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What comes to your mind when you see behaviour that crosses a line?

28 January 2016 — Esther Sweetman — Blog

What came to your mind when you read this article?

When I read this article some words immediately came to my mind:

  • Boundaries
  • Minimization - Blame Shifting
  • Power and Control
  • Shock

Boundaries were being pushed in both situations this woman describes. Abusive behaviour started small and grew and grew. This is very typical. An abuser will start with a small boundary violation and the next time the boundary violation grows ever so incrementally. This is often why it is hard for a woman to understand or respond to an abusive situation, abuse can be like the frog in a pot of cold water, the frog doesn't jump out if the pot slowly comes to a boil.

Minimization / Blame Shifting - the man in the second situation comments, 'I didn't realize you were so sensitive'. He minimizes his actions and blames the woman's response on her 'sensitivity' rather than on his unacceptable behaviour. No one wants to be physically kicked out of bed, have cold water poured on them and be left crying all night, wet with no cover. The real question is 'why would he think this behaviour is acceptable?'

The author also minimizes the behaviour of the men in both scenarios. In the first instance she says that their behaviour was in ‘jest’ and that they did not intend to make her feel that way. She gives the man in the second scenario credit for apologizing - somehow the fact that he seems ‘genuinely bemused’ as to why she was upset is an acceptable excuse to her. Because she doesn't feel he 'intended to make her feel those feelings' he was pardoned. As a society we put a lot of stock into 'intentions' as opposed to holding people accountable for their actual 'behaviors'. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves if there could have actually been any ‘acceptable’ intention behind his behavior?

Parents/teachers/guardians spend years helping children understand that actions have consequences but once children become adults we provide endless excuses for those adults who still demonstrate childlike inability to understand or take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Power and Control - the second scenario progressed with the man’s demand to 'pick up my shirt'. Clearly he was making a statement that required deference and assumed dominance - he wanted a response from this woman that would require subservience, even in a small way.

Shock - the influence of shock cannot be underestimated. Why didn't she leave? It seemed to me that she was in incredible shock and disbelief as to what was happening. She didn't leave because it was the middle of the night and she was scared. I wonder if she was thinking if she was safer to stay or go?


What comes to your mind when you see behaviour that crosses a line?