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Thoughts Contingent on Private Abuse

Today’s is another guest post from Catt Kingsgrave-Ernstein of Rensselaer County SACVAP, who continues to be awesome - this time, on the topic of Mel Gibson, domestic violence, how we criticize people for coming forward. She has some great thoughts on the topic; everything below this line is Catt. Take it away, Catt!


Mr. Gibson is again in the news for letting his inner asshole off the leash. He has again revealed himself as a tiny, terrified man who has to lash out at people around him in order to feel powerful and secure. And what’s more, he’s revealed that he has less than sane ideas about the social habits of men of other races than himself, as well as some pretty loathsome ideas about what kind of infraction is worthy of a sentence of gang rape.

His train to creeptown is pretty well documented at this point, and I don’t feel like I need to link to sources for it—Google’s got everything you need on that score.

What I do want to talk about, though, is the pushback I’m starting to see from people who seem to want to blame his victim for ‘exposing a private conversation’. And who are trying to say ‘she edited the tapes to put a bad light on it.’

Let’s pause here, while we consider under what possible light could ‘If you get raped by a pack of f***ing n*****s it’ll be your own f***ing fault’ be construed as anything BUT loathsome, abusive, and evil. Even if he’d said “If you get raped by a pack of fluffy bunnies it’ll be your own fluffy fault”, it would STILL be inexcusable. But given that he was insinuating that black men have nothing better to do with their time than to roam the streets in packs looking for women to rape, I don’t think we can say that statement was in any way innocent, or in any way not-racist. So why does it suddenly become excusable solely because he didn’t think he would be overheard while he was saying it?

Of COURSE he wouldn’t say something like that in front of obvious witnesses—the man was already made to apologize for his drunken racism when he was pulled over in California on a DUI, and he knows that image is everything. But all abusers know the same thing. They know that their power base rests on isolating their victim, undermining her support system, and above all, appearing utterly blameless to anyone who might be close enough to perceive what’s going on, or to interfere with it. Abusers KNOW this shit, people. They know how to make their victim seem crazy, hysterical, unbalanced, even to her own mind, to her own children, to her own family, and they know how to gaslight the press, the authorities, and the world outside their own little lair into thinking the abuser himself is the one getting the raw end of the deal.

Also, I feel it’s relevant to point out that “Der schlechte Affe hasst seinen eigenen Geruch.” The bad monkey hates his own smell. Or to put it in the words of H.L. Mencken, “It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.” Mr. Gibson seems quite comfortable with the idea of a woman deserving rape on the grounds of having irritated him personally, doesn’t it seem? One wonders (but not very hard, really,) if in a shadowy corner of his imagination he himself isn’t roaming the streets in packs looking for women who need raping. Who have it coming. For whom a brutal abuse by many angry men—or maybe by him many times over,—would be no better than she deserved.

At one point on the tape, Oksana asks Gibson what kind of a man punches his lover in the face while she’s holding their child. Now take a moment to think of this in a more familiar context than two celebrities in a custody battle—put this into context of your own family for a moment. Imagine your father saying that to your mother. Think about what she could possibly have done to have your own father punch her in the head, twice, while she was carrying an infant in her arms. Maybe your sibling, maybe yourself. Think about what excuse you could possibly accept for his behavior. What she could possibly have done that would make punching her in the head, twice, while she couldn’t even put her hands up to protect herself, excusable.

Then consider Gibson’s reply to the accusation; “You f***ing deserved it!”

In what light is that acceptable, people? In what light does his not realizing he’d be HEARD excuse the fact that he did it, he isn’t sorry for doing it, and if he could get away with it, would clearly do it again.

I’m sure the FBI conviction files are full of criminals who definitely and absolutely would NEVER have said certain things if they’d known someone was recording them. And the jails are full of violent criminals who would never have done what they’d been convicted of if they’d realized someone was there to see and testify. All it means is that, as an abuser, he had a failure in judgment, and lost control of his victim.

And in answer to the people who express suspicion over her having taped what was ostensibly a private conversation, consider this: Why would she have taped it if this were the first abusive call she’d received? Why would she bother to tape it if she didn’t know that the likelihood of his verbally abusing her wasn’t very high indeed? She knew what to expect from him when she set the recording device up, and he delivered the unfiltered goods because he wanted to abuse her. He wanted to make her hurt, and she was out of arm’s reach, and so the phone was good enough for the moment.

Abused women often have to overcome the social camouflage of their abusers in shocking, and uncomfortable ways. They often have no choice but to wave the bloodied laundry of their ‘private’ situation on the street for all to see, or at least so that they can’t easily pretend not to see it. They often have to resort to documentation of just this sort of ‘private correspondence’ in order to prove to anybody else that they are actually in danger, are actually being hurt, are actually being killed in little pieces every day. Did she ask for money to hold the tapes back? I honestly don’t know.

But I do know that if I was being attacked like that by someone as rich and influential as Mel Gibson, I would feel very deeply that the protection of money and possibly even extortion was a necessary thing. Shame is apparently the only stumbling block to his abusive tendencies, and so if I had stood in her shoes, you damn betcha I’d have tried to use it to get the bastard off my back. Because compared to punching me in the face, putting my daughter in danger, and asserting that I deserved gang rape for my defiance of his expectations, I can’t say I’d feel extortion was much of a crime at all.

In short, I put it to you that this was not a case of editing, this was a case of abuse. This was not a domestic dispute and a nasty custody case, this was a victim trying to establish incontrovertible proof of what was happening to her. If Gibson hadn’t been a celebrity, none of us would have heard about this tape except for the local sheriff and/or family services in Oksana’s town. Just like the internet at large never hears the hundreds of other abuse tapes that victims have to create in order to finally get someone to believe that what is happening to them is real. Just like the internet at large never gets to hear but a fraction of the stories about the victims who never do get anyone to believe their story until it’s too late.

This happens every day. And there is nothing out of pattern in what Gibson was taped while screaming. There is nothing out of character in the threats, the abuse, and the insinuations—he might have been reading from a well-researched script, the dance steps are so exact. I have heard this story before—it usually ends in either blood or tears. I hope that this time it ends in safety for the victim, and a well-deserved shaming for the abuser.

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Posted by Shira

Shira formerly served as a volunteer with BARCC's Survivor Speakers Bureau and Prevention Services. She also formerly worked as BARCC's volunteer and program assistant. Shira also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories and poetry, and much of her outreach was done within the community of science-fiction fandom and the closely-allied local polyamory community.

1 Comment

  1. This is the most perfect distillation of the case as I have seen anywhere. I'm sharing this with as many people as I can, especially the ones who try to play the "private conversation" card.

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