Why Hide Abuse?

Nigel Cohen
5 min readJun 27, 2022

A cultural response to a cultural scourge

Photo Art: Nigel Cohen, Model/Actor: Becky Golder

The topic of this article is abuse, a pervasive issue that affects us all. By the end of this article, readers should be able to recognize at least one example of abuse that they have not personally experienced. Throughout the article, we will continually ask the same question: why do so many of us feel the need to hide the abuse we suffer?

Abuse is about power and control. It can take many forms, from verbal to physical, and it often occurs in situations where the abuser feels they can get away with it. This is how Harvey Weinstein was able to manipulate and coerce so many actors into acts that they found repulsive. But why did so many of his victims, including some of the most successful actors in the world, feel unable to speak out about their abuse?

Micro-abuse

Louis Makepeace has a form of dwarfism, and when he applied for a catering course, he was told he was a “safety risk”. He faces the daily risk of being shouted at, stared at, and even physically attacked whenever he leaves the house. But why do so many people feel so comfortable about abusing a complete stranger?

The answer lies in the insidious nature of micro-abuse. This is where the abuse is so small that it can be argued that it was not meant, or the victim is being too sensitive. On its own, a seemingly innocuous comment such as “Did you mean to have your hair cut that short?” can be asked as an honest question or as a passive-aggressive insult. But micro-abuse can quickly escalate, setting a new norm for comparison with each further micro step.

This is what happens when someone pushes into a queue in front of someone who can not stand up for themself. It is what happens when a person mouths off at a shop assistant or a waiter or a teacher. It is a person at a party making fun of other guests, a person who demeans their partner or child or parent or friend. It is an employer who humiliates an employee in front of others or behind closed doors. It is a racist on a train abusing a Muslim or groups of people threatening passengers or a group of men menacing young girls. Unfortunately, many victims of abuse feel too embarrassed to tell their friends and family they were subject to such mistreatment.

Full blown abuse

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