Lately, I’ve been reading some really good things on the specifics of abuse regarding LGBT people, where abusers take advantage of someone’s LGBT status (be it their victim’s or their own) as a tool to help them abuse. This has gotten me thinking about abusive systems I’ve known in the past, and so I’m going to talk about how people can use multi as a tool of abuse—on both perp and vic side.
First of all, yes, abusers who are multiple exist. Just because someone is a multiple in your community does not mean they can’t be abusive, even if other people really like them. Also, just because someone is okay with you being multi doesn’t mean they’re above abusing you. Never forget that abuse is equal-opportunity. And never let anyone convince you otherwise.
A lot of multiples are terrified of being outed to the wrong people. There is a lot of fear of being institutionalized. A lot of abusers will use this to their benefit, threatening to out you, Baker Act you, or using your fear as a way to isolate you—“you can trust ME with your secret, but no one else, they wouldn’t understand… and don’t get therapy! They won’t believe you!”
Be very leery of any relationship where you’re encouraged ONLY to be openly multiple in their presence! This is related to that Secret-Bearer thing I mentioned. If only they know you’re multiple, that can lead to an extremely intense, codependant relationship. (And god help you if you’re BOTH closeted multiples, so are hugely invested in continuing your relationship at all costs! I’ve seen this happen too.) This is a ripe environment for abuse to break out, because the isolation is already there. If you can only be open with each other, then that means you will put up with more bullshit than you would if you had other friends to be out to. Avoid these relationships! Do not get sucked into these mutual Secret-Bearer relationships where nobody else can know!
We had one of these really intense Secret-Bearer relationships with another closeted system, back in the day. They never overtly threatened, but they kept mentioning how many people just magically knew we were multi and wanted to report us to the Men In White Coats. They kept insisting that it was just because we were so OBVIOUS, and it was only their intervention that saved us from a padded cell. (Oddly enough, this only ever happened around them! Hmmm…) Even fishier, the people who invariably found out about us were the people this system would later come out to.
Guys, never out another system to make your own coming out easier. That’s not only a douchey move, but also can endanger someone. We had to rig up some safety procedures just in case those hypothetical Men In White Coats appeared on our doorstep.
Another common abuse trick is to try and divide a system and turn it against itself. They’ll cut certain system members down, try to get them off the front, or imply they’re unreliable or dangerous. They might try and break up in-system relationships—the system I mentioned above were very possessive and jealous about Sneak having a close relationship with me (Rogan), because it meant zie wasn’t as close to THEM. They might show blatant favoritism to very young or filtered system members who lack the ability to recognize abusive situations and defend themselves. They might try and purposely trigger switches to get older or more savvy system members off the front. And of course, they might use any sort of dissociation or memory distortions to their benefit.
Distrust anyone who seems to make your system functioning WORSE. If you find yourself dissociating more around someone, having more memory problems, or having more in-system conflict, that is a huge red flag.
Conversely, distrust any system who uses switching or memory failures to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. “Oh, you can’t hold me responsible for Alter Bob’s behavior!” Well, if Alter Bob keeps breaking things and screaming at you at three in the morning, then yes, it is the SYSTEM’S responsibility to get him to knock it off. A system needs to regulate its members; if it can not control an abusive member, that is THEIR problem to fix. DOUBLE side-eye anyone who insists YOU need to teach them to rein in an Alter Bob. You are not their therapist. You are under no obligation to teach anyone to stop abusing you.
Furthermore, there may be some systems who believe that certain members can not be disobeyed or questioned ever—maybe these “infallible” system members are gods or spirits, maybe they’re just really fucking badass, but regardless, run far away from these people. I have known a LOT of systems and a LOT of different kinds of members, and I have never met one that was infallible. Gigi is fallible. Falcon is fallible. If you can’t question a system member, you should not associate with them.
These are just a few multi-specific abuse scenarios I’ve mentioned here. I’m sure you guys have plenty of your own.