Ask a Feminist | Q. 8 What do I do when I find out someone close to me is an abuser?

Survivor Meghna Prakash answers this question of the hour

Ask a Feminist

This is a very important question I need all of you to ask yourselves. Very recently, a close friend put out a status shaming my abuser—Tanay Kasera. He is someone who chased me, stalked me, beat me up repeatedly for two years, broke my spine, my nose, my toe. I did file a police complaint initially but he got away. I was a minor. A 16-year-old girl.

Fast forward to a few months later when I went public about him and got shot down for "tolerating his abuse".

Newsflash: ABUSE IS NOT THE VICTIM'S FAULT. DO NOT VICTIM SHAME.

When someone follows you, picks you up and beats you and finishing his act off by throwing you in a roadside ditch—the minor victim (ie, me) struggles to realise that leaving in such cases is still a choice.

As a matter of fact, a lot of people who have been abused struggle to initially identify the abuse. They make excuses for their abusers' behaviour time and again. This happens because the abusers break the self-esteem of their victims and manage to make the victims feel that the abuse is their own fault. This is a hard cycle to break and get out of.

So when my abusers' friends and band mates continued to make excuses for his behaviour and continued to play with him, their excuses weren't new to me. You see, I'd made these excuses for him time and time again hoping he would change.

Honest reality check: ABUSERS DO NOT CHANGE. THEY MANIPULATE THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM IN TO BELIEVING THEY HAVE CHANGED. This includes their victims, their families and their friends.

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The original post outing Meghna's abuser on Facebook

Flashforward to a few months after I moved to another country and was finally rid of his abuse—I find out that he has raped someone else. I was devastated. I wish I could have successfully convicted him and I hadn't failed before. I'm trying once again now to put him behind bars. But a lot of the witnesses who have over time watched my abuser beat me now remain silent because they are afraid of being publically shamed for being silent enablers.

My abuser was recently publically shamed after five years of my silent endurance. He was shamed to the point of no return. He fled his job, his house, his city. Nobody believed me back then, but I am glad they believe me now.

 

Question: DOES IT TAKE MORE THAN ONE VICTIM FOR US TO CALL OUT AN ABUSER AND DISASSOCIATE OURSELVES FROM THEM?

Read Meghna’s powerful poem about the experience here.

Now that you have a context of where I am coming from, let me answer the question I initially wanted to address. What do you do when you find out your friend is an abuser?

1. Your initial reaction might be that of utter disbelief. He was a close friend of yours and he never demonstrated any violent behaviour in front of you. Most abusers are narcissistic manipulators. They will know how to turn off and on their aggression and can sometimes easily mask the behaviour of someone very loving. In abusive relationships, the abuser often pendulums from being the kind, charming lover to the violent abuser who wouldn't let his victim exit the toxic relationship.
Remember: Just because the abuse didn't happen to you doesn't mean it didn't happen at all.

2. You might need proof to believe the victim. As a rational person, you wouldn't want to blindly trust someone who has accused your 'friend'. But do not message the victim immediately asking her for proof. It triggers them. I have spent hours going back to the abusive relationship to try to find 'screenshots' of his abuse and it's broken me each time. It took everything I had to even talk to people about my abuse in the first place without being subjected to their unnecessary question. You do not need to know when and how and where and how many times the abuse happened. If I manage to prove through even the smallest confession that it happened even once—that's enough. As a community, we cannot stand by abuse in any way. Whether it happens once, twice or a hundred times.
Remember: Please be sensitive to the victims of the abuse. The cops are doing the investigative bit—it needn't be you.

3. Disassociate yourself from the abuser. It does not matter if he is a friend/brother/father/band mate. We have a population of over a billion people. We don't need to foster and support someone who sees no harm in violating someone emotionally and physically.
Remember: By continuing to interact with an abuser—we are acting as enablers ourselves because they believe they can continue to be abusers because they get away with it.

4. Stop asking the victim to file a police complaint. It is not your place to force them to do it. Definitely offer help to victims who want legal aid. Support them for it. But do not push or judge them for wanting to not take legal action because reality check: convicting a rapist/abuser in India is not easy. I am doing it right now and let me tell you with personal experience—it is extremely triggering.
Remember: The judicial system is insensitive to victims and going through with proceedings and facing your abuser can get extremely daunting. It is not easy.

5. Be aware of what's going on around you. Once you've cut out your abusive friend, be sensitive and ensure that nobody else in your friend circle is undergoing what the victim has been. Ensure that your friends aren't abusers. Ensure that your friends aren't talking to abusers. Ensure that the whole community knows that we shall not stand for abuse in any way.
Remember: This last point is extremely important because if we stop fostering such toxicity, we will help take down such criminals.

 

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