Taking abuse seriously means that you understand that the very last thing abuse survivors and victims want to hear is that you conducted your own, private investigation and thereby discerned an alleged victim was not credible. Since you take abuse seriously, you know that the reason so many churches are being rocked by issues of child abuse and spousal abuse is because those churches do exactly that: they conduct their own “internal investigation” despite not being experts in abuse and then declare the alleged victim a liar or a sinner or a mentally unstable person.
Taking abuse seriously means that, even if you believe certain abuse allegations are false, you refuse to invoke the very language abusers would invoke to discredit their accusers: “mob mentality,” “digital pitchforks,” and claiming you (rather than actual survivors and victims of abuse) are the victim. Do you feel “angry, resentful, and completely powerless”? Imagine how someone abused by a person in power must feel — imagine the anger, resentfulness, and feeling of complete powerlessness that person must have experienced for years while being ignored, gaslit, and portrayed as “crazy” by people who have public, respected platforms to disseminate their fictional picture of you.
Taking abuse seriously means that, even if you believe someone made false allegations, you refuse to raise the specter of false allegations to discredit an accuser. Since you take abuse seriously, you understand how that specter has been raised time and time again to shut down actual abuse survivors and victims. Since you take abuse seriously, you have also studied the statistics and understand that false allegations are “few and far between.” That means the most logical response to abuse allegations is to trust them. Thus when people make allegations against someone you hold dear — and even though you believe those allegations are false — you would never, ever, blame people for trusting that person. Because trusting that person is the logical and right thing to do. As someone who takes abuse seriously, you want to encourage people to take allegations seriously — because we live in a society where survivors and victims are extraordinarily marginalized. So you would never, ever, raise that specter, even if you felt it was justified.
Taking abuse seriously means that you understand abuser dynamics — especially how abusers gaslight their victims by claiming their attitudes are “toxic” or “bitter” and thus not deserving of proper attention. Since survivors are constantly labeled “bitter” and “toxic” just because they try to share their stories, you also know that those terms can be so, so triggering. So you will go out of your way to not describe survivors and victims — even if you’ve seen documents that make you feel their stories are false —as “bitter” or “toxic.”
Taking abuse seriously means you understand that what’s most terrible is the actual abuse, not people demanding that leaders please go the extra mile to make sure a marginalized voice is heard. You also understand why using misogynistic language is particularly painful when having a conversation with abuse survivors.
Taking abuse seriously means that you don’t get to play a “I know how best to advocate for abuse survivors” card when you’re being called out by actual survivors and victims of abuse. It’s not your place to say what “part of advocating for abuse victims is” if you’re not yourself a survivor or victim of the particular violence in question. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve done what you’ve done “consistently.” What matters is whether it makes abuse survivors and victims safe. If they are not feeling safe, you need to listen.
Taking abuse seriously means you actually do so, not just claim you do when it’s necessary to prevent damage to your reputation.