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Abuse Is Not an Olympic Sport

Ah. I see Richard Dawkins has “apologized” for his asinine comments about pedophilia. The best I can say about it is, at least this time, he attempted to apologize for being a gigantic ass. For an anatomy of this “apology,” I encourage you to visit the incisive comments from Jafafa Hots here and here. Off you go. Especially you, Richard. Yes, you. Now. Look, I’ll even publish those comments at the end of this piece for those lazy buggers who can’t be arsed to click links.

Are you back? Perhaps you can see why I’m disappointed, but in case not, read on.

Dissapointed cat

I’m not going to write a long manifesto exploring all the ways Richard Dawkins has, once again, gotten it wrong, because that’s rather been taken care of by survivors in this thread. I’m just going to say this:

Abuse is not an Olympic Sport.

No medals are awarded for Worst Abuse Survived. No points are detracted for Not Surviving Abuse Quite Right, or Making A Fuss Over “Minor” Sexual Assault. There is no Abuse Olympics Committee drawing up the parameters as to what constitutes Really Real Serious Abuse and what is Less Serious But Still Impressive and Too Petty to Be Included as a Sport.

The fact that you insist on their being such degrees, that you feel you must slot survivors into these categories, wherein only the Repeated Groping by an Adult in Authority qualifies for consideration – Richard, that tells me you’ve suffered more damage than you think. Because not being very traumatized by an assault is one thing (I’ve got some in my past that have hardly been a blip on my radar, too, so I get that.) But this insistence on minimizing this type of assault, statements like this:

Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s? Should I have lied and said it was the worst thing that ever happened to me? Should I have mendaciously sought the sympathy due to a victim who had truly been damaged for the rest of his life? Should I have named the offending teacher and called down posthumous disgrace upon his head?

No, no and no. To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

That is why I made light of my own bad experience.

That’s a whole other kettle of fish. It screams of someone trying to convince themselves that things really weren’t bad at all, who so needs to be convinced of this that anyone who survived the same but admits that it traumatized them must be belittled and shouted down, even in an apology. Because otherwise, you’d have to admit that what you experienced was more than just a silly little nothing you don’t have to fuss over. If those survivors clamor about it, that means you were a victim, too. And you just can’t face that.

If that’s not what has led you to sneer at people whose abuse was less than spectacular oh, so many times, I apologize. But I do hope you think about it. And I do hope you realize that, even if you’re not motivated by trying to minimize your own trauma to protect yourself, you sure as shit look like it, and furthermore are doing quite a lot of harm to your fellow survivors, and should stop now.

Take the example of those of us who have survived our own abuse, some of it which even you would admit qualifies as really real serious stuff, and don’t minimize what happened to others just because they didn’t react the same way as you. They’re people with different thoughts and experiences and expectations than you. They’re people who experience life differently from you. The fact they stumbled over what you took in stride doesn’t make them lesser people. It doesn’t make them fake victims crying wolf. It simply means that they are not you.

And I guarantee you that somewhere along the way, they’ve hopped lightly over something that brought you crashing down on your face, because that’s just a fact of being human.

Put the scorecard away.

[warning]A special note to the Dawkins fans who might feel compelled to defend their Brave Hero by shitting on everyone else: I’ve got a spam folder empty and waiting. Don’t even bloody bother. You are, of course, welcome to spew that nonsense elsewhere, so do make sure you save your comment so that you can repost it in full where other Dawkins fanatics can admire your mad apologetics skillz.[/warning]

***

Here are Jafafa Hots’s comments in their entirety:

 

It is not an apology.
It’s a rephrasing of his argument for those of us too stupid to get it.

Right off the bat he says that the disagreement is the result of a misunderstanding, the implication being that we did the misunderstanding. Perhaps also that he needed to elaborate, but not to change his stance – to reassert it.

Today we read, almost daily, of adults whose childhood was blighted by an uncle perhaps, or even a parent, who would day after day, week after week, year after year, sexually abuse a vulnerable child. The child would often have no escape,

That “year after year” sentiment crops up again and again.

Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s?

More “year after year” which is what apparently is needed for you to feel bad about being sexually assaulted.

That is why I made light of my own bad experience. To excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from my intention. I should have hoped that much was obvious. But I was perhaps presumptuous in the last sentence of the paragraph quoted above.

It should have been obvious, but he presumed too much of us, so he’s forced to explain it like we’re children.

As far as the complaint that he was projecting his experiences onto OTHERS, including his classmates?
First, he talks about how they talked among themselves – as if that somehow eliminates the fact that kids will “buck up” in front of friends, or not recognize the damage until later.
The concession he gives about his painting his experience onto others is this:

“I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent,/b> where mine was not.

if, perhaps it happened many times and amounted to more than the single disagreeable but brief fondling that I endured, I apologize.

All this “apology” is is a doubling down of his
mild” versus “real and damaging” pedophilia stance.

And what if he (and by implication others) HAD claimed he was harmed by a single instance of being molested?

To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

Because if he had claimed his teacher putting his hands down his pants was harmful, apparently we all would have jumped on him for claiming that was harmful, and properly so, because that’s his opinion also.

There is no apology here.
There is an explanation and reiteration of his “real and damaging versus mild and harmless pedophilia” stance, that he has to rephrase because he apologetically understands that we were too thick to understand him.

The whole thing is a cowardly BS restatement of his original stance.

I not only reject it fully, I’m embarrassed that the cult of personality, the “need for leaders” problem we seem to have is helping him make the same offensive statements as an “apology” for his earlier expression of the same damned opinion.

 

And in case I didn’t stress that part enough, his concession that his friends might have been harmed hinges on the possibility that they, unknown to him, suffered it repeatedly, “many times.”

Because again, to be harmful sexual abuse, it needs to be REPEATED. Not like the harmless “mild pedophilia” he suffered. His mistake was in presuming that they also may have only suffered the one-off “harmless” sexual molestation.

THAT is doubling down.
He has not changed his attitude one bit, and all he has done is to explain to us mere nitwits the true standards our abuse has to meet to be considered harmful, and not “crying wolf.”

Doubling down because people are too damned stupid to understand you is NOT an apology by any stretch of the imagination.

I am sickened by the fact that hero worship is so entrenched that he can successfully pull this off and get people to thank him for it.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Jafafa Hots

    It should have been obvious, but he presumed too much of us, so he’s forced to explain it like we’re children.

    Well, didn’t you know that when Dawkins says something it is always perfectly clear? He said so himself…[/snark]

    +++
    Dawkins’ “oh I’m so respectful of other victims so I’m not going to complain about what happened to me” shows that he has pretty little actual experience with victims or survivor spaces.
    I was not sexually abused as a child, I was never raped as an adult. But I suffered physical and emotional abuse as a child which left me pretty damaged as an adult, and there were numerous cases of sexual assault.
    Yet when I tell in survivor spaces, what I usually get is sympathy and empathy. From survivors who suffered “much worse”, to stay in Dawkins’ terminology. It was partly their kind words that allowed me to understand that yes, it actually was abuse.
    I’m kind of sorry for Dawkins if all he ever got was a “man up, stop crying, these children had it worse.”
    So, let me say it here: I’m sorry you were sexually assaulted as a child, Richard Dawkins. It was a horrible thing to do and completely unexcusable.

    • shockwaver says

      Thanks Giliell for this – you’ve pretty well nailed what my problem with what he said was.

      I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse – but I still struggle with feeling like a fraud because I look at the stories of other people’s experiences and mine wasn’t nearly as bad. It’s easy to internalize these sorts of things and not even realize the effect it has on people – if this is the background noise that we always hear then how else would we feel if not like a fraud for complaining about our experiences?

      What is the standard before we can judge childhood sexual abuse as something bad, in Dawkin’s mind? 5 discrete events? 10? 1 by a parent, but 5 by a tutor? Where is the line where someone is valid for feeling like their abuse should be condemned?

      All I see here is Dawkins saying “If you are not completely screwed up by your abuse (blighted and cursed), then how dare you complain about it.” which is NOT a healthy outlook – but it is one I am very familiar with.

  2. Aliasalpha says

    Well it looks like the IOC have decided that vilification is a demonstration sport at the sochi winter games so I’d say abuse still has a chance to get in the olympics.

  3. Eristae says

    I’m cross posting this from Greta’s post, which I hope is okay:

    I’m tired and cranky, so I’m not going to write much and will try to come back to this later, but in the meantime . . .

    Today we read, almost daily, of adults whose childhood was blighted by an uncle perhaps, or even a parent, who would day after day, week after week, year after year, sexually abuse a vulnerable child. The child would often have no escape,

    Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s?

    To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

    I am an adult whose childhood was blighted by having a parent (my father) sexually abuse me day after day, week after week, year after year. That makes me, in theory, one of the people whom Dawkins doesn’t want to belittle and insult.

    And I am infuriated beyond all measure by the idea that my response to someone’s abuse is or should be something as horribly insensitive, unhelpful, and damaging as this “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse” bullshit. Just reading it makes me want to breathe fire out of sheer rage. I’m so angry that I cannot process the rest of what he wrote at the moment.

    I don’t care if my experience was better or worse than Dawkins’s. That is not the issue. It isn’t even an issue. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Dawkins was abused, and as such should receive any and all support that he needs in overcoming the trauma of his abuse. If he was lucky, if his trauma was minimal and he does not in fact need support, then that is wonderful. It is a cause for celebration and joy. The goal for all survivors of abuse is for them to be able recover from their abuse, even though that goal is not always achievable.

    However, Dawkins’s good fortune is not cause to minimize, dismiss, and shame people who were not so fortunate.

    I said it somewhere else and I’ll say it again here: molesting a child is like throwing a child out a window. It isn’t possible to know how badly the child will be hurt beforehand. The child may suffer bruises, broken bones, severed nerves, or even, in some particularly fortunate situations, manage to escape unscathed. Furthermore, while it is true that the danger of injury increases as the height that the child was thrown from increases, a child who is thrown from a third story window may suffer fewer injuries than a child thrown from a second story window.

    Similarly, it is not possible to tell beforehand how a child will react to being abused. I have spoken to individuals who were subjected to abuse that even Dawkins would agree is horrendous and nevertheless walk away unscathed. I have spoken to individuals who were subjected to abuse that Dawkins would dismiss who weren’t able to do anything but lie broken on the floor.

    When a person survives abuse unscathed, I rejoice. When a person is crippled by abuse, I mourn, empathize, and seek to help them. I do not seek to critique the person’s abuse. I do not insist that a person has no right to their (metaphorical or literal) broken bones.