Escape from the abusers and their abuse is not the case in all communities. As was conspicuous and obvious, the abusers repeatedly go to extremes to prevent the victim from taking action or garnering support. In fact, confronting an abuser is the most dangerous time for victims of community violence.
There’s a great many similarities shared by victims of sick communities and victims of domestic violence, as we’ll show in this multi-part article. In fact, one study found in interviews with persons who were involved in violence against their partners that either threats of action by their partner or actual action were most often the precipitating events that lead to the violence.
Violence is any Human Action that Causes Harm to the Life or Dignity of Another Person.
Think about this: Most Christian denominations teach doctrines of Social Justice, which includes concepts of fair and just relations between the individual and society, and moral custodianship of the environment.. Social Justice is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges, and relationship with the rest of creation. Social justice covers a wide range of definitions, so I’ll refer you to What is “Social Justice”? – A collection of definitions.
We all work hard and strive for what we understand to be social justice, at least we want to appear to be doing that. Right? So what must we think when we have elected officials who stand up before the public, at Town Board meetings, and invoke the name of God and Jesus Christ, praying for guidance and inspiration during the meeting — while praying to an inanimate object, the flag, in a pledge of allegiance, a form of idolatry —. Isn’t that hypocrisy in its most visible, most toxic form? (Am I thinking of Kenneth Burns, the Coeymans town councilman who publicly stands up an offers public prayer before the Coeymans Town Board proceeds to Town business? And isn’t Mr Burn’s a supporter of the Coeymans Comeback Team, recently elected to Town Supervisor and now dominating the Coeymans Town Board? Mr Burns, along with his Republican colleagues, represents the worst blasphemy and hypocrisy locally available!)
Understand what Violence and Abuse is!
It’s important to understand that violence does not have to be physical to be violence, but all violence is traumatic and abusive. For our purposes we define violence as as any human action that causes harm to the life or dignity, or the rights and pursuit of happiness of another person. For example, while violence may take physical forms, it may be inflicted through verbal abuse, psychological tactics — including intimidation, bullying, violation of social boundaries, and degrading a person or a group, or harassment in its many forms. Violence can also take the form of manipulation, either through word or deed.
Violence and abuse are frequently used interchangeably, and for general purposes that’s perfectly OK. But to be clear, we’d like to suggest that abuse includes not only physical abuse, but verbal abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, social abuse, and even sexual abuse. While some violence is morally sanctioned, such as in so-called just war or even self-defense, abuse is never justified in the moral or ethical senses.
Violence may also include gender abuse. Violence and abuse represent the most obvious — and effective — ways a person or a group can establish power and control over others. The violence and abuse is intended to seize and maintain control over the victim, and limits or removes the victims ability to make personal choices, their access to resources or services, or deprives them of their dignity, autonomy, or self-determination.’
When we use the term “victim” we mean any person or group of persons who are subjected to any form of violence or abuse. In other words, a victim may be an individual person, a group of persons, a part of an entire community, or an entire community, even a nation.
It is not uncommon to find media, especially local or regional media such as radio, television, Internet information sources, and law enforcement aiding and abetting the abusers, further depriving the victims of access to reliable information and to equal protections under the law. But information abuse is a particularly insidious and loathsome form of abuse, because it deprives the victims of reliable and factual information upon which to base their important personal and community decisions. Misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, and lies are all forms of abuse, and they are also a form of violence because they harm people and their dignitay as human beings.
Why, then, do victims accept such oppression, deprivation, and why do they stay in such a situation?
A victim’s reasons for allowing a violent and abusive situation to continue, for remaining in that situation, and allowing their abusers to continue their violence and abuse are extremely complex and, in most cases, are based on the reality that their abuser will follow through with the real of perceived threats or actions they have used to keep their victims trapped: the victim fears that abuser has the power to cause harm to them or those close to them. The harm doesn’t have to be physical harm, although it can lead to that, but may take the form of labeling, isolation, bullying of the victims’ children, harm to pets, financial or economic harm, deprivation of services normally provided to residents such as police protection, injustice in the courts, etc. The list of violence and abuse can go on and on, but you get the point.
As in domestic violence situations, the victims of sick community abuse know their abuser, they’re neighbors or former friends, and the victim fully knows the extent to which they will go to make sure they have and can maintain control over the victim. The victim literally may not be able to safely escape or protect themselves, their loved ones, their friends, or their jobs and property. Again, referring to a domestic violence study of intimate partner homicides found 20% of homicide victims were not the domestic violence victims themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement or first responders, or even innocent bystanders!
Obstacles to Escaping Sick-Community Violence and Abuse
Some obstacles to escaping sick-community violence and abuse that you might want to give some thought to include:
- The fear and anxiety that the abuser’s behavior and actions will become more violent and abusive the victim opposes them or fights back.
- Unsupportive neighbors, friends and public servants; neighbors and friends may avoid supporting the victim, especially if law enforcement and public servants are part of the problem or are indifferent to the situation.
- Knowledge of the difficulties of living apart from the majority and possible reduced financial opportunities, even loss of livelihood.
- The victim feeling that the situation in the sick community is a mix of good times, support and hope, even though there is the looming threat of manipulation, intimidation and fear.
- The victim’s lack of information about or access to safety and support services, a situation that is frequently caused by and aided by the abusers.
- The victim’s ignorance of his civil and guaranteed rights under the Constitution and laws.
- Fear that the abuser, the members of the abusing group, or even the children of the abusers will physically abuse, bully, or otherwise harm the victims’ children
- Lack of means to defend themselves and/or their children or lack of access to support services.
- Nowhere else to go, no local friends or family to help, insufficient financial resources to leave the violence or abuse situation.
- Fear that hardship may be their only option for themselves and their loved ones if they leave
- Belief in community relationships, and that stability, friends, schools, organizations, neighborhoods, etc. are better for children, despite abuse
Go to Part III of this Series (To be published on November 17, 2019)