Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What Does an Abuser Look Like?

Boat Commanded by a Conductor, Possibly Misguided
Black ink drawing by Raewyn Alexander

Can you choose who's a terrible driver in a crowded room? 
That leather jacket rebel-type, or the arrogant figure in the expensive outfit? But you don't know for sure until you're in the car, and they're hurtling around corners at speed in the rain. You white knuckled, grip your seat, yelling, “Slow down.”
They perhaps shout, “Ha, get over yourself.”
You realise you can't google 'escape from a moving car', because your fingers holding on are locked in place with fright.

Long, medium, short or no hair, be they male, female, trans, genderqueer... anyone may behave badly. But some extremists wreck as a life-style. 

Children bully too, so do tweens, teens, and adults. 

What's accidental? What's forgivable? When is something not acceptable? We ask such questions every day in difficult circumstances, sometimes we get the answer wrong, or we do not know what to do to stop someone hurting someone else. 

Relationships can start out fine, (and some people feel like they've attained perfection). But taking time before declaring your undying devotion means your eyes and brain are open. 

Decide what you'll always say no to well in advance. Stick to that - make boundaries clear. 

Verge garden edged with glacial rocks - Grey Lynn, Tamaki Makau-rau Auckland

Wait to see their dark side, anyway, surely, it'll appear eventually. No one's perfect, especially people who think they are and behave like they're unassailable. 

Anyway, travelling together along life's byways, (rather than a fast road), you could realise something's wrong. Is it only a mistake, and everyone makes those? Or, you could be misunderstanding them. Sure.

But sometimes it's like quicksand, a gluey mess, an extremely dangerous fix. You're in trouble.

A friend, I'll call them Lee, they were held hostage as a youngster for a long time, then rescued and given therapy. The details are terrible but now, their life-long aim, Lee insists, is to get more people to focus on abusers, and how they set things to hurt others. Lee also wants to help develop decent solutions. 

What to do so these criminals don't offend again?

People hurt, the victims are too often damaged later again over and over in media frenzies, in court cases, by unthinking people close to them. The general public may want to know horrible descriptions like they're entertainment, but they're awful things that happened to a real person. That victim deserves better.

So Lee and I are on this quest to call attention to those who do harm, instead, the abusers.

Amaryllis lilies - consider lilies of the field, they neither sow nor do they reap, but they seem more splendid than a king -
(paraphrasing Luke 12.27)

How to improve? Well, many savvy people, couples, business partners, educators etc can work through trouble in various ways. A gym membership for example, to at least try for the same muscle tone all round, can help a relationship by improving everyone's fitness. Inner well being's like that too. In therapy, or formalised one-on-one "relationship meetings", people may sort out difficulties for a smoother time together. Deliberately seeking to understand ourselves and others, the bottom line being as kind as possible, proves a change for the better in some manner. This positive effort may also show up anyone hurtful, and all people affected may figure answers, model how to change behaviour to improve, call in an expert.... Such moves to get along could use outside help, (google for ideas, or ask a phone line counsellor, or doctor).

Behaviour, (it's important to remember), reveals who hurtful people are in any case. Watch what people do, analyse their actions, are they truthful, are they kind, do they fit the situation? If not why not? Would they mind being asked polite questions? Do you know anyone who knows them and who could illuminate you about their behaviour?

What they say is not so important. Lying is often easy to any abuser. 

Look out for what people actually do, before you make up your mind what they are like, overall. Do they lie and let others down, often? That's a red flag warning. Do they behave hugely differently for many different people, as if play-acting the whole time? Again, can be a warning sign, false behaviour could hide hurtful acts, manipulations, even crimes. Do they break the law and try to make you laugh about it? That's a real warning sign, they could be gradually getting you used to more and more dangerous transgressions. Can they say sorry easily and are they usually kind and polite? This may be an act, but respect for others is a good sign, wait to see if it's real. Do they fly into sudden rages and make you fearful? Have they done this after being kind and loving for quite some time, then suddenly you find out their temper is fearsome? This, sadly too, may be a warning sign of worse to come.

The best move is to look to yourself, anyway. Identifying an abuser is important, definitely, but that's your decision, your insights, discussions with others and so on.

An outside view changes everything. Ask a trusted friend or professional what they think.

Maybe you are worried about hurting others yourself? That can feel awful, shameful, and then other unwanted emotions can surface. Sadness and guilt may stop anyone acting to change, because people can ignore their own feelings, repress and suppress them. 

But you may instead treat this feeling of wanting to hurt others like an illness. Get help. Research behaviour online, literally google the actions that someone does, or google what you do and feel. Or ask a phone counsellor like Lifeline or Youthline, or an organisation like Shine, Age Concern, (or CADS, or AA, or NA if substance abuse is a concern), or go and see someone. Find yourself some time and info.

Discover small things you can easily do at first. Simple steps are fine to begin with, improving home-life or where you work, and to learn to pick what you want every day more carefully. Priorities need to be identified like - good health, mental, emotional, and physical well being, to have satisfying work, live within your means, make good associations with others, wherever possible be truthful, and be kind to yourself and others.

Some of those choices can mean you no longer see some people.

Wintergardens - Victorian architecture - Tamaki Makau-rau Auckland 2015

Sometimes to instigate a change, a person simply believes they may learn better. Then like with prayer, positive thinking's a new direction already, and encourages better choices. “Something will come along,” as The Beatles so often said at the start of their musical career, according to their recent biography, (by the way, an excellent read).

Page from a Zowie Zine hand-made book for Zinefest 2016 - Raewyn Alexander

Maybe the trouble's not a crash bang situation, where someone gets hit, or screamed at. But what matters is how you feel and think, what's your inner music like? If you feel confused and scared, why has this heavy metal madness appeared? What do you need to remove, to make it stop? Is it enough to only talk about it?

Always have somewhere else to go, if you have to leave anywhere. Always carry taxi money. Always tell friends and flatmates, family, where you are going and how long you'll be there, more or less.

If you're in a situation where people are suddenly leaving you, or have done before, perhaps ask yourself why. Get help to maintain better relationships from friendly experts like Home and Family Counselling.

Or if you try to upset people and get a kick from it, why do you do that? Is pain and hurt amusing to you? Do the other people consent to that? Do they really?

Confusion may cloud our daily performance. A tough move towards deciding how you feel, in a fog.

Ring someone like Lifeline and discuss the issue with them, or Shine are an organisation working against violent behaviour. Google them or the links are up further in this blog.

The person hurting you could be someone you love and want to keep seeing, so bring out the violins, it's sad, yes, truly even if I sound flippant. Writing all this is quite a strain, believe me. Anyway, once you've accepted the shock, the sadness, get as far away from them as possible. Later you may reconcile with a professional's assistance, but safety first is important.

Or you hurting someone you love is a whole terrible bunch of bum notes. Isn't it time to play a better song? We may all learn other ways to behave, finer, more rewarding, healthier.

Hope exists.

Wise women talk together and so do wise men.

Wonderful, telling a trusted friend your worries, that helps. The relief you experience may be glorious too, like finding a conductor for your own orchestra. Various support agencies like Shine, Youthline, Women's Refuge, and others researched at your local Citizen's Advice Bureau can assist in excellent, easy ways.

Then the abuser seems less powerful, simply.

But it may take years to recover, and some people remain co-dependent, unable to leave the place where the trouble happened, unable to forget the one who did them harm. Or they stay with that abuser even at the cost of their own health, sometimes their life.

But the lucky and the strong, the fortunate and the supported, the brave and the resilient, we may cry or laugh about the awful past and let it go, at least some of it. 

Relaxing, easier to think when we've escaped and talked it over. 

Strategies then build for change, to be safer, happier, more productive, like learning to play an instrument you never knew you could own. It doesn't mean the music's fabulous straight away but changing your life is an education.

Obviously a few bad examples exist too. Some celebrities hide behind fame and behave badly. Any cool-seeming man or woman can also lead a double life. Maybe they're a local sports club star with a team of friends, or a kind-seeming parent who helps out at school, and so on, but quite the opposite at home, or at work, or in private where they hurt others. 

Anyone recognising a switcheroo pattern needs help. It's also called a Jekyll and Hyde personality, like having two different people in the same body, (or sometimes more).

Special Effects using Photobooth

Clearly disturbed and unsuccessful individuals also exist. But the obvious rude idiot, or drunk, or crazed P-addict, or someone grumpy or unpredictable, they're not the only type who may hurt and malign others. 

In fact, the most obviously strange or individualistic people may not be harmful. Just being different to the main crowd is not always a bad sign as far as harming others goes.

It's like looking behind the scenes at a show too, we could say. Many people only want to see what's on stage, not behind the action. 

Some say, “None of my business,” when you share a worry. Maybe with no idea how to help, they turn off talking with you. But family and friends could prove helpful. Taking you out more often may be enough, off to the movies or a park, giving emotional support, or you could do this for a troubled someone. Simply walking as exercise lifts the spirits, after all.

No need for a grand hero riding in and saving the day with dramatic moves, when unable to think of something smart, or feeling scared for yourself. 

Simply asking someone if they're okay and meaning it creates a light of hope. A true smile can make someone else feel cared for too, including strangers. Goodness brightens a day. 

Courage takes many forms, and sometimes small decent acts change destinies for the better. Staying upbeat and polite may be an act of bravery.

Also, seriously, who wants to get all fired up on a story, alone? Acting to help someone when you're badly informed may make matters worse.

A thief may be found with fingerprints at the scene or goods in their possession. Then too, evidence may be left like an attacker's DNA, clothing, or eye witnesses to describe wrong-doing. But they're difficult enough to prove, those cases.

Abuse however may seem merely tattle-tale from behind closed doors, and perhaps the accused has a great public image, more impressive than any bad news?

No physical evidence either with emotional and psychological damage to the victim, or when bruises or injuries have gradually disappeared. Some physical violence is also planned to not show any marks, but internal injuries and fearfulness can result, bad dreams, anxieties, nervous conditions like shingles, also, and other ailments.

I've only mentioned that word a few times above, the v-word. We're talking about abusers, not those they hurt so much, not victims. Aiming to see abusers noticed, described, and hopefully changed or at least diverted properly is quite possible, and it's been done already.

Like any sneak, abusers hide, (but may be found). They also lie, cheat, dodge and weave. Identified as predators, we see them coming, and get away or stop them like they're monsters in a story. 

Or we learn to control ourselves if we're causing trouble. Stop creating scared people, and think what you may change in your own behaviour. 

Relaxing in the hot house of The Wintergardens a favourite activity

Wilful blindness doesn't help much either, except for letting nasties get away with mess-making, with hurting, and to fool ourselves nothing's going on. Stop pretending things are fine when they are not. It could be a massive issue or something personal. Ignoring it will not make it disappear.

What's odd? Ask why. What makes you think twice about where you work or live? Why? Who's not well, or not paying attention, or furious, or scary, or...? Ask a professional for assistance.

Those who deliberately hurt others need to seek help to change, too. 

Anyone who hurts others needs to be out of circulation, given therapy until they improve, as often and as much as possible. It does not matter how much strength, (power), money, fame, or responsibility they have, if they're abusive they need to be taken away and some help must be given to them to enable them to change.

Live a better tale, rewrite it, why not?

Covers of two Zowie Zines

Some of us love horror movies, but we don't want to live in one.

Vandals who mess about with property, or shouty workmates who terrorise everyone except the boss, (who never sees them screaming), or the passive aggressive close talker, who smells awful too, jabbering on even when you say you have to go.... 

Countless people suffer indignities and worse at some point. But we don't want more ruin, an escalation, or other damaging people to appear. 

When discussing danger, it's like bad dreams have appeared in everyday life, and we can superstitiously feel like we could attract more trouble just mentioning a problem. The boogey man comes out of the book to stomp around the room. “Speak of the devil...” a jokey remark if a friend appears whom you've just been talking about. So, mentioning people who hurt others, could make them turn up at the door?

We may over-react in fear. Fear stops us acting well, at times. It can shut us up too.

Silence and inaction can be 'read', they're interpreted anyway. A hurtful person could then feel like no one cares what they do, or that others support their horrible acts, if no one speaks against them. 

Good and evil play out in life and stories, but we need better narratives where good wins more often.

Now with domestic violence, (child and spousal abuse) as one of our most pressing problems, we're talking about horrible acts. Getting angry and saying to lock them up, full-stop is a solution? But what about other trouble-makers also appearing from the same situations the latest batch, (now caught), appeared from? How to switch that to a better way?

Carpet in the ticketing area for Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee 

Schools offer kapa haka, cultural active-events, sport, dance, performance, martial arts... to let off steam and develop citizenship. Children then less likely to run amuck, not encouraged to make hurting others a habit. 

Any long-term crime, that's a dangerous habit. Stuck on the same page in a book, and it's like forgetting how to read. 

An instigator maybe thrilled when they hurt someone else, as if starring in a hard-out story, power-tripping. Otherwise they're a kind of empty shell, or a seething mess, or.... A mania for harm in them anyway, so finer moves are desperately needed. 

Anti-bullying programmes work with peer groups trained to recognise gang leaders, to disrupt nasty behaviour. They turn fellow students around. This also is adaptable for elsewhere.

How to keep ourselves safe? 

How to teach someone to love? 

How to teach someone whom we despise, to love others?

Bay of Plenty district

Anyone may be slightly anti-social at times, unfair a moment, or all full of themselves after a win, or someone may rage under pressure in a disaster.... Maybe we talked too loud a while, or forgot our good manners in a rush. Perfection's not the aim, though, we're not fairy story characters who think we're completely excellent.

Anyone who wants no others as good or better than them, they're usually baddies. 

A too-perfect image hides terrible behaviour? Could be. What do those perfectly turned out people see in their magic mirror? 

Perhaps you're too alarmed to think about their slippery strangeness?

Okay so your sixth sense is turned on, eyes open, your brain's engaged, and you can see that behaviour reveals a wrong-doer, in time. 

We may go along with bad things a while but then escape them, too. The woodsman who took Snow White into the forest to be killed, in the ancient story, he left her there instead. He disobeyed the evil queen, secretly. 

We may also choose not to go along with demands - a small alteration or a private decision. Carefulness keeps us safe.

Someone vulnerable like a child, (Snow White was not that old), or a person who's ill, or an old person whom you see, they're being unfairly treated? Sidestep where possible like the woodsman did, if you can. Simply talking about this to yourself, like your own best friend, can change the situation for the better too. Write down what you've seen and know. Think what to do next. Then ask for guidance from someone trusted.

Word power focuses thinking, ideas bloom from decision, actions, and change. The flame of knowledge so warming.

Doing only what you can is fine.

Go to a place you find easy to be, (the woodsman probably felt more clear-thinking in his familiar forest). 

Evil queens love to show off their power, so avoiding them is wise where possible, too.

Yes, so, don't like what you see? Change something for good, even a small act of decency is better than nothing.

Every kind act works wonders which you may not see, but kindness is its own reward. Behave well towards others and you feel better for it too.

Collage from Zowie Zine

For instance, this old friend of mine offered to let someone park in their driveway and use their kitchen and bathroom, while sleeping in their car. Imagine how good it would feel to have someone you didn't know offer to assist you in this way. Then the person offering also feels they've changed someone's misfortune a little. They make a new contact, and maybe soon figure out together some better solution to the issue of the person sleeping in the car.

Someone else I know used to let people sleeping on the street outside her second-hand place, sleep on the floor of her shop at night, instead. Now they've set up a homeless trust to assist people into housing.

 But then too, it seems our own government and its agencies can be abusers. This is only one story, (below) about someone's troubles with state housing, there are many more like this too. Join the facebook group Save our State Homes here https://www.facebook.com/groups/233483516845350/

Please take some time to read this and think, what kind of country do you want to live in?  How will you vote this coming election? Please don't let it be for the people who support travesties and abuse.

To Whom it May Concern,

I'm a state house tenant, I've been in this house 17 years, I'm physically disabled and able to work from home, I don't receive any other government assistance, partly by choice because I need to feel that I contribute to society. If I lost this house I wouldn't be able to work and inevitably I would end up on a benefit. HNZ twice served me with a notice to vacate that I believed was in breach of the Residential Tenancies Act and the Tenancy Tribunal agreed, on both occasions. I am privileged in that I know how the system works and the same system that can evict a tenant can protect that tenant.

I thank the foresight of the first Labour Government who established the Department of Housing Construction in 1936 and I am a direct recipient of that first wave of residential construction some 70 - 75 years ago.

As the state houses have become vacant in my area, no time is wasted before that house is on the market, thus taking the state house from its lofty perch as the answer to all questions of social value to a deconstructed, demolished and debauched housing policy where the only value these great assets of the people are to this government are as cashflow to pay down interest.

It's a national disgrace and I feel guilty that I have a roof over my head every night and that is just wrong.


(Name with-held for obvious reasons).

We're in a position to create a better country by voting these abusers in office now, out. They're identified as abusers by how they behave. How can you support them?

Any queries or comments please go ahead and thanks for reading.

Please also be aware we've started an advice and investigation business, Diana Ruth Bain and myself, Raewyn Alexander - Ooo Wise Women, (that's us the friends talking in the photo on this blog, today). 

We offer a friendly ear, a free first half hour consult, or your answering an online questionnaire, creativity workshops, gap analysis, business and personal advice, day-to-day ideas for better living, tarot readings, referrals to experts in almost any field, and we shall investigate any matter you want us to, and more. 

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