Humans of New York: Believe women first

A recent post over at Humans of New York brought out the livid in me. The image is of a young man; his story aims to convince us that he was wronged by an ex who lied in order to have him charged with domestic abuse. As I was one year ago when Jian Ghomeshi posted his own victim-blaming defense, painting the accusations against him as driven by jealousy — a “crazy” ex, out to get him — I am, once again, incredulous that people fall for this shit.

I, of course, cannot say all that happened between this man and his ex. I wasn’t there. I cannot say whether or not he should be permitted to see his daughter or not. I don’t know the whole story. But what I do know is that the story he tells is… telling.

While Humans of New York allows the man to present himself as a victim of yet another conniving, vengeful, woman, there is enough evidence in just this post (never mind all that we don’t know) to make us skeptical of the intended narrative.

He forces his way into his ex’s house and she somehow “ends up on the ground.” How does one “end up on the ground?” Why would he try to force his way into her house if she didn’t want him there? Why didn’t she want him there in the first place? “Because her new boyfriend was over?” Even if this were true — and we, of course, have no idea what’s true, we’re only hearing from the man with the domestic abuse charge — there is a reason a woman might not want her ex in her house while her new partner is present: Because she’s afraid of the jealous rage — the potential of violence.

We’ve heard these kinds of stories over and over again: “She’s jealous/bitter/crazy, she’s angry I left her, she wants my money.” Victims of abuse have been told these stories to their faces, by the abusers themselves: “We were fighting, you pushed me, you drove me to this, this goes two ways,” etc.

I’m tired of these predictable, cliched excuses and you should be too. And yet the comments beneath the post blew me away.

I despise women who make a mockery of the very real issue of domestic violence in order to manipulate other people and subvert justice,” one woman said on Facebook.

Another wrote, “Unfathomable. I am so sorry. Continue staying the course. Her life will catch up with her.

So very sad to hear his story,” yet another woman writes. “Like many dads he is stepping up and doing his best. Unfortunatly [sic], due to a misuse of Feminism — and I speak as one myself — the Courts are skewed in favour of moms. I hope things work out in your favour and your daughter grows up to appreciate what a great dad you are!

This goes on and on. “Karma will catch up with her.”

Nothing I hate more than seeing a man wanting to do everything he can for his child, but the mother preventing that in any way she possibly can.

People on twitter were “infuriated” too, but not for the same reasons I was…

Why tell a story of domestic abuse in such an irresponsible way? Why provide yet another platform to allow a an abuser to vilify his victim, publicly? Why offer another opportunity to reinforce the myth that women lie about abuse? Why take this man at his word when his word is so incredibly and obviously intended to manipulate and effectively revictimizes his victim?

Almost as an excuse — to even the playing field — another story of abuse is posted today; this time about a woman who escaped a violent man. The man was brutal, beating her bloody, criticizing everything about her, controlling her every move. He came to find her at the domestic violence shelter she and her children escaped to and attacked her. Now she is safe and feels lucky to have survived.

While I’m grateful this story was shared, I can’t help but think it was done in order to show us what a “real” victim looks like. Held up in contrast with the man’s ex who we are to believe was not harmed, but is simply a lying slut, keeping a good man from his child, we learn a dangerous and deceptive story about abuse.

We aren’t always beat to a pulp (though sometimes we are). Sometimes there is just a “single cut” and sometimes there are no marks at all. My abuser left no marks. I couldn’t have easily proved he was abusive to the police, and it was so difficult to get them to take my calls seriously, after I’d left and he continued to stalk and threaten me, that I simply gave up and moved away.

It’s not easy to charge a man with domestic abuse. Ask any woman who’s tried. It’s also not easy to just “end up on the floor,” ask any woman who has.

Humans of New York aims to tell people’s stories, without judgement or bias. Which is wonderful. Until it comes to violence against women and until it comes to reinforcing dangerous, sexist myths about women and abuse. In these cases, you must use your judgement and you must always be biased. Propping abusive men up as victims, offering them more space than they already have in this world to paint themselves as having been wronged — by women, by feminism, by the system — reinforces the narrative most people already believe, or want to believe. Whether or not we want to pass judgement, we must. Because we’ve treated women as unreliable narrators of their own stories for long enough, and we’ve disguised and erased male violence for long enough. It’s time to pass judgement and it’s time to stop buying men’s tired excuses. It’s time to believe women.

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Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.