How Our Perceptions Skew Abuse Victim Believability.
Raise your hand if you weren’t surprised at the recent allegations filed against music artist Marilyn Manson on the grounds of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Now raise your hand if you confidently believed Michael Jackson’s alleged victims of child and sexual abuse. Or Amber Heard’s claims against Johnny Depp for domestic violence.
Maybe it was easy for you to believe all three are guilty. But if you couldn’t raise your hand, have you asked yourself why? Is it because Jackson is a pop icon with music that we all dance to on the regular or because Depp is a sex icon most of us fantasize about as Captain Jack Sparrow (okay, that’s a personal projection, but still—you get my point)?
Are they too talented, too kind, too wonderful to possibly have done what they were accused of? Conversely, is Manson easily deemed guilty because of his warped music lyrics and video, and his creepy goth persona? (P.S. That’s not my belief; I’m just presenting the generalizations I see out there that enable us onlookers to take on the roles of judge and jury, to demonstrate how dangerous our assumptions can be.)
This is not a presentation of my personal opinion on what went on behind their closed doors; I am merely making a point: victims are affected by this kind of short-sightedness.
We tend to judge a victim’s plausibility based upon what we think of the alleged perpetrator. Now, I’m not personally labelling any of them with guilt or innocence; that’s for the courts and a higher power to know and decide what comes of them. Nor am I defending any of them.
The point is, we do not know these individuals; we only know what the media shows us. And yet, we are so quick to make judgment as to which of these men are abusers versus wrongly accused based upon what we think we know about them. Here’s the only truth: we will never know the truth. We weren’t there.
Our uneducated opinion destroys victims. It does when Hollywood claims come out, and it does when we doubt someone in our own community who has the bravery to come forward.
Yes, there are people who lie; people who have not been victimized and manipulate the system with false accusations. Yes, there are misunderstandings in which the wrong person is identified in the lineup. There are those who are accused of abuse that are innocent; that’s why they are called allegations. There is hardly any proof for either side, and there are too many out there who take advantage of that fact.
However, I can assure you there are a lot more silent sufferers out there than pretend victims. The amount of courage it takes for someone to speak out against an abuser is immeasurable. They are putting their personal life in the spotlight, to be dissected into pieces to determine whether (s)he asked for it; misinterpreted it; or is using this to get head somehow (or get revenge).
And that really sucks. In a society overrun with abuse of all kinds, we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss someone’s claims. We also shouldn’t be quick to put nails in an accused’s coffin. But we owe it to the person who vulnerably stepped forward for help to not pass judgment—at all.
Abuse is serious. It’s not always identifiable through a black eye.
In fact, the whole concept of narcissism is based on a terrorist hiding in plain sight, posing as a fantastic human being to all but their “supply” (abuse code for victim). The most unlikely, kind, compassionate people could actually be monsters to their loved ones in real life (like, one of my emotional abusers actually supported mentally disabled children on a regular basis and brought joy into their lives).
So, let’s back away from making assumptions that make a victim’s life more difficult. Unless we know them personally, we have no business getting involved or fueling the fire of an already explosive situation.
The only benefit of talking about these cases against Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, and others is that regardless of actual culpability, it raises #abuseawareness. And awareness is how we begin the battle against ending abuse. Let’s talk about that instead.
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