* Needs More Examples
Failing to see the difference between playfulness (or similar) and abuse can be annoying at best and disastrous at worst.
This can take two forms:
- Type A: Something not abusive is mistaken for abuse.
- Type B: Something actually abusive is mistaken for something that doesn't need worrying about.
In both cases, someone is likely to suffer because of the mistake.
When Played for Laughs
, the mistake is almost always Type A, and quickly corrected. When Played for Drama
, however, a real victim might be denied help (Type B), a innocent person might get his life ruined with unfair accusations of abuse (Type A), or the designated "victim" (again Type A) gets stalked or outright oppressed by unwanted "rescuers". These helpers might even go to great lengths trying to force her to "realize" that she's a victim of abuse
. And no, not the actual abuse that they
are subjecting her to.
See also Friendly War
, Casual Kink
and Safe, Sane and Consensual
for non-abusive stuff that can be mistaken for abuse. Compare You Just Ruined the Shot
, for cases where the "victim" was an actor in a movie rather then a participant in a sexual game. Contrast Abusively Sexy
(with the subtropes Bastard Boyfriend
and Abusively Sexy Woman
) as well as Abuse Is Okay When It's Female on Male
for situations that are clearly abusive but the audience isn't really intended to care.
Expect unmarked spoilers, since this trope is about situations being revealed o be different then they looked.
Anime and Manga
- Abiru of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has her injuries mistaken for the result of domestic abuse.
- Love Hina. The girls of the house will think that Keitaro, being extremely unlucky and clumsy, is trying to molest/abuse them, so type A. However, some of their punishments of him will slip the show into type B.
- In one episode of Girls (a James Bond parody about a reluctant Marty Stu named Lester Girls), our hero rescue a man from getting tortured by a beautuful woman. However, the "victim" gets mad at him for ruining the scene. What first looked like the Abusively Sexy Woman kind of Fanservice turned out to be simple consensual Casual Kink.
- Type A is a Stock plot in Donald Duck: Donald gets a new job of responsibility, and starts to see abuse and attempted crimes everywhere he looks. Chaos ensues.
- In The SM Judge, the ADA mistake the couple's BDSM sex-life for abuse. It's never made clear if he believed his own accusations, or if he merely used her bruises as an excuse to attack the judge.
- The third book of Slave World starts out with a female police officer getting raped by a corrupt male policeman. When caught, his violation is mistaken for consensual sex, so they both get in trouble for it. (She gets fired from the police force, and then hired by a government conspiracy trying to infiltrate an Alternate Timeline to steal their superior technology. But that's another story.)
- House have several of these. In one episode a patient gets attacked by a woman, who tries to murder him by strangulation. Or rather, that's what the audience and the doctors believe at first. It turns out that it was just erotic asphyxiation. Safe or not is debatable, but at least it was consensual. In another episode, a man rapes a woman, but everyone except the audience knows that it's just a game.
- In one episode of Law & Order: SVU, a cop have a bad reputation as several other cops "know" that he used to beat his girlfriend. He even got arrested once. However, it turns out that he had nothing to do with her injuries. It wasn't even a consensual game, she was cutting herself because of a deep depression.
- There was a cleaning ad that played with this trope. A woman is grocery shopping with her arm in a sling. She gives sympathetic shoppers a whole bunch of different stories about how it happened, leading the audience to mistake her injury for domestic abuse. At the end of the commercial, it's revealed she hurt her shoulder trying to scrub soap scum out of the bathtub. The product being sold solves her problem.
Truth in Television
- Call of Cthulhu supplement Dreamlands. When the investigators go to the apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Briggs, they find a man tied to a chair with a bathrobe thrown over him. If they rescue him they discover that he's playing bondage games with his wife.
- GURPS Goblins, adventure "The Horse Swapping". The ladies are playing Blind Man's Buff inside a house with some male customers while the PCs are outside waiting for them. While wearing the blindfold, one of the customers accidentally strikes one of the ladies. She lets out a scream that can be heard by the PCs, which may result in them rushing in to see what's wrong.
- Jeffery Dahmer (who killed and ate several people) had one of his victims returned to him by a pair of cops, who thought it was a simple gay domestic quarrel when they found a naked 14 year old boy running away from Dahmer.
- The "Something actually abusive is mistaken for something that doesn't need worrying about" factor is often the reason why reports of Female on Male abuse are treated in an off-hand way in comparison to Male on Female abuse. A man hauls off and slaps a woman in public, everyone is concerned for her safety because he's obviously a monstrous abuser. A woman hauls off and slaps a man in public, no one reacts in the same way because she probably had a good reason for doing so. Some witnesses will even assume he deserved being slapped.
- Bullying is often treated as Type B, with the "boys will be boys" excuse.
- This is essentially the premise behind Clarissa's public life. It doesn't really help that the only way she shows it is through risque pictures.
- The very first episode of King of the Hill had a misguided social worker suspect Hank of beating Bobby. His "evidence" included a black eye on Bobby (actually caused by a Little League accident) and an overheard conversation where Bobby and Joseph imitated Hank's tendency to deliver blustering, exaggerated threats when angry.