reporting abuse

Intimidation of Abuse Bloggers

Please note: This is a diary of my struggle dealing with abuse and stalking, NOT legal advice.

My abusers are trying to intimidate me into silence.  I have clear documented evidence of this, and witnesses.  I have pulled this information together for others being intimidated into silence by their abusers, especially for bloggers.  In our voices, we have strength.  Keep blogging!

Threats and intimidation: threatening to harm the victim, family members and pets, using physical size to intimidate, shouting, keeping weapons & threatening to use them —Abusive Relationships

 Whether it’s bullying from peers in school or the workplace, sibling abuse, child abuse or domestic violence, constant intimidation is unhealthy for all involved.

Whether you are the perpetrator, the victim or an innocent bystander, constant intimidation can cause anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and nightmares.

Even if the perpetrator fails to act on his threats, the damage is done. Verbal and mental intimidation can be far more damaging than physical violence as the scars are much less visible and can go undetected. —Long-Term Effects of Constant Intimidation | eHow.com

Only she is far from alone. My own friends list is full of people – mostly women – whose activism has led to them being targeted: whose failure to “get a joke” turns them instantly into the butt of one themselves.

I’ve been on the receiving end, too, very recently. Of online abuse. Of intimidation. Though nowhere on the scale of that endured by better known columnists such as Julie Bindel, who has been threatened yet again this past weekend.

So forgive me if I don’t join with those suggesting Suzanne Moore “man up” in response to the latest batch of online abuse. Or dissing Mary Beard, who has come in for abuse following her appearance on Question Time last week, as an online wimp. It’s an issue – and the simplistic analysis I have seen of it so far doesn’t go a fraction of the way to address it.

First up, there is something disturbingly misogynistic about online bullying. Yes: blokes, male columnists, undoubtedly get it too. But it feels as though there is something far more vicious, gender-related with respect to what women have to endure.  Beard makes the point well, in a blog responding to her own online treatment.

It is clear that she is no stranger to tired old jokes about her appearance – but even she has been shocked about the response she evoked, describing the level of misogyny as “truly gobsmacking”.

The focus of much of the abuse is sexual, sadistic even and, she adds: “it would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate”.

In other words, it is silencing, something I get very well from personal experience. I’ve opted out of contributing online for periods ranging from hours to a couple of weeks after being subjected to this sort of online nastiness.

Not just me. Many far braver women with serious contributions to make to public discourse on violence and abuse have suffered similar: been silenced simply for having an opinion. –Jane Fae, Misogyny, intimidation, silencing – the realities of online bullying

This sounds like the kind of thing I was subjected to in 2009, here, which my narc ex-friend Richard proclaimed I should “get over.”  As does the vile crap which Mary Beard was subjected to because of her name, as she documents in her blog post, Internet fury: or having your anatomy dissected online.  An excerpt:

All the same, you may say … why pay it any attention, still less give it publicity?

Several reasons. First, the misogyny here is truly gobsmacking. The whole site is pretty hateful (and what some of the comments say about Andrew Marr since he’s been ill are almost worse than anything).. but the whole “cunt” talk and the kind of stuff represented by the photo on right is more than a few steps into sadism.

It would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate, especially as all of this comes up on google..

But is it just a kind of rugby club joke misfired? Well that’s what I’d guess they would say. “Where’s your sense of humour?”

But reading through it (and yes you get tipped off about it whether you search or not.. and no you cant resist looking at it), it is absolutely plain as day that this is meant to hurt and wound (“If all else, we got to her” as one commenter says).

It shows the classic signs of vile playground bullying — claiming to know about the victim, sneering at things they could not possibly know but claim they do, destabilising by using names in the thread that are those of you friends or even anagrams of your own, suggesting that they are watching you… that’s all part of the bullying repertoire.

 

Given the kind of graphic threats Kathy received, I can appreciate the need to be cautious, maybe even to take a hiatus for a while. But when a voice is voluntarily silenced forever, the bad guys have won. Fear wins. I cannot accept this. Intimidation only works if you let yourself be intimidated; terrorism only works if you let yourself be terrorized.

So Kathy, if you’re out there, I urge you to come back. We miss you.

Of course, it is Dare’s blog, and he is free to do whatever he likes with it, regardless of what those 70,000 readers might want. He doesn’t specify exactly what the problem is, although I have a hard time imagining that his many posts about XML, web APIs, and Facebook are causing problems for his family in Nigeria.

Still, I hate the idea that Dare is giving up, that he’s conceding to unnamed forces who are intimidating him into silence.

It’d be one thing if Dare said that he didn’t enjoy blogging, or if nobody was listening. But clearly that’s not the case. Dare provided a refreshingly honest and open look at what was going on inside parts of Microsoft, along with some penetrating industry analysis. I’ll miss that greatly.

I’ve never met Kathy Sierra or Dare Obasanjo, although I do feel I know them peripherally through long term readership of their blogs. It’s not my place to tell them– or anyone, really– what to do.

But I’m absolutely certain that when they stop writing, everyone loses. –Jeff Atwood, Death Threats, Intimidation, and Blogging

Today at the American Center for Law and Justice, we announced that we’re representing Ali and the National Bloggers Club. We intend to aggressively respond to any and all attacks on bloggers’ free-speech rights.

The truth is a defense to frivolous libel claims, and the law exists to protect free speech, not enable its attackers. It is appalling and inexcusable that major leftist organizations fund a convicted domestic terrorist. It is even more appalling that the price of reporting these facts is a campaign of threats and legal intimidation.

But one thing is clear: The radicals have picked a fight with the wrong people. Ali and the bloggers at the National Bloggers Club will not be silenced. –David French, Defending Bloggers from Attacks, Intimidation, and Frivolous Lawsuits

The district court’s ruling (PDF here) is the fullest treatment I’ve seen of the theory that blogs, as an inherently less factual medium, are less susceptible to defamation suits.

Judge Marco Hernandez turns to the Ninth Circuit’s standard test (first laid out in Unelko Corp. v. Rooney but expanded upon in Partington v. Bugliosi) for deciding whether a written work is “factual” (and thus open to defamation claims) or “opinion” (protected by the First Amendment).

That test, first of all, looks not at the author’s intent to be “factual” or not, but instead turns on how a reasonable reader would interpret the information.

To figure out how readers will take the information, the test looks to the “context” of the work, both in a broad, general-tenor sense (which includes “the subject of the statements, the setting, and the format”) and in a more focused sense (looking at things like the writing style of the disputed content, whether figurative language was used, and so on).

Judge Hernandez ended up ruling that Cox, who runs a website critical of Obsidian Finance’s acts in the bankruptcy realm, was writing opinion and not fact. And that’s fine with me.

The judge’s order runs through plenty of evidence — the website’s URL (ObsidianFinanceSucks.com), the subject matter (bankruptcy disputes), the language and tone (described as “stream of consciousness”) — to suggest that Cox’s posts aren’t “factual” in the defamation-law sense of the word.

Instead, Cox is just someone with (as the judge puts it) a “personal vendetta” against Obsidian Finance. Her writing makes that bias obvious, which undercuts the factual nature of her blog.

Now, that’s fine. I’ve got no problem with looking at the entirety of a website to decide how factual or non- various statements are. (Otherwise, The Onion would have a lot of trouble). That inquiry focuses on the message being conveyed, not on the medium used to convey it. –John Sharkey, Why Blogs Can’t Be Trusted, or: ‘Statements Made Here Are Not Likely Provable Assertions of Fact’

Cox vs. Obsidian Finance Group, Judgment; The Case

Here we go again. Over the past few years there have been a number of cases in which a crank, quack, or charlatan has attempted to silence legitimate criticism of their claims and behavior by threatening legal action, either shutting down their site through the ISP or suing for libel.

I guess they feel that a lone blogger would be easy to intimidate. They are not part of a large media outlet with lawyers on the payroll to defend them. Defending against even a frivolous suit can be ruinous to a lone blogger.

The goal, however, is not to really sue but to threaten the blogger into silence. It is intellectual thuggery, meant to defend a charlatan who cannot defend themselves with science and evidence…..

Recently a person calling himself Marc Stephens wrote a very threatening letter to Andy Lewis who wrote a critical post about the cancer clinic of Stanislaw Burzynski called The False Hope of the Burzynki Clinic. Stephens tried to make the letter sound legal and official, even though he does not appear to be a lawyer. The letter says, in part:

Please be advised that my clients consider the content of your posting to be legally actionable under numerous legal causes of action, including but not limited to: defamation Libel, defamation per se, and tortious interference with business contracts and business relationships.

The information you assert in your article is factually incorrect, and posted with either actual knowledge, or reckless disregard for its falsity.

In other words – the blog post is libel and we will sue if you don’t take it down immediately.

Lewis essentially responded the way General Anthony Clement McAuliff responded when asked to surrender by the Germans in World War II – “Nuts.” The post is still up, and now there are dozens of other blog posts up also criticizing the Burzynski clinic and their attempt at silencing criticism. –Steven Novella, Another Crank Tries to Intimidate a Blogger

There is an extensive blogging community who write about their experiences with abuse, narcissism, borderline and other Cluster B personality disorders.

I have looked over countless such blogs, and it is the normal way of things to describe your experiences, in however much detail you like.  Some people use their real names, but most use pseudonyms and fake names or “titles” for the people in their blogs, such as “NM” for “narcissistic mother.”

Oftentimes the blogs are found by the people described.  Sometimes these people get upset, but don’t do much except be nuisances, leaving nasty comments or sending complaining e-mails denying the truth of the blogs.

But I have come across various cases of bloggers being threatened with legal action.  One narcissism blogger wrote this very helpful post for fellow bloggers, Airing the Family Laundry: Libel, Slander and Defamation of Character.  I’m reblogging this for all such bloggers who might happen upon my blog.  Some quotes:

“…context matters: courts have held that given the nature of online forums, online comments cannot be taken as seriously as those made in real life or in the media. Because of these requirements, bringing a claim for internet libel is a challenge.” —the Legality ….

I read several articles in preparation for this post and most of them suggested it was ill-mannered and probably not-very-wise to write about family and friends.

However, in context of the recovery community, personal narrative and disclosure are de rigueur. Readers expect a certain type of blog when reading about narcissism.

We don’t expect love stories—unless the blog is seriously pathological and merits being flagged as inappropriately ludicrous like Chicken Soup for the Soul-less or something.

We expect bloggers to write from the gut, interspersing emotion-laden anecdotes, not clinical appendages suitable for publication in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

We expect to see a cooperative blog where people share their troubles with one another; i.e.: airing out the family linen together.

On blogs like mine, self-disclosure is i-m-p-e-r-a-t-i-v-e. Bloggers connect the dots between past and present which will, if we are doing our recovery work, focus on family dynamics.

Bloggers write about sensitive topics such as: family patterns and dysfunctional behaviors; internalized beliefs and assumptions; distinctions between normal and pathological behavior; traumatic events; intimate details in relationships; our thoughts, behaviors and reactions to other people’s thoughts, behaviors and reactions; and never forget: the armchair diagnosis based on accessible information about pathology.

We do not expect bloggers to be professional psychologists so whatever diagnosis bloggers have determined best fits, is not libelous. It’s opinion.

Don’t let the fear that you ‘might’ be sued stand in the way of speaking your truth.

I would imagine that more than one blogger writing about narcissism has been warned—finger in the blogger’s nose—that should she write even ONE WORD disparaging the narcissist’s most excellent reputation and untarnished character, that she would be sued into the netherworld of Hell.

And yet, here we are—still blogging, still learning, still fighting for healthier relationships by opening the doors on dysfunction…whether people like being written about or not.

The chances that you will be sued are slim-to-none if you follow Good Faith practices protecting your anonymity.

If you’re the one being unjustly written about, be careful reading websites sponsored by ambulance-chasing attorneys who’ll feed your greed and your desire for revenge. You’re better off toughening your own thin-skin and keeping the narcissist away from your blog, than you are engaging in litigation that could cost thousands of dollars and a decade of your life.

And what for? So you could tell the narcissist she was a scuz? So you could stick it to the person who said you were scuzzy?

I am preaching to myself as much as anyone because it isn’t easy defending people’s right to free speech when you’re seriously butthurt from something they said or wrote about you.

 

….Cyberspace is most definitely a new world from the print-world I grew up in when the printed word (newspapers and magazines) was the only source of information.

Retractions for false information couldn’t be edited at a moment’s notice and people had no voice for opposition if they didn’t own a printing press. Libel suits were integral to a fair and just society because reputations could be ruined and financial losses irreparable by the time a retraction could be published.

This is not our reality today. Our first action ought be contacting the author. Working things out. Resolving our differences. Not hiring an attorney.

 

…I hope my blog inspires an army of ACoNs [Adult Children of Narcissists] to start writing since nearly every person who does, discovers a power within they didn’t realize they had. Writing puts things into perspective and for some of us: restores our SANITY.

I was thinking about the ACoN community and why blogging is so important. If you ever attended 12-step meetings, you’ve likely heard the cliche: “Your head is a bad neighborhood to visit alone.”

Talking with other people interrupts unhealthy rumination and even obsessiveness. That’s been my experience and believe you me, I know a lot about obsessiveness. ha!

… Where do you go to talk about dysfunction and narcissism? If you join your local quilting group and start talking about patriarchal abuse, they’ll stick you with their needles and sew your mouth shut. I mean seriously, who are you going to talk with?

A lot of people have the resources and the time to spend years in therapy. Some of us don’t have extra cash for that and our insurance policies won’t pay for it anyway.

To just sit in our ‘shit’ and let it fester rather than working through our issues with people who don’t shame, blame and “sue” us for defamation, perpetuates dysfunction. We start out with unhealthy behaviors and if left uncorrected, those behaviors turn into traits and pretty soon, you’re the lonely old cat lady shooting passersby and muttering to yourself.

The last two paragraphs were in response to a comment that there are no support groups in real life for victims of narcissists and Cluster Bs, so this is why we turn to blogging.

My comments are turned off because my narcissists found my blog.  But just writing my story, and occasionally commenting on other narcissist/abuse blogs, and reading their similar experiences, has been very helpful.

These are people who understand because they’ve been there, and don’t judge you.  They don’t give you pat answers like, “just let it go,” because they know that the only way to move on is to face the problem head-on and work through the pain and anger.

The biggest words to keep in mind are, of course, “falsely” and “knowingly.”  You have to be deliberately writing things you know to be false, for it to be libel.  I steer clear of such behavior, having always had an innate sense of honesty.  Whatever I write, I have reason to believe to be true.

Using real names is also a big no-no in most cases.

So avoid both and may your blogging lead you to emotional health.  Your blog gives you a voice, something which you may have been denied–as I was–in dealing with your narcs/Cluster Bs/abusers.

I don’t even care anymore when I see my blog stalkers in the stats.  I know it’s them because of telltale signs, such as IP addresses and other things I won’t go into publicly.  I no longer worry about them.  When I see them in my stats, I go, “Oh, there you are.  I missed you!  Where were you?”

Here’s an example of not letting the bullies intimidate you–even at the risk of your own life: Pakistani Girls Walk in Shoes of Young Activist (the one who was shot by the Taliban).

[Update 11/10/12:] Another blogger who’s been threatened with a lawsuit, this time blogging about a narcissistic ex-husband, but it went nowhere:

The bottom line– he saw my blog and wants it removed.  He wants the custody orders changed and is throwing out words like “defamation” and “slander”.

He threw out accusations of Parental Alienation Syndrome which is the furthest thing from the truth.  He is a bully and he is trying to intimidate me. –One Mom’s Battle, Intimidation Tactics

After receiving the paperwork yesterday with his request for an emergency hearing, I spoke to many knowledgeable people.  Professional bloggers and people with a background in law.  I was assured that I was in compliance since I haven’t publicly named him. –One Mom’s Battle, Hearing Request: Denied

Just like me, this writer posted her story of abuse on the web, then her abusers found it.  This is her story of what happened next:

Breaking Through the Fear of Speaking About Child Abuse by Kylie Devi

In February, I got a phone call from my main abuser saying: “I read your little blog post, what are you doing? Trying to get attention? Who abused you, and why am I hearing about it in this way?”

(I would like to say that “your little blog post” was kind of comedic to me, since this is a highly trafficked website that has helped thousands of people.)

And then 3 more phone calls from my other main abuser.

Phone Call 1: “Kylie, we got a phone call today about your blog post. Someone in the family has read it and we really need to know what is happening and what is going on here.

It’s really obvious that you are accusing someone in the family of sexually abusing you and since we know that isn’t true we just want to find out what is going on with you.”

Phone Call 2: “Kylie, one of your aunts has read the blog post and she can’t sleep. She hasn’t been able to sleep in 3 nights. She is so upset.”

Phone Call 3: “Kylie, one of your uncles has read the blog post and now he is wanting to beat up the person you accused in your article.”

Kylie: “I am really sorry for all the drama this is causing for you. I genuinely was trying to help people. I do whatever I can to help people heal from what I have overcome and been through. I had no idea it would cause anyone else any stress or pain. I was very conscientious not to point any specific fingers, so I’m not sure why people are making these assumptions about who abused me.”

Because her abusers still frightened her, she

actually stopped working on a book on overcoming sexual trauma that I have been working on for over 10 years. I stopped commenting on EFB and OSA Facebook pages and sites.

I stopped offering the recovery-based courses that women were participating in with life-changing results.

In short, I stopped speaking my truth.  I silenced myself.

But she goes on to describe how she pulled out of her paralysis and began speaking out again.  I noted that she was helped greatly by this post by Christina Enevoldson.

I’m not sure if Christina wrote that post directly in response to a question I asked her, or if she was already working on the post.  But I had just read Christina’s post about her mother threatening her with legal action and accusing her of lying about her childhood sexual abuse, and asked her,

I noted the similarity between my story and what Christina’s mother wrote to her. I also note that she accused Christina of some kind of “threat.” What happened after this? Did the police get involved? How did you get the courage to keep telling and keep the story online, Christina?

Christina responded,

Wow, Kay!
That’s great that you’re not backing down! Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s not easy to stand up to bullies of any kind. Yours seem to be very persistent, though you seem even more so. Good for you!

My parent’s threat actually emboldened me to speak up more. The reasons for that is a little long to include as a comment, but I’m working on it as a separate blog post. I’ll post the link here as soon as I get it up.

Thanks for your question! It’s really good to consider all the ways their threat helped me.

Now her post has helped not just me, but many others as well.

Here’s how one court dealt with a narcissistic ex-husband suing his ex over her blog and book:

The Commission refused to hear the motion and threw it out while making it very clear that he does not want to hear about the book or blog ever again. He said that I have the right to write about anything that I choose. —One Mom’s Battle

 

“Note to Narcissists~ If you think you recognize yourself in something I write, then YOU owe somebody an apology. I don’t owe YOU one. It’s not MY fault if your own behavior embarrasses you.

I never identify the lowlifes I’m writing about, and if you behave like that, not to mention being arrogant and idiotic enough to actually think YOU are the star of something I write, then you SHOULD be ashamed of yourself .

So quit whining and start apologizing for acting like a jackass and hurting people who love you.” ~Rev. Renee Pitelli, posted here [Update 11/27/14: Muldrfan’s older blog no longer exists, so the link no longer works.]

As Paula wrote on one of her blogs:

I am 100% supportive of outing these fools by name. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t understand that outing them is a direct consequence and they should deal with it. They don’t.

Instead, they seek low-life attorneys willing to send cease and desist letters to scare us into thinking we’re committing a crime.

We’re not!! It’s called freedom of speech. If they think we’re lying and hope to sue us for defamation, libel, or slander, they need to prove that in court. The burden in U.S. courts is on the complainant, not the defender. I believe it is opposite in some countries, including Canada and the UK. :)

…Not that I’ll be doing this.  No, that information is for my friends, not the Net.

Emotional abuse is a form of assault that is deliberate and manipulative and used as a method of control. The abuser uses intimidation, fear, guilt or threats to frighten and belittle the victim.

In intimate relationships, emotional abuse often results in one partner feeling ashamed, afraid and isolated from friends and family.

They may be fearful to talk to anyone about the abuse because their abuser has told them that no one will believe them. Abusers often degrade and humiliate their victims to the point that they are left with little self-esteem.

Parents or caregivers who emotionally abuse their children also use similar controlling tactics to gain power over the child.

Children who experience emotional abuse feel that they are responsible for the behavior of their parents and that if only they were more polite, better students or better children, then their parents would be more loving. —Emotional Abuse

I am beginning to think that this was his plan from the start –Wear me out emotionally, mentally, financially.

I bet he never expected me to fight this hard but either way, I wish I saw an end in sight. I can’t move on living like this. But he may have anticipated that. Turns out its not uncommon for batterers to use the legal system to abuse their ex. –Juniperskye, Power and Control  [link no longer works]

 Abuse is any threat, act or physical force that is used to create fear, control or intimidate. Abuse is about maintained power and control. An abuser may choose to use intimidation, isolation, humiliation, blame or physical violence to make you go along with everything he says and does.

Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his behaviour. In fact, abusive behaviour and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you.

Abuse takes many forms. It can be physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, and financial. —Information on Abuse

 How do we deal effectively with intimidation? Well, the first thing is to recognize it for what it is. This is a problem that the narcissist has with himself, not with you.

If you take it personally, you’ll fall into the trap of getting distracted from what’s really going on. You’ll be manipulated into thinking you have something to do with his problem and hence can fix it, and you’ll compromise yourself in trying to do so.

The narcissist has a deep problem with himself. Know that the narcissist’s actions don’t come from a place of strength, but from desperation.

His greatest fear is the truth, and if he’s going into a rage, it’s probably because you’re getting close to it or you’ve already exposed him. He will intimidate if his sense of control, grandiosity, and dominance is threatened.

Remembering this can help you detach, take a step back, and allow him the space to have his fit on his own. Trust in yourself. You’re going to feel frustration, fear, anxiety, but don’t act from it or you’ll get sucked in.

Ask yourself the important questions, “Was this outburst appropriate? What happened before the outburst that brought it on? Why did it bring about such a reaction?” If you’re too enmeshed in the situation to answer objectively, ask other people what they think. –Katie, Surviving After Narcissistic Abuse: Intimidation

 In 2008, when the Daily News started reporting in earnest on the growing evidence that Armstrong had cheated, we found that paranoia struck deep in the cycling world. It’s a small industry, and Armstrong was a transcendent figure, so powerful inside his sport that people feared for their livelihoods and reputations if they crossed him.

Four years later, it’s easier for the wider world to see why. The evidence published this month by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency shows that Armstrong and his cronies possessed a cynical assuredness that their yellow wristbands entitled them to smash anyone who threatened their corrupt regime.

But it’s also already becoming harder for the world to see how lonely and painful it was for people in cycling to stand up and resist Armstrong’s Machiavellian tactics.

Now it’s trendy to be an accuser — it’s the stuff of bestsellers, not defamation complaints. But if you took on that role during the peak of Armstrong’s Tour de France dominance you might be vilified, accused of being jealous, drunk, unpatriotic, mentally disturbed. —Victims of Lance Armstrong’s strong-arm tactics feel relief and vindication in the wake of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report

A comfort for the intimidated:

What are the negative effects of intimidation?
If you continue to use intimidation to control others, then you will:
* Find people developing emotional barriers in their relationships with you so that they are no longer vulnerable to being hurt by your control.
* Be at risk of being accused as being emotionally, verbally, physically or sexually abusive in your dealings with others.
* Find that the costs of “getting your way” all of the time are greater than you expected when you find yourself lonely and disconnected from others.
* Believe that the only goal in life is succeeding in getting your way at any cost and become totally consumed in the pursuit of acquiring power, control, position and status.
* Run the risk of becoming a pathetic, lonely, isolated person with few close relationships and many enemies out to get their revenge against you.
* Experience a great deal of passive aggressiveness thrown your way by the people you are trying to control.
* Risk becoming more absolute and rigid in your exercise of power and control and become more defensive about any personal criticism of your actions or beliefs.
* Begin to prefer “rejecting” people before they reject you and find yourself becoming increasingly socially isolated and alienated from others.
* Not be accepted, approved of or sought after by others who will never get a chance to see the “real you” whom you’ve locked behind your intimidating mask.
* Feel like you’re really a “teddy bear” underneath it all and bemoan that people never take the time to get to know this side of you. You might even lie and say you don’t care if they never get to know that side of you, even though emotionally you know differently.
* Run the risk of becoming more depressed as you become more isolated and find that your anger and rage flare ups increase.
* Experience even lower self-esteem due to the lack of acceptance by others. —Eliminating Intimidation

Marking another anniversary: abuse reports; my story of reporting child abuse; also, take courage when you witness child abuse

I forgot to note this one on the day of the anniversary: March 1.  That tells me that the emotional impact is beginning to lessen.

But it was two years ago, as of March 1, that I mailed my letter to Social Services, reporting everything I had witnessed and which Richard had told me of the abuse in their home.  It was nerve-wracking, and not done until I had gone through a full year of soul-searching, reflecting and research.

The year started in late winter 2010, when I witnessed Tracy smacking her tiny toddler hard on the back of the head.  I was so shocked and appalled that I could hardly believe my eyes–and that she could do it right in front of me.

For many days after, I was in turmoil, wondering how I could justify remaining friends with her after she did that, wondering if I was morally obligated to call CPS, if it was morally bankrupt of me to not call the police right when it happened, or at least stand up for that little girl and say to never EVER do that to her again.

I’ve done some research into slapping small children like that: You can cause brain damage, and children have been seriously hurt or even died when smacked like that, as they banged into furniture.

A short time after, another friend of theirs, Chris, complained that his abusive wife was smacking his son on the back of the head; they said they do this to their kids all the time, and even justified it!  I could see in Chris’ eyes that he was shocked by this.  I, also, tried to be a voice of reason, saying this is not right.

I hoped that would do the trick, and satisfy my conscience.  But there were so many other things going on that not only did I fear for the children’s emotional, psychological and physical well-being, but I also feared that the domestic violence in that household would lead to something horrible.

However, I was still not sure it was my place to say anything to CPS, because they were my friends.

When they proved themselves to not be my friends, I did not want to be vindictive, as I told a friend who used to work in a domestic violence shelter.  But he told me not to let friendship stand in the way of doing what’s right.

Still, it took a lot more research, many more months, viewing The Boondock Saints for a second time, and a series of e-mails with another friend (who works in group homes for kids in the system), to finally get the courage to write that letter and send it.

My friend wrote that Richard and Tracy both sounded very abusive, that she grew up in such an environment and her sisters still suffered the effects of it, so she begged me to make the report.

I wrote the letter to the best of my memory, including what I witnessed and what I had heard from Richard/Tracy themselves.

I trembled as I readied the letter and put it in the mailbox.

I was frightened that they would figure out who sent it, and do something awful to me in retaliation, even though I wrote in the letter, “I don’t believe they mean to harm their children (or each other), and they do love them very much, but they seem to desperately need help.”

But it was freeing.  At long last, my conscience was clear, knowing that I had done what was right for those children.

And it was also validated when I discovered, months later, that on the very same day, March 1, Richard was officially charged with child abuse, for an event/report which had absolutely nothing to do with mine.

This film opens with mass in a Boston Catholic church, where Irish American fraternal twin brothers Connor McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy McManus (Norman Reedus) pray while a sermon is read, mentioning Kitty Genovese, a real-life crime victim brutally murdered while her neighbors watched without intervening.

As the priest begins his homily, the brothers approach the altar and kiss the feet of a crucifix. They depart as the priest reminds the congregation that they should fear not just evil but also the “indifference of good men”.

The brothers conclude that the priest finally understands, Connor stating, “I do believe the Monsignor’s finally got the point…” and Murphy replying, “Aye”. —Wikipedia article on The Boondock Saints

So take courage when you witness child abuse.  You could save a child’s life.

You will note that the incident which led to Richard’s charges, happened long before I made my report.  What if he had killed her, which he could have easily done?

But her angel kept that from happening.  And I became a material angel to her and the other children.

I noted with some surprise that I missed the date when it came.  I certainly remembered it last year, the one-year anniversary.  This tells me that some of the trauma is beginning to fade.

But I still get jumpy when around other parents and children.  I hope to not witness more abuse.  I keep a sharp eye out when deciding which new acquaintances should become closer, if I’ve seen them get too harsh with their children.  I don’t want to go through this again.

Also see: Marking an anniversary: reporting my bullies to Social Services (2015)

Why My Stalkers’ Threat is Bogus: Going to my Priest is Well Within My Rights

What amazes me is the fury with which I was hit for musing, on one of my blog posts months before my blog stalkers ever found them, that if our churches were to merge, I would have to go to the priest of the merged church for help:

Richard’s church and mine are both very small and in financial trouble; the archdiocese has suggested they merge.  The two churches don’t want to merge, since they’re in different counties, and somebody would have to move.  But the option is still on the table.

If the churches merge, I will have to go to the priest with my concerns, and show him the proof that Richard is a convicted child abuser, to establish my credibility and prove that he is violent.

Because Tracy has bullied and verbally abused me as well, I will have to also show him an article I found on a contract one church drew up with a member who had been charged with molestation, a contract which was meant to help the member find redemption, but also consider the needs and fears of the victims.  We could modify it for our own needs.

For one thing, this was hypothetical and may never happen, because our two churches do not want to merge.  I posted that a year ago, and nobody has done anything to move toward a merge.

For another, when one person in a church has been abused by another person in that church, going to the priest/preacher for help and protection is perfectly valid and may be necessary to provide protection.  For example, see the article I linked about the contract one church drew up.

Disagreements between parishioners are one thing, but we’re talking actual abuse here, which caused me extensive spiritual damage as well.  It is my right–even in the Constitution–to go to my priest with concerns like this.

From what I could determine from Richard and Tracy’s vague and threatening e-mail (see Now I’m Being Stalked), this is the action which they warned me they would sue me for.

Also, asking for spiritual help and counseling from a priest, preacher or other qualified parishioner, to help with another, is not only perfectly valid, but commanded by Christ for handling disputes (Matthew 18:15-17), so that the body will not be divided.

So by threatening me, Richard and Tracy are fighting Christ.  A mediator would be absolutely necessary in a small church, in a situation as abusive and volatile as this.

[Update 9/6/14:] Not only that, but a police officer told me I had the right to do this and could not be sued for it.

Since my blog stalkers tried to use threats of lawsuits to keep me from handling this dispute properly within the church if our churches were to merge, I can only assume that it was because they know they’re in the wrong.  That they don’t want their abusive actions to see the light of day.

Keep this in mind as a red flag, because such threats are common from abusers, whether the victim has already told, or to prevent the victim from telling, those who could help.

Others have been through this, such as Julie Anne Smith, who have tried to have such a counseling session/meeting with their abusers, but the abusers have refused, choosing to sue instead.

(So far, Julie Anne Smith has won, all charges against her dismissed with the plaintiff paying her legal fees, while another blogger’s suit is just beginning.  But over and over again, I find plaintiffs losing such cases.)

Disfellowshipping from the church is only to be used for extreme cases, and I never intended for my blog stalkers to be disfellowshipped even if we did get that far.

The contract described above, is what I wanted, to stipulate that they keep their distance from me and not harass me, so I could feel safe at church without fearing for my emotional, spiritual or even physical well-being.

But the unwillingness of my blog stalkers to recognize their own part in things and apologize, even after we have spoken to my priest, and for them to react so harshly against the idea of counseling with the priest, leaves me free to disfellowship them from me.

But this page on resolving disputes between congregants, from a Protestant denomination, sums up quite well why this is so vital in a tiny church:

Many branches of the church of God are small in the number of members. Most of our individual congregations are quite small too. There were positive and negative aspects of the large congregations of our former fellowship.

Because of the much greater numbers of people in our old congregations, there were more opportunities for friends and companionship, but there were also more opportunities for offenses.

This fact also allowed the offenders and the offended to “resolve” their differences by merely ignoring one another and gravitating to another set of church friends. We do not have that luxury in our tiny congregations today!

We have very limited opportunities for friendship and fellowship within our tiny congregations on our little “church islands.”

Remember that our little church congregations are small islands of truth and righteousness, isolated and surrounded by the vast ocean of Satan’s world.

We need to stick together. We should not be giving offense to our beloved brethren, and neither should we be so touchy and sensitive that we are too easily offended.

Let us strive to get along together and to love one another with the godly love that is unique to the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

If our churches were cathedrals, or at least as large as my husband’s church (500), we could easily lose sight of each other in the crowd (and neither church would be in financial straits and talking mergers, either).

But no, our churches are so tiny that you can barely move without bumping into each other at some point.  A person can barely speak without everyone in the room being aware of it.

In mine you have the little sanctuary and a little office upstairs, and the basement downstairs, and that’s it: no classrooms, even.  Theirs is even smaller.

My priest is already aware of the situation, but because our churches have been reticent to merge, there has been no reason to ask for a formal contract as described above, or for formal counseling sessions involving my blog stalkers.  The best means has been to simply avoid each other (though stalking my blog hardly counts as “avoiding” me).

Most of the time they’re not at my church, so there is no problem with this, and I have felt no need to go further.  But my church is in the final stages of negotiating a salary for my priest; if he rejects it, I don’t know what will happen.

If the idea of merging is put on the table again because of our recent, sudden change in finances, then I’ll have to ask for formal help–or go to a church which is farther away, but free of this drama completely.  Or if they start coming to mine on a regular basis, I will have to ask for formal help, because I won’t uproot myself from my own church.

And they will not be able to sue me, will have no right to, because I have and will have broken no law–and because it would be a violation of my rights.

Neither option is appealing.  But if I have to ask for formal counseling, it is well within my rights as a parishioner and an abuse victim–and my blog stalkers would have absolutely no basis to sue me over it.

I would keep out opinions of motivations, etc. and stick to what happened and how it made me feel, not out of fear of a lawsuit, but because it would not be right or tactful to bring such things into counseling sessions with a priest.

It’s not his job to sort that stuff out, and I would be far better served by keeping things clear and to the point, no speculation.  I’ve noted that people involved in custody battles are advised this as well.

In other words, what works for venting to friends in cyberspace, is entirely different from what works for negotiations, and could actually work against the desired result.

Why this would so disturb my blog stalkers that they would call it a “threat” (when it wasn’t even directed at them, just musings written months before they found my blog), and threaten me with a lawsuit if I did this, I have no clue.

You can easily see that there was no hint of a “threatening” tone in the “offending” paragraph.  Unless, of course, they recognize what they did was wrong, and that this would force them to face that.

What I do know is that their threat is groundless, and because of our First Amendment, the courts would not even touch it.  How churches deal with contentious members, is entirely up to the churches.

I am 100% supportive of outing these fools by name. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t understand that outing them is a direct consequence and they should deal with it. They don’t.

Instead, they seek low-life attorneys willing to send cease and desist letters to scare us into thinking we’re committing a crime.

We’re not!! It’s called freedom of speech.

If they think we’re lying and hope to sue us for defamation, libel, or slander, they need to prove that in court. The burden in U.S. courts is on the complainant, not the defender. I believe it is opposite in some countries, including Canada and the UK. :) –Paula, Lance Armstrong’s Jailhouse Confession

 

Never Be Bullied Into Silence. Speak Up About Abuse!

NeverBeBulliedIntoSilence

(This image is all over the Net, so I don’t know where it came from.)

Here’s how one court dealt with a narcissistic ex-husband suing his ex over her blog and book:

The Commission refused to hear the motion and threw it out while making it very clear that he does not want to hear about the book or blog ever again. He said that I have the right to write about anything that I choose. —One Mom’s Battle

When dealing with a high-conflict person, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.  Keep e-mails, make records, and toss none of it.

You may need it later, not just to prove your claims of abuse, but because abusers will try to gaslight you into thinking you’re crazy and it didn’t happen the way you said.

It also protects you from going back into an abusive situation, because our memories often will begin fading, until we start thinking it wasn’t as bad as all that.  It happens to me on occasion, then I go through my accounts again and remember, to steel myself.

I recall feeling a crisis, going back and forth for a few weeks about whether or not I should call CPS about my abuser Tracy smacking her child in the back of the head, right after I saw her do it–and whether I should’ve called the police right when it happened, and yelled at her to stop.

I agonized over it, felt I was betraying the child if I didn’t, felt I was betraying Tracy if I did.

I showed my husband the e-mail I had received in March 2009 which was proof of her abuse, told him what all I’d witnessed, discussed it with him.  I said, “How much more of this [watching Tracy abuse her kids and Richard] can I take?”

The crisis only stopped when mutual friend Chris unwittingly brought up the subject and I had the chance to say that was abuse.  Then Chris posted something on Facebook that gave me a chance to say what’s abusive.  This is in my accounts, which also describe the other things I witnessed Tracy doing.

But I couldn’t help feeling a huge crisis at being friends with an abuser and not reporting her.  It worked like acid on my conscience.  I’d breathe a sigh of relief whenever I’d get through a whole visit without witnessing her even verbally abusing the kids or snapping at Richard.

In February 2011, after seeing The Boondock Saints for a second time and hearing the theme of evil winning because good men do nothing, I decided it was time to be an angel to those children, before something terrible happened–and tell somebody about the violence between Richard and Tracy, before somebody got killed.

I had no idea, since it was not yet published online, that Richard had already strangled one of his children until she passed out.

I sent an e-mail to a friend in social work in the state, describing everything I witnessed and knew.  I wanted to make sure it all qualified as reportable abuse.  She begged me to report them, saying that she grew up in a house like that and it caused lasting damage, that Richard and Tracy both sounded very abusive, and that I should do it to help my friend, Richard.

My pastor friend had also begged me, back in 2010, to report them, because he used to work in a domestic violence shelter.

Coincidentally, I mailed my report–a 3-page letter–the same day that Richard was officially charged.  Right there is proof that I did the right thing, that my instincts were correct.  My conscience is now clear.

I also have various e-mails and drafts of e-mails written in December 2007 and very early 2008, which describe things I witnessed, and specifically refer to Tracy’s behavior to Richard and the children as abuse, and her treatment of me as bullying and abuse.

They also prove that I was having just as much trouble in the late winter/early spring 2008 dealing with how she had treated me and others, as I’m having now, that I was just as angry with her then as now, even while we were still all friends, that this is not just a reaction to how she treated me in 2010, or brought on by researching abuse in 2010-12.

No, I am in the exact same frame as mind now as then, about what she was doing.  The abuse in that family began long before they came to my house.

I also have a disturbing and shocking e-mail received in 2009 which proves it, and notes written on it by me which describe feeling gaslit until I got this e-mail, also giving more frightening information given to me over the phone the following day.

The list, the e-mails, and the letter in my previous post–written to Richard but never sent because it felt too dangerous because of Tracy’s restrictions on his communication with me–all confirm my web accounts and blogs to be my actual impressions at the time of what was going on.

They all confirm that I remember things as they happened.  They all confirm that I felt abused, and felt I was witnessing abuse, that this was not at all something that later crept in to my head to make me feel justified in ending the friendship.

No, we ended the friendship in 2010 precisely because of the abuse; this was not some story invented later.  They confirm that my claims of abuse came from a combination of observation and the victim’s own words.

They all confirm and back up the story that I have told as being factual to the best of my knowledge. That no, the issue was not, as Tracy claimed, me “snubbing” her or needing to “grow up” and accept her venom as my due, stop feeling hurt over it.

Another issue was that Richard was in exactly the same place with Chris’ wife, as I was with Tracy, and I even told him so, yet he never seemed to make the connection and show me compassion because of it.

No, the real issue was the way she abused me and others and got Richard to go along with it.  She made it very clear that we could only come back to them once I stopped “feeling hurt” over her abuse.

She made it very clear that she would accept nothing less than me submitting to all her abuse and venom as my due.

Which is never, ever going to happen, and proved to me without a shadow of a doubt that she is evil, that I do not want to be friends with her ever again.

My husband would get very angry if I did submit to her, and says that she has to get down on her knees and apologize to me for what she’s done to me.

No, I did not deserve her abuse, I will not accept it, and I’m not the one who needs to “grow up.”  That’s a very peculiar definition of “growing up”: accepting another’s abuse.  No, that’s not “growing up,” that’s “being a doormat.”

Only an abuser would require you to accept abuse without complaint.  “Growing up” means controlling yourself and getting the facts, not raging at and abusing your friends like a toddler throwing a tantrum.

A normal, healthy person would apologize for blowing up at you, and agree to a civil conversation, with give-and-take.

Whenever I start doubting my memories and impressions, I need only remember that e-mail–and re-read all my documentation.  And then I see that all her opinions of me are sewer sludge–and worth just as much.

This sounds so familiar, especially the coddling of the BS of the abuser:

Consistent with narcissism and other cluster B personality disorders is the need for constant drama from which the N personality derives attention.

For my mother, this was manifested in her constant need to be at war with someone. For years it was her sister, then various friends, my father, several coworkers, and eventually, her children.

She was in constant need of worship, consolation, pity, or some other form of manipulated obligation from those close to her.

For everyone else, appearances were everything. On the surface, she worked diligently to keep up with the façade that we were the “perfect family”.

At home, she flew into regular fits of rage which cycled into stoic depression. Her emotional pendulum swung between spitting rage and icy indifference with few stops in between. Everyone was always “out to get her.”

For my father, the cluster B’s were manifested through his enabling of my mother’s unhealthy bouts of behavior. While I do not believe he actually suffers from one of these disorders, he was extremely afraid of my mother’s reactions and reinforced her maladaptive traits as a result.

He would rage at us kids if he felt the threat of one of her tantrums looming. He became intolerant of noncompliance and the voicing of opinions that did not cater to my mother’s disorder.

He buried himself in work and checked out when it became evident that an avalanche of torrent was coming and showed up in the aftermath to make sure we didn’t rock the boat any further.

He too took on the role of authoritarian abuser in support of my mother, but at the same time cowered to her alpha personality. —One Mom’s Battle

In high school, I did not tell my teachers about the boys who sexually harassed me.  I did not tell my parents, even though I began to get an ulcer.

In college, I told no one how my fiancé Phil was treating me, though people did notice some of it and hated him for it.  I will be silent no longer, will not even be bullied into silence by my blog stalkers.

I stood up for the truth and for what’s right.  I was an angel for those children.  I’m standing up for abuse victims everywhere.  Every day I get stronger as I continue to tell my story.

My story of narcissistic abuse is here.

It’s been a long time coming
And the tables’ turned around

I’m not running, it’s a little different now
–Sick Puppies, “You’re Going Down”

Why Abuse Victims *Should* Blog

I keep finding blogs about abuse and narcissism on the Net, people’s personal experiences.  Some are about narcissistic families of origin, some are about divorcing a narcissistic ex, some are about domestic violence, child abuse, abuse from a friend….

And the inevitable comments: “Why put this on the Net instead of in a personal journal?”  Or complaints that it’s “dirty laundry” being aired on the Net.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between typical arguments with others, which do not make good blog material, and actual abuse, bullying and molestation.  If you argue with a family member over who gets to host Thanksgiving, that’s not abuse, and not of lasting interest.

I don’t post about such things as, arguments with my husband, teenage arguments I had with my parents (except to say how I’ve since learned from it), disputes with the in-laws, getting dissed by a receptionist, etc.  These things are common to everyone and have very little public interest.

I really don’t want to read a blog about how some wench at work ripped on your outfit and you snarked back at her.  But actual abuse situations, psychological manipulation, narcissism, bullying, and the resulting traumas, should be considered valid subjects for blogs.

There are reasons to blog about this publicly.  There are various ways you can vent, after all.  But one is to put your experience where others can easily find it, be validated by it, and learn more than they ever could from a clinical manual.

Sure you can publish it in a book, as many people do, but then you have to go through a publisher, editing, marketing, then your book doing poorly and no longer getting published.  You also get accused of selling your grief for money.  At least with a blog, all these things do not happen, and anyone can read your blog for free.  It’s authentic.

Another is the most important: For millennia, abuse victims have been forced to keep quiet.  Don’t air dirty laundry, they’re told.  It’s “vengeance” and “gossip,” they’re told.  Outsiders are told to mind their own business.

Some have been able to tell what happened, but many more try and fail, and get punished by the abuser–or even by society.  Many will tell, but the statute of limitations has expired, or the abuser will have a good lawyer, or the principal doesn’t believe you, or the church places your molester in a different parish, or the abuser refuses to apologize and make things right, or whatever.

But now, the Internet has given abuse and bullying victims a unique and effective means to get out our message.  We don’t have to hold our silence anymore.  Don’t squelch us from speaking out about what’s happened to us.

And maybe, just maybe, the more of us speak out, the more abusers will realize they can’t keep us quiet, and abuse will begin to cease in our society.

Here is a blog post and comment thread addressing the question of abuse blogs: should we blog about it, should we show all our emotions, etc. etc.  At least a couple of comments show that whatever we write, whatever emotions we show, are all part of the process of dealing with abuse situations, and should not be censored.

 

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