To assume that what is going on with Trump, Weinstein, Spacey et al is ‘merely’ about transgressing sexual boundaries is woefully inadequate and patronising. Is not good enough to head off for some therapy at a health spa either, as seems to be the celeb response of choice. Because it is about power abuse in the most brutal and raw form.
Too often we forget that we are integrated creatures – neither mindless beasts nor embodied brains – and so there are profound connections between different aspects of our being. Thus in the perpetrator, sexual predation must be deeply connected to personal attitudes and private wounds, prejudices and temptations. That is why such behaviour can’t be ‘just’ anything. Likewise in the victim, the wounds will run deep, long after any physical scars have perhaps disappeared.
I’ve been trying to get my head around this reality, and instinctively resort to the diagrammatic, despite not being a graphic designer. It’s quite amateurish but hopefully conveys the point. I am no psychologist, so don’t pretend to plumb its dark depths. Some may thus pick up on the ignorant naivety of this formulation.
But here’s my stab. I’m trying to convey the sliding scale in the relationship between various types, between sexual, physical and psychological abuses.
The point is to suggest that even when the powerful have avoided inappropriate or sexual contact, they are not immune from the problem. They may be causing very similar damage, however unwittingly. [I remember a vicar friend who worked for a very difficult boss in his first curacy describing him as like “a drunk driver who never looks in the rear-view mirror”.] I have seen repercussions in victims of psychological abuse alone that are similar (though obviously not identical) to those experienced by victims of the other two.
This suggests that it is a much deeper problem going on here.
Diane Langberg is a superb thinker and speaker, as well as trusted counsellor for the victims of abuse of all kinds. She is a true hero. I have found myself coming back to her stuff repeatedly, and have often pointed others to her talks and books. She is definitely worth following on Twitter at the very least. But I was very struck by this line that she tweeted last month. It has rattled around my brain ever since.
It is always the responsibility of the person with power to maintain the integrity of the relationship. ALWAYS.
That is simple but fundamental. It is now my starting point for every case of power abuse.