Is the Way He is Treating Me Abusive?

The book Why Does He DO That? by Lundy Bancroft was recently recommended to me by Teh Bewilderness, and by the domestic violence shelter I’ve started volunteering at. It is exceptionally good. It’s written in 2002 by a man who runs programs for abusers, and it shows what tactics they use, as well as how their behavior can be crazy-making for women. Bancroft is very clear that MEN abuse women, and that women do not have the ability to terrorize and undermine men in the way men abuse women. He also discusses the ways in which friends, family, courts, and therapists can often take the abuser’s side without meaning to. He emphasizes that being “neutral” in cases where it is known that abuse is occurring is in fact choosing the side of the abuser.

Anyway, this is a great book, and I recommend every woman read it. We’ve all known (or been) women in abusive situations.

I thought the below checklist was very helpful in helping women discover whether they are in an abusive relationship. The list is taken from pages 124-130 of the book.

About his behavior, he is abusive if:

He retaliates against you for complaining about his behavior.

He tells you that your objections to his mistreatment of you are your own problem.

He gives apologies that are insincere or angry and he demands that you accept them.

He blames you for the impact of his behavior.

It is never the right time or the right way to bring things up.

He undermines your progress in life.

He denies what he did.

He justifies his hurtful or frightening behavior or say that you “made him do it”.

He touches you in anger or puts you in fear in other ways.

He coerces you into having sex or sexually assaults you.

His controlling, disrespectful, or degrading behavior is a problem.

About you, if you show signs of abuse such as:

Are you afraid of him?

Are you getting distant with your family and friends because he makes those relationships difficult?

Is your level of energy or motivation declining, or do you feel depressed?

Is your self opinion declining, so that you are always fighting to be good enough and to prove yourself?

Do you find yourself consistently preoccupied with the relationship and how to fix it?

Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?

Do you feel like the problems in your relationship are all your fault?

Do you repeatedly leave arguments feeling like you’ve been messed with but can’t figure out why?

If you think you may be in an abusive situation, please contact your local shelter or crisis line. You can just call to talk. They can help. They want you to call. Please call. Also, you can buy the book here.

EDIT: This post got a lot of negative feedback and accusations of misandry (lol) so I wanted to clear up what author Lundy Bancroft of Why Does He DO That? actually says about men and abuse.

This is from page 288-289 of his book, under the subheading “How Society Adopts the Abuser’s Perspective”:

“To the person who says “These abuse activists are anti-male”:

How is it anti-male to be against abuse? Are we supposed to pretend we don’t notice that the overwhelming majority of abusers are male? This accusation parallels the abuser’s words to his partner: The reason you think I’m abusive is because you have a problem with men!” One of the best counters to this piece of side-tracking is to point out how many men are active in combating the abuse of women. Remember also that abused women are the sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends of men. Men’s lives are affected by abuse, because it happens to women we know and care about.”

Additionally, from page 290:

“Everyone should be very, very cautious in accepting a man’s claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence. The great majority of allegations of abuse– though not all– are substantially accurate, and an abuser almost never ‘seems like the type’.”

Radfem Reboot Day Two: Overthrowing Men’s War Against Women

You can find a summary of day one events here.

Jumping right in…

Day two began with a panel discussion with survivor Jeri Sundvall-Williams, the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (VRR), and the Asian Women’s Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP). Jeri Sundvall-Williams’ discussion of her traumatic experience in prostitution made clear that prostitution is modern slavery, and must be stopped. The AWCEP women spoke to the fact that prostitution is violence against women, and that it both entrenches racism, and amplifies sexism for all women. Additionally, they stated that the move to legalize prostitution is racism against Asian women, as well as other women of color. Such powerful statements! Next, VRR stated that these three oppressions: race, class, and gender (that is, sex-based oppression) must be fought at the same time, in order to fight for all women. I loved their point that prostitution must be kept on the continuum of violence against women, which is why they welcome prostituted/trafficked women into their shelter. They also reminded us not to use prostituted women as a shield to make our own arguments, and that those who have not been prostituted have an obligation to speak out for abolition once we see that it is in the best interests of women.

Next, Kathleen Barry led a fabulous keynote speech on her new book Masculinity of War: Unmaking War, Remaking Men. I was personally very touched by this discussion, because Barry emphasized empathy as a solution to our war-infected society. She describes empathy as the ability to put ourselves in the position of another person, and she mentioned that empathizing can be a political action. With all the discussions of male violence that had occurred through the course of the weekend so far, as well as through RF discussions over the past year, I found myself quite emotional in thinking about the serious lack of empathy that men have had toward women. Masculinity dictates that men never consider the position of women– let alone what it would be like to be in that position. This is such a hard truth to realize, and I was struck hard by it. Empathy is necessary, and men need to get some already. Certainly, empathy is not enough— but it is a start, and it is something we must teach our children, and our friends, and our family. We cannot make men empathize. However, we can require it of them. I also enjoyed what Dr. Barry said about the language of protection. At the core of masculinity, she said, is the idea of protectors— those who must watch after the family, and be strong. Those protectors are seen as superior, and in patriarchy women are required to recognize them as superior. Masculinity, as Lierre Keith mentioned later in the day, leads to emotional disengagement, and remorselessness— which are the opposite of empathy. Kathleen Barry spelled this out so very clearly— and I began to actually envision what an empathetic world would look like.

After a break, Kathleen Barry led a strategy/consciousness raising session where we envisioned what a world without war would look like. While some women had ideas, others could not see that possible future, given the horrific realities of now. Barry did an excellent job of leading the discussion, as well as helping us see what steps should be taken to help this world become reality. I want to say that the incredible dynamic we created during this session cannot be reproduced in writing— unfortunately, one just had to be there. Please do take my word for it though— this was awesome. I have discovered that it is possible to schedule sessions like this with Barry, and more information on that can be found on her webpage, as well as through this flyer here . [PDF]

What a morning this was! I was struck with how brilliant and dynamic the speakers were, as well as the participants. Something truly powerful happens when women get together— something that the internet activism I had been a part of up until this point was not equivalent to. The activism we can do on the internet, as I’ve said before, is important. But I think these conferences are vital as well. I look forward to the next one.

Cherry Smiley spoke after lunch. She is a First Nations woman from Canada. Her stories were particularly difficult, as they made clear the racism, misogyny, and violence that native women suffer on a daily basis. As she said, aboriginal women are over-represented in street prostitution, so the idea of “legalization” (that is, legalizing the purchase of women) poses particular harm to them. She spoke on the “Harm Reduction” model, which does nothing to stop men from purchasing women, by saying, “We need to meet women where they are, but we cannot leave them there.” Additionally, the “Harm Reduction” model assumes that women can only go so far with their lives once they have been damaged by prostitution. These low expectations abandon women, rather than providing options for exit and another life. I was very moved by her awesome statements. Additionally, she laid out the two myths of prostitution: 1. That it is a choice, and 2. That it is inevitable. Finally, she emphasized that abolitionist and other movements must address white privilege, and that native and survivor voices take leadership roles in these movements. I learned so much from her presentation, and was very glad to have had the opportunity to hear her speak.

After this, we heard from Lierre Keith. I’ve transcribed a portion of her talk here, and you can find the entire video here. Keith was such a clear thinker—I really appreciated hearing her presentation, and I encourage you to watch it for yourself if you haven’t already.

Following this, Sam Berg discussed tactics for anti sex-industry activism. It was a fun, hilarious discussion! Again, with this one, you just had to be there :).

For the last event of the day, we watched a few short radical feminist films by Catherine Crouch. Several of the films were funny, and we were told that one of the films, called Gendercator, had generated controversy and had been pulled from the Frameline Film Festival because it was considered transphobic. I encourage you to watch the film and see for yourself, or check the description here.

After such a long and satisfying day, I needed some time to myself to journal and reflect. I went out, had a burger, and contemplated what an amazing few days it had been. The panels and the talks were all awesome, but one of the things that had developed over the course of a few days was true sense of community. As several women mentioned on our last day, there was not a lot of backbiting as we often see in activism circles. Rather, we put our differences aside (for the most part!) and recognized that while we may not agree on everything, our unity is exceptionally important in the fight against male supremacy and domination. As Sam Berg said, “What we have is not money, and it is not public opinion. What we have is each other.”

Stay tuned for day three!

on moral relativism


This is Bibi Aisha, an Afgan woman.

Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her family caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains.

Radical feminists know that the way Aisha was treated is wrong.

We don’t need a floating deity in the sky to tell us that this is so. We don’t need to be philosophers to know that this is wrong.

We acknowledge that different cultures have different practices. Some cultures bury their dead, and some cremate them. Some cultures communicate through sign language, and others speak Farsi. Some cultural practices are different from others. However, that doesn’t mean that all cultural practices are equally acceptable. Some cultural practices are wrong.

Femicide and violence against women happens on a worldwide scale. In the United States, 17.6% of all women survive a rape or attempted rape (and that’s only counting the 26%-37% of rapes that are reported). Woman-hating pornography in which violence occurs in over 88% of scenes is so mainstream and accepted that “progressive” Dear Abby-types see nothing wrong with it. There are over 50,000 women and children trafficked in the United States, and worldwide, at least 4 million women and girls are trafficked annually. Despite how oppressed women are, men don’t try and change the oppressive system. In fact, they still think rape jokes are funny. Some of them are in such denial that they claim women are actually the perpetrators. The authorities are no better, since 15 of every 16 rapists will go free.

This system is not just broken; it’s actively evil. By reading the above statistics, you can see that not only is violence normalized in “other cultures”– it’s normalized in our own. If right and wrong were merely determined by cultural consensus, then violence against women would be morally correct in our own culture as well as others. Violence against women is *normal* in our culture. Clearly, then, moral relativism cannot be true.

I am not a relativist. I believe that our patriarchal system must be destroyed, because it is objectively harmful. I don’t need a moral theory to tell me that.

*This essay by James Rachels is a good 101-type document on cultural relativism, if you are interested.