"Ambient abuse is the stealth, subtle,underground currents of maltreatment that sometimes go unnoticed even by the victims themselves, until it is too late. Ambient abuse penetrates and permeates everything – but is difficult to pinpoint and identify. It is ambiguous, atmospheric, diffuse. Hence its insidious and pernicious effects. It is by far the most dangerous kind of abuse there is."
Today, I am discussing the abuse of live-in carers. In the UK, "carer" is just a synonym for "servant" - so to me, the words can be used interchangeably. Carers/servants suffer terrible ambient abuse. These examples are from real life.
If you are a carer you will become aware of abuse when you are designated a special cupboard in the kitchen in which have been placed chipped cups, mugs and plates and old cutlery for your use.
You will find an old broken chair in your room. You will be handed old sheets and bedding which needs to be laundered before it is fit to use. The house dog is habitually used to sleeping on the mattress assigned to you. You might get a tiny old hand towel to use for bathing - or a kitchen towel.
You will feel watched and monitored at every moment. Your room might be surreptitiously searched - or even blatantly so.
It will be resented if you take a phone call. You will be aware of your employer eavesdropping. They will ask you what your phone call was about even if you received it on your own mobile phone.
Your employer will be rude, short and lack any manners with you. All conversation will stop as you enter the room with the tea tray. And a visitor, or family member, will close the door behind you as you leave the room, at which point, conversation will resume. No one will have thanked you.
You might be accused of stealing food or money, or using the "good" bathroom, or dirtying the carpet with your shoes. The change from your shopping task will be suspiciously checked in case you withheld a cent.
You will work long over the hours considered legal. Time off will be resented and always be inconvenient so you will feel guilty most of the time you are employed.
If you are female, caring for a male, you might have to endure attempts at your door at night and other harassment.
You will have been alienated from any support in any of these things by your agency telling you "you can always leave", "we have plenty more people on our books who are willing to do your job". Your sense of self esteem will be eternally under attack. Zero status. you will be continuously and profoundly exhausted.
The fact is - that live-in carers are one of the most abused group of workers in the UK. They have virtually no legal support, emotional support, no respite and they are paid a pittance. Their abuse is not just put in place by their employers - but by the whole of our society.