We all make choices about whom we associate with. Co-workers and family we cannot, for one reason or another, banish from our lives aside – we choose those we associate with. The real trick of it is to remember that we can choose. Yes, of course there will be people who pressure us, who shame us, who seek to coerce us into connections we do not want or are unhealthy for us. I spent years locked into toxic “friendships” because I believed I had to remain there. I believed that “not rocking the boat” was more important than my own well-being. I stayed too long, but as my therapist reminds me not so long as I have in the past, in an abusive relationship.
I am now exceedingly choosey about my friendships. I am perhaps standoffish or even unfriendly because of my experiences. I am happy to be acquaintances with a variety of people, engaging in cocktail party banter or even interesting conversations about books or film or politics – but nothing personal. No, personal, I reserve for people I believe I can trust, people I believe will not use my confidences to hurt to me. People who seek to raise themselves and those around them up, rather than people who try to drag everyone down. I have severely, perhaps mercilessly, excised people from my life. When I needed friends most recently, my mind immediately went to 6 people. Other than my husband, none of them are legal family. I admit to be wary of disclosing deeply personal and what still feels deeply shameful information to them. However, all of them responded with kindness and love and support.
This dovetails nicely, or at least conveniently, with an ongoing discussion I have been having these friends, and yes, some acquaintances. I’ve heard the assertion that the club scene that I am part of is a “safe space” – especially for women. I do not believe there are any safe spaces for women anywhere in the world. I can name at least 4 men in this scene who all have abused or assaulted women. Other than their victims, it seems the scene as a whole, continues to associate with these men. Often under the “well I didn’t see it” or “he doesn’t seem like that kind of guy now” excuses. People also choose the “he’s cool with me” or the aforementioned, “don’t rock the boat” approaches. I cannot say that I have the answer. A recent episode of Lee Harrington’s show “Passion and Soul” pointed out that even if a community shuns and exiles these offenders, there is nothing to stop the abusers from finding another community to join. What’s worse is that community may nothing about the abusers history, leaving that community more vulnerable.
I, as of late, have leaned toward the “you are dead to me – I will not interact with you in anyway” approach, and struggled to keep my personal feeling of betrayal at bay when others continued to interact with known abusers. Because, I feel it very keenly as a betrayal, as if that person is tacitly saying that abuser’s behavior is acceptable – whether the abuser abused me or anyone else is irrelevant. Intellectually, I know this isn’t the case, sometimes people don’t know the abuser’s history. Sometimes people really don’t know what to do. They see their public pleasantries as part of life, and perhaps do not realize that they have a choice – or even that their choice to continue to associate with abusers may be hurtful.
I have, in the past chosen to ignore what I perceived to be gossip about abusers. Often this was because I was hearing the story second or third hand. I regret making this choice. I sincerely regret any hurt I may have caused someone by the choices I made.
I find that I am often on the outside. I am not able to easily mesh with groups of people. Particularly in the club scene, this makes me worried that I will lose even the acquaintances that I have – I know that I will keep my friends, but I also do not want to be a social burden on them.
I fear that should I take the approach that I do think is correct – the one wherein I say to people “Hey, I like talking to you, but if you are talking to that person I can’t be around while you do that and here’s why…” I will fast make myself the outcaste. But I am tired of hearing the same stories over and over. I am tired of these men getting to ruin people and face no consequences at all. I am tired of people who claim they care about women do nothing.
I am left unsure of what to do. I can, and will, continue to avoid the abusers I know of. I don’t interact with groups they are in, and and try to extricate myself from groups they join – of course as I already have a small circle, I doubt I have any effect.
I am left wondering what I should do – or like some many others, do I remain silent? So I don’t know where I am going with this. I guess perhaps I am reaching a questioning point. Who do I want to be? What ethics do I have and what am I willing to live with?
*Also I was going to include the classic “see no evil, hear no evil…” monkey image. What I learned about the image resonates. The image comes from Japan (and seem to have been part of Confucian and Buddhism). In both cases, the idea isn’t about ignoring anything. The maxim is about conduct – as in, I shouldn’t do/think/dwell on negative things (evidently the “evil” is added later). It is a Western interpretation that makes the monkeys represent a moral responsibility directed at others.*