Have you ever googled, “Am I being abused”? If you have, you’ve likely uncovered terms such as “domestic abuse”, “relational abuse”, or “intimate partner abuse”. You may not realize these terms suggest and support the common narrative that it takes two to tango.
At Center for Peace, we break down mutualizing narratives that convict a victim of her husband’s egregious harms and work to put the onus of responsibility back where it belongs – on the words and behaviors of the one causing the harm.
We need different language
As long as we continue to use words that wrongly place blame on the innocent, we will continue to misdiagnose, mistreat and wrongly adjudicate in the courts of law the correct and proper assignment of responsibility on the one causing the harm.
Language is used to conceal the actions of one upon the agentic rights of another. Abuse perpetrators will misrepresent what they do. They blame it on a loss of control, or on other conditions outside their control. To misrepresent and mislanguage the story around abusive behavior, abusers can hide, conceal or cause to disappear the actions from the actor.
Why misrepresent? Because abusers know what they are doing is wrong. They know it hurts their partner. They also know if they can shift blame and cause confusion, they can disconnect the story from themselves, thus mutualizing their actions as a domestic or relational issue.
Is Abuse Violence?
Domestic and family violence is a horrific term that has been used to describe a social interaction. In these cases, there is one person doing something to another. Because it is violent or abusive – it will be against the will and well-being of the one being acted upon.
These acts are unilateral and violent forms of interaction.
It is important to know that in our societies – globally – women are targeted and attacked – way more than men – especially when we are talking about violence in the home.
Abuse is NOT mutual
A handshake or a hug are mutual. There is an agreement and consent to the act. The parties negotiate the action, the timing, and typically understand the message of the interaction. Thus, these are collaborative behaviors that can be seen as mutual and consentual.
Violence and sex are absolutely, unequivocally different
An intimate sexual experience is navigated by permission in an ongoing, evolving process. One moves into the social exchange by agreement from the first touch to the culminating event. At any point this exchange can be stopped by either party.
On the other hand, any violent sexual act, including pornography or image-based sexual acts highjack mutuality. There is no agreement and permission by both parties. This is transactional, consummatory, merchandising of human beings. No one knows this better than those who conduct this type of behavior and then spend so much effort and energy defending it or secretizing it.
Until we put the correct language on this social epidemic, we will continue to misdiagnose and mistreat the problem.