19 February 2007

Watch What they Do, Not What They Say

She was kind to strangers because she wanted to convince them that she was a lovely dear person; she was savage to her family because she could get away with it - they were in no position to leave her, and she knew that nobody would ever believe them.

Being sweet as honey to outsiders while being shockingly vicious to your near and dear is standard operating procedure for abusers of all types - emotional abusers, child abusers, spouse batterers.

Most people are easily taken in by a charming performance; this may partly come from mental laziness, but I believe it's largely due to the fact that we are immersed in a culture that values 'positivity' far more than realism, and almost literally worships 'winners' while it scapegoats anyone branded a 'loser'.

As a result, all too often when an abused spouse or child attempts to get help or a hearing from family or friends, the people they talk to have been pre-emptively fooled by the abuser, and won't believe them. There are few crueler, or more blatantly selfish, forms of human folly on earth than the entrenched belief that "A can't possibly be abusing B because A is so polite to me." Thus do abusers literally get away with murder.

In a depressing variation on the deception theme, abusers sometimes fool even mental health professionals and legal authorities; the abusers are calm and suave, while the person seeking help is clearly distraught. All too often, the source of distress is not understood, and it's much simpler and easier to 'write off' the weaker-seeming party. And sadly, those who simply and openly prefer to identify with abusers may be found among mental health professionals and legal authorities, as well. After all, these positions are powerful... and abusers are drawn to power.

Never believe that a person is their 'image' - especially when their 'image' is extremely important to them, and they seem heavily, overly invested in protecting it. Images are just that: a deliberate creation.

Don't believe what people say. Watch what they actually do, especially to people like waiters, waitresses, janitors, etc., and even more especially when they don't think anyone is looking.

It may take a little longer, and it may require a bit more effort, but it pays off.

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