Like many others, I have spent my career finding creative responses to oppression and the trauma left in its wake. Though I have worked with survivors of all kinds of violence and, neglect, and poverties, I have specialized in working alongside women and children who have survived domestic violence and sexual assault, and with men who use power and control tactics against them.

This election season has revealed that President Elect Trump has employed a set of Abusive Values throughout his business and professional dealings, in his personal life and in the campaign. Though Trump displays elements of untreated mental health issues that render him both destructive and self-destructive, mental health concepts are insufficient to understand and help anticipate his actions. It is more helpful to examine the values that govern the thinking of all abusive people.

There is a reason that domestic violence is a red flag for terrorists. The perpetrators of all acts of violence share these values. Sometimes they are overlaid or undergirded with religious beliefs, or racism or misogyny or heterosexism.

Most simply put, if a person believes these things, they are abusive:

“If I am uncomfortable, I can use intimidation, threat of violence or humiliation and retaliation to get what I want.”
Here are some Abusive Values to look out for:
• Believing that it is your job to accept me as I am, not matter what I do.
• Believing that I have the right to tear you down if you point out something about you that threatens my self-concept.
• Believing that it is your job to celebrate me, my s growth and change, and not mention how little I have actually changed
• Believing that I get to express disgust if you point out significant things that I forget or do not know
• Believing that I have the right to establish reality to my liking.
• Believing that I can be contemptuous or violent if you complain, because I should NEVER be answerable to you.
• Believing that I am inherently superior, or that men are superior as a gender, or other identities are superior.

These Abusive Values, how they operate and what curbs them, is the purview of those of us in the advocacy field who work with sexual assault and intimate partner violence. They are also easily recognized by people marginalized and oppressed on many fronts, across many identities such as race, gender identity, and physical ability.

They read as a playbook for Trump’s life and campaign. Yet they also read as a playbook for a great number of Americans. We see the acceptance of Abusive Values by the white male leadership of the Republican Party who have openly called for a rejection of “feminization” of discourse has been echoed by its base, now intertwining these values with a deeper race hatred, misogyny and heterosexism.
When people now talk of Trump’s actions as “campaign rhetoric,” I am reminded how survivors who are negotiating their safety with abusive partners go through the process of learning the limitations of their influence on an abusive person. It takes time to recognize the Abusive Values that endure underneath the actions some call rhetorical.
We can compassionately anticipate what is ahead, and offer guidelines gleaned from decades of helping people manage and escape oppression.

Recognize and Assess The Size of Our Unmet Legitimate Needs

People who are in abusive relationships are there in large part because they found something promising in the relationship. They were told they were going to get their legitimate needs met. They may get a few met, at a high cost. Over time, the size of the needs will increase.
This is true for large numbers of people who voted for Trump to get jobs, better incomes, security from threat, redress for their many woes. The slightly more than half of the voting public who did not vote for him also have these unmet needs. Keep your eyes on the size of this unmet need, as it will help you articulate what you are fighting for in a way that will help you garner larger support. You can join with others fighting for the legitimate unmet needs of the people.

Do Not Normalize the Abuse

Most abusers spend a great deal of time minimizing, denying and blame shifting the cause of the abuse. The survivors with them begin to focus on the positive aspects of the abuser. They look for cues of normalcy and focus on the strengths. This is a survival mechanism. However, it will not help you anticipate what will come. The way to freedom is to break from the isolation of perspective the abuser enforces. Write down the abuses when it is safe. Repeat them. Have others repeat them. Use descriptive terms; do not soften the images.
When it comes to Trump, you can hear his happy supporters now attempting to clean up and normalize his actions. They are saying that he never said he grabs women by the pussy. That must have been manufactured. It did not happen. When his racist or assaultive actions are admitted, they are admitted only as “rhetoric.” The racist call-outs and the life of assaults against women are not rhetorical. They are actions based on values and privileges that underpin rhetoric. Stay clear with these distinctions.

Do Not Share In Responsibility for the Abusive Values

Most thinking about negotiation of conflict is based on the assumption that there are two parties in roughly equal interaction. In Systems Theory, we could look at each party taking an equally important role in any tension. This is not an accurate framework for people or leaders operating under Abusive Values. I tell people in interpersonal relationship with someone with Abusive Values that you could be the Dalai Lama and the other party will still attack. Just ask the Dalai Lama about that. We must break out of the Prison of Goodness, that is, trying always to be “more good” in order to change the outcome.
In terms of responding to this election, we did not have truly civil differences in opinion as to how a country should meet the shared needs of its citizenry. Instead, Trump used threats of violence, assertions that he would limit the media, sue and jail his opponents and deport millions, following the Abusive Values throughout.

The degree to which we are threatened by his use of these Abusive Values is the degree to which we are not protected by privilege. We are to share the risk with others who are threatened in ways we are not, but never the responsibility for the risk itself. This is the responsibility of the Abuser in Chief and any abusive followers emboldened by him.
Assert Reality by Re-establishing Patterns of Fact
Most survivors spend their energy reestablishing basic patterns of fact to preserve their sanity. Help with this, for the good of everyone. Trumps own attorneys spoke of never meeting with him alone, in order to establish a record of agreements in light of the fact that he will easily deny them.

Conciliatory Behavior Only Consolidates Control

There are a set of negotiation skills, nonviolent communicate skills and mediation and arbitration skills that work effectively when you are not dealing with Abusive Values. When you are dealing with Abusive Values, your giving to get, your negotiation, consolidates the control of the person who is willing to destroy you or incite violence and contempt against you to get what they want. You must re-establish the minimum standard: Equality and Safety for all. Period.

What Changes People Living By Abusive Values?

First, we articulate the values of Safety, Respect and Equality. Often these are articulated by a religious faith, or a declaration of rights.
If the community and institutions surrounding the person insists on consequences to violations of those values of safety, respect and equality, this sometimes helps.
Mostly, when the person surviving the abuse gets their needs met outside of the abusive person, gathers with others who are safe, the abuse can be challenged from a safer distance. This is always dangerous. We measure when to challenge, and how.
This has always been the path. We have survived thus far, and we are legion.

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JAC Patrissi's Blog – Growing A New Heart

JAC Patrissi is a Communications Specialist who uses writing, performance art, training and collaborative facilitation in order to support healing for women who are questioning the health of their relationships or who are healing from destructive relationships. This is her blog.