An Open Letter to @EricBristow on Your Harmful Attitude to Abuse Victims [CN]

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Dear Eric Bristow

It is hard to know where to start in describing just how harmful your tweets  – expressing your attitude toward former footballers like Andy Woodward and Steve Walters who have so bravely talked about the abuse they endured – are.

In your interview on television this morning, you chose (eventually) to apologise for ‘offending’ people.  Let me be immediately clear – what you (and many of your followers in response) expressed was actively harmful to victims of abuse: whatever ‘intention’ you may claim to have in wanting victims to come forward, your attitudes will be doing exactly the opposite. Your view (shared by so many) is part of the reason systemic abuse continues. Let me explain.

Homophobia

Whilst your tweets are not newsworthy, and should not have been treated as such, what they express is a very real homophobia that permeates attitudes toward both victims of abuse, and their abusers.  However, as a public figure, your comments are bound to garner attention, and should therefore be addressed.

Your reference to abusers as ‘poofs’ (which you clarified after originally referring to them as ‘paedo’s’) illustrates both an ignorance of abusive behaviour and abuser dynamics: homosexuality plays no role in this.  It may surprise you to learn that abusers are not primarily seeking sexual gratification, which is a by-product of (not the driver for) abuse. What abusers seek is power, and control, and children are easy targets for such people.

Similarly, the sexuality (or the perceived sexuality) of the child is not why the child is targeted by the abuser – but a child who is gay and is being abused will be suffering not only the terror of abuse, but the scorn of people like yourself because here too, you reveal your homophobia toward the victims themselves. LGBT children are particularly vulnerable to bullying and isolation. More than half of LGBT children and teenagers report being bullied for the sexual orientation. 96% report hearing homophobic comments like ‘poof’ (a word you are happy to use publicly) or ‘lezza’. 99% will hear comments like ‘that’s so gay’ in reference to something which is broken or defective.

Think about that for a moment, wont you?

By invoking so strongly a reaction to abuse which is rooted in false notions about sexuality, what you are really saying is ‘I am not an abuser, I am not a victim because I am not gay‘. You are distancing yourself from a perception of homosexuality because you are homophobic.

You did not ‘mis-speak’ when you used the word ‘wimps’ Mr Bristow.  Your meaning was entirely clearly in the full context of what you said, and you seem happy to let the word ‘poof’ remain unacknowledged.

How then, does this encourage a child who is terrified for their life (and almost certainly the lives of their loved ones, given the type of threats typically made by abusers), to come forward?

Victim Blaming & Shaming:

There are simply no circumstances whatsoever in which the victim of abuse is ever responsible for the abusers behaviour – and this absolutely includes any past and future abuse perpetrated, whether the victim reports the abuse or not.

Many victims take years to report what has happened to them, precisely because there is an insidious belief that victims are ultimately responsible both for the abuse the suffered – and any future assaults perpetrated by their abuser.

Many of the following beliefs were clearly stated by you, or re-tweeted by you, in the last 36 hours:

  • “If they hadn’t been hanging around smoking/drinking/with the wrong crowd…”
  • “They were too sexually knowing for their age…”
  • “They should have spoken up sooner…”
  • “If they don’t report it, why should they expect justice?”
  • “If [male victims] were ‘real men’ they would have [insert ridiculous notion here]…”

In your particular case, being that the focus was on the male victims of a predatory serial abuser, the aggressiveness with which you expressed your view that they should ‘spoken sooner’, or sought out a chance to beat up the abuser, told those victims (and children currently suffering abuse) that it was, simply, their fault. The implicit and explicit assumption is that ‘real men’ don’t get abused.

What the hell is a ‘real man’ anyway?

Particularly for male victims, the context of what you both said and encouraged with re-tweets was so toxic in its expression of masculinity that I have to take really quite a deep breath at this point, because you clearly have absolutely no idea how abusive this is – or how it helps to enable both abuse of boys, and prevent help and healing being given.

Have you any idea what it is like to watch your sons agony and distress when they get told to ‘man up’ because they are expressing emotions or attitudes not considered ‘manly’ enough? Because they dare to be something other than a crude stereotype of ‘masculinity’? To watch the men that we love struggle in relationships, with mental health problems, because they feel shame that they might need help?

Do you know what the suicide rate is for men and boys?

 

Your attitude, (and it is not just yours) will do the exact opposite of encouraging victims to come forward.

It will silence them further.

And that benefits nobody but the abusers.

Sincerely

Ali

 

 

 

 

 

Poem: bridges


It is not for me to bridge the divide,

Though I give all my soul to the trying;

For all of the hurt that has haunted you,

Taunted you,

Holds you in silence and cages you,

Captures you,

How could I not reach out, dearest

How could I not reach out?

 

It is not for me to bridge the divide,

Though my soul never ceases to try so;

When the pain that imprisons you,

Taunting and haunting you

Oh, to see you set free and restored in your pride!

How can I not reach out,

Dearest, how can I not reach out?

 

It is not for me to bridge the divide,

The silence that holds you is yours to break;

But I whisper my prayers, and I reach out,

I reach out,

Never to doubt you, my darling most dearest,

Chérie, de ne jamais douter de vous

How can I not reach out

Dearest

How can I not reach out?

 

images_boys

Poem: Body Imperfect, Love Divine

I originally wrote this poem in July of 2005 under the title ‘Beautiful’.

That countenance so fair, the eyes so bright,
– Please have a care,
Do not use your beauty absently,
To taunt my heart, to cruelly tease;
For I am nothing much, my heart is heavy
With this woe;
Don’t smile at me like that,
For fear you see, or learn to know;

How wonderful your sight can be to me
– How can I tell?
That all it takes is one brief smile,
For dreams to seek your scent, your smell;
Oh! still you smile and draw so close,
– What if you see?
My little dreams and foolish hope,
Yet still you bring your presence close;

My heart is in my mouth, how can this be?
– Your hand is reaching
Seeking me, your arms are drawing me to thee
What in this sorry frame you say need?
And again so patiently, you talk of loving endlessly
– Yet I am meek
Like wisp or waif, and pitiful I am, and weak
But my resistance melts and floats away;

And yet you stay and stand there hushing fears
– Your soothing tones
That seeks to heal and dry all tears,
As steadfast now you take me to your own,
Oh how my beauty ever seems to know,
And heals this heart!
With light that shines so brightly in the dark
– Now never can I leave my love alone.

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Poem: A Little Smile of Recognition

Sit a little, won’t you mister.

Pause there and enjoy,

A little smile of recognition,

And perhaps a wistful sigh;

Ah, me – how long you have been gone,

Mister, settle for a while,

Here’s a smile of recognition,

To lift you on this night;

For mister, you might wander,

‘Cross the earth from time to time,

But if your heart were not a pilgrim’s,

From your heart you would not hide;

And though my poets soul,

Might seek to call the heart that’s hidden,

My soul can take a moment to be bidden,

And enjoy a little smile of recognition.

sozo-heart

Poem: To Call You Home

If I could only call you home,

From the shadows where you hide,

Where you try to bury feeling,

That pulsates with sacred life;

If you could take my hands,

And let them catch your tears,

They would take only your smile,

To chase away the shadowed fears;

If I could only call you home,

From the silent place you keep me,

If I could only sing the blues,

Where you would hear, and feel it sweetly;

If I could heal all ailments,

All the healing would be yours,

And though my frame be meagre,

It would give you all the world;

For the shadows cast by doubt,

Cannot keep my heart from love,

Nor shade mine eye, nor loose my faith,

Nor leave your side, nor turn to hate;

It is not for handsome faces,

That I could give so much

And though the frame is fine,

That would never be enough;

But for what you hide in shadow,

For the honour, for your truth –

I would dare to call you home,

And home to me you’d come.

Forgiveness%203

Poem: In Distant Lands, Unspoken Love

In a thin transparent space between

The seen and the unseen;

The known, and the unknown;

The unspoken and the whispered –

You are there.

In the distant lands where still you roam

Bearing burdens not your own;

A sacrifice you are not called to make,

Your heart at war with self, with time, with space –

You are there.

And I am here

In the thin transparent space between

The seen, and the unseen;

The known, and the unknown;

The unspoken and the whispered groans –

I am here.

In the place from which you left to roam,

Bearing burdens not my own;

A sacrifice I did not hesitate to make,

For a heart at war with self, with time, with space –

I am here.

In that thin transparent space,

Beats the heart of Love – your true fate;

Whispered in soft prayers and groans;

Incense rises, sweet scent before the throne.

In this place of love and faith

Burdens lifted for your sake –

A sacrifice, to claim you for its own;

Love eternal, in your heart enthroned

Image result for pictures of sacrificial love