Reminder: Trump’s ‘Both Sides’ BS Is How Abusers Keep Their Power

Ever wondered how abusers manage to keep control over their victims?

Ever wondered how abusers manage to keep control over their victims?

Review that clip of Donald Trump blaming “both sides” for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and you’ll get some idea. The deflection is part of a classic cycle of abuse.

During the 2016 election and shortly afterward, some survivors of intimate partner violence (domestic violence) and survivors’ advocates pointed out that Trump’s actions and language are quite familiar for anyone who’s been abused.

It’s not the physical violence that many mistakenly believe is the only sign of abuse. But the manipulation in his words demonstrated the controlling power of emotional abuse.

Avoiding domestic violence isn’t as simple as saying, “If a partner ever hits me, I’ll leave.” And that’s because there’s a whole cycle of power and control behind the abuse — it’s not just a one-time event. An aggressor can maintain control even in subtle ways, like using language to make a victim question who’s at fault for the abuse.

For the same reasons, dismantling white supremacy isn’t as simple as avoiding a KKK rally. There’s a whole system at work — it’s not just a one-time event. So, in addition to overt racism like KKK rallies, white supremacy maintains power through subtle tactics like biased language.

Trump’s not out there leading unapologetically racist marches — but he still stepped up to the plate to make his own contribution. As President of the United States, he’s got a powerful stage, and he just used it to say that people fighting against white supremacy are just as bad as those who are fighting to perpetuate it.

Once again, this sounds familiar. Trying to rewrite reality and ignoring the power dynamics at play.

With partner abuse, it often goes something like this:

“You made me do this.”
“I’m only controlling your life because you can’t be trusted.”
“That didn’t happen. Nobody’s going to believe you because you sound crazy.”

And bystanders often respond with something like this:

“There are two sides to every story.”
“Maybe that person provoked their partner.”
“It’s the victim’s own fault for staying in the relationship.”

This gaslighting and victim-blaming rhetoric is only believable if we don’t recognize the power dynamic at play in relationship abuse.

Just like you could only believe Trump’s lie that “both sides” are to blame if you don’t recognize the power dynamic of systemic racism.

You’d think this would be an easy one: One side says that genocide would be cool. The other says, “NOPE, we’d rather stay alive.” It should be obvious who the aggressor is.

But an abuser trying to deflect blame might try to make you doubt a truth as obvious as that.

Trump wants people to forget what we know about white supremacy throughout this country’s history. To forget what we know about violent words leading to violent actions against people of color, Jews, Muslims, immigrants and more. To scrutinize people acting in self-defense, forgetting everything that led up to the moment when they had to act to save their own lives.

We don’t deserve this shit, and it’s not our fault when white supremacy threatens us. As long as we keep looking out for the cycle that tries to shift the blame back to us, we can make sure we don’t forget that.

Find more of Maisha’s writing on abuse on her website. Like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @mzjwords.