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Why witnesses don't speak up re: abuse?

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Helen of Troy posted 12/6/2013 08:49 AM

What are some reasons why people don't speak up when they witness emotional or verbal abuse?

Friends and loved ones will tell a victim to leave or get help. Yet rarely in my observations does anyone speak up and say "Hey, talking to him/her like that is not ok".

I would like to understand this.

Rainbows posted 12/6/2013 08:59 AM

In domestic violence situations, I think one reason is the risk of abuse victims reconciling with their abuser and reentering the cycle of abuse. Abusers isolate their victims and blame others for problems in the relationship.

I think It's the same reason laws were changed enabling law enforcement to press charges regardless if the victim is on board or not.

Rainbows posted 12/6/2013 08:59 AM

Double post

[This message edited by Rainbows at 9:00 AM, December 6th (Friday)]

Newlease posted 12/6/2013 09:31 AM

Because although it might stop the abuse in the moment, it could cause further harm to the victim when you aren't around.

Abuse tends to thrive on secrecy. The victim may know that they will pay a huge price if someone stands up for them in front of the abuser and beg friends and family to stay out of it.

Of course, in the case of a child, I would never hesitate to speak up and to take it to authorities. The key is to be able to do something concrete in the situation to help the victim.


Nature_Girl posted 12/6/2013 10:31 AM

It could and most likely will cause the abuser to ramp up their abuse once the victim is back home. Speaking up always makes it worse for the victim eventually.

Also, people are cowards. They are afraid the abuser will then turn their abuse towards them.

We need to, as an entire society, speak up about abuse. Silence is what allows abuse to continue. I now speak out about my abuse. I'm doing what I can in my own little sphere of influence. More people need to speak up. Even people like Patrick Stewart are now speaking out about the abuse they've witnessed. The time is NOW for our entire culture to end abuse.

StillLivin posted 12/6/2013 11:30 AM

So far these reasons are altruistic. What I've seen is that many are afraid of backlash to themselves. Not everybody stands up for what is right unless they have a vested interest. In one word or less, cowardice. That's not everybody's reason, but I've seen it enough times.

phmh posted 12/6/2013 19:05 PM

I had a friend tell me XWH was emotionally abusive back in 2005. I immediately told XWH what she said, we decided she was a crazy man-hater, no longer friends with her (for other reasons, but this probably played a role), and I rose-color glassesed (can I say that?) my way into another 6 years with an emotionally abusive, personality-disordered husband.

I can't blame someone for not saying something. You risk losing a friendship and the person is probably going to stay anyway. There's really not much of an upside, and I'd want to maintain the friendship so that I could be there for her if she ever decided on her own to leave.

I haven't been in that situation in many, many years, and I'm honestly not sure how I'd react.

InnerLight posted 12/6/2013 19:43 PM

People don't want to believe it is happening right in front of them, even if they can see with their own eyes, and hear with their own ears. They go into deep denial right away. I've seen it happen! I've been physically assaulted in front of groups of nice middle aged women therapists and healer types and no one stuck up for me to stop the abuse. In fact they participated in the assault and held me down against my will because an authority figure was instigating the assault so they thought is was OK. After the assault where I was yelling at them all to take their hands of me they treated me like I was the crazy one. I had bruises!

This experience gave me a lot of insight into family abuse. No one wants to admit there is abuse in their own families, that their own spouse or parent or sibling is abusive. It's like the brain shuts off. It's a survival mechanism. I am more understanding of the acceptance family members had of abuse issues. It used to infuriate me. After I've seen grown women who probably would never think they would sit by and let this happen in front of their eyes, did just that, I see how it happened in my own family so easily.

Then what really stinks is, after the abuse, they take the side of the abuser and close out the victim. It's part of the denial. It's a common social reaction that adds more pain for the victim. It feels really horrible and alienating to be on the receiving end of this.

[This message edited by InnerLight at 7:45 PM, December 6th (Friday)]

Amazonia posted 12/7/2013 06:53 AM

When I was in an abusive relationship, plenty of people spoke up. I ignored them, argued against them, got offended and generally disregarded everything. So they stopped saying anything, and some walked away all together. Some stayed and waited until I was ready for their help and got me out though.

Bluebird26 posted 12/7/2013 17:18 PM

Ditto what Amazonia said.

exhausted lady posted 12/8/2013 19:10 PM

Amazonia, and several others nailed it. The abuser has loads of time to brainwash, manipulate, and (excuse me) mind fuck their victim. They condition the victim to trust only them, and to view anyone speaking up as "pot stirring troublemakers". It's insidious, it's crazy-making, and it works.

It takes, on average, 12 instances of horrible abuse before a victim can actually *see* what is going on....because, well, the abuser has them brainwashed.

Most of the time, if you speak up in a forceful manner, the victim will withdraw from you. It takes a very skillful act of tightrope walking to get through to an abuse victim, because they are sooo damned brainwashed. The Stockholm Syndrome kind of illustrates this pretty well if you goggle it.

Many victims never get out and live with it their entire lives, or are killed by their abusers. Sad but true.

Some abusers make me want to organize a vigilante justice group. Seriously. I've lived it, and I've seen too many others trapped in the same hell.

I always say....."I have no fear of hell, I've already lived there, and I survived".

On that note, I do try to gently nudge someone I see being abused out of the situation, and try to point them towards resources that will help them turn their lives around. Sometimes it works. Most of the time it doesn't.

[This message edited by exhausted lady at 7:11 PM, December 8th (Sunday)]

NaiveAgain posted 12/9/2013 17:44 PM

"I have no fear of hell, I've already lived there, and I survived
I have said that also.

The best thing you can do if you know someone that is a victim of abuse is to just gently let them know that you are there for them in any way if they ever need you. You can be kind of subtle about it...when they are ready, they may let you know. But you can't force them to leave, and they won't leave until they are ready.

Helen of Troy posted 12/10/2013 08:11 AM

I'm trying to let go of resentment where I have marriage memories of xwh speaking to me in a shitty derogatory way and other people hearing it and not saying anything. I'm working on letting that go and forgiving that person.

damncutekitty posted 12/10/2013 20:09 PM

I think it's pretty rare to actually witness abuse. The vast majority of abusers work hard to project a likable personal image and a 'perfect relationship' or 'perfect family' facade. And victims often go to such great lengths to cover things up that they can be abused for years with nobody knowing.

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