Leaving an abuser and social exclusion.
Trigger warning: Abuse, rape (culture, apologism).
I’m not going to talk about what social exclusion is, or if it’s okay, or anything like that. This will literally just be advice on how to safely leave an abusive person behind, how to practice social exclusion, and how to ask others to respect your wishes.
1) So, someone’s been outed as an abuser. It seems somewhat in vogue right now to ask ‘what abuse?’ ‘what happened?’ or even as explicit as ‘how bad?’. In asking these questions, you’re becoming a gatekeeper. You are a) creating a hierarchy of abuse, that is not only total nonsense, but is hugely indicative of rape culture. The ‘worst’, and most cared about kinds of abuse are the visible ones. As a feminist, you are fucking obligated to combat these ideas; this means don’t re-label or re-categorise abuse. Don’t argue about semantics, don’t argue what is an isn’t abuse in a situation that doesn’t involve you. If you do this you are propping up rape culture and the patriarchal bullshit that tells us it’s only rape if it happens in an alley. Largely, this isn’t a conscious process, but this is the effect of what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter whether abuse is physical, emotional, financial or sexual. It doesn’t matter if it happened once, or for thirty years. If a survivor outs their abuser, they’ve outed their abuser. That’s all you need to know, and that’s all you need to care about.
2) Being asked to exclude. You do not respond by asking why, nor do you ask ‘but are they a threat to me?’. Neither of these questions are relevant. You are not entitled to a survivor’s story, no matter how much or little information you want. In terms of the second question: abuse isn’t about opportunity, it’s about power. Many abusers are repeat abusers- whether that be the same person, or different people. It’s standard behaviour, so don’t expect that your buddy is any different, they’re probably not.
Having been asked by a survivor to exclude an abuser does not mean that you seek the abuser’s side of the story. You do not negotiate and mediate behind a survivor’s back. Exclusion means exclusion, not pretending to exclude until people aren’t looking.
3) Asking for exclusion. This is difficult, social exclusion is still seen by many in radical, feminist and libertarian circles as authoritarian, unjust, and vindictive. Be sure of yourself that it is not. If an abuser is welcomed into a space, then those who have been abused at their hands, those who are aware of and fear their abuse are de facto excluded.
Talk to those close to you- seek out people you know who have been good about this before, whether that be in physical or virtual spaces. There will always be somebody who will listen and who cares- ‘formal’ collectives such as abuse shelters and the police are of course options, but they may not be the best option; especially if you are not white, cis and hetero. There are millions of wonderful people and resources on twitter, tumblr and facebook, and there are feminist collectives in practically every town and city. Remind yourself of this. You are not alone.
But remember: discussions of abuse, even of a third party’s abuse can be traumatic, if someone says they can’t talk- don’t push them, you don’t necessarily know a person’s history or their triggers.
4) When you can’t exclude. Sometimes, though we may want to be part of an exclusion process, we can’t be. An outed abuser may also be our abuser, they may be a carer, someone you live with, or excluding them may put you in danger for other reasons. This is okay, but try resolve it. If you’re the person asking for an exclusion process and someone tells you they can’t for x, y or z reason- try and understand. We all have to look out for our self-care and safety first. Note: this doesn’t mean you don’t enter a process of social exclusion because it’s ‘hard’ – of course it’s fucking hard. Someone’s previous nice behaviour, friendship, or ‘contribution to the cause’ is an excuse either.
5) If you are supporting a survivor, don’t expect them to share your opinions on a course of action. Don’t pressure a survivor into a course of action, and don’t dictate the situation. Some people will be out for blood, and others want to forget it ever happened. All ways of dealing with abuse are legitimate.
6) Excluding people is hard. But it’s not as hard as dealing with a history of abuse and trying to reclaim your life, your friends and your spaces as a survivor. Don’t make these processes about you- they are not about you. Solidarity takes effort, because all revolutionary politics takes effort. Dismantling patriarchal structures takes effort. But the hard work is worth it, because in the end we will create spaces where oppressed voices matter, where abuse is not tolerated and where we all have each other’s backs.