Blog Redesign!

It’s now live!  It still needs a lot of tweaking, but we now bring you a white background with black type that is so much easier on the eyes – and a readable size font.  Hopefully some other reorganizational features will happen soon, including breaking some of my epic posts into multiple pages for easier perusing.

How do you like it so far?

 

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No Arrest, It Didn’t Happen? What If “Everybody Loves Him”? Abuse and Pillars of the Community

Believe it or not, there are people out there who actually believe that if no arrests are made, and no one goes to jail, that that means that no abuse could possibly have occurred, no matter what any of the victims may have to say.

It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is one of the most laughable ideas and statements that could have ever come down the pike.  All it means, really, is that the prick either hasn’t been caught yet, or there’s not enough evidence to actually convict him.  We all know of stories where people we *know* committed a heinous crime got off because of a technicality, or because they somehow managed to stay *just* this side of legality and avoid arrest and/or conviction.

Don’t forget, either, about the “pillar of the community” types who manage to hide things for years, whose crimes just haven’t yet caught up with them yet for one reason or another.

Yesterday, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 out of 48 counts of abusing vulnerable boys in his care over a period of decades in a scandal that has turned the state and university upside down for months now.  You have to understand that Sandusky and head coach Joe Paterno were like God in Pennsylvania for so long that I don’t remember life without them being at the helm of Penn State football, their names synonymous with excellence, being upstanding, exceptional citizens and role models, and more.  I wasn’t even a football fan for the vast majority of the time they were at the helm, and despite paying the subject zero attention over the years, even I have always known who they were.  These are men that everyone knew and respected, on a scale well beyond that of the average abuser like my own, or the creeps that raped Mollena, Kitty Stryker, and many others, way beyond the fame of any so-called “leader” in the BDSM scene including my ex.  Absolutely everyone loved him.

We do now have a conviction, and the 68 year old Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail, so yes, you could say that there is now the proof that it happened.  The evidence and testimony were pretty strong, and the jury only deliberated for 20 hours.  Even the defense isn’t really arguing it never happened, just trying to backpedal out and minimize the damage, for the most part, and trying to make others look bad to draw the attention elsewhere.

What came out, among other things, however, was some of the victims saying they never spoke up because they didn’t think they’d be believed, because they were just kids – and this was the great, unshakeable Jerry Sandusky.

How familiar does this sound?  Rape and abuse victims of all stripes not speaking up for fear that they will not be believed, particularly when their abuser is a pillar of the community, a “leader”, someone prominent in their field, perhaps even internationally?

And what about that midwestern preacher a few years back who was discovered to be a serial killer, burying the bodies in 55 gallon drums, who was only found out at last because one of his potential victims escaped, thanks to having a safecall in place?

Could anyone in their right mind seriously believe that the only thing that made these heinous crimes real was the creeps finally getting caught and convicted?

Even these obvious monsters have their supporters, people who never saw this side of them and continue to disbelieve what happened, even when presented with overwhelming evidence of guilt – but that does not mean that the alleged events never took place.

By its nature, abuse, is a constellation of crimes of isolation and often opportunism, thriving on privacy and secrecy, relying on victims who are intimidated and often have low self-esteem and no one to else to turn to for help, so of course it is rarely witnessed by anyone other than the perpetrator and his victim, especially in its most virulent forms.  Why are people so surprised to hear that Joe Blow SirCocksurehesGod was abusive to his partner even though they never witnessed it themselves?  And why in fuck do they choose to disbelieve the victims?

So what about everyone else out there suffering in an abusive relationship, dealing with date rape, dominants violating limits, etc.?  If even someone like the great Jerry Sandusky can turn out to be an as-yet undetected child molester and abuser, then what makes anyone have the audacity to think that if there’s not yet been a conviction that that means that nothing happened in a zillion other situations?  What makes people in the BDSM community so damn sure they can identify the real perpetrators and the real victims vs anyone else when someone says they have been abused?

How much pain and suffering could be avoided if we a) quit blaming the victims, b) quit assuming that only the prominent or quiet ones were automatically t

Sandusky must have thought he was home free because no one reported what was going on, and the one report that did happen some years ago got blown off.  How many other Sanduskys are out there, abusing children, animals, their partners, all as yet undetected by others?

My abuser abused me, and I don’t give a shit what anyone else says.  I know what happened.  I was there, and no one else was, for better or worse, and I live to this day with the fallout, both emotional and physical, of what was done to me.  Every morning I wake up in pain from what he did to me, still.  It never goes away.  He is prominent, both in the vanilla and kink  worlds.  He is quiet and doesn’t say much, while I’m loud and noisy about what happened, and there is a whole cast of characters out there who thinks that that automatically means that he couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong to me.   There are many people who suck up to people who do what he does, and assume that they are automatically the good guys and make complaining victims wrong.  The cops wouldn’t investigate when I reported him any more than they did with Sandusky even when there was actually a witness to what Sandusky did, but that does not mean it never happened.  Sandusky’s victims knew they would not be believed against his word (or believed that, which could actually be worse if it weren’t true), so no one spoke up.  My ex has threatened me on several occasions for writing about him, even without even referring to it being my own experience, and his current/most recent sub has threatened me as well when I’ve commented on her own proclivities that she posted freely and openly on the open Internet for anyone to find.  Yes, it has slowed me down, but it will never stop me, because I want the truth out there.  I don’t want anyone of their ilk to be able to harm anyone else again.  I will continue to educate people about the types of things people like this do and how to detect it and avoid it until the day I die.

The Sandusky case is tragic, not just because of all of the children who were harmed, and whose childhood was taken away from them by a trusted mentor who should have known better, but because an entire state and country was also deluded.  We lose a certain amount of innocence when our public icons are shown to be not just fallible but terrible.  An elderly man will die in jail instead of at home with his family – a justly deserved penalty, to be sure, but still a tragic end to what had been a life previously believed to be exemplary, all by his own poor judgment and possible coverups by some, including his wife.  His whole family has to be devastated by this whole affair as well, through no fault of their own.  A great university has lost its icons and coaches.  Abuse has many victims, not just the ones who are physically or emotionally harmed directly.  We need to all realize that these are but the most visible examples, and the ones that got caught – eventually.  Many others will never be brought to justice – but that absolutely does not mean  that they have not actually and factually wreaked the havoc that they have, that they have not caused every bit of pain that someone may accuse them of, whether witnessed by others or not.

Keep this case in mind the next time you are tempted to blow off a friend or anyone else who says their partner has abused them, or a child seems uncomfortable around an adult, etc., or you get tired of hearing someone talk about the abuse in the kink community or elsewhere, etc.  You do not know who the fuck is abusive to their partners, children, or animals until someone tells you about it.  Learn that you should believe those reports when you hear them.  Just because you didn’t see it happen yourself means absolutely nothing, and the fact that the perpetrator has not (yet) found his way into a jail or courtroom near you also means nothing with respect to whether or not he did what his victim says he did or not.  Jerry Sandusky is far from the only person to get away with murder (figuratively or literally) for a long time.

But those of us who speak up about the abuse we have suffered talk about our experiences because it’s actually happening (or happened)and we want to try to spare others.  It takes a hell of a lot of guts to speak up against someone that many other people think is terrific, to risk one’s own reputation in an effort to protect others from suffering the same harm.  I speak up the way I do because I don’t want to see my abuser get away with it for decades more, to go on to do the same to others who otherwise will have no way of finding out about him (or others like him) before its too late.  I don’t want others to suffer what I went through or worse, either at his hands or the hands of anyone else.  And I’m tired of living in the shadow of fear of what he might still try to do to me for talking about what he already did, which was *fact*.

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Forgetting

I’ve written some about forgetting to do things one has promised and whether or not it is abusive, and I’d like to add some thoughts to that specifically about what it means when a submissive forgets to do something she has promised her dominant, expanding a bit on my answer to The Eroticist’s excellent post on punishing a masochist and why it is likely to end a dominant up no longer having a submissive.  There are, of course, many other things a dominant can do that will have the same result, but let’s look at forgetting for the moment.

Eroticist posits, in essence, that forgetting to do something she has promised to do basically means that it has been done deliberately, and she likely no longer wants to be in the relationship.  A lot of people think in these terms in vanilla relationships, too, though, and all of it is fueled by pop psychology that tries to put all of human behavior into neat little black and white boxes.

Well, unfortunately, life is just not quite so cut and dried.

You need to remember that there are many reasons why a person might forget to do something (or decide not to do it) despite promising to do so other than deliberate disobedience and not wanting to be in the relationship any more.  I’ve outlined many of them in my prior post, which is somewhat more focused on whether or not forgetting is outright abusive.  Here we are talking explicitly about why a submissive in particular might forget and what it might mean to the relationship, particularly if the dominant calls her to task for it.  The prior post’s points about reasons for forgetfulness all still stand, but the twist of whether or not it means one wants to remain in the relationship was not mentioned there.

The notion of punishment in a BDSM relationship context is one that is very controversial.  Some love it, some hate it.  Whatever your feelings about it are, however, it is undeniable that it carries some risks – including both crossing the consent line into abuse, causing lasting psychological harm, and that of driving the submissive off entirely if it is done inartfully or inappropriately.

There is also no question that raising the issue of whether or not forgetting to do something means the submissive no longer wants to be in the relationship or not could well end up as Eroticist cautions with the end of the relationship, for many possible reasons.

A dominant is very likely indeed to lose his submissive (or at least end up with an increasingly unwilling and unhappy one), if he does things like continue to accuse of her of deliberately forgetting things despite knowing full well that she has a poor memory to start with, whether inherently or because of medical issues, and continues to argue the point, refusing to believe that there was nothing personal about her forgetting something whatsoever if she tells him that, and if he continues to hammer on themes like “If you really cared, you wouldn’t have forgotten”.

That latter idea is a landmine-in-waiting anyways.  It’s like the eternal, “If you really loved me, you’d <fill in the blank>.”  These sorts of expectations are often utterly unrealistic in any relationship, and inappropriately tie things together that frequently have zero cause/effect relationship to one another except in individual people’s minds.  Their partners may well have an entirely different set of constructs, and indeed, a lot of the strife that occurs in relationships results from such mismatched expectations.  There are few, if any, real universals about what people who really love or care about their partners will or will not do – and even those are likely to have some exceptions in certain circumstances.  There are different kinds of love languages, and even within each type, there are huge variations in how love and caring are expressed and thought about.

Once you set this kind of ship in motion, too, continuing to ascribe intent and deliberation to what is actually accident (and likely already very distressing to the forgetter), then it may very well become the herald of a greater problem where it never was to start with.

When people are browbeaten and accused of things they either have not done, or of doing something deliberately that was entirely accidental and coincidental in this kind of manner, it tends to breed both resentment and ultimately fear, neither of which tend to improve memory or performance. Contempt also tends to end up coming along for the ride, ultimately replacing both love and respect.

When people work in an environment in which they feel intimidated by their employers, for example, productivity drops, and errors skyrocket.  No one can work well in an environment of fear, and of being disbelieved, mistrusted, unjustly accused of doing things they never did, or having small infractions blown entirely out of proportion.

It is no different in personal relationships.  And when what one is accused of doing deliberately is a result of a condition over which they have little control to start with, particularly in an intimate relationship, the stress and pain will invariably eventually lead to the breakdown of trust and ultimately the whole relationship.

When you try to punish something over which a person has little control, and is already feeling distressed about, you create a no-win situation that will almost have to create a vicious circle that will destroy the relationship.

If you are in a relationship with someone who is forgetful, it would behoove you to just add this factoid to your personal databanks about their features as just another datapoint and try not to take it personally.  If they have explained to you that it has been a problem for them for a long time, you will likely also see a lot of distress.  But you should believe them, and take them at their word when they tell you it doesn’t mean anything about you, because especially earlier on, it almost undoubtedly would not.  Give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if you’re seeing a lot of distress and contrition once they realize they’ve forgotten something – and recognize that she knows herself and why it happened vastly better than you ever will.

And why would you even want to believe that a long-standing problem somehow suddenly means that they have it in for you?

Now, if a given person doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who is forgetful, there is nothing necessarily inherently wrong with that.  To each his own.  Some of us have more flexibility than others.

The problem comes when the dominant is aware that there are other factors contributing to or causing the problem and does not adjust his own expectations to meet the reality of what the actual person he is with is like and continues to bash her for it vs just ending the relationship if he’s that unhappy.

Furthermore, even when it’s true that the forgetfulness is the manifestation of some ambivalence or problem in the relationship, it may only be about that particular area, and may not have global application at all.  If you try to force the issue of it being all or nothing, that she either wants to be in the relationship or not, you will lose a lot of nuance – and likely the opportunity to work out and negotiate something that will get past a particular obstacle that will allow the relationship to continue and flourish.  You will never, ever get 100% of what you want in a relationship all the time.  People are just not built that way.

No matter what the “party line” in the scene is, compromise and negotiation are the cornerstones of successful D/s relationships the same way as they are in vanilla ones.  This very much includes learning about and accommodating many of your partner’s personal challenges and foibles.  If you’re a “my way or the highway” kind of dom who doesn’t get this, you are likely to burn through a hell of a lot of submissives and throw out a lot of babies with the bathwater, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake.

Leave if you must, by all means – but please don’t brand everyone who is forgetful as automatically inherently unsubmissive, not wanting the relationship, a manipulator, etc.  It just ain’t true.

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Please do read Eroticist’s post and the excellent comments that follow it (and his comment below here), especially if you are interested in punishment dynamics.  He and I are looking at different aspects of one issue here.

Collecting Newbies

Why is it that some abusers seem to make a habit of collecting all kinds of newbies as friends in places like Fetlife and elsewhere in the scene?

“All kinds” translating to “very young, hot girls”.  Lots of very young, hot girls.  More and more young, hot girls.

Virtually never guys.

And let’s not leave out the other women who maybe aren’t so young, or as inexperienced – again, either almost too young to be legal, or depraved beyond words (even by their own admission), or even ones who have committed felonies and posted about them online.

Again, virtually never men.

As in, if you look at their profiles, you’ll see mostly women.  Girls.  Women whose profiles reveal that they themselves are unsafe at any speed, that they have death wishes, that they are sicker than sick, even by their own admission?

Or they simply have no idea where they fit or what they’re doing because they’re that new – and therefore beyond vulnerable.

And they’re going to get completely fucked up if they get involved in any way with these guys who have no fucking idea how to actually control themselves in play if they aren’t getting exactly what they want.  Or, more precisely, refuse to control themselves so that they don’t injure partners who might, you know, actually have limits.

Some of those “dominants” style themselves as “father figures” to these innocent young things – a really terrifying proposition.  Nothing like an abuser having his own little harem of sweet young thangs who he can lead astray in any way he wants to because they generally leave their brains at the door at those tender ages.

Hell, because many female subs check their brains at the door, particularly when they are new.  Some of them never go back to retrieve said brains.

I think you can take much of the measure of such people by the sorts of friends they have.  Guys who have mostly vastly younger women friends are, shall we say, likely not people you’d want to trust with your daughter.  Or with your own sub.  Or with anyone you’re protecting.

So, yeah.  It’s not news that abusers tend to collect the young and innocent like this.  It’s just as shocking the 10o0th time you see it as the first, particularly if you know the guys in question well.  And it’s just as likely to be a sign that someone is up to no good as it ever was.

 

Drama

Cool – the Urban Dictionary published my definition of drama!  See page 6, #36.

It’s also what bystanders call it when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, especially because they weren’t there.  Too bad I forgot to put that part in.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, which should resume soon.

Controlling Men Could Face Criminal Charges

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the UK wants to “…make abusive behaviour by men a criminal offence, even if it does not involve physical violence), according to the Sunday Mirror. He also wants to extend the law to include men who discipline children under the age of 18 “too strict[ly” also a criminal offense.

I don’t know what the domestic violence laws currently are in the UK, if any, but this is clearly a step in the right direction of helping ensure that men who don’t understand and respect personal boundaries and who often end up ruining the lives of partners and/or children are held responsible for their behavior. It’s a formal acknowledgement, in a country in which domestic violence accounts for 18% of all violent incidents, that domestic violence is a serious crime that should not go unpunished, that partner abuse is something that shouldn’t be tolerated in a civilized society.

The problem, of course, is determining a reasonable definition of “spousal abuse” (which I hope they will expand to the more general “domestic partner abuse), which is something they are looking at now.

It’s one thing to realize that some legal support for such victims is necessary, but quite another to pass laws which don’t unfairly target those whom they shouldn’t, and punish too many people, thereby ruining lives unnecessarily as well as contributing to prison overcrowding, and clogging the courts with both criminal and civil cases.

Another problem, as it is in this country, is actual enforcement of whatever laws do exist, and getting police to take the reports seriously enough.

Let us hope that they come up with a definition that will protect a woman’s right to say no and have her wishes respected – and ensure that violations have some real consequences – without causing an ipso facto across the board condemnation of consensual BDSM. If they follow a model similar to California law, which requires affirmative assent, rather than just implied consent, and prohibits the use of the classic “She didn’t say no or safeword” as a defense, it seems to me that this could be a very positive thing.

Did you know that in California, domestic violence is treated as even more serious than violence against those with whom one is not currently or in the past in an intimate relationship? And that the definition includes even those who have had as little contact with someone as a single date?

It is – and is something people who suffer abuse, particularly violence, should keep in mind, particularly bottoms or submissives, who seem to be disproportionately affected by abuse for by partners in the name of D/s. Report it *when it happens*, not later, for maximum police response, and to preserve your legal rights later, and leave a documentable paper trail. And keep a lot of everything that happens, with dates and details in order to keep a documented paper trail. And also don’t be afraid to seek medical help if you are injured in any way, for the same reason as well, of course, for treating any injuries when they occur. Don’t forget that emotional distress caused by abuse can also have lifelong damaging consequences, oftentimes much more so than any physical harm.

What Would You Dump Someone Immediately For?

Is there anything a partner (or other person in your life) could do that would cause you to dump them immediately?

And are there things you’ve said you would never give a second chance for that you not only have done, but maybe have given them far more chances than that?

I’ve often said that there are certain things I’d never put up with if a guy did to me, that I would leave immediately over, but the reality is that I’ve not followed through on those more often than not. I have unfortunately given far too many second, third, fourth, and more chances. Many times, the situations have been full of nuances that have made them less clear in the moment for what they were than they ultimately appeared in the rear view mirror. Or I saw it, but didn’t want to believe it, thought it was an aberration, etc. Denial can be a powerful thing. Or there was enough good there that I was more afraid of losing, had invested so much in the relationship by then that I didn’t want to lose, etc.

Unfortunately, once one gets to a certain point, no amount of good can offset certain offenses, including a growing accumulation of smaller ones – and no amount of shared history, work on a relationship, etc. will be worth staying around for more of.

The trick then becomes a) recognizing that dealbreaker point sooner rather than later, and then b) actually doing something about it.

And a frightening number of people who have been abused in one way or another find it terrifyingly difficult to break away from the very situations and people that are hurting us the worst. I’m realizing that it may actually be rather pathognomonic of having a history of abuse.

There are really only a few things I’d seriously end things with someone over immediately at this point, without at least a discussion. And most of those would be one-way tickets to a jail cell. Do not pass go, do not end up in the friend zone.

The majors are anything to do with child or animal abuse, particularly pedophilia and bestiality, either the person doing it themselves or continuing to knowingly associate with someone else who does, particularly in an intimate relationship.

And hitting or otherwise injuring or threatening me in a nonconsensual manner – including ignoring play limits and not fucking actually stopping when I say stop, forcing things on me that I don’t want to do, and more. I have far less tolerance for the grey areas than I used to. And far more realization of how out of control they get when they are not nipped in the bud by ending the whole relationship immediately the first time an obvious violation occurs.

Theft, murder, other crimes against others, etc. would certainly also send me out the door immediately.

I have also learned that many of the red flags that have surfaced early on that I’ve thought were not that important definitely do turn out to be problems of major proportions, so there is a great deal more now that I will never tolerate beyond a single instance again. I am done, to paraphrase what my father always used to say, with having the tree fall on my head.

I have also unfortunately put up with way more than I should have because of concerns about the effect that my either leaving or sending the guy to jail would have on others, including people I’ve never even met, even the people the guy does business with. Thinking about it now, it is beyond ridiculous that I would risk my own physical and mental health and safety in order to protect someone else from the consequences of an asshole’s behavior towards me, but I’ve done it – out of what I now see was a very misguided sense of both loyalty and inappropriate concern for others to the exclusion of my own safety – and will never do so again. Time has also shown me that to not do what I’ve needed to do in situations like that only ends up creating a new set of issues down the road.

Or I’ve failed to kick someone to the curb or leave myself because it’s been the middle of the night and either they had nowhere to go (or no way to get all of their stuff out of my place at that hour), or I was too tired to leave myself. Never again – even if I have to sleep in my car, or they simply have to come back the next day to pick their things up. Off my front porch. Or even sleep out there themselves if need be. I mean, hello? If some guy literally throws my cat across the room because she was annoying him in bed one night, or hits me with all his might in a way that he knows is both dangerous and a hard limit, nearly killing me in the process, even in “play”, then why should I care where he himself sleeps for the rest of the night?

And better I wet myself in my own car than sleep in his house again if I’m too tired or in too much pain to even drive down the hill to get to a bathroom – and take enough of his bedding with me that I don’t freeze to death. At the end of the day, it’s cleanable. Or better that he just spend the night cooling his own heels in jail or a hotel until I’m awake and gone the next morning.

None of these kinds of concerns will ever stop me from dumping someone for abusive or other nonconsensual behavior again. Because in part, I’ve learned that just waiting overnight will only blunt the effect by morning, and lead to softening up – and the vicious downward cycle getting even more deeply entrenched. Some things are not OK, no matter what – and what we need is more resolve to stand our ground about them, not to do things that will only water that down.

The price that I’ve ended up having to pay for giving too many chances to too many people, for too many things, for too long, has been far too high.

Thankfully, although no man will have a chance to even get in the door of my life for quite a while longer, if ever again, I’m already seeing signs in other areas of my life of greatly decreased willingness to put up with abusive crap from other people – and I know in my heart that this will translate to the romance department when and if the time should come again.

I’ve been closely watching the people I do have around me these days, and realizing how very much shit and abuse I’ve been sitting in the middle of for a very long time. Thankfully, I do also have many quite normal and decent friends and former lovers, and I’ve just been paying really close attention lately to the differences in how the interactions go between the sane ones and the crazy ones – content, tone, body language, etc. How they are with me, and how I am with them.

Although I certainly see areas in which I need work myself, this process of watching has been mostly healing and affirming – that there really are still sane, healthy people in my life. And it’s made me much more conscious that these are the people I want to keep around me – not the crazies I’ve called either friends, lovers, etc. over the years. It’s just easier to be around the sane ones. It feels better.

And so I already have backed way off from several people who have been a problem for a long time – including one whose major crime was in fact one single incident I am unwilling to offer another opportunity to repeat.

I’m also finding it’s happening much more naturally – not even a lot of conscious decision about it. It’s like nature is taking over – I’m naturally recoiling much mor readily from the toxins – and staying recoiled.

It’s like I’m far more creeped out now by things that I used to just put up with far more readily, for whatever reasons were floating around in my head in each situation.

I contemplate what life would be like without those people in it, and the void I used to fear that their absence would create no longer scares me.

Yes, it’s sad to cut people I care about loose, but the fear of what will happen to me if I keep them around has exceeded that of what will happen to remove them from my life, en masse, in both individual contemporaneous cases, and in generic potential future ones.

It’s hit me at a whole new level now that if I don’t rid myself of these kinds of people, how will I find room to both find and to let ones I both care about and who will treat me well in?

It’s easy to pay lip service to it being better to be alone than in a bad relationship (or friendship – which most people don’t even think about), but a far different thing to get it in your gut enough to not only take the actions needed to make that happen, but to then actually also enjoy and appreciate and prefer the resulting peace and quiet.

Part of this is definitely due to the stresses of the past year and the last few months in particular in my life – and reconnecting with some old friends I haven’t seen in years, who have reminded me that life without abusive partners or friends and family is indeed possible. I just don’t have any more room in my world for the abusive shit that I’ve put up with for so long, from so many corners of my life.

And while there is definitely a sense of loss in not being willing to let these things continue, which will mean either ending relationships or drastically cutting back on exposure to certain other people, I am feeling a really neat kind of freedom as well – freedom to find others to be with in all areas of my life who will not cause me so much damage. Freedom to just spend more time with the people I already know who are already decent, non-toxic, etc.

So, even in non-intimate relationships, I’m starting to realize I’ve got a set of boundaries that will cause me to dump even a friend PDQ if they transgress them. I am all too acutely aware these days of the fragility and short duration of life, and by God, I will simply not have this shite in my life any more, from any quarter.

WomensLaw.org

I just discovered an absolutely fantastic legal resource targeted at women who are victims of domestic violence.  A project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, WomensLaw.org, is probably the most comprehensive website I’ve come across dedicated to this purpose.  Need a form, or need to know the procedure for getting a restraining order in your state, or what the child custody laws are?  Want to know what the relevant statutes are where you live, as well as the federal ones?  Find someone to help you?  Sue your abuser in civil court as well as put his ass in jail, or instead of?  This is just a start to the kinds of information on this site.  You will find more at this site than anywhere else I’ve come across.  I’ve also posted links to it in several of the link sections so that it’s easy to find in the future.

 

When Is Abuse Not Abuse?

One of the things that has struck me as I read and learn more about abuse is how so much of the literature on the subject seems to pathologize a lot that is either entirely normal, or which can easily be explained by other means, ranging from the organic to poor communications skills, to people reaching the end of their rope, and more, some of which cannot be changed, while some of it just requires some training.  Any list of characteristics and behaviors of abusers will always contain items of this type, that can be either truly abusive or not, depending upon the rest of the context and circumstances.

Forgetting is an example.

In her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship – How to Recognise It and How to Respond”, Patricia Evans reportedly has this to say on the subject:

“Forgetting involves both denial and covert manipulation.

“The declaration by the abuser that what occurred didn’t occur is abusive. Everyone forgets what happened now and then. However, consistently forgetting interactions which have a great impact on another person is verbally abusive denial.

“Often, after the partner collects herself after being yelled at or put down, she may try to talk to her mate about it. He will have conveniently “forgotten” the incident, saying, for example, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not going to listen to this.”

“Some abusers seem to consistently forget the promises which are most important to their partners. Often the partner is truly counting on a very important agreement made by her mate.  He will have “forgotten” the agreement.”

Yes, this is unquestionably often a problem.

Some people just have terrible memories, too, often for clearly documentable organic reasons, such as learning disabilities, fibromyalgia or CFIDS, ADHD, or even dementia, and there are likely other possibilities.  Some just have never had good recall of anything.  Some people only forget an occasional thing, while other people have trouble remembering everything, or close to it.  We used to have a saying that “So-and-so would forget her head if it weren’t attached” for people who are particularly forgetful.

It is also not unusual for such people to even forget things that are important to their partners and other people, even when they are most highly motivated to remember them.

It’s hard for people with steel traps for memories to understand that this is just the way life is for a certain segment of the population, but it is.

Even with a variety of reminders and alarms set up to remind a person who is naturally forgetful, they may still forget.  It can be a real curse on a person’s life, and cause them no end of pain and difficulty.

But does that make the forgetter abusive?

Hell no.  It means they’ve got a bad memory, end of story.  This particular person.

Such people often suffer badly because of that poor memory.  It can cause them many problems in life, both personal and professional.  It hurts badly to see someone they care about hurting because the forgetful person didn’t remember something the partner may have been counting on.  To be accused of not caring about someone else’s feelings because of forgetfulness and a bad memory can be absolutely devastating – especially if the problem has already been explained multiple times, and affects other areas of that party’s life.

The distinction between abuse and not-abuse is actually often largely in the frequency of what is said or done – but also in the reactions when the problem is pointed out, and in the particulars of any given circumstance.

In the case of forgetfulness, does the person ‘fess up once they realize they’ve forgotten something?  Do they accept it at face value, or do they get belligerent and protest and deny it, even when you point the truth out?  Maybe they really don’t know what you’re talking about initially, and dismiss it as a result, but when reminded of it, and particularly if proof or documentation is shown, do they apologize?  Or do they still just blow you off as the example above describes, even when the evidence is incontrovertible?

On the other hand, when you know for a fact that someone has said or done something, and then denies it, even when confronted with evidence, and they still deny it and tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about or the like, as in Evans’s example, then that very much can be abusive.  Gaslighting.  Might be; isn’t necessarily in and of itself.  The continuing denial in the face of evidence and proof kind of locks it in, though.

When your head is screaming that you must be crazy because you know you heard (or saw, or didn’t hear or see) whatever it was, and they still deny it, then you should realize that it is most likely that other person who has the problem, and not you.

In an 80+ year old woman, especially one who is slowing down, this kind of forgetting and denial of what was/was not said or done are more or less to be expected – and excused, much of the time.  Memory loss of this and other sorts is often a part of even early dementia; in fact, this is often one of the first signs of it.

In a healthy 50-something (or younger) highly educated professional man, who prides himself on his good memory?  Especially one whose livelihood may depend upon it?

Not so much.

And if you’ve just told them something – like a new hard limit – and not two minutes later they have totally forgotten it, and start doing the exact thing you just told them was now verboten?  Or they claim that they “didn’t know that was what you meant” when you point out that they’ve just done the very same thing they were doing before, that you had just prohibited?

With this kind of person, you can be much more certain that something else is going on that has nothing to do with organic causes, and everything to do with either actual malice, not giving a shit about his partner, an utter inability to control himself, raging anger at women in general (or men, as the case may be), a deliberate bid to control his partner in a negative way or to make her think she’s crazy (gaslighting), to deflect attention from something else, or some other nefarious reason why he would claim he doesn’t remember something you expected he would – or forgets things you know he ought to have remembered well.

And that, my friends, is when it becomes abusive, particularly when it happens repeatedly, even if the details of the situations in question vary.  Which they will.

When someone who normally does have a reliably excellent memory for other things, for example, seems to go completely (and eventually totally predictably) stupid in some situations, like when he doesn’t get what he wants, there you have a real abusive element.

But just being forgetful?  And denying it when it’s mentioned?  In and of itself, that is really not a problem.  Except when it gets to the point that it is, as discussed here.

Issues such as this are often just questions of degree.  And they almost always require looking at the big picture, and taking all of the elements into consideration.  And really looking to see what the truth actually may be or may not be.

The point, short story long, is that you cannot just accept all of these various lists entirely at face value, lest you start seeing abuse all over the place where it really may not exist – and that is a real danger.  You’ve got to dig beyond the surface of what is said, and get into the details of a particular situation, including context, before you can really know for sure, even if you’re the one living it, never mind if you’re just an onlooker.

It’s also necessary to take backstories into account.

If, for example, someone tells you that his partner was abusive – maybe screamed and yelled at him – did he also tell you that that only happened after he had ignored her safeword multiple times, did things to her that he knew were unsafe, didn’t know what he was doing despite claiming he did, and injured her in the process?  Perhaps multiple times?

Or after he violated hard limits, including those given just minutes before?  Repeatedly?

And then played dumb, saying he “…didn’t know that was what [she] meant by [X]…”?

Or maybe after he cheated on her and got caught, and tried to weasel out of it with some lame excuse, trying to somehow blame it on her and make her into the bad guy instead for calling him on it?

Or maybe he’d been repeatedly wanting to put problems on the back burner to discuss later when he wasn’t under so much stress, but “later” never came, because maybe his life was so full of stress that there wasn’t ever going to be a time when he wasn’t stressed, and she just finally wanted to deal with something now and quit putting things off?  Or so many things got taken off the table in this way that it simply became impossible to ever deal with them all, even if “later” ever did actually come?  And maybe squelched issues had just built up to a breaking point that she could simply no longer tolerate?

What Mira Kirshenbaum calls “off-the-table-itis“, in which various topics are literally taken “off the table” for discussion, for whatever reason, can easily be the death of a relationship, by itself – and can lead to unbearable frustration on the part of the partner who has her issues so removed, dismissed, and not dealt with or addressed.

Someone who screams gratutiously at her partner for trivial reasons like not taking out the trash or wearing a shirt she doesn’t like is quite a different thing from one who screams at him given these kind of legitimate provocations, among others.  It would be nice if we could live life without any kind of screaming at all, but there comes a time when it may be the only thing we have left, and people being people, sometimes we just eventually erupt.

“Eventually” being the key word here.  Not as an initial response.  Not in response to trivial matters.  Not as a steady diet or typical response or way of being in the world in general.  But eventually, at some point, given a lot of provocation, and following many, many attempts to resolve issues in other ways.

Sometimes screaming (or harsh words) may even be used strategically and deliberately on a given occasion, to try to get through to someone who hasn’t been reachable in any other way, by any form of reason and explanation.  Maybe it isn’t her norm, but only an attempt to try another tack when everything else she’s been able to think of and try over a considerable period of time has failed to reach him.

Sometimes a cigar is really just a cigar.

And sometimes it really ain’t.