Saturday, 18 July 2015

"Get Over It!"

Yes, this is the video to "Get Over It" by McBusted. It NEEDED to be here.

"Get over it."

They're three very simple, little words, aren't they?  Incredibly easy to say and in some cases, pretty easy to do, too.  We use the phrase more often than we realise.  Angry that someone cut you up whilst driving? "Get over it."  Annoyed that you didn't get an invite to an event?  "Get over it."  Just split up with someone who was quite blatantly bad for you in every single way?  "Get over it."

But some things aren't quite as easily forgotten.  Some things, such as bereavement, we never truly "get over."  Instead, we simply learn to live with what's happened to us and cope with it on a daily basis.

For me, abuse has been one of those things.  I don't want to be a victim; my abuser made me one whilst I was with him and I certainly don't wish to remain one, now.  I also don't want what I went through to define me.  I'm a daughter, friend, writer, nursery nurse and ridiculously-obsessive fan of various bands/celebrities as well as a survivor of abuse and I don't want that one, negative experience to become the focal point of who I am as a person.

That said, it is a part of who I am.  A big part, really, seeing as it changed my life completely and set me on various paths I may never have travelled, otherwise.  And whilst I have moved on with my life and live happily, able to talk openly about what happened without becoming upset when necessary, yet equally able to shut it out of my thoughts completely most of the time, it does occasionally creep unwelcome into my mind and when that happens, it can be genuinely devastating.

People have a habit of being a little snooty about "trigger warnings."  It's understandable to an extent - after all, if we're tuning in to watch a TV programme about The Holocaust, we surely don't need to be warned that it might be upsetting.  But whilst some insist that trigger warnings are just another case of "political correctness gone mad," it's important to remember the reason we sometimes have to give them.

For example, this scene has a trigger warning: MAY CAUSE SNOTTY TEARS.

Sometimes, it's hard to know what your triggers are going to be.  And it's definitely hard for us to know what might be a trigger for someone else.  That's why the warnings are often necessary - nobody wants to upset someone unintentionally, after all.

Or maybe some people just don't care?

I usually know what my triggers are.  Certain songs remind me too much of my ex and the events that unfolded whilst I was with him.  As strange as it sounds, even certain kinds of clothes and certain TV shows bring back memories.  Most of the time, these aren't upsetting enough to be referred to as "triggers."  They're simply things that cause me to shudder briefly, before (hopefully) putting it out of my mind and moving on.  "Getting over it," if you will.

But some things are triggers.  Some things cause me to lose my breath, feel sick, start shaking and generally become very upset.  Usually the things that cause such a reaction are words, rather than 
songs, or anything visual.  It's reading a piece in which the author is victim-blaming.  It's stumbling upon a blog that defends abusive behaviour, using common abuse-myths, such as "he can't help it" or "he only does it because he loves her so much and can't handle it."  That's why I would prefer people to use a trigger warning when posting links to such articles or blogs.  Not because I've failed to "get over" what happened to me four years ago, but because I know I'll always be affected by things like that.  The wound that being in an abusive relationship caused has healed over, but it's still a scar.  It's still a weak area that will hurt if prodded.

Which leads me onto the assumptions that people make.  When arguing on the subject of abuse in fiction (yes, I'm talking about Fifty Shades - how did you guess?!), I am coming from a place of having experienced abuse personally and having had extensive support from an abuse charity, in order to put myself back together sufficiently enough to become involved in activism online and awareness-raising of abuse in all its forms.  Or, to put it another way, I know what I'm talking about.

And yet some of the most common things Fifty Shades fans will resort to are the following barbs:

  • "Go and learn what abuse actually is."
  • "You need to educate yourself on the difference between abuse and love."
  • "You've got no clue about abuse and how it affects people.  If you knew the slightest thing about it, you wouldn't resort to calling a love story abusive."
  • "Why don't you do some actual good and help real people who've been abused instead of wasting your time trivialising the issue by focusing on a made up story?!"
  • "You think this is abuse? God help you if you ever find out what abuse really is.  It's a fucking book.  Get over it."
All of the above comments are real arguments I've had from Fifty Shades fans.  Strangers, who don't know anything about me, are telling me to "educate" myself on what abuse is.  They're berating me for not helping real abuse survivors.

What they either don't realise - or, sadly, don't care about - is that I've had a very personal education into what abuse is.  I lived it.  And since rebuilding my life, I've spent a great deal of time talking to other survivors online and supporting them through their healing process.  I've "met" many people on Twitter and Facebook who are either fresh out of abusive relationships, or are trying to escape them and who have been traumatised (and no, that's not too strong a word) by reading Fifty Shades and need to know that they're not alone in their feelings (just the same way I needed to, when I first read the story).

Whilst I would never advocate that people should put a trigger warning on all of their interactions with any person who might disagree with their views, I do have to ask a question:  Why is it somehow acceptable to make remarks like that about abuse?  If we were debating a new cancer drug, would it be okay to snap at someone: "Go and educate yourself on cancer.  I bet it's never even affected your life"?  It wouldn't be okay, because it would almost certainly be wrong; cancer is such a prevalent disease that very few people don't know someone who has suffered with or even died from one form or another.  Abuse is just as common.  Yet we seem to find it easier to assume that the person we're arguing with has no personal experience of it, doesn't know anyone else who has gone through it and does nothing to support those who have.

And it's that ignorance that serves as one of my biggest triggers.  I would never assume that someone I was debating with - on any subject - was entirely ignorant of the topic at hand.  Even when discussing abuse in Fifty Shades, I like to imagine that if Christian had beaten Ana black and blue and screamed at her that she was worthless, the readers would see that as abuse.  I tell myself that it's only because abuse is so misunderstood (especially emotional/psychological abuse) and so insidious that the readers are failing to recognise it, particularly since EL James has wrapped it all up in a bow and stamped "LOVE story" on it.  I also know that there are some survivors of abuse who don't have any problem with the relationship in Fifty Shades and whilst that concerns me deeply, I would still never dream of implying that those people don't know what abuse actually is.

We put trigger warnings on material that might cause someone distress.  And in much the same way, we need to be thinking about the way that our words - our accusations - may cause distress to others.  Judging someone as being ignorant, or of not caring about helping people, simply because their viewpoint differs from our own is arrogant at best, cruel at worst.

Last night, I was triggered by hearing those phrases listed above.  Because when strangers assume that you can't possibly know what abuse is and that you're not doing anything to help real people because you're only talking about "A BOOK," it makes you feel as though what you went through is being minimised.  And that what you're trying to do to raise awareness is being mocked.  One fan read a discussion I was having with another, in which I had said that I was actually a survivor, triggered by the books and yet she felt the need to tweet me the words "LONG LIVE EL JAMES, LOL!"  What did she expect that to achieve?  What reaction was she hoping for?  And why?

I can "get over it."  I can rationalise that some people get their sad little kicks out of trolling others online.  I know that these people don't know the real me and haven't the slightest clue of what I do to help people, or what I experienced myself.  But wouldn't it be nice if I - and people like me - didn't have to?  Wouldn't it be great if instead of making snap assumptions about people we don't know and, in the process, making hurtful and untrue judgements against them, we considered how triggering those words might be?

We can never know what another person has lived through, unless they open up to us.  And even then, we'll only ever know half the story.  We won't know how hard they had to fight to "get over it."  So before we judge or accuse others online, assuming to know all about them based on nothing but an opposing view, perhaps we ought to ponder our words more carefully.  Ask ourselves whether we're about to make a potentially hurtful judgement on someone we don't know.


Insert motivational quote that aided my abuse recovery here.


I've moved on from what happened to me.  I can laugh, I can have fun and I can go for days - weeks - without giving it a single thought.  But I'm unlikely to ever be entirely "over" it.  It'll always be a painful memory.  It'll always be a scar.

So next time you're in an argument with someone online, don't assume that simply because a person disagrees with you, it must make them entirely ignorant of the subject being discussed.  Don't presume to know their life history.  Don't think that your words won't be triggering.

And if you can't continue a discussion without resorting to snap judgements, then walk away from that argument.  

Get over it.



4 comments:

  1. A really wonderfully written piece by you---so real, so there, and, again, so willingly self-revealing. You really can help others. And that's why I write. Being a male, I think I have the surprise factor when women realise I'm supporting them wholeheartedly in all they've experienced----verbal, emotional, physical (let's add spiritual) and sexual abuse. It is a terrible trauma---a very valuable word----that can re-awaken the worst traumas from childhood or earlier history, if that's there. I would go so far as to say all male-female relationships and marriages have bits of abuse in them----our patriarchal society raises men with the power and control and privilege to attack when angry and limits so many of their possible emotional responses (such as being sad, weak, scared, confused or whatever). So men are these (usually, nearly always) limited beings with a narrow range of expression of emotion (except anger) when frustrated. So I certainly agree that trigger warnings are very valuable. (maybe all men should carry a trigger warning, say, attached to their head----ha, ha, ha, but not really really kidding) (unless men grow up, learn to use the full range of their emotions and become safe). All I want to add here is that I've found the website everydayfeminism.com very helpful. They directly address the issue of trigger warnings (along the lines you favor). And they cover many other issues of gender, why men are how they are, why women are how they are etc. I've learned a lot from this site and heartily recommend it. Thank you again, Em, for putting yourself and your ideas out there. I have no doubt you help others. You always help me!

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    1. everydayfeminism is a site I've visited many times - great minds think alike! ;-) And I think you're very right; the fact that you're a male and speaking so eloquently on patriarchy and how damaging it can be absolutely does have the surprise factor, but I think it's so incredibly vital. By realising that feminism doesn't mean that women hate men and simply want to be the superior sex, but instead merely want to be seen as equals and shown respect, you're doing so much good and I applaud you for it. x

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  2. Man, this reminded me of something. In the same vein as, "Go and learn what abuse actually is.", I hate it when people say something, "you equating this to abuse is offensive to people who actually have been through abuse."

    And it's like...UHHH I HAVE BEEN THROUGH AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP. Fifty Shades of Grey fans are the LAST people I want speaking for me (and over me) in these issues.

    As you've said, it's really an easy fix: don't assume anything about people. Just don't.

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    1. It blows my mind that even EL James - who KNOWS several of her critics are abuse survivors, having been TOLD as much by them (before blocking them on Twitter so they can't say anything about it to her again...) - has used the "you're offending people who've experienced abuse" line. It's just making a snap judgement that we can't possibly know what we're talking about and that's lousy.

      And then you get fans who say "but I was in an abusive relationship and I don't recognise this as abuse, so it can't be" and that's a different kind of assumption - the assumption that a) all abusive relationships are the same and that b) if you've experienced it, you'll never get caught in one again because you can instantly recognise it. And sadly, for various reasons, not everybody does recognise it in the future. :-(

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