Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ambiguity in Abuse, Assault, and Allegations

The Toby Turner Youtube scandal happening right now is bringing the topic of consent--particularly the topic of the legal system and consent--to the forefront.

And, first off, I am not qualified to talk about situations like this, once they reach this point. I think few of us are, including far too many people in the legal system and even in the medical and mental health and social protection fields. It is still something we don't know how to navigate well or how to cope with the fact that it is constantly changing and evolving as society does.

That said, I've been a victim. And it is often really hard to come forward. It's often really hard to admit even to yourself. Even if you are able to talk about it, it's often very hard to articulate, because situations feel different when you're in them and, with hindsight and what-if games, it's hard to see and feel clearly about it.

And I've been friends with victims and it is really hard to know how to help. How to be an ally and an advocate in ways that don't end up making the situation worse, both from a legal and a general support standpoint. I was told once by a cop in the community that, often, it ends up being friends and allies of victims who talk to each other and to the victim about the abuse or assault prior to reporting that cause the most inconsistencies in stories once the incident gets reported. Which can severely damage a victim's credibility and chances at justice. 

And, yes, I've been friends with people who've been accused of abuse or assault. People whom I believe either didn't intend to abuse or assault and, yes, even those I know for a fact didn't abuse or assault, as the situation also tangentially involved me.

And all of these break my heart. The fact that I don't know anyone who has not been in some way affected or connected to situations like these.

And, like I said, I am not qualified to help once the situation has happened. Once it becomes an issue for the cops or the courts. I, like most of us, don't know what to do, at that point. Don't know what to believe.

What I do know, what I do believe, is that we need to change. The world needs to change. We have to be better than this. We need to be able to talk about sex and relationships in ways that protect us. In ways that, whatever we do and with whomever we do it with, make us feel safe. Hopefully, in ways that can help us avoid assault and abuse. By allowing people to recognize abusive behavior, both in others and in ourselves. And by encouraging people to get the help they need before they get hurt or hurt someone else.

Because studies consistently show that most abuse and assaults aren't committed by random strangers in the dark. 

The hardest to recognize and the hardest to handle forms of abuse and assault come from the people we love and whom often love us in return.

And that’s messed up.

And it’s messing us up.

And I don’t want to wait until charges need to be filed to address it.

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