friends don’t let friends abuse people

In the DIY scene in Cincinnati, and in our feminist and activist circles (much of which overlap), we talk a lot about accountability: it seems that holding ourselves accountable for our mistakes, for our actions, is important to us. It’s crucial work when it comes to striving for a better future for our DIY community and for the people of differing identities that exist within it. It’s also crucial to growth and self-awareness, because it encourages us to consider the impact of our thoughts and actions upon the wider community, and to knit ourselves more deeply into that community by imagining how our personal choices can nurture it (or harm it).

Unfortunately, not everyone has the willingness or ability to be self-aware and hold themselves accountable, due to mental health issues, drug problems, general stubbornness, etc. Sometimes call-outs and call-ins* backfire, and the whole community suffers. In the past year I have witnessed several situations of varying proximity to my own life that have divided groups and created wars within the Cincinnati community. I have seen abusive and frightening situations unfold that have resulted in actual geographic divisions, sometimes attempts at mediation, and typically, violence.

Getting away from personal responsibility, what I see lacking in the Cincinnati community is a willingness to take a look at the people we love– our friends, partners, coworkers– and hold them accountable. I see thoughtless support of problematic friends. I see people distancing themselves from their problematic friends (causing further alienation).

Probably you have a problematic friend. You may have a friend who is an abuser. 

Don’t step aside when your friends hurt people. Help your friends by holding them accountable, by not enabling their behavior with mindless support. Encourage them to seek counseling, come up with non-drinking activities (if that’s a thing that triggers their problematic behavior), hang out with them and keep them out of tough situations and away from the people they are in conflict with. Try to prevent them from making mistakes that they will regret later when they are in a more stable place.

A real friend doesn’t support their friends’ problematic or abusive behavior. A real friend helps to guide their friends back to a more stable path. A real friend is willing to do the emotional labor that comes with having a friend who is in trouble, who is suffering. A real friend checks in, checks up, doesn’t check out.

Take a moment to think about your friends. Are you being honest with yourself/them about their behavior? Wouldn’t you want their honesty if you were in an unstable place? Isn’t that what real friendship looks like?




*Call-out culture encourages publicizing problematic individuals within a community in an attempt to force them to change through shaming, etcetera, under the guise of holding those individuals accountable. Typically it doesn’t work at all. Call-in culture is typically a less angry, less public, more diplomatic option for letting people know that they’ve fucked up. This approach won’t work on many people, because they just don’t care. But when it does work, the results are, to me, a lot more satisfying and healthy.


3 thoughts on “friends don’t let friends abuse people

    1. I define “abuse” as treating someone with violence or cruelty, psychologically or physically. Abusive behaviors can range from harassment, stalking, and hateful language all the way to physical violence.


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