Over and over again, those opposing rights have tried to tie consensual adult relationships to assault and abuse, playing on fear and prejudices along the way.
- When we were debating interracial marriage, the fear mongers tried to equate interracial marriage with "n-----s are going to rape and steal your white women!" This is still done in some ways.
- The fear mongers said "homosexuals" were child abusers looking to victimize children playing in parks or that same-sex marriage was just a cover for people to adopt and abuse children. This, too, is still going on. They also said people would lose their spouses to "turning gay" if people who weren't heterosexuals weren't forced to stay in the closet. "You son or husband will turn into a f----t!"
- Polyamorous, group, plural, or polygamous marriage is currently presented by fear mongers as a way to have old men "marrying" multiple underage girls and keeping control of them for life, subjecting women to domestic abuse and forced servitude.
- Consanguineous relationships and marriage are still associated by the fear mongers with grown men raping children.
We must take both consent and lack of consent seriously. People in consensual relationships should not be smeared by trying to associate them with abusers.
There are people who've experienced both abuse and a consensual relationship that the fear mongers try to associate with abuse, and they can speak powerfully to the profound difference.
When someone tries to pull such a move, it can be helpful to say, "Abuse is a terrible thing, but what about consensual relationships, which are something entirely different? Why should consenting adults be denied their rights to be together?" They're not going to have a good reason.
We are not talking about abuse. We are talking about adults who want to be together, as friends and/or lovers, perhaps as spouses, in a romantic or recreational relationship, whether on a casual basis or for life. Shame on those who stoke prejudices and fears to try to deny people their rights.
If someone really, truly wants to fight abuse, they should stop wasting public resources and social energy trying to stop consenting adults from being together, instead putting that time and money and energy into fighting actual abuse. Also, lifting criminalization and stigmas placed on consensual relationships will make it more likely that abuse victims and witnesses will cooperate with law enforcement in stopping abuse, because they won't have to fear they'll be in trouble for their consensual relationships.