Retired Conversations

The team at Speaking Out Safely is working hard to compile a complete list of retired terms and phrases. We hope to be able to bring to you a training program, guidebook and seminars explaining how and why to retire certain conversations. However we need your help to do that get involved and help us create a new world by transforming conversations.

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to leave you without guidance while we’re working on a more comprehensive set of materials we want to cover three categories of retired conversations.

Passive Voice

Passive voice concentrates on who is where in the sentence and is a matter of accountability. When it comes to bullying, child sexual abuse, domestic violence or any other form of abuse/harassment/attack the wrong-doer should never be passively mentioned in the sentence. Think about this in terms of Ben the school bully and Victor the victim. Picture Victor’s parents talking to their friends about what happened to their son. They generally have three options.

  1. Victor was bullied (passive).
  2. Victor was bullied by Ben (passive).
  3. Ben bullied Victor (active).

With the first sentence Ben the bully isn’t mentioned at all which would cause people to either marginalize or excuse Ben’s actions and some people would not blame Ben at all. With the second sentence by mentioning Victor as the subject of the sentence the brunt of the attention is on him, his actions and what Victor may have done to cause being bullied rather than the plain fact that Ben bullied Victor. Using passive voice in terms of the wrong-doer can skew what actually happened and give people a chance to rationalize the bully’s actions.

The third sentence is what you should use when explaining the incident. It holds the wrong-doer accountable and places the focus of that persons wrongful actions instead of rationalizing or minimizing their involvement. Retire the passive conversation and talk in an active voice.


Dual Subjects

Dual subjects is the nice way of saying inappropriate blame sharing. Any time you use a plural such as “we” or “they” you are using dual subjects. To understand this concept a little better I want you to visualize the following. Your wife comes home and tells you that your son Ben was called to the principle’s office because of an incident with Victor. When you ask your wife what happens she says that when the principle found them they were struggling on the floor and Victor had hit Ben. Take a couple of minutes and imagine the incident and try to picture the entire fight.

Most people picture the two of them fighting and Victor just happened to land the punch. There have been several variations about what people believe happened but almost all people think Ben was at least partly to blame for the fight. Now, taking away the dual subjects, try to picture the fight again. When the principle found Victor and Ben, Victor had knocked Ben onto the floor and Victor had hit Ben.

When you take the additional steps to refer to the participants individually there is no room for a person’s mind to believe the victim is at all to blame for what happened or in any way the cause of what happened. Retire the dual subjects and place the accountability where it belongs, on the wrongdoer.


Victim BlamingĀ 

Victim blaming is a problem that is addressed last because it is a more challenging concept to understand. There are not specific bad words rather it is the context of the words that makes them inappropriate. Any words that portray that the victim did, said or wore something to cause the attack should be retired immediately. Short skirts do not cause people to break the law. No one deserves to be beaten, abused, bullied or raped. Any use of language that puts blame on anyone but the wrongdoer is effectively perpetuating violence. If you have any questions or concerns about how to retire victim blaming language please contact us.