MUSINGS ON COMMUNITY

After Living Games I've been thinking about community. I was delighted to hear so many compassionate and thoughtful people share the lessons they have learned over the years. But there are still many areas in which we need more answers. Because of course there are.

As an organizer, if you don't know how to identify damage control by someone who has engaged in abusive behavior then you are vulnerable to being actively complicit in abuse. That is, not "merely" allowing the abuse to take place, but continuing to abuse the victim.

A person who has abused will go to their personal friends first - the people most likely to take them at their word - to do damage control. You, the organizer, have personal friends. If someone is doing damage control by going to you, then it's probably going to be coming from one of your personal friends. Someone who has exploited another relationship is almost certainly not above exploiting you to protect themselves - especially if the abuse was severe. Further, victim stance is a common tactic employed by those practiced in abusive behavior, not only are many very good at it but they also benefit from the situation being as confusing as possible. But that's not all - because the victim is probably justifiably scared of retaliation and probably hasn't said anything. So all of the above? The person who has abused probably spoke up well before the victim did, if the victim ever speaks up at all.

To review: when you encounter damage control it will probably come from someone who you think is your personal friend, whom you are already sympathetic to, who is adept at taking victim stance, who is willing to exploit your relationship to protect themselves, who make the entire situation confusing and benefit from it. That's a lot of different vectors of vulnerability that works in the favor of one engaged in abusive behavior. What's worse is that the more severe the abuse is the more difficult it can be to expose, thereby increasing the danger dramatically.

Further, the damage control will be used to discredit the victim* in order to conceal the abuse at minimum. Beyond that, it can be used to isolate the victim from community and support, monitor the victim through others (enabling stalking), and tarnish (if not terminate) the victim's personal and professional relationships. These are all means of punishing the victim, and every one of these things can be traumatic. This is abuse: isolation, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, social abuse, potential financial abuse. Remember that the end of an abusive relationship is the most dangerous part. If stalking is involved, then physical abuse is also possible. It could take years, if not a lifetime to recover from this.

Are you, organizer, prepared to identify damage control? Probably not, because you are vulnerable by default. That, and as far as I know, there are few reliable techniques to do so, and even then require ideal circumstances or for the person who abused to make a mistake.

Our collective discourse on this needs to evolve. Until it does you, organizer, are potentially a tool for abuse. You may already have been and don't even know it. The damage could already be done.

I don't have answers, not good ones anyway.

*Side note: I use victim here because the abuse is not over yet and therefore has not yet been survived.