‘Good’ people can sometimes be abusers, too

Human beings have a dual nature—a dark and light side. Yet, we label those we like as “good,” and those we dislike as “bad.” We often have problems believing anyone we label as “good” could be guilty of domestic or sexual violence. We forget that a person can be “good,” but still be capable of making bad choices that hurt others.

It might easier to see this contradiction clearly in celebrities. It’s hard to imagine the possibility that Hope Solo might have physically assaulted her half-sister and nephew. It’s hard to imagine that Johnny Depp could have abused Amber Heard. It’s hard to imagine because these are talented, successful celebrities who we’d like to categorize as “good.”

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Beth Wiley

As hard as it is for us to imagine that celebrities could hurt other people, it’s even harder to believe the people we know might be abusers. It’s hard for us to imagine that the men and women in our county might be hitting their intimate partner. Or that they raped someone who knew and trusted them. Or that they use words to cut as deep as a sword against their family every single day.

But domestic and sexual violence happens. And every act of violence is done by a human being. Those who commit domestic abuse don’t fit a stereotype—they can be nonprofit volunteers, drug addicts, business owners, teachers, alcoholics, law enforcement officials, spiritual leaders, or career-criminals.

The hard truth is that anyone is capable of being an abuser and falling into a pattern of power and control.

Human beings do unspeakable things to each other. There are not just victims and survivors—there are those who choose to abuse. This choice does not necessarily make them monsters. Those who abuse may have been abused themselves or might not know what healthy relationships look like.

However, this does not excuse their bad choices. It is never OK to control, manipulate, hurt, or physically abuse someone else. As a society, we need to hold abusers accountable for the consequences of their bad choices through arrests, legal charges, time in prison and rehabilitation efforts, such as counseling or restorative justice.

Everyone can make a difference in stopping abuse by being willing to recognize that “good” people can do bad things. This October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’m asking you to stand with Domestic and Sexual Violence Services.

Please, talk to your neighbors, your children, your school, your churches, your book club, your ski buddies, anyone and everyone—start a conversation to help everyone realize that every day in our communities someone is abusing another human being. And help us make it clear that violence in any form is unacceptable.

Beth Wiley is a violence prevention educator and communication coordinator at Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in Red Lodge.

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