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How to work with someone who abused you

Posted: Sun Mar 26, 2023 9:04 pm
by Mixxes
Hey everyone. So around a year ago, I wrote to y’all about what I was going through with my ex (ie. her manipulating, gaslighting me, treating me poorly, cheating on me, etc.) and through therapy I recognized that she emotionally abused me. I had to still work with her in the non-profit we’re a part of so I set boundaries with her that we would only talk to each other for work related reasons and did not want to engage with her for any other reason. Pretty soon, her abusive tendencies started leaking into her professional work as well. She missed a meeting that cost the non-profit A LOT of money (20 grand worth) and took no accountability for it. I had to basically apologize to our sponsor and beg them for a second chance to no avail. She also started embezzling funds from the non-profit (around $200 worth). When I asked her about it, she said some of it was fraud and the other was a “mistake” and again didn’t apologize or promise to not repeat the “mistake”. Then she started slacking, coming late to meetings and falling behind on fundraising goals. It got to the point where I had to confront her and tell her we needed to have a meeting with her about her behaviors. Instead of taking accountability, again she avoided and started pulling up random stuff from the non-profit constitution to “protect herself”. The board would like to have a meeting with her about what’s been happening but because she believes it’s something personal between her and I since she says I “falsely accused her of abusing me” she doesn’t want to have a meeting with us. Not only did she abuse me, though, but she abused another member on the board who was her former friend because she was trans and bullied her almost to the point of suicide. And the worst part is this non-profit is for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and she has enacted violence on the board members through our former relationship and her former friendship and is continuing the abuse by avoiding accountability for anything. I want to kick her off the board, but I have no power to do so. There is no “head” that can oversee this as we all have equal power in this non-profit. So the next best thing is to have a restorative Justice meeting with her about her actions, but she doesn’t want that either because she refuses to be accountable to anything because she insists that everything she has done is “not her fault” and blames everyone else (including me) for it. This has taken a huge mental health toll on me and I just don’t know what to do. Do you have any advice on how to work with someone who has abused you and who is sort of still continuing the abuse through work?

Re: How to work with someone who abused you

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2023 7:09 am
by Sam W
Hi Mixxes,

This sounds like an absolutely maddening and unhealthy situation, and it's no wonder it's taking such a toll on your mental health (and, it sounds like, the health of at least one other person on the board). We can certainly brainstorm some ways to try and keep working there, but a lot of it is going to depend on the specifics of the organization structure.

To start, you say there's no head of the organization, but is there any sort of hierarchy within that, like managers or even a human resources? In other words, someone who can enact consequences on her for both her abusive behavior and her unwillingness to actually do her job correctly? If not, how are people hired and fired from either the staff or the board? It sounds like she's pulling from some kind of formal document to protect herself; is there anything in that document that states how someone can be removed from the organization?

If there's no formal work structure or rules you can turn to, then I think it may be time for you, and the other person she targeted--if that person is comfortable doing so--to meet with the rest of the board without her and have a very frank conversation about all this. You might be able to use the fact this is an organization for survivors to your advantage, both if they start parroting the things she's said to manipulate or hide her harm, but also because if she has any kind of access to or interactions with clients who are survivors, she's literally creating an unsafe space for them by being someone with a history of abusive behavior.