Many many moons ago, my seventeen-year-old self had a guy that she thought was a friend do a very bad thing to her. I wondered if it was because my friend and I had affectionately or so I’d thought, made a joke about him, and for the next year, I slid into pain and further loss of self. Then one night as we were, as we call it back home in Dublin, ‘knacker drinking’ (when teens go drinking on the beach, in the woods etc), it all came out that this person had done this to the bulk of the group–there were almost twenty of us–and my blame turned to fury and I gradually started to reclaim a little of myself although it impacted me for several years. And I made damn sure that others knew about it so that he could no longer benefit from the silence that had prevailed.
Put aside my own experience and think of abuse in general, and you can see how self-blame which leads to a code of silence stemming from shame, can keep a person in a bad situation long past its sell-by-date while also letting the perpetrator have free reign to keep up this persona.
One of the things that baffles people who experience mistreatment is the fact that this person is “liked by everyone”, but all that these people know is the persona plus ‘everyone’ doesn’t actually like this person. Once you stop making their behaviour about you and you stop thinking that you were specially selected for their dark side as if you must have provoked it, you will find others who know about them too.
In today’s Advice Wednesday, Michelle wants to know whether she should let other “newbies” know about the predator in their midst so that they don’t have to go through what she and others have. Now that she knows that she’s not alone, she wants to share her experiences but she fears coming across as a “gossip”.
Wrong behaviour is wrong behaviour even if that person is liked by ‘everyone’ (they’re not, no one is). Don’t judge a person on their reputation; judge your situation including their actions and pattern. Judging crappy treatment you’re getting on the superficial knowledge others have or the assumptions you might be making based on their status, is the fastest way of ensuring that you delay doing right by you while sheltering this person from the consequences of their actions.
And particularly for women, we must stop treating romantic partners, male or female, as if they’re the centre of the universe and ‘competing’ with other women as if there’s a shallow pool and there’s not enough of anything–jobs, money, friends, relationships, luck etc–to go round. We need to have our backs but also, when we do, we will not inadvertently collude with people who don’t have good intentions towards women and who are in fact opportunistic and using charm to divide and conquer.
Have you been part of a ‘harem’? Have you blamed yourself for someone’s predatory behaviour? What would you do in this situation?
Each Wednesday, I help a reader to solve a dilemma. To submit a question, please email advicewednesdayAT baggagereclaim.com. If you would prefer your question to be featured on the podcast, drop a line to podcast AT baggagereclaim.com. Keep questions below 200 words. For in-depth support, book at a clarity session or coaching.