There are many different views on whether or not an abuse victim should talk about what happened. I personally think we should talk, and in an ideal world, the abuser would be held accountable. However, speaking out definitely has consequences as I have learned the hard way. All morning I’ve been thinking about the reasons why or why not people should speak out, the reason why others might or might not want us to tell our stories and the consequences of talking or not talking….
First of all, with narcissistic abuse, the abuse isn’t always obvious. Most people will agree that physical abuse is bad, but society doesn’t even agree on what counts as abuse. Smacking? Punching? Kicking? Hitting? Spanking? Some people think spanking your child is abuse while others do not. It’s hard for some people to determine a magical line between not-abusive and abusive. Typically if blood or broken bones are involved, we know for sure that is abuse. But, abuse comes in many styles and not all narcissists rely on physical abuse to control you. Some can degrade you with manipulative comments, or make you feel like you are going crazy with gaslighting. Some will sabotage you, but seem so nice and innocent while doing it. Some will yell and scream or scare you with intimidation or road rage. If you have been with a narcissist who didn’t hit you, it’s hard to convince some people that you were abused in the first place!
Why would a person speak out or stay quiet?
I spoke out because, one, I was in a state of shock and wanted to warn people about how dangerous my ex narcopath was in private. Some people had seen that he had an anger problem, but it was a million times worse at home. Two, I wanted to be heard and supported. I was stressed, upset and terrified about what I went through. It was intense! Three, I wanted to hold the abuser accountable for the ways he victimized and endangered myself and my children. At the same time, one of my friends who had divorced an abusive husband couldn’t understand why I would speak out. She said she was so embarrassed that she didn’t want to tell anyone. She said she just wanted to get away and be safe. Her ex abuser was a prominent doctor and she continued to allow him to be alone with her child despite his having beaten her. She insinuated that she doubted me because my reaction was not the same as hers…and she eventually turned on me to support my abuser. (Some friend, right?) Frankly, if I knew my doctor was beating women, I’d want to know about it! Plus, I definitely would not trust the person who beat me to not beat my child in another fit of rage. But, obviously my point of view is different. I believed in justice and thought that others truly did want to shun abuse.
Other people stay quiet because they think it is rude to “hurt” someone else’s image even if that person is an abuser who hurts people. Society tells us if we can’t say something nice, not to say anything at all. Still others want to protect the abuser to avoid family or group shame. Especially if the abuser is a relative, do you really want people to know your relative is an abuser and have them wondering if you might be too? From a religious point of view, perhaps we should trust God to take care of justice instead of vainly trying to get it for ourselves. I went through hell for speaking out, and sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t God telling me to shut up and just let Him take care of it. I don’t know. I’m not even that religious, but I keep trying to find an answer for what I’ve been through. It all comes down to: people have different reasons for speaking out or not and none of them are proof that one person’s story is more true than another’s. They are just different philosophies and approaches.
Why would other people want you to speak out or stay quiet?
In my experience, I learned that most people did not want to hear about abuse. My friends who believed me got tired of hearing me worry aloud, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t just “get over it.” They thought I wasn’t fun anymore. Acquaintances who liked my ex-narcopath didn’t want to hear or believe that maybe Mr. Fun Guy was abusing people. Even if they believed it, they just wanted to keep things with him fun and superficial. Some people don’t want to hear about abuse at all. They say it is too negative to talk about, and we should just move on. Unfortunately, that form of denial just allows abuse to continue. More than one person told me that abuse should be kept private. (Why? So the abuser can go hurt the next person?) Some people genuinely like the abuser and can’t understand that the person they know isn’t real, so they refuse to accept any facts that disprove their beliefs.
On the other hand, some people want to know about abuse, because like I said earlier, do you really want a doctor who beats his wife? Do you want your kids in a classroom with an abusive teacher? Do you want to be friends with someone who road rages and runs people off the road, then hits and runs? Frankly, I don’t. No way. And if I learn those things about someone, I avoid them. Some people, (like me,) are more personally invested in avoiding abusers.
What are the consequences of speaking out or not speaking?
For me, the consequences of not speaking outweighed the consequences of speaking, although I have changed my focus to avoid further abuse. If we don’t speak out, other victims don’t get validation or they might not find the courage to escape. More potential victims might get hurt. More people will remain ignorant about abuse, narcissism, sociopathy and predators.
But the consequences of speaking out are bad. I’m sure they vary depending on how disordered your narcissist is, how popular, how well-known, how dedicated, and more. For me, my narcissist is also a sociopath and has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. He is not stable in a home or job, and he dedicates his life to preying on others. He works long enough to save money to avoid working for years at a time, and he knows and charms thousands of people regularly by joining clubs and meeting people nearly every week. He is constantly hunting for new supply on Meet Up, Craig’s List, dating sites, Facebook, in person, and more. That gave him a very large crowd to manipulate, and also gave him a very large reason to destroy me in order to protect his false self.
Based on what I’ve heard from others, what happened to me is pretty common in differing degrees. My narc was very sneaky about smearing me and spreading his lies. He did his work through private messages and flying monkeys so he could appear to be taken “the high road” in public. I just spoke out on my own. This made me a huge target. Many “good” people were horrified that I would dare talk about what happened. They decided I was the bad guy for talking. Even people who knew my ex narcopath was violent still thought I was worse for talking. The narcopath was able to use that in his favor to play the victim and get even people he had previously hurt and discarded to feel sorry for him. I truly believe my trying to expose the reality helped him because he was able to get so much supply and find so many new enablers who felt sorry for him when I tried to tell people how dangerous he was. While I was telling the truth and he was smearing me privately, he was able to twist reality and accuse me of smearing him. It was frustrating!
I think my case was more extreme since my ex had his flying monkeys attacking me publicly, but so many survivors of abuse will say that people thought they were the bad one for speaking out. Unfortunately, narcissists are the biggest two-faces in the world, so people who have only seen the pretty face cannot understand that there is an evil side. But, they can see the victim who appears to slandering an innocent person, and that is easier for them to judge. Unfortunately, they judge wrong.
I finally gave up trying to convince people just how dangerous my ex was. I gave up defending myself to his enablers who weren’t willing to look at reality and see that even the stories he was telling them didn’t line up. In my opinion, there is no “winning” the war of your facts vs the narcissist’s lies. The only winning is to stop playing. But, that doesn’t mean you have to shut up. You just have to redirect your story to people who do get it or people who are willing to hear it.