Imagine you are mindlessly scrolling through Instagram as one does, and you see an image that stops you dead in your tracks. It is an image you’ve seen before, of a person you’re very familiar with. It is the face of your abuser. Even though it is a childhood photo, you’d know that face anywhere. It is the face that has haunted you for months, years even.
You see the picture is being shared by a friend of your abuser, someone who knows what that person has done to you. You read the caption, which not only makes light of a grossly disturbing image, but tags your abuser, who’s been mentioned as a “close friend.” You naturally feel overwhelmed, so you reach out to a small support group privately.
What happens next is something you can’t imagine, but it’s something that should happen more. Your support group steps up and publicly calls this person out.
Comedian (and that’s using the term loosely, because this isn’t funny) Chris Fairbanks shared an incredibly disturbing childhood photo of his friend Matt with a severed duck head on a leash. I will spare you any additional details, and if you’d like to see the photo, you can find it here. The gross picture has over 400 likes on Instagram, and so he decided to take it to Twitter as well. The tweet has over 100 likes and 17 retweets.
[Update: After Scary Mommy published this article, Fairbanks removed the disgusting photo from social media — but not before the damage was done.]
While Fairbanks may have thought the anecdote about his friend was funny, that he liked to carry around a severed duck head as a child, there are several reasons why it’s not. Besides the fact that it features a dead animal, his “close friend” is an alleged violent abuser, arrested for domestic violence. His crime? Allegedly nearly choking his wife to death. (He ultimately pled guilty to misdemeanor partner family member assault, though “police who responded to her 911 call reported seeing purple and reddish bruises near her left ear, and said her throat and upper chest were blotchy and red.”)
His wife, who is now in the process of filing for divorce, came across the photo on Instagram and saw that it was being treated as a comedic moment. She was understandably horrified and shaken.
Because of their very complicated divorce proceedings, she has to be careful about how she responds, but she confirms that she absolutely let Fairbanks know that she wasn’t pleased with him glorifying her abuser in such a disturbing way. Naturally, his response was not to listen to what she was saying and rethink his decision, but to delete her comment and block her from his Instagram. That’s what he did to several other women who stepped up and called him out for trying to paint an abuser in such a positive light.
These women, for the most part, weren’t strangers to the woman — they do know her — but it would have been so easy for them to say, “not my circus, not my monkey.” But these brave women said, “OH HELL NO” and came through to defend this woman they know has suffered enough.
I already said it on Instagram, and you blocked me, just like you blocked all of the other women who said it, but “your friend” Matt strangled his wife and had to sign over his parental rights. Also, you’re not funny. pic.twitter.com/CHL8zpXAoo
— Kelly Sundberg, PhD. (@K_O_Sundberg) October 18, 2018
This right here is how you stand up for someone who has suffered at the hands of an abuser. More often than not, women who are survivors of domestic violence are shouting into a void of people who will not do anything to help them. Even if they follow all of the “right” steps, file a police report, press charges, and do all the things they are “supposed to” do, they are still fighting against a society that will live to tear them down. Shaming and victim blaming reign supreme. Even with all the evidence in the world, there will be people who will try to poke holes in their arguments to make them look like they’re simply trying to “destroy a good man’s name.” For what? If no one is going to believe them, why would they literally turn their lives upside down?
“How could you post this and think it’s funny when he strangled his wife and was arrested for it? Anything for a laugh, huh? No matter who it hurts?” — @ShannonLell on Twitter
How could you post this and think it's funny when he strangled his wife and was arrested for it? Anything for a laugh, huh? No matter who it hurts? https://t.co/FKV6oMxx2s— Shannon Kavanaugh (@Shannon_Kav) October 18, 2018
All it takes is one person who is willing to stand with you and call out abusive behavior. And in this case, several women came to her aid, which gave the victim the space to step away. Women who are victims of domestic violence have enough burdens to shoulder, and more people (like these women) need to step up and relieve them of the burden of having to defend themselves against those who will put their abuser on a pedestal.
That was entirely the case in this situation, as the original poster replied to a tweet calling the abuser “a loving father.” A loving father doesn’t strangle the mother of said children until she almost loses consciousness.
So @chrisfairbanks is making jokes about his friend Matt decapitating an animal as a child, the same friend who was arrested for strangling his wife: Chris is also blocking women who call him on this. https://t.co/cpe0aZCCx7 https://t.co/iKulIIrYKZ
— Britni de la Cretaz (@britnidlc) October 18, 2018
But the brave women who stepped up and took on a man with a large following are the kind of women who deserve all the praise in this situation. Domestic abuse isn’t a punchline. Anyone who treats it as such deserves to be called on their actions. People who protect those who abuse aren’t much better than the person who commits the crime. Because they know what the person is capable of, and will turn a blind eye to it because they’re a “nice” or “good” guy. No one who puts their hands on the person they claim to love is a good or nice person.
And that tag is his new legal name (Matthew Land). Everyone familiar with the story knows that.
— Kelly Sundberg, PhD. (@K_O_Sundberg) October 18, 2018
Just an FYI, the women who stepped up to tell the truth aren’t gaining anything from outing the abuser or their enabler. They are simply doing the right thing. We’re always being told, “If you see something, say something.” This is especially true when it comes to abuse.
“When I saw the picture, and realized the back story of his friend being arrested and pleading guilty for strangling his wife, I was compelled to point out the irony; the inappropriateness. It was in such bad taste, and very hurtful, considering Chris was aware of these charges against his friend, Matt…Then these women started commenting and blaming Matt’s wife, the victim in all of this, and I couldn’t hold back….Things aren’t always what they appear, and the person to pay the price is usually the victim,” Shannon Lell told Scary Mommy.
We have to hold these people accountable for the trauma they’ve caused. When people try to defend an abuser, when are we going to stop pretending we didn’t see it? When will we stop giving them a pass, when we never give the victim any sort of empathy? Why don’t more people stand with the victim for being brave enough to speak up and advocate for themselves when they’re the ones who stand to lose the most?
If you’re in a position to defend and protect someone who is a victim of abuse, then do it. Giving women the support they need during such a difficult time can literally save them. They are the people with the least to gain and the most to lose. Show up for them.