Originally published: 13.12.16
Dear Alan Carr,
You can harp on about how the Justin Lee Collins who assaulted his partner wasn’t the Justin that you knew, but the truth of the matter is that he was.
See, this is the kind of talk that silences abuse victims. Talking about how it was a “toxic” relationship. Minimising the abuse. It’s telling victims that their experiences of an abuser aren’t accurate, because yours are different.
Abusive men are good at hiding who they are. And often, they put on a front of being a “Good Man TM” to the general public. They might volunteer for charity. They might be that bloke you have a laugh with, day in – day out. They might be the chap in the office who has a wife, kids, and hell – they might even say to your face that he’s a good guy. They’re trained to, because society tells us – on a daily basis – that if a man abuses a woman, she can be – in someway – blamed for it. Abusive men rarely show their abusive nature to people they consider their equals. Once they meet an inferior, however, it’s a different matter.
(With my ex, it was me. It was Muslim taxi drivers who didn’t pick up his fare. It was a homosexual man I considered a friend. A colleague who went out of his way to be a kind and considerate individual at every turn. And – it took me a long time to admit this – it was his Nan. To every person my ex abused, to every person for whom I wish I had stepped up and defended, I’m sorry.)
But these men survive on these fronts that they put up. On the exterior that their peers buy into. After all, abusers rely on confirmation that their actions are justified, that they must have been pushed into acts of violence. It means that they can refer their victim to all these people who can vouch for them. They can point you in the direction of a well-meaning police officer who will point out that your abuser was drunk, very remorseful, and who’ll call you the morning after your abuser was arrested, asking if he can come home.
But minimising the abuser, talking about their good sides, is a dangerous game. It leads to the victim accepting the abuser back into their lives, because the narrative that surrounds them is one of blame. It leads to the victim wondering if their abuse was “really that bad”, as other women have it so much worse. It leads to victims wondering if they are the reprehensible individual that their abuser leads them to believe they are, as they’re the only people who witness the abuse. It leads to families pushing victims back to abusers for the sake of the children, because “all children need a father in their lives”. Oh, what bull that is.
You may not have recognised the man that abused Anna Larke. But I do. The women who are experiencing abuse right now, or the women who have survived abuse – the women who have died as a result of abuse do. Because we see both sides of abusive men. We see the sides that you recognise, the sides that you applaud and that you’re comfortable with.
And we recognise the sides that are held up in court, the same way that many of us come to recognise the defences that come along with their actions.
It’s not a “toxic relationship.” It is, quite simply, male violence against women; it is systematic, it is universal, and it is deadly.