Saints for survivors of child abuse

To all those whose childhoods were marred by violence, abuse, neglect, and pain.

There has been some backchanneling lately about child abuse, and while I do not wish to shrink from tikkun olam, the moral obligation to remove harm from the world, I also find myself in need of some saints, as a sort of palate cleanser.

Here are a few, specifically associated with child abuse and sexual abuse.

  • Maria Goretti (1890 – 1902) An 11-year-old girl who died as the result of an attempted sexual assault.  Her attacker later repented after visions of being burned by lilies.  She is patron saint of both attackers and those who fall prey to sexual predators.

“St Maria Goretti was mortally wounded with 14 stab wounds. The majority of victims of paedophilia, however, are lacerated within. They are condemned to a slow death – a long haemorrhaging of the spirit – by the interior disfigurement caused by the abuse.

“The victim is disfigured in his/her own eyes. Others might look and see a beautiful, gifted person; but the person who is abused views him/herself with intense and often violent self-loathing. The spirit weeps and the soul bleeds. This can go on for many, many years.

“St Maria fought back against her attacker. He demanded her complicity and she refused….

Lies of the abuser
“Many abused children did not have the strength, or the ability, to resist an abuser. That is no reflection on them whatsoever; but the important thing to remember is that now that they are older and stronger, they can fight back against the abuse. They can close their ears to the terrible lies that the abuser told them about themselves.”

But all of this seems quite medieval, especially when we are talking about people who are using Wikipedia to work out their personal traumas, and sometimes disrupting other peoples’ work flows in the process. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite strong enough.

How about an Amazing Grace, that is both strong and gentle enough to overcome anything.

Amazing Grace

The song was composed by a former slave trader, John Newton, who would have fit right in on Commons.  According to Wikipedia,

“In a culture where sailors habitually swore, Newton was admonished several times for not only using the worst words the captain had ever heard, but creating new ones to exceed the limits of verbal debauchery.”

But Newton turned his life around.  He even tried to become a priest in the Church of England, but was turned down for something even worse than slaving and swearing:

“…his leanings toward evangelism and tendency to socialise with Methodists.

But Newton persisted, and was eventually not only ordained, but married the woman of his dreams. And of course he also wrote Amazing Grace, which “became a popular song used by Baptist and Methodist preachers”. What goes around, comes around.

Here it is sung by Judy Collins. And there is another version by her, performed on the steps of the nation’s capitol in 1993, with the Boys’ Choir Of Harlem.

But what about the doodz, my loyal readers may ask, because by now they know that it’s not just a rhetorical question here, and that we do indeed say stuff about the dudes, sometimes even nice stuff. And boys do get assaulted; and sometimes in a sort of Stockholm syndrome, they may even develop a “betrayal bond” or psychological alliance with the abuser, and continue the cycle of abuse.

So I have scoured the internets and listened to untold numbers of unacceptable renditions of Amazing Grace, to bring you only the best.  And I believe I have found it.  This is UK musician Terry Miles playing a boogie woogie version on a piano in a London train station.

Should admins be held accountable?

Should there be a binding community desysop procedure to remove administrators?

Request for comment (RfC) here:

Requests for comment/2019 community sentiment on binding desysop procedure.

What, a system of checks and balances that holds admins to account? What an amazing thought. There is already WP:ADMINACCT but no way to enforce it. At present, the only way to remove an admin is through the arbitration committee. The comment here cracked me up: “Anyone proposing to send anything to Arbcom right now must be drunk.”

An interesting discussion at Wikipediocracy notes that while admins make up a small proportion of the editing community, the majority of responses have been by admins. Clearly there has been canvassing at the places where admins are likely to hang out.

LOL at this comment.

“I’d love to see how these discussions/!votes would go if we separated admin !votes from non-admin !votes. I personally feel that all administrators have an insurmountable conflict-of-interest when it comes to a community desysop procedure.”

Yes. At Arbitration Enforcement WP:AE, the admins make the non-admins comment in a different section. Let the admins go to the back of the bus for a change. And make it really really evident how much privilege they think they have.

DTMFA: Wikipedia and abuse

DTMFA stands for ‘Dump The M******F***er Already’. From Dan Savage’s ‘Savage Love’ column. It’s advice given to someone complaining about a significant other’s repellent behaviour. Often given, seldom taken. Concise, if not tactful, it’s often a shock to the complainant, who might not be able to look at the situation objectively and see how bad it’s gotten.
Should be used either when a person keeps repeating the same complaints over and over again and seems unhappy in the relationship and unwilling to do anything about it, or when anyone can see at a glance that it’s a toxic, if not abusive, relationship. –Urban Dictionary

Whenever there is a discussion of Wikipedia or Wikipedia criticism sites, sooner or later the word “abuse” pops up.

In fact, right now over on Sucks, they are tossing the word around with reckless abandon.

So someone gave me this book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans, I suppose as a way of explaining Wikipedia to me.

It came with the message:

“If you are dealing with Wikipedia, you are in an abusive relationship.”

The least I can do is share these pearls of wisdom with my devoted readers.

But where to start. If you are not familiar with self-help books, they usually start out with vignettes, so as to capture your interest, and also so you can’t get the gist of the book just standing there in the bookshop and you will have to buy it. There are usually some kind of checklists, and then some case studies that increase the page length, and correspondingly, the price of the book. I should try write one some day, it might be a good exercise. But in the meantime, I will try to summarize this one.

The book is meant for couples, but do some parts apply to Wikipedia? Why not. The Twelve Step program originated with Alcoholics Anonymous but has spread to everything, from Al-anon, ACOA, NA, Gamblers, Anonymous, and beyond, not just addictions studies. So why not take some checklists that were developed for one dysfunctional relationship and try to apply them to another. And what could be more dysfunctional than Wikipedia, unless it is the people who are drawn to it?

And no one can ever leave Wikipedia, any more than anyone could leave the phone company back before the breakup of the Bell system monopoly. It is the only game in town. No matter where you go, it is always there.

So what is abuse?

According to Evans, the first difficulty is in recognizing abuse. The abuser may deny the abuse. The abusee may have learned to overlook it, or believe their perceptions are wrong, or be too stunned or thrown off balance to think clearly about it. They may never have seen a good pattern of communication or understand healthy relationships. Or the reality of the abuse is not being validated–others don’t see the abuse, so it is not being called out by others, and is therefore less real to the person being abused.

Once these obstacles are overcome, the power to prevent recognition of abuse is lost, and they become “stepping stones to awareness.”

Ten patterns of abuse

erupt cartoonTypically the person being abused feels upset, hurt, and confused. Typically the abuser is not capable of empathy and merely seeks “power over” someone. If the abuser is confronted with the abuse, they just intensify their aggression, anger, and manipulation in order to regain control.

Some or all of these ten patterns may be present in an abusive relationship. The patterns are interactions that upset, hurt, or confuse the person being abused.

  1. Secrecy. The interactions that upset, hurt, or confuse the person being abused (the “target”) rarely take place in public. If it does occur in a house full of people, it will occur after the others have left the room and they are alone with the abuser. Secrecy is the key to power over the person being abused, and also contributes to their confusion. Since others do not see it, they may not accept the reality, and may think the abuser is “a really nice guy”. If it does occur in public, it will be done in a way that makes it look like it is justified, or the meaning may only be known to the person being abused. .If the abuser does start taking it public, this is a signal of escalation or impending physical abuse, in Wikipedia terms, “going meatspace.” If this is a functionary, or heaven forbid, a Wikipedia staffer, be very wary indeed. You had better have the local police on speed dial.
  2. The interaction is unexpected. There is no prior warning that anything is out of control or that things are not normal.
  3. The interaction occurs when the target is feeling happy, enthusiastic. or successful.
  4. The pattern becomes familiar, or seem like a recurring incident, or makes assumptions about the target that is hard to place. “No matter what I do, he treats me as if I were his enemy.”
  5. The interaction shows disdain for the target’s interests.
  6. The abuser does not seek reconciliation or seem bothered by the incident.
  7. In between the upsetting incidents, the relationship may seem normal, functional. The abuser and the target may complete tasks together, or the target may forget what happened the previous day, and imagine the relationship is better than it is, especially if they do not spend a lot of time together.
  8. The target starts feeling isolated, from their families or from like-minded friends
  9. The abuser is the one who defines the target, the relationship, himself, and the interactions, in a different way than is experienced by the target. He may describe himself as easy-going when he is explosive. An abuser who is argumentative may describe their target as trying to start a fight.
  10. The target does not talk to the abuser in the same way the abuser talks to the target of the abuse. (see list)

List

Here is a list of the types of abuse. If you want to know more you will have to buy the book, lol, or ask me if there is something more specific.

  1. Withholding
  2. Countering
  3. Discounting
  4. Verbal abuse disguised as jokes
  5. Blocking and diverting
  6. Accusing and blaming
  7. Judging and criticizing
  8. Trivializing
  9. Undermining
  10. Threatening
  11. Name calling
  12. Forgetting
  13. Ordering
  14. Denial
  15. Abusive anger

10 indicators that you are being verbally abused

So just for good measure, here is a different list. (The author recommends Melody Beattie’s book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.)

Here are 10 easy indicators. You are being verbally abused when…

  1. you can say “I don’t think I deserve this!”
  2. they are shouting, pointing fingers, turning red, and using all caps.
  3. you can say, “I would NEVER speak to anyone like this!”
  4. you’re thinking, “What they’re saying isn’t true!” but there’s nothing you can do
  5. you doubt yourself while they’re talking
  6. you don’t feel free to respond and they won’t hear you anyway
  7. when you express your hurt, you’re blamed for being too sensitive
  8. they say horrible things to you but add “I love you” or a smiley emoticon
  9. they use words like always and never
  10. you actually fear that this could escalate into something worse

[Note: the remarks about Sucks moderation at the end have been split to Wikipedia: Sucks and abuse.]

Wikipedia: Sucks and abuse

[split from DTMFA: Wikipedia and abuse]

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to Sucks’ moderation problems or any insight as to what kind of site they want, or how open they are to user-defined goals (and which users) or how lassiaz faire they want to be. But I will just say this much.  If their problem is Kumioko binge-posting, why did they limit his ability to read the forum, instead of just limiting his ability to post. Why did they dox a dormant account that was only being used to read the private forum.  Is there no mute function? I believe this also limits the ability to read old messages, so they have cut him off from backchanneling and privately messaging people, or trying to solve the problem offline, instead of playing to the stands.

So here is another lesson for dealing with forums.  Have your own platform (WordPress is free), and your own channels of communication that are under your control and cannot be cut off in an emergency.  IMHO they ought to reinstate the main Kumioko account, and put it under moderation, and only pass two comments a day, unless replying to a flame from another user.  It is extra effort, sure, but it is probably the only way to limit posts. And I also think there is a big difference between an unsupported assertion and a lie, between calling someone a liar or asking them to support their statement.  Sometimes something is obvious to the person posting it, and they have never had any reason to doubt it in the past, until someone else questions it.  There are times when AGF should be thrown out the window, but I don’t think this is one of them,  Kumioko and Crow are both acting in good faith, the moderator as well. Give them some space to make mistakes, and arrive at a consensus, or a way to disagree without being disagreeable.

It may very well be that even after all reasonable accommodations are tried, that one or both parties just dig in their heels and remain obstinate.  But you can cross that bridge when you come to it.  That is not an excuse for not making reasonable accommodations, or responding to concerns about abuse.  Surely any criticisms can be expressed in a non-abusive form.

Since they are now talking about making Abd a moderator on Sucks, I would also point out that Abd was a moderator at Wil Sinclair’s Off-Wiki forum. Maybe they should ask around about what Abd did to the other mods at Off-Wiki, if there are any still around who survived the experience.

 

Framgate as the Dreyfus Affair

Fram has been compared to the iconic villain Javert from Les Misérables, who obsessively pursues his nemesis Jean Valjean, released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.

But looking through the cast of characters on the Framgate talk page, I’m not so sure.  This week the German-speaking Gerda, who adores Eric Corbett and the c-bomb, has proposed not to refer to the toxic Wikipedia culture as “toxic”.  (I propose the alternate term “fluffy bunnies”, with a search-and-replace to be done by a special civility bot). If that wasn’t Orwellian enough for you, Pine, who has worked his way through the various mailing lists attacking whatever women he found in leadership positions, is now posting his cringe-worthy missives to the wikimedia-l mailing list in their entirety.

Maybe the Framgate episode has a better parallel in the Dreyfus Affair, which divided the French culture, and eventually left the old guard in the dust.

Dreyfus was subjected to a vicious show-trial and imprisoned on the notorious Devil’s Island.

 

 

The majority of prisoners sent to Devil’s Island did not survive their first year.

To the old guard of the nationalist right, Dreyfus, “the Jew from Alsace”, represented everything they loathed.  They had evidence of his innocence, but they suppressed it. Since the dossier against him was so slim, evidence was fabricated. An officer who did an independent investigation, Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart, discovered the real culprit was a French officer named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy who had been selling secret documents to Germany.

Res judicata

But the General Staff would not listen. To them, the matter was “res judicata“. A closed matter because it had already been adjudicated.

Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart was transferred to Tunisia, and later arrested. Esterhazy was unanimously acquitted in a closed court session after a 3-minute hearing.

An interesting phrase, res judicata. According to the Wikipedia article for the Dreyfus affair,

Picquart communicated the results of his investigation to the General Staff, which opposed him under “the authority of the principle of res judicata”. After this, everything was done to oust him from his position, with the help of his own deputy, Major Henry [who had forged the document against Dreyfus -GD]. It was primarily the upper echelons of the Army that did not want to admit that Dreyfus’s conviction could be a grave miscarriage of justice. For Mercier, then Zurlinden and the General Staff, what was done was done and should never be returned to.

This might be an interesting phrase to remember the next time the arbcom refuses to answer their email.

A similar phrase is Res judicata pro veritate habetur, “A thing adjudged is regarded as truth.”  It is pretty much the opposite of “mistakes were made”. 

Dreyfus was eventually exonerated and freed, but not without rioting in the streets. But the old guard was finished.  Even though the right-wing authoritarian military for the moment remained in control of the political system, their days were numbered.  The Dreyfus Affair is credited with the emergence of various socialist parties, the Zionist movement, and the French League for Human Rights, among others.

And Wikipedia? A police state where the admins, instead of enforcing the policy, now believe they have the authority to create policy through banning and blocking people whose criticism they do not agree with.  So now it only remains to be seen which pogroms, this time against women, and anyone who defends them, will gain traction with which Wikipedia criticism sites, and which ones will end up backing “business as usual” and the abusive and authoritarian rule of the ‘old boyz club’.

Fae approves “cunt”

Fae is one of the most powerful – and divisive – insiders the Wikimedia movement has ever seen.  And one of the biggest bullies.

Back in 2012 got into some controversy and the Signpost detailed it all —  his resignation from the UK chapter under a cloud, his sudden re-emergence as he kicked himself upstairs as chair of the Wikimedia Chapters Association, and the subsequent arbcom case, Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Fæ. The case involved bondage nudes of himself he uploaded to Commons, the  badgering of volunteers on Jimbotalk, legal threats, and multiple sockpuppets which he refused to disclose. The arbcom case only lists a few socks, but if you dig deep enough into the Wikimedia blog, and other dark corners, you will find he eventually gave up over 200 sockpuppets, which probably makes him a more prolific puppeteer than even Kumioko.  Who knows how many more he didn’t give up.

And he was powerful enough, even then, to be able to get his arbcom case courtesy blanked. You can still read it here though.  And from what I can tell, it looks like he is still topic banned from “BLPs relating to sexuality” and “images relating to sexuality”.  But that is only on English Wikipedia.  He is still throwing his weight around elsewhere, mansplaining, disrupting, and dictating to women about what it means to be female and how to run their groups.  And it seems he has been given secret permission to form a private LGBT Telegram group, but who gave the permission and where the discussion took place is still unknown. But it looks like the group does not lack for lemmings, or bullies.

A case in point: the proposed Women in Red user group, now dead in the water.

Women in Red has morphed several times.  It started out at Wikimania in Mexico City as Project XX, but that was quickly renamed as a courtesy to trans women, as it implied two X chromosomes. It was first proposed by Victuallers, of Gibraltergate paid editing scandal fame, but it was quickly realized that a woman’s group run by men was not a good look. Rosiestep came forward as the female partner, and seems to have enjoyed a lot of support from somewhere with bots, stats, Wikipedian-of-the year designation, and so forth. She remains the public face of the group, but who really runs it is anybody’s guess. But nobody can dispute that WiR has gotten a huge number of biographies of women into WikiData, and from there into the google algorithms, which is the true purpose of Wikipedia.

Rosiestep’s angle in this is also anyone’s guess but there might be a clue here, in the pub crawl comment:

It is generally known that each project gets to designate a member to the Summit in Germany, which has a reputation for beer, not to mention the free plane ticket and luxury hotel. This year the projects are only allowed one instead of two members (or member + guest), which always turns out to be the (male) president of the organization plus one other, but because of the ongoing consultation, maybe it was thought the women needed a representative. So maybe Fae wanted that beer slot for one of his own Telegram people, or maybe he just wanted to wreck it for the women. Or maybe, with the increasing problems with corruption on enwiki, the power center is shifting once again back to the affiliates and Fae wants to seize power before that happens and have the groups stacked with even more LGTB than there are already. Consider this change in the bylaws, from the group’s talk page. But whatever the reason, Fae appeared on the talk page of the fledgling group and strong-armed them into a name change from Women in Red to Gender Diversity Visibility Community User Group, or GDVCUG for short. (See @WikiWomenInRed is DOWN)

Imagine if the powerful MilHist group, which has traditionally been a stepping stone to the arbitration committee and similar hat-collecting, was forced to change their name to “Military history and homosexuality”, or if Opera was forced to become “Opera and transgender diversity”.  WiR barely survives and does so only by knowing whose ass to kiss. But no one dares go against Fae, so one by one, the volunteers who started out with such enthusiasm, and have been frequent participants in intersectionality editing events, and enthusiastically participated in events for getting LGBT articles up to speed, have one by one discovered they have other commitments in real life that conflict with their participation in this new group.

And what did WiR get in return?  Maybe the LGBT members have turned out to be valuable allies, and that having experienced discrimination themselves will offer some support and understanding?

Not.

Here is Fae’s “cunt” re-tweet, that I promised you in the title.

Fae thinks this is funny and re-tweets it for his subscribers.

Is there anyone on Wikipedia by now who does not understand how this is misogyny? How it feeds into creating an environment that allows women to be subjected to a whole spectrum of abuse? How it is used in sexual assault, and in particular to remind women that they can be forcibly impregnated at any moment, and the chilling effect this has on women’s participation?

Does Fae care? No. He thinks it’s funny and thinks it’s worth retweeting just to insult some politician and amuse his followers. Fae is secure in his British male privilege, his arrogance, his sense of entitlement, and uses the occasion to punch down. A politician has made some statement he didn’t like, but instead of addressing the issue directly, he finds a less powerful group to turn around and stomp on.

Does Fae get it? Does he understand how disrespect works? Oh yeah.

And Fae has no problem passing on the signal to other bullies, to encourage distaste, dehumanization, and hatred of their target: women.

In fact, Fae seems to specialize in creating an abusive environment for women. Here’s another one he retweeted.  This is just what Wikipedia needs, a bunch of dudes who are already watching porn to come over and join some Wikipedia editing events in person. That should make the women feel safe.

And this, a bit ironic, it should probably be added to the potty mouth list, but do you count re-tweets of gratuitous f-bombs? Hm, he looks kinda underage…

fae-retweets-f-bomb disguised
Screenshot includes Photo by Jonatan Svensson Glad, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

[Note: it has come to my attention that this screenshot incorporates a photo Fae retweeted of Jonatan Svensson Glad, who is on Twitter, also Wikipedia user:Josve05a, an admin on Commons.  I have added a second attribution of the type Wikimedia blog uses for his photos, and have also altered the photo slightly to emphasize that the purpose of the screenshot is not to be an exact representation of the photo in the screenshot but rather criticism and comment.  In particular, it is one of several examples of the type of smut Fae adds to his Twitter feed at the same time he is bewailing Wikipedia’s toxic environment elsewhere.]

Here’s another one, calling a woman a vulgar term for prostitute.


Except it’s not a woman, it’s a female impersonator, Brian Firkus, whose stage name is Trixie Mattel, and who not surprisingly seems to have a much more polished article on Wikipedia than any of the women jazz musicians I listed a few days ago for black history month.

Imagine now someone in blackface, who thinks racial epithets are funny. Is this really okay, that you can all someone bigoted names, and it’s all just pretend bigotry if they are not really a member of the minority they are dressed up as.

These were dressed up for musical performances, which is no longer acceptable because it is thought to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, but what if they had used their costuming to perpetuate hate speech?

For women, navigating a world in which most men are taller and larger than they are, domestic violence and sexual assault are real, genuine possibilities, and very frighting. One in four women has been assaulted.

Most of us know someone or have witnessed a situation where someone was getting hurt, and we had to evaluate it, and if and when it was safe to intervene.

Or we constantly have to evaluate our surroundings as we move from place to place, use public transportation, or just walk on the sidewalk.  Is that guy behind you following you and should you cross the street to see if he does the same? Or maybe you should not go straight home, so he doesn’t see where you live. It’s a daily dance, and women learn it from the age of 11, constantly scanning the environment for safety, staying aware of your surroundings and not getting lost in thought. It is basic survival.  It sucks your time and your energy.  But to someone like Fae, bondage and physical abuse is just another form of entertainment, and is even sexually arousing. Hurting and killing women is just a big fat joke.

Oh Fae gets it all right.  He just doesn’t care.

Open thread: which admins are stoners?

One of my readers asks, while naming a specific admin as head of a “drug traffickers association”:

“how much admin abuse is there on the english wikipedia, actually? does anyone regularly vet admin logs or anything like that?”

So which admins are self-declared stoners? At least one sells grow-lights and marijuana, and I seem to remember someone else with a name “high”-something, but how many are there.

What is admin abuse?
What are the admin logs and who can access them? Which ones are important and should be monitored?”