7 Types of Serious Abuse We Don’t Take Seriously

Jarune Uwujaren asks us to pause a moment and reflect up on 7 forms of abuse that are often laughed about, dismissed or simply ignored. 

(Trigger warning: jokes about abuse, violence, and rape)

The world can be a messed up place, hence the need for humor to take the edge off things. But is it appropriate that some forms of abuse are the butt of jokes more often than others?

For example, how many times have you heard jokes or comments like these?

  • “Dressed like that, she must have been asking for it.”
  • “Don’t drop the soap!”
  • “Keep your pimp hand strong.”

The unfortunate truth is a lot of us have been conditioned to take some forms of abuse less seriously than others, due in part to stereotypes about culture, gender, and sexual orientation that circulate throughout the media.

Some forms of abuse that are routinely trivialized in everyday life include:

1. Domestic Abuse of Men

In the media, marriages in which men are henpecked by emotionally manipulative women are played for laughs. This YouTube video featuring abused black men cuddling stuffed animals in the arms of white women demonstrates our tendency to portray abuse against men in an exaggerated, humorous way.

According to the CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, about 1 in 4 men surveyed had experienced “rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime” compared to about 1 in 3 women surveyed. Among gay men, 15% of gay men who participated in the National Violence Against Women Survey had been abused by a live-in partner.

So why aren’t we hearing more about this? The pressure placed on men to be stoic, strong, and in control of their intimate relationships makes male victims of domestic violence less likely to report the incident.

And given society’s dismissive attitude toward the seriousness of this type of abuse, men fear being shamed, ignored, and ridiculed by the very people they seek help from.

2. Rape of Men

Overlapping with the problem of domestic violence against men is rape of men by both other men and women. In addition to forced penetration of men, this includes incidents in which a man is forced to penetrate someone else. According to the CDC Survey cited above, this form of sexual abuse happened to 4.8% of men surveyed.

When it comes to getting support, justice, or visibility, male rape survivors are up against a slew of victim-blaming myths like, “He got it up, so he must have wanted it,” or “He could’ve fought the rapist off.”

In reality, men can have unwanted erections and be overpowered by their attackers. But the media continues to portray the myth that men enjoy even unwanted sex, as in the case of Lois raping Peter in an episode of Family Guy.

Also, statutory rape of young males is overlooked, with many people believing that sleeping with a teacher or older woman is a teen boy fantasy come true rather than a form of abuse.

3. Rape in Prison

One of the problems with rape jokes (and there are many) is that they tend to shame or blame the victim and validate the rapist. On The Boondocks, for example, there is an episode dedicated to a character called the Booty Warrior, a prisoner who seems to have nothing on his mind but raping other inmates.

When you consider that 4.5% of inmates surveyed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported sexual abuse in the past year, it’s clear that some prison staff are turning a blind eye to this type of abuse as well. And that number probably grossly underestimates the prevalence of prison rape.

Portraying rape as a form of justice, even jokingly, is f*cked up. I’m not suggesting that prison is meant to be Camp Sunshine by any means, but prison is already a punishment and rape is not the karmic due owed to criminals.

Furthermore, there are teenagers, petty criminals, and wrongly accused people receiving the same abuse in prison as hardened criminals—sexual abuse in prison can affect any inmate.

4. Sibling Abuse

Sibling rivalry is not uncommon, even in the healthiest families. Unfortunately, outright abuse between siblings gets confused with healthy sibling rivalry. The media normalizes abusive behaviors between siblings, such as the way Meg is treated by her siblings and other characters on Family Guy.

Sibling abuse goes beyond friendly roughhousing—it could involve battery, sexual molestation, rape, verbal abuse, psychological manipulation, or any other violence between siblings.

One worrying thing about sibling abuse is that parents might not take it seriously. Perhaps more worrying is that the inherent closeness between siblings may prevent victims of abuse from “telling on” their abusers.

Like other victims of domestic violence, people who have been abused by their siblings may keep quiet due to pressure from loved ones and fear of ridicule.

5. Violence Against People Facing Poverty

Poverty can lead to a heightened state of vulnerability to violence. From the senseless attacks and harassment directed toward homeless people to the bad relations between the justice system and poor communities, poor people are often targeted by those of higher income levels.

Since poor people are stereotyped in the media as having less education, intelligence, or character than people of higher income levels, people facing poverty in the real world get blamed for the violence in their communities.

Unfortunately, blatant disrespect for those facing poverty has become so normalized that abuse of actual homeless people, sometimes as cruel jokes, is on the rise. For example, Peter Rosello, the son of a Real Housewives reality star, was filmed punching a sleeping homeless man in the groin and running off.

6. Rape of Promiscuous Women

Slut-shaming and victim-blaming go hand in hand. Public opinion tends to assign more blame to victims of sexual assault who are sexually promiscuous, wear revealing clothing, or have sex shortly after the incident. For example, one UK woman’s case against a group of men that allegedly raped her was thrown out of court because she made online statements about group sex fantasies.

Some comedians reinforce this view of promiscuity by making jokes that shame victims of rape, like Daniel Tosh saying, “Beat it, slut! Go get raped on your own corner!” on Tosh.0.

But here’s the thing—rape is, by its very definition, unwanted. Women who own their sexuality never want to be raped. The way a woman adorns or enjoys her own body has nothing to do with whether or not another person decides to violate her bodily autonomy.

Just because a woman wanted to and did have sex many times before doesn’t mean she wants to have sex whenever someone approaches her. And when she doesn’t want to, it’s rape.

 7. Pimping

Pimps who traffic women and children in prostitution have become the over-glorified butt of jokes as of late. Characters like A Pimp Named Slickback on The Boondocks backhand prostituted women as if it’s as funny as Jerry dropping an anvil on Tom’s head.

In real life, women and children in prostitution are frequent victims of abuse at the hands of both pimps and johns. One study reports that 78 percent of women in prostitution surveyed said they were raped an average of 16 times a year by pimps.The average age of entry for American girls into prostitution is 13 years old and guess who’s recruiting them—pimps.

In part because the ugly side of pimping is so minimized in our society, minors are seen as criminals at the state level and not as victims of child sexual abuse or statutory rape. Girls as young as 12 or 13 who are being manipulated and abused are regularly charged for the crimes their pimps are making them do.

Other forms of violence often utilized by pimps to exploit and control prostituted women and children include isolating them, minimizing their abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, and battering. Pimps usually take all of their money  and have nightly quotas that women have to earn or face violent repercussions. Some pimps even “brand” those they’re trafficking with tattoos of their name to demonstrate ownership. In other words, pimps do more harm than slapstick smacks across the face—and even that isn’t something to be laughed about.

♦◊♦

To be clear, this is not an exhaustive list of every type of violence that gets minimized on a regular basis, nor is it part of any Feminist War on Humor (starting to think people believe this exists).

It’s just a reminder that a lot of the things we’ve been socially conditioned to make light of affect real survivors who are being shamed, stigmatized, and silenced by so called “jokes” about the abuse they’ve faced.

Every joke that validates abusers and shames victims, portrays victims as deserving of abuse or contributes to the stigma faced by survivors of abuse contributes to a social atmosphere that ignores the problems being laughed about.

As a society, we never want to burden ourselves by taking things too seriously. At the same time, we don’t want to take abuses so lightly that we let them get worse.

So ask yourself, if it was your sister or brother who faced this type of abuse, would you laugh about it?

Originally appeared at Everyday Feminism

 

Jarune Uwujaren is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. A Nigerian-American recent graduate who’s stumbling towards a career in writing, Jarune can currently be found drifting around the DC metro area with a phone or a laptop nearby. When not writing for fun or profit, Jarune enjoys food, fresh air, good books, drawing, poetry, and sci-fi.

 

Photo: Flickr/erix!

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Comments

  1. Lets not forget Spiritual Abuse, unopened can of abuse right there. http://inaasa.co.uk/what-is-spiritual-abuse/

  2. If you look at most states, domestic abuse has a rather wide definition.

    Looking at the one in NY State, it shocked me to realize that my soon to be ex-wife had committed domestic abuse against me and me against her during our marriage.

    It’s not meant to minimize it. It’s meant to have people really take a look at how they treat their partner and how their partner treats them.

  3. Thank you for bringing attention to the fact that these terrible acts are often joked about or taken lightly. I overhear middle school and high school boys make inappropriate comments about pimping, rape and sexual assault. Unfortunately, our society does not take #1, #2, and #3 seriously. We tend to dismiss the victimization of men.

  4. To state the obvious: Legalize prostitution and pimping becomes a rare and easily prosecuted crime.

  5. Only if you have a reasonable legal definition of “pimping”. Some exemples of things that are legally pimping here (and were when prostitution was legal):

    Renting a space to a prostitute where he/she does business (since a landlord can’t control what goes on in a rented appartment renting to a prostitute was in effect pimping).
    Prostitutes banding together to save money by buying condoms in bulk (both the prostitutes and the supplier would be considered pimps here for “organizing prostitution”.

    There are more, but I don’t remember the details of the top of my head, but it should be clear that this kind of idiocy would obstruct any kind of attempt to fight the kind of pimping refered to here.

    • I believe another definition involves profiting from another’s prostitution. Under that definition, if a prostitute buys her kids some cereal, or pays half the rent with her boyfriend, both the boyfriend and the children are legally pimps.

      • I’ve heard about that happening, but I don’t think it ever did here. Thankfully. Although I don’t think it would ever apply to the kids as long as they are minors. I’ve definitely heard of it for adult children though.

    • And pimping is a male only word (AFAIK), for women who live off the avails of prostitution, they are called madams, which is a really nice word actually.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    “Pimping” isn’t just the butt of jokes, it’s actually become a positive word. Our society doesn’t minimize pimping so much as glorify it. I remember quite clearly when Britney Spears married Kevin Federlein, the groom and all the groomsmen wore track suits with the word “Pimp” on the back. I don’t think they meant to be ironic. I think they just thought it was classy. How did this happen? It used to be considered an evil practice. In Dante’s Inferno, there’s a whole level of Hell just for pimps.

  7. “Very Young Girls” is a documentary by Rachel Lloyd of GEMS that looks into the world of pimps and young teenage girls (as young as 12 or 13 years old) that was filmed right here in NYC….really heart-wrenching stuff to see girls who are as young as my middle schooler son and trapped in “The Life”…many of the girls depicted in the film are girls of color who come from disadvantaged homes….some of the girls seem to be downright developmentally delayed….

    This is a picture of girls much different from the Hollywood glossiness of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” or Rachel Ward in “Sharky’s Machine”…..

  8. 2.
    I wasn’t surprised that Jezebel article on the upswing of statutory rape of boys reacted to a rape apology by adopting it:

    a teen boy is often likely to regard such an experience as a lark. (Says one friend of the boy’s, “We couldn’t believe it…we were still virgins, and he was hitting it with teachers! It was pretty fucking sweet.”

    Or that they would claim it’s worse for women

    The truth is, it’s not as stark a power dynamic or so clear a case of exploitation [when women do it versus when men do it]

    This is the first comment to that story and it was made by Erin Gloria Ryan – a journalist at Jezebel:

    This problem would go away if teachers would just stop being so hot.

    I guess it was too much to expect that a woman who wrote many articles supporting slut walk protests against a police officer saying that women shouldn’t wear skimpy outfits in order to avoid being raped wouldn’t engage in victim blaming herself.

    No, Erin, it would go away if teachers would stop having sex with underaged students, but I guess that is too much to expect from female teachers according to you.

    3.
    On prison rape the author of the article writes:

    it’s clear that some prison staff are turning a blind eye to this type of abuse as well.

    They don’t just turn a blind eye. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics the majority of sexual abuse against men in prison is perpetrated by prison staff. In addition the majority of the prison staff who perpetrate sexual abuse is female.

    • Link to sources for the claims I made in the last paragraph in my previous comment:
      http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svpjri0809.pdf
      http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svjfry09.pdf

      • Question on the prison abuse. Did they include “consenting” sex, like a prisoner wants to have sex with a guard or is that a separate issue? Consent in “” since the guard has power over the prisoner still.

        • Yes, they included this in a category called “Staff Sexual Misconduct”.

          Prisoners can’t legally consent to sex so per legal definition it’s rape even if the prisoner said “yes,, let’s have sex” to the guard.

          Human Rights Watch have an article on why they think “staff sexual misconduct” is a misnomer and a whitewash. I am on the run and don’t have time to dig up the link, but let me know if you can’t find it yourself I’ll try to dig it up over the weekend.

        • Yes, it’s included. “Staff sexual misconduct” include ” willing sexual contact” and “unwilling sexual contact”.

          Here is what the report itself says on the matter:

          Regardless of whether an inmate reported being willing or unwilling, any sexual contact between inmates and staff is illegal

          followed by an “however”

          Here is what Human Rights Watch has to say on the matter:

          The BJS survey asked inmates to indicate whether their sexual activity with staff was “willing” or “unwilling.” In the prison context, however, this distinction is meaningless.

          As Human Rights Watch documented in its 1996 report, “All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in State Prisons,” all sexual interaction between staff and inmates is inherently coercive because of the inherent disparity in power between staff and inmates, and thus can never be considered “voluntary” on the part of the inmates.

          http://www.hrw.org/news/2007/12/15/us-federal-statistics-show-widespread-prison-rape

          A little over half report willing sexual contact with staff (1.8 willing vs 1.7 unwilling in prison and 1.1% willing vs 1.5% unwilling in jail). This is what I think is a somewhat misleading statement in the executive summary.

          Let’s look closer.
          Among the 39,121 male prison inmates who had been victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% reported sexual activity with female staff; an additional 16% reported sexual activity with both female and male staff. 54.8% of male prisoners who were victims of staff sexual misconduct reported pressure, 35.4% reported force/threat of force and 64.1% reported no force and no pressure. Adds to more than 100 since some prisoners have been victimized more than once.
          Yes, 54.8% of victims reported staff sexual misconduct with no pressure/force, but it’s misleading to say that is more than half since some have been victimized several times leading to 64.1% reporting pressure and 35.2% reporting force/threat of force.

          Women are in fact individually higher at risk in prison than men, but contrary to populary belief they are more at risk from other female inmates. The number of male prisoners are magnitudes higer than of female prisoners so despite the higher risk for women many more men are sexually violated than women in prison and jail.

  9. The trivialization of prison rape is probably the worst, for many reasons:
    1. Starting with the obvious, the idea that rape can be justified as punishment is utterly obscene.
    2. The idea that the worst of the worst will be targeted is unrealistic. Despite the belief in “Honor among thieves” the worst murderers and rapists are not likely to be targeted out of fear, and high profile molesters and others are put in protective custody.
    3. The inmates that are likely to be targeted are usually weak, mild mannered, young, or gay.
    4. Condoms are not distributed in a lot of prisons (on the idiotic idea that having condoms “would only encourage sex”) and STIs are prevalent in prison.
    5. The most shocking thing that is never considered is who is actually doing the “punitive” raping. Chances are they’re.,, convicted rapists.

  10. Google ‘The Man Prayer’ and see what you think of how men should be according to the video (Eve Ensler alert!).

  11. Janie Jones says:

    It’s a good article. I also note that it says that it doesn’t cover everything too. Latest stats in the UK state that 2 women a week are killed by intimate partner or ex partner violence. 1 in 3 women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime and 1 in 4 men! I would like to suggest that none of it is taken seriously. Regardless of gender. I worry about the gender divide all the time, I worry that victim blaming goes on in all cultures and it’s never taken seriously. A women who was failed dramatically by the system here in ignoring her pleas for help with her 2 yr old child was bludgeoned to death by her husband, in front of her toddler. He bludgeoned her over 50 times with a hammer no less. He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years. Whilst 2 cocaine smugglers were given 20 years and 24 years each. All of it needs to be discussed openly. It’s not gender specific but it truly wrecks the lives of adults and children. I wish we could talk about all kinds of abuse without the gender divide as it only divides us even further.

    • @Janie
      ” I would like to suggest that none of it is taken seriously.”

      That’s interesting. I thought domestic violence perpetrated against women was taken somewhat seriously. Given that society does appear to recognize it, talk about it, pass special legislation about it, provide training organized and scripted by feminists about it, setup special prosecution and special courts for it, fund shelters and advocacy groups focused on it ….

      Perhaps you could describe what additional steps you wold like to see society take on violence against women that would lead you to believe that violence against women IS taken seriously ?
      For instance, would those steps include the immediate adjudication of such cases at the allegation stage followed by incarceration of the male? Or even earlier, the same steps at the reporting of concerns that an domestic violence attack against a women might happen?

  12. I think one factor that may contribute to the problem of minimalizing sibling abuse is the fact that we feel such a need to characterize abuse in black-and-white terms. In other words, we want to see abusers as (and reduce them to) “bad guys” rather than recognize abusive behaviors as a complex human behavior and a reaction to pain. And since we don’t want to characterize a child as a “bad guy,” we are thus reluctant to characterize what goes on between siblings as abusive.

  13. Mr Supertypo says:

    interesting….

  14. You left out psychological and legal abuse by men and women against their partners. Victims can be subject to false allegations, extortion, denial of access to their children. Lies, manipulation, and other forms of intentional malicious provocation to keep them under the control of the abuser.

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