Minimising with Liam Neeson

Trigger warnings – sexual assault.

Minimising is a tactic used by abusers, and apologists for abusers to facilitate abuse. It’s a simple method, and involves downplaying what’s going on. You’re making a fuss. It was just a little push. Recently, actor Liam Neeson has put himself forward to minimise the accusations of sexual abuse in the film industry. He’s quoted as saying “there’s some people, famous people, being suddenly accused of touching some girl’s knee, or something, and suddenly they’re being dropped from their program, or something.” He also called unwanted breast touching “childhood stuff”.

There are many accusations out there of serious sexual misconduct. So, by reducing it to ‘touching some girl’s knee’ Neeson dismisses the nastier stuff without even mentioning them. That doesn’t exist in his world. We are also to note that the victim is ‘some girl’ while ‘famous people’ are important men. People are men. Women are non-people in this quote. The victim is of no consequence, the perpetrator matters. That a ‘person’ is dropped from their program is presented to us as more important than that the non-person, the woman, has been assaulted.

The idea that unwanted touching of knees or breasts is no big deal also acts to minimise. As though the female body is something that doesn’t merit protection from minor infringements. It was just a knee, just a breast. Nothing that mattered. Once you’ve made most of a person’s body irrelevant, it gets a lot easier to say ‘it was just your ass, what’s the big deal?’ It was only a quick hand up her skirt. It was only, it was just. She’s only an irrelevant girl after all.

There’s a gaslighting aspect to all this. If you assault someone and then tell them, and everyone else that it definitely wasn’t an assault, it was a small, insignificant thing, that’s really disorientating. If you tell your victim that they’re being silly, over reacting, making a fuss, blowing it out of all proportion, it makes it harder for them to protest. If you have the power to get the message to victims and potential victims that touching a girl or woman without consent is no big deal, you make it harder for them to speak up in the first place. You make them feel crazy and to blame if they take issue with what’s being done to their bodies.

People who touch without consent, and keep doing it, are invasive and disturbing. It is an act of power over someone to be able to force contact onto them that they do not want. Even ‘little’ acts of knee touching fall into this category. If you are not allowed to say no, if you are not allowed to decide who can touch you and who can’t, then you don’t own your body. The person touching it owns it. That’s an awful, awful place to be.

Watch out for how people use ‘just’ and ‘only’ to try and underplay what’s going on. Watch for the flow of power in a situation. And watch out for the people – usually men – who do this kind of shit, and who defend it, because they are not good people. People who minimise abuse are defending abusers and facilitating abuse, and you certainly can’t trust them to respect anyone else’s body, either.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Minimising with Liam Neeson

  • Jacqueline

    It’s very difficult for me to find the words to express the helpless rage that I feel living in a society that doesn’t fully acknowledge that my body belongs to me. I don’t really know how to talk about it except to say that it makes me feel estranged from my own self, and comments like Neeson’s press on this issue for me.

  • ellenefenricea

    I was wondering recently what would happen if we considered women’s bodies in the same way that we considered property (bear with me on this).
    Imagine this: I walk into a shop with shelves displaying pretty and interesting things. There’s something on one of the shelves that I really take a fancy to. I want it, so I take it.
    I’m seen and one thing leads to another and I end up in the magistrates court.

    In my defence I say -“ the goods were out on display- they were just asking to be taken.
    It was only one/ a handful of/ a small… (whatever) thing.”

    Now I don’t have any cognitive problems or particular social dis function or any excuse not to know right from wrong, not to understand the general principles of property. So the magistrate obviously doesn’t buy into my lame-arse excuse.
    Fact is, the goods weren’t mine to take and I’m not even acknowledging it’s wrong or acting even remotely apologetic.

    Now imagine this:
    the magistrate says “how did something this trivial even get to court, maybe you need to get some counselling or something to help you manage your desires. I totally understand that you’re not able to check your own behaviour when you decide you want something that you have no right to take.”

    And everyone lives happily ever after.

    Never gonna happen. My sentence will depend on how remorseful I am and how many times I’ve done it before. My guilt is beyond doubt- even by saying “it was only” I’ve admitted that I committed the act. It’s that simple, I tried to take something that was not mine to take, whatever it was the law is clear.

    Women’s bodies are women’s property- they are not for any kind of use by any other person, (unless the woman actively gives permission, and as we see with the shop lifting- display is not permission to take) no matter how small or trivial seeming the act might be.

  • Anna Nyms

    I wonder how Mr. Handsy would like it if someone came up to him with a pair of scissors and started rubbing them all over his “sensitive parts”? Just a minor touch right? Nothing going on here, right? Not need to worry, ok?

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