speaking out about mistreatment might mean holding yourself accountable for your own behaviors. Someone might disagree with you (God forbid) or look down on you for whatever reason. You might lose some friends or even family. But what if I told you the people that would turn away from you for using your voice against abuse are most likely abusers themselves?

If I told you that tomorrow you could lose a loved one because of abuse, would that change your position? If, in the wake of someone's passing, you discovered they had spent the last several years living an abusive nightmare would you wish you had done more? Would you wish you had spoken up or reached out to help? Would you kick yourself for not noticing the signs that are oh so obvious now?

The thing about abusers is they are everywhere. They are in your grocery stores, in your workplace, in your neighborhoods, maybe even in your church. So are their victims. They are carrying huge secrets – too ashamed to admit what is happening to them or too scared to speak up. At the same time, they are silently praying someone will notice.

Some of these victims might have finally found the courage to speak up, just to be silenced. Often times it's the abuser that shuts them down with threats, gaslighting, deflecting, blackmail, or more abuse. Many abusers will even go so far as to spread nasty rumors about their victim to make them look like the abuser (or crazy) so nobody will help them.

Sometimes it's the bystanders who keep them silent with their judgmental questions, apathy, or useless advice.

“Why did you ___?”
“He's such a nice guy, he would never do that”
“He's never done that to me”
“It must have been something you did”
“Have you tried couples counseling?”
“If it was that bad you would leave”
“Why do you keep ____?”
“Call the police”
“Just file a restraining order”

What many people don't realize is that often times in cases of true abuse the “solutions” they offer could actually create an even more dangerous situation. True abusers are manipulative and vindictive. They will manipulate their friends, their family, the police, the court systems, even therapists into believing they are not the problem. They will also retaliate and when they do, their punishments are harsh. Abusers don't fight fair – things are never equal. Payback for exposing them is severe and it is cruel.

So why would you get involved? Why in the world would someone willingly put themself in harms way to protect someone?

Because abusers see your silence as approval. Justification. Support.
Because with every perceived nod of approval they become more bold. More hurtful. More dangerous. To a victim your silence is defeat. Very, VERY few people are successful in escaping without help. How can they find help when no one will listen? When they are met with silence? Or judgment? When they are surrounded by people who have bought into their abuser's lies? If they do manage to make it out on their own, it often takes a very long time with a LOT of strategic planning – all while being dismissed, judged, and questioned by the very people they so desperately wish would help them.

Because abuse isn't a genetic trait – it's learned. Deep down, abusers are extremely insecure. They crave approval and control. Their abuse escalates into manipulation, gaslighting, and slander because they are very concerned about their image. The thought of people thinking less of them will eat them alive to the point of obsession. If they were confronted about their abuse by someone other than their victim there might actually be a chance of them stopping their abuse.

Because abusers don't just create victims – they recruit and train as needed. An abuser rarely abuses alone. Again, the disapproval of others discourages that behavior. They NEED the approval of others. Most abusers are also parents. A vast majority of their children will end up becoming a victim of abuse or an abuser themselves. There is no neutral zone as far as an abuser is concerned. You are either with them or against them. Again, silence is perceived as support.

Because one day that victim might be someone you love. Your friend. Your coworker. Your sister. Your cousin. Your niece. Your mother. Your grandparent. Even your daughter. People who look up to you. People who trust you. People who NEED you. People who may one day need to turn to you for help. People who will see your silence as exactly how their abuser sees it: support of the abuser.

When it comes to abuse … Silence = Support.