The 15 Most Common Ways Sex Abusers Deflect When Addressing Their Abuse.

Catherine Pugh, Esq.
Dec 7, 2020 · 10 min read

A genuine change agent focuses on controlling the behavior. A disingenuous change agent focuses on controlling the discussion.

1/Victim blaming (“To be fair, you did . . . “)
2/Blameless abuser (“It’s how I was raised; not a big deal where I’m from”).
3/Misidentification of ownership (“This affects you . . .”).
4/Misidentification of burden (“. . . but I will help you with it”).
5/Misdirection (“This is offensive. How about saying ‘not all’ . . .”).
6/Platform sharing (“Doesn’t my opinion about this matter?”).
7/Abuser self-centering (“This whole thing is making me uncomfortable”).
8/Victim hijacking (“This isn’t fair to me”).
9/Diminution (“This really isn’t that big of a deal; it’s just guys being guys”).
10/False champion (“I’m trying to help; this will piss off people you need”).
11/Bend the knee (“If you want to be heard, be less antagonistic”).
12/Kiss the ring (“You should appreciate the help you’re getting”).
13/Innocent bullets (“This isn’t abuse; that’s not what I was thinking”).
14/Degradation scaling (“This isn’t as bad; that’s not what I intended”).
15/Not #MeToo, #MeFirst (“We’ll discuss what you raise, but only after we discuss my feelings about you raising it”).

“A genuine change agent focuses on controlling the behavior. A disingenuous change agent focuses on controlling the discussion.”

Just playin — this is a list of racism deflections, and I’m practicing my 2021 mantra: “Racism is abuse. Racist conduct is abusive. Call it what you what, but I’m calling it what it is.”

If the abuse was clear, there is no bell unringing for a bait and switch on the trigger. Live with it. Racism is abuse. Racist conduct is abusive. When you are racist, you are abusive.

If being called abusive is hard, try being abused. By your Rape Ally. Who gets pissed if you mention it, and ugly if you aren’t grateful. If it is still too much for you, fine: trade ya. Yes. I thought not.

So, new rule: “Racism is abuse. Racist conduct is abusive. Call it what you what, but I’m calling it what it is.”

A post-publication addition: Relax. This is not that serious. Think of it as housekeeping while I give you some context.

We have done a lot of good work — a lot of good work — these last sixty-ish years and that work delivers us here. Thing is, we did that work before a deceptive race/racism backdrop (sharing racism, “White Ally” presumption, and so on). I imagine we had to manufacture context back in the day, because feelings were so raw that even the slightest misstep would derail progress. We sacrificed candor for gain, and it worked. Still with me?

Well, that backdrop has taken us as far as it can. In fact, its shelf life has exceeded its efficacy, and it is causing problems now, not subverting them. Worse, we want to do more — all of us. You are tired of the albatross, we are tired of street justice. Perfect. One tiny little hiccup: progress at this level demands frank candor. No more padded corners; no more pastels, lilac scents and whispers. The truth, as they say, shall set you free.

And the truth here is that racism is abuse, under a vast spectrum of credible mental health classifications. Racism is abuse. Racists — intentional or otherwise — are being abusive. This, as some here know, is not a new position for me. In fact, those familiar with There Is No Such Thing as a ‘White Ally’ (“TNSWA I”) should recognize the thinking:

“You look us in the eye with a clear conscious and an untroubled soul and say:

Let me tell you how to teach me not to rape you. No, not now, I will tell you when I am ready. Comfort me first so that I can hear your lesson, and the lesson ends when I feel like a bad person. And understand that if I don’t get it, you’ll just have to try harder until I do. And now lay back. Close your eyes. This won’t hurt a bit. And if it does, never forget that it is your fault that I still do what I do.”

OK — my “racism” to “race rape ” auto-correct feature should surprise no one. Let’s rip the rest of the band-aid off, then.

White America drives Black hate . . . <steady>
. . . Racism is abuse . . . <deep breaths>
. . . Everyone makes race-based assumptions . . . <almost there>
. . . Your opinion is your business, but your conduct is ours (i.e., society’s).

Done. Since no one died in the setting out of these broad concepts, let’s just power through the shading, shall we?

I refuse to participate in my own abuse. I will not act as if another’s abuse is my fault. I will not act as I share ownership of said abuse. I do not care why one abuses me, only that s/he stop. Understand that your need to explain it to me is you taking care of you during my abuse. Understand that your need for me to thank you or feel grateful for your non-abuse is me taking care of you during my abuse. And, understand that I will do none of this. This is way too much work for someone minding her business and abusing no one, and way too little work for whomever is being abusive.

Do you get it that here is one of me and dozens of you? You do one thing on one day and your whole universe here is two people: me and you. I, on the other hand, encounter you in the parking lot, Ethel in the ticket kiosk, Chester at Starbucks, some douche in the cross walk, Bill at the metal detector and I have not even made it to my courtroom yet.

Now, focus, because this is huge.

  • That is me and you with your “ask me nicely”
  • Then me and Ethel with her “affirm me as a good person”
  • Then me and Chester with his “I am entitled to explain my side here”
  • Then me and the douche with its “it’s not racist unless I meant that”
  • Then me and Bill with his “I’m trying to help you here.”

Hm . . . that’s five minutes for you, and twenty-five for me? The one minding her business? Hard to imagine why I lack enthusiasm, but hard pass.

So, no — I have no resources to spare. You have to handle this the way everyone else does — talk to a therapist; talk to each other; become an alcoholic <shrug> not my business, not my decision, leave me out of it. I wish you well, though, and thanks for thinking of me.

. . . <ok— 7th inning stretch; we got this. Everybody ready?> . . .

Last two things:

One, before you swell up with the indignation re-read the “this is not new to me” paragraph. Cast a child or sibling or friend as me, and Jeffrey Epstein as my abuser. Now respond, keeping in mind that The Muses are listening, so whatever you say to me is subject to an instant replay for your child, sibling or friend. Go ahead; your kinfolk are counting on you.

. . . <breathe iiiin, hold it, now oooout> . . .

And two, before you utter that first “tsk” at my short-sighted thinking, play out the long-game yourself. This . . .

“[R]emember you will need the white folks to cooperate, to open to an honest conversation about inequality. If you succeed in burning that bridge, the black minority will be even more isolated. Your only chance to get out of this is conversation. The other path is violence and I believe we agree, too many have been sacrificed already. Good luck!”

. . . Is. NOT. True.

The speaker here is Alin Buda. I like him. He strikes me as genuine, in a conversation fraught with peril. Yes, of course I see the threat. Yes, I may have him all wrong. And yet, my take is that Alin wants David safe, and that requires candor about Goliath. Alin is, of course, wrong. I am sure he will appreciate my candor in return, and his is an excellent object lesson.

Please try very hard to understand that you do not have us over a barrel. Many, many, many believe you do. I have zero interest in proving what I say, but not zero options if you force the issue. Take the hint, take a minute and think: do you really, truly believe that if am subjected to racism, my choices are charm you to my side or suffer? I get this way too often to chalk this up as happenstance.

And we DID IT! Yes! Well done; way to bare knuckle that out.

I find the pivot transformative in a way that made the parts and the whole — expectations, demands, roles, burdens, all of it — inescapably clear. For example, see why “[Rape] Ally” sounds stupid to me? Stupid and suspicious? Or, why “ask nicely” and “be grateful” places one in grave danger?

Play with it. These are actual responses to anti-racism articles. I placed converted text in brackets, and linked the text to its source.

  • “[R]emember you will need [non-rapists] to cooperate, to open to an honest conversation about [rape]. If you succeed in burning that bridge, the [rape victims] will be even more isolated. Your only chance to get out of this is conversation. The other path is violence and I believe we agree, too many have been sacrificed already. Good luck!” ~Alin.
  • “I understand that you are angry. Yes, there is great injustice. Yes, the injustice is intolerable. But your anger [at being raped] betrays your purpose. Reason, not anger, is your best hope. Try to get control of your emotions and THINK.” ~Chris.
  • “But might it be interfering in expanding on your human relationships in order to know their (sic) are genuine good people on all sides of the [gender] line?” ~Charles.
  • “Where is your social justice peace about the Irish, who spent 15–30x longer [being raped]?” ~Henry.
  • “Your sneering attitude increases [rape]. And you have essentially ended any conversation, so I won’t bother responding.” ~Dianna.
  • “Instead of alienating the very people who at the very least are bringing more exposure and knowledge to the plight of [rape victims], perhaps you could be grateful that others are helping.” ~Markus.
  • “While [rapists] learn to be better humanists in general, perhaps you might learn how to better respect allies who help advance your cause by redirecting your judgement of other’s (sic) motives to those that (sic) are actually working against you.” ~Markus.
  • “If you want real change, take all the support you can get and build a coalition. Accept help where you can get it,, and be grateful when someone helps you. That is how we can all benefit and become stronger together.” ~Markus.

Racism as abuse may not be a universal fit. I get that, and it requires no debate. It leaves me feeling abused, however, and the model has been very helpful re expectations and burdens. If you test this approach, I would love to hear how it works out for you!

Good luck!

A process side note. I always assume my charming pragmatism shines brightly. Turns out, not so much. Thus, for clarity:

  • I am not mad. Please come to terms with this as me simply being me and retire the question.
  • I can all but guarantee we do not process “racist” the same way. It bothers others far more than it bothers me. I don’t read in “horns” when I see or hear it. Factor in that we aren’t likely sharing the same head space here. Resist asking me to reassure you, however.
  • I have no dog in your “racist or not” fight. What you think is your business. What you do about it is mine. Moreover, you have all of the control over whether I engage but none of the control over how.
  • We all understand euphemism, analogies, metaphors, and so on right? So let’s try this: maybe not condemn violence when I say something like “I’ll break you if you come for me.”

Lastly, a group exercise — if we can understand something like “chihuahua’s are annoying” to mean some chihuahuas, but not all, are annoying, we can understand basic messaging during race engagement. Assignment — let’s avoid engaging as if either one of us is stupid. Thanks, fam. ~Cat

Before you engage me or others, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Catherine Pugh is an Attorney at Law and former Adjunct Professor at the Temple University, Japan. She developed and taught Race and the Law for its undergraduate program, and Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal and Civil Procedure for its law program. She has worked for the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, and was a Public Defender for the State of Maryland.

To my sweetest of loves: I am the wall for them; you are the wall for me. And nothing — nothing — has ever gotten past you. You are my everything. #CubanKitchen.

“It takes the wisdom of the elders . . .” Thank you for teaching us, loving us, leading us all: Mary Stovall Davis Budd, Andrea Tucker, Lorenzo and Dorris Pugh, Jacqueline and Roger Wallace, Kenneth Davis, Sandra Davis, and Karen Davis.

Quilts and the Underground Railroad


“Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.”

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