I am tired of listening to people talking about abuse as though a victim must be of a certain sex, or provoking by looking and acting a certain way. Abuse is entirely gender neutral. It can affect anyone at any given point of their life and that is what is so terrifying about it.
That the tall, tough guy at the back of the room could be being emotionally abused by his controlling girlfriend. That the girl who is always laughing and making others chuckle goes home to a man who hits her everyday. That the little kid who becomes the bully is often being terrorised by a parent at home.
The thing is the term wears so many colours that we can never guess what form it might take.
The trouble is that we do not take abuse as seriously from one gender to the next. Whether it is men or women, victim blaming and shaming is a very real problem that we need to deal with as a society. We ask questions like “Why did you stay?” “Were you dressed like that?” “What you let a girl hit you?” “You’re just saying that for attention.” Making it out to be like the survivor chose it, provoked it or caused it somehow. We don’t want to acknowledge that some of the strongest people in the world are the people who have dealt with longterm abuse because it doesn’t fit in with our perception, society’s perception of abuse survivors.
Truth is, what we are beginning to lose sight of, is that anyone who has dealt with pain of any kind deserves a certain amount of empathy. Where you see a victim, you are missing out on the fact that they are a survivor first. They deserve respect for surviving that kind of damage and coming out of it, broken, but at the same time whole. They deserve respect and kindness for surviving terrible things and terrible people.
Bottom line: abuse does not happen to the people we can identify. You would be surprised to learn who in your life has experienced it, and heartbroken to learn how hard it was for them to go through it and survive it. When the day comes that someone you love tells you their deepest secret, remember to be kind. Demonstrate empathy. Show them that they are not alone and most importantly, they are not to blame, regardless of their appearance, regardless of their gender or age. Start trusting people and forgiving them their stories and flaws. And I promise you, you will make such a difference to someone’s life.