not making things worse, or de-escalating

overheard a conversation this morning in the snow, out on the sidewalk.  a client hollered at the 2 protestors as she went in the door.  an escort repeated what the client had yelled, happy to tell the other escorts one of the clients hadn’t taken their domestic terrorism without some attempt to stand up for herSelf.  “Tell her,” said the client, “Tell her to go home because while she’s down here being a busybody, her husband’s at home banging some other woman.”  After repeating this with some glee, certain the protestor heard what had been said about her, the escorts agreed aloud it would indeed be better for this female sidewalk bully to go home.  Then one escort informed the others that the protestor’s husband had died, just to get away from her.

This left an appalled silence.  In this forum, in this time and on this day, may I implore each of us to rethink what we say before we open our mouths and say it.  I am truly one of the worst about this, and there is no way of knowing how many years our services will be required on the sidewalks of America.  But every time we become mean-spirited and cruel, we have sunk to (or below) their level.

It was difficult to not apologize to the protestor for our unkindness.  What stopped me?  My own grim certainty that she “deserved” it for all the trouble she causes clients, day in and day out, year after year.  Perhaps this is merely the winter of my own discontent with myself and others, but I do feel guilty, still.  Yes, still.  At least her husband stayed with her, in their marriage, until death did them part.  Every man, husband or otherwise, has always left me.  So she’s definitely better at that relationship/marriage stuff than I.

Are the bruises on my arms as real as the bruises in another’s spirit when I am unkind?  Yes, the aggression seems to be rising, on both sides, and they are pushing and yanking and hitting enough to leave bruises.  Please, I need to hear from you.  What do you think?  Are we too cruel?  Are we not cruel enough?  What is too much?  And what is not enough?

19 thoughts on “not making things worse, or de-escalating

  1. Delurking for a moment.

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and I’m always amazed at the vitriol and antagonism you deal with so that the clients can just get the medical care they need. No, the comment shouldn’t have been said. However, I also think you need to forgive yourself for the whole incident. It’s human to want to hit back when someone is hurting you or someone you’re supposed to take care of. It’s human to want to fight the bully. It’s human to get really angry when dealing with the same lies and aggression week after week. So, if you haven’t done it yet, forgive yourself and the other escorts for being merely human. Take a deep breath (and maybe a nice relaxing bubble bath or whatever else you find relaxing) and gather your patience for another week of having to be the better person than the bully screaming at you and your charges. For what it’s worth, you display far more restraint than I think I would under similar circumstances.

  2. I’m going to have to echo what hdsidhe said, and add my own experience. One of the worst things I’ve heard a protester say was “I hope you’re in pain, I hope you’re hurt now!” to a woman leaving the clinic, presumably after aborting.

    They’re THERE to HURT people. Obviously, it’s better for the clients to avoid engaging the crazies if at all possible. But if crazies get hurt in return sometimes, so be it.

    Screw apologies.

      • True. I certainly don’t think that any escort, ever, should purposely try to hurt the opposition, no matter how terrible they are to clients. But it upsets me to hear that an escort feels guilty because of an accident like this, and I don’t think for a minute an apology is warranted. I’m proud that the escorts of this blog normally exercise such incredible restraint, because even though I escort myself… I don’t think that I could handle what you guys have to endure, and watch your clients endure. The environment at my clinics is not nearly as violent, and we have private parking lots, so the protesters can’t get nearly as close.

        Whenever I feel apprehensive about an upcoming Saturday morning, I come to this blog and watch a video or two. I tell myself, “If they can do it, then I can, too.”

        You guys have it much worse than my state does. Thank you for ‘fighting the good fight’, and don’t let one incident get you down. You’re on the right side.

  3. I have been in this situation. Hell, I’ve caused this situation. I’ve done worse than spew verbal bile, too.

    And it makes me cringe.

    We MUST focus on the clients and their companions. If it isn’t good for them, it should not have a place at the clinic. When we make the sidewalk a battleground for escorts and anti’s – regardless of how much they deserve to be embattled – we are still forcing the clients and companions to walk through a warzone to go to the damn doctor.

    I am currently in the frame of mind that if I never engage a protester again, that’ll be great. Great for me. Great for my fellow escorts. But most importantly, great for the clients.

    And I think you should have apologized. But it’s pointless to do it now. She will have formed a retort and framed this incident in her world view and is probably chomping at the bit with a salvo of rhetorical damnation that would just escalate things all over again.

    • yeah. . .I thought about saying something this morning, but realized it was pointless. . .besides, had this new videotaping dude to deal with. more on that later. . .

      see you on the sidewalk!

  4. I SO identify with this moral conundrum having said spiteful things to protesters in a moment of thoughtlessness. I’ve also observed protestes spew the most egregious venom towards clients and escorts, myself included. Only one ever apologized for calling an escort a faggot. And when he refused to accept her apology, she became irate and demanded that he accept it.

    I know two wrongs don’t make a right. I’ve said things that were in defense of clients and for that I have no qualms. It’s when I’ve made personal comments that I know I’ve stooped to their level. Fortunately, I have recovered. Can’t say the same for the protesters. There’s no end to their nastiness—at least not in Allentown PA.

    I admire your concerns. My suggestion would be to follow EverySaturdayMorning’s advice: Speak to the clients with love and compassion, to each other with support and direction and as little as possible to protesters who don’t care to listen anyway

  5. I have to agree with Froody.
    I have been following your blog for a while now and I have a deep respect for the work you are doing. You are in the right here. You are protecting women from losing their autonomy and from being bullied out of taking care of themselves.
    That women does not deserve an apology from you. If you were to keep score, the damage that she has done would outweigh the consequences of this one event. Not apologizing, however, brings you down to her level. The other thing that I think of is the church that my family was involved in when I lived at home. I never participated in a clinic protest but the church members regularly held them and they believed they were doing the right thing. They prayed for the women at the clinic and believed that they were saving them. They don’t see what they do for what it really is. It isn’t fair that you should have to be the bigger person but if you want them to ever come around to see things from a logical standpoint you have to show them that you are kind, patient, loving, forgiving, and everything they think that THEY represent. Don’t let them make you into hateful people and don’t give them any opportunity to see that way.

    • yes! we have to show them that we are “kind, patient, loving, forgiving, and everything they think that THEY represent.” Thank you for all you’ve said, all so perfectly.

  6. I’ll go against the general grain here, and say that you should apologize. It’s not too late. The apology may not be deserved, but it’s the right thing to do. If you cross a line, you should apologize. If the person who made the statement isn’t willing to, it’s still nice if their friends do.

    Apologizing is the only thing that has a chance of de-escalating your “relationship” with the protesters. If nobody ever apologizes, everything just gets a little worse every time somebody crosses a line. Maybe before this incident, some protesters wouldn’t say certain things, but now they might think it’s OK because of how mean you guys were. Do your best to avoid that route.

    You’ve got the moral high ground. Aim to keep it.

    Aside from all that, I’m very impressed with what you do and put up with.

    Tim

  7. A few months back I was grabbed by one of the protesters by the hood and yanked backwards in front of 50 members of his men’s prayer group.
    After the incident they said a prayer and left. Several of them came up to me apologizing for their comrade’s COMPLETELY inappropriate behavior and I was told they were leaving because the group felt so uncomfortable with the aggression he had displayed.

    My response to them is the same as my response to ourselves in this situation. Apologies are made of very thin stuff, it is always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, eh?

    These are the moments that groups like Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force aim to avoid with their very strict “Non-Engagement Policy”. The idea that we are not able to engage in a reasonable way with unreasonable people needs to be first in our minds. The reality is we are not there to engage with the protesters, we are there to engage with the clients walking in.

    I am proud of Louisville’s Clinic escorts and our consensus to leave engagement up the the individual. Some of our cohorts are able to really humanize our clients to the protesters, and I find that invaluable. Having open lines of communication with the protesters has at times been instrumental in de-escalating volatile situations.

    But the line between engagement and antagonism is so very thin. And I for one have lost sight of that line. I want to again encourage us to really step back and close our mouths. Speak to the clients with love and compassion, to each other with support and direction and as little as possible to protesters who don’t care to listen anyway.

    andy

    • Hello, and thank you for your response. You are my heroine in all this. That horrible day when you were assaulted by that uk jerk, it was hard not to run over there and slug him. And that’s not the kind of person I want to become.

      This whole thing is forcing us to look at who we really are, and how we deal with evil people, even those who believe themselves to be god’s angels on earth. Their words and actions reveal whom they truly serve. Also their fake orange vests.

      I posted a copy of your words, “Speak to the clients with love and compassion, to each other with support and direction and as little as possible to protesters who don’t care to listen anyway,” on my refrigerator and also on my mirror.

      Hoping to learn this from you, and from the other escorts.

      Hoping to be the kind of friend I would truly love to have.

      Hoping I can keep escorting every day (for those who don’t know, it’s not just Saturdays; the domestic terrorists are there every morning, Tuesdays through Saturdays).

      Hoping to give up the petty satisfaction of the wiseass retort and the cruel riposte.

      Hoping to learn to BE the changes I want to see in my world.

  8. Hey, I have your blog in my google reader, and every time I read one of your posts I’m moved to comment in support, but I didn’t have a wordpress username so I didn’t bother to sign up or whatever, but today I decided to 🙂

    I don’t know how many comments you get but I imagine you must get some vicious ones so I wanted to comment to dilute them a bit 🙂 There are probably tons of people who agree with you but are less vocal than your detractors.

    Regarding you actual post, it’s human nature to feel guilty about that kind of thing, so I can understand how you feel. I’m glad you didn’t apologise though. Firstly, I agree that she doesn’t ‘deserve’ one, and also, I imagine that with those kinds of people an apology would be interpreted as a weakness, and an admission of being wrong, which they would jump on.

    I don’t know the answers to your questions, but I don’t think cruelty is a solution. It seems that the protesters are not people that can be reasoned with, so I think you just need to keep doing what you doing.

    I’m sorry my comment is a bit rambly, I really know what I want to say. In the UK tensions don’t seem to be as high as in the US, in my region they’re not anyway, so I don’t have any personal experiences with this kind of thing. I just wanted you to know that I fully support what you’re doing, even though I realise that it probably won’t be much help to you 🙂

    • never underestimate the power of your support of another person. It means another person out there cares about the work we are doing as volunteer safety escorts at the abortion clinic.

      It can feel pretty lonely on a dark, bitterly cold morning, and I hope you continue to both read and comment on our blog, for it gives me hope.

      thank you for being a caring person.

  9. Delurking to share my own experience. I hope this isn’t inappropriate in some way, you can delete it if it is, but you sound like you really need a different perspective. I can understand feeling guilty, I’ve said things that were more hurtful than I intended them to be, in fact I likely do it a lot. But the protesters don’t get my sympathy.
    When I went to a clinic for a Bartholin’s gland cyst, I was followed all the way up to the door by a woman who wanted me to know that killing my baby would “make you the mother of a dead baby”. Which I suppose she got off a bumper sticker. There was no possibility I was pregnant, though I have been before, and had an abortion at a place where there were fortunately no protesters at all.
    But the woman obviously knew nothing about me, and was intent on being as hurtful as possible regardless. Supposing I was there for an abortion because the much wanted pregnancy had gone medically wrong? Suppose I had been trying for years to become pregnant without success and was just going in for a pap smear? Suppose the woman she was saying this to was there for something unrelated to a pregnancy and her own husband had died so the assumption she was pregnant was just another nasty reminder of that? Suppose the woman she was saying this to had miscarried, or lost her three year old daughter to a car accident, and was being reminded that she was the mother of a dead child and it was implicitly her fault?
    There are so many ways in which that could have been the cruelest thing to say to a woman walking into a clinic. It mostly just annoyed me, which seemed to disappoint her. The protesters deliberately say hateful and hurtful things with no attempt to gauge how hurtful they will be, or to limit their cruelty. I’ve seen no evidence that they care, but only that they would re-use the most cruel comments because they think women getting abortions deserve to hurt.
    There’s such a huge range of circumstances for any woman walking into a clinic, and they honestly don’t seem to care what they are. Anything they say may bounce off the woman, or it may hurt her deeply. They have no way of knowing, and they don’t care.
    So no sympathy from me. I know we’re in two wrongs don’t make a right territory, but if the protesters are hurt by the whole scene, they can stay away from it. The woman walking into the clinic has no such option.

    • we actually had the conversation with the new guys who are “making a documentary film” for their baptist church about the clinic. we tried to educate them that there are many, many, many reasons a woman may go into the emw medical clinic, all of which fall under the heading of “medical care.”

      it may not prevent them from becoming domestic terrorists like Angela and Mary and Ed and the “mayor,” but they were at least trying to listen a little bit.

      we stressed how infuriated we are that they were invading people’s privacy at a difficult time in a stressful situation, and told them it is terriying, intimidating, and horrible to show the clients’ faces. They agreed to edit the faces out.

      we’ll see.

      for the record, although I decided it was a little late for an apology, I have renewed my determination to not make things worse. have been there every morning this week, and am exercising that too-little used muscle of “restraint.”

      just to clarify, it was the client who said the protestor’s husband was at home doing another woman.

      see you all at 6:15 am on Saturday!

      • That’s what I thought I understood you were saying, which is why I’m okay with it. I understand why escorts shouldn’t engage, but if the clients or their support people want to tell off a protester who’s giving them grief (and they all are just by being there, that’s the point), then I don’t see why anyone else should be apologizing.

  10. It was a bad comment to make in any situation but particularly with that protester, however the protester knows that she is putting herself in a hostile situation and if she has such thin skin she should not be doing it.
    Considering the lies and insults (meant or not) they fling at escorts and clients it is expected that things get out of hand, I commend you for you empathy.

    And I also want to say that breaking up a bad marriage/relationship is much better than staying together in spite of everything, I’m a kid of divorced parents (even multiple divorces) and my own marriage is now going on 15 years, so as living proof I think that even with kids if a breakup can be done in mutual respect it is much better than living with someone you don’t wanna live with, the anger is gonna seep through no matter how restraint you are.

    • yeah, the children are probably going to be less damaged once the warring spouses part company. my children seem to have survived the divorce, but I was willing to be his doormat in any way, to keep the family together. Not a very healthy way to live, eh?

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