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Hello! I'm Ashley.

I’m a Christian feminist, writer, speaker, TV producer, news pundit, ordained reverend, and abuse-victim advocate who educates churches and secular communities on abuse. I’m the founder of The Courage Conference, for survivors of abuse—and those who love them.

Watch Out For the “Woke” Abuser

Watch Out For the “Woke” Abuser

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I often write about abuse coming from conservative circles because this is what I am most familiar with, and most of the victims I serve originate from that background. However, predators can come from the right or the left camps, politically or spiritually.

I’ve been noticing something disturbing from some progressive places. It’s a phenomenon I’d to call the “Woke” Abuser.

“Woke” is a slang word that defines as, “actively aware of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.” Real “wokeness” is about empathy and education concerning injustices in the world, a characteristic that is vital for effective social justice work and work towards ending abuse. 

But some abusers have honed their craft so well that they have begun to skillfully disguise themselves as “woke” individuals or even advocates. On the surface, they will talk the talk, use the right social justice buzzwords, even point out other abuses, but under the surface they are deceiving fellow advocates and luring vulnerable victims. I predict that as we move forward in social justice work we will start running into more and more covert abusers.

3 Sneaky Facades of “Woke” Abusers

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1. Fake Advocacy Work

A few weeks ago I spoke with a person who I thought was a fellow advocate, someone I believed wanted to put a victim’s justice and well-being at top value. This person talked a good talk and had even created an initiative to educate on abuse prevention. Then only a few short days later I saw them publicly and repeatedly victim blaming, shaming, and even advising the survivor to engage in dangerous behavior they did not want to engage in. This fake advocate used the lingo of the advocacy community to draw people in and to cause victims and survivors to trust them. Multiple experienced advocates publicly rebuked this fake advocate, but to no avail. The fake advocate proved that they only cared about growing their personal platform, even at the expense of the victims. In essence, their advocacy was a covert way to lure in vulnerable people for their own abusive desires.

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2. Nearly Believable “Woke” Apologies

It can be easy to fall for a nearly believable “woke” apology from a predator. Survivors and advocates are so accustomed to abusers out-right denying the abuse they perpetrated that it can throw a person off guard when an abuser apologizes, especially if that apology includes “woke” language. 

“Woke” predators may feign empathy for the victim, “yes, I did X but I didn’t mean anything by it. I can see now how they could have misinterpreted it. I’m sorry that I made them feel that way.” This type of false empathy is really a sleight of hand that initially sounds empathetic but effectively puts the blame on the victim for “taking it wrong.”  

Excuses of “woke” abusers may also be misleading. They may say something like, “I didn’t learn until the other day that there was a power differentiation when I (a powerful leader) asked for sexual favors from my (less powerful and dependant) employee/congregant.” In reality the abuser clearly knew how hard it would be to say “no,” and that is precisely why they pursued the victim in the first place.

These false apologies may contain the words “I’m sorry” but the “sorry” usually is for how the victim misunderstood rather than for the actual abuse enacted. You’ll also notice that the apologies typically come after the abuser has been caught and as a last-ditch effort to repair their reputation in the public eye, not out of personal initiative to right a wrong.

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3. Sympathizing With Victims When It Doesn’t Affect Them, But Protecting Predators When It Is Advantageous

When the #MeToo hashtag first came out with victims of abuse sharing their stories, I mostly heard silence from major Church leaders or statements disparaging the victims. A few celebrity pastors were a little more sneaky; when they realized that ignoring the survivor movement could make them look bad, they began to speak out in support of some of the victims.

A trend I noticed however was that they either supported victims as a general, nebulous group, or they publically supported specific victims when the abuser did not affect the pastors or their ministries in any way. When victims came forward about abuse perpetrated by one of their colleagues however, they fully supported the abuser and rejected the victims. This gave the illusion of “wokeness” or care for victims, when in reality their limited support was made in an effort to throw people off the trail or for personal gain.

As the advocacy community grows larger and as survivors increasingly speak the truth of their stories, predators will undoubtedly double their efforts to deceive. Don’t be fooled by a fake advocate or a “woke” predator. 

-Ashley Easter

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