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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They’ll Let Anyone In

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before a known, self-admitted animal fucker (who crowed about this proclivity in a very public post in a very sexually-related location) made it onto a particular local party list – and RSVP’ed that it will be attending.

They’ll let anyone in, I suppose.  Which seriously devalues this event, which used to be a lot of fun.

With luck it will at least hopefully not show up with its abusive counterpart.

No, it wasn’t a fantasy you wrote, or a short story, erotica, or anything else.  You said specifically, “I’m into… animals… and so much more”.  A one-liner with a list of kinks does not a fantasy or short story make.  It’s a statement of what you like to do.   That’s what “into” means.  People only find out what they’re actually into by doing it and finding that they like it, by definition.

Given the rest of the list, and the photos shown, I shudder to speculate what that “more” might be, although its also publicly announced interest in a particular type of bestiality porn makes one shudder even more.  It said its friends thought it needed help because of its preferences, and I agree.  Only a complete psychopath would sexually molest an animal, regardless of which set of body parts belong to which creature, never mind the rest of the list, which is extreme even in the kink world.

It can backpedal and try to weasel out of this all it wants, but the post still exists and the content proven.

How You Can Help Combat the Abuse Problem

A newbie I met the other day told a tale of being abused or having her limits violated when playing with someone she said is well known at the Citadel, our local community playspace.  She said she’d like to get involved to help combat this problem, and asked how to go about it.  Here is my response to her.

I’d also add that it’s important to bring the issue to the attention of the dungeon owners if the problem occurs in their playspace, and frankly, even if it doesn’t.  No one will know that someone in an inner circle is a problem child if no one reports it.

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At this point, it’s pretty much a free for all.  People are writing in their blogs and getting interviewed for other publications, doing various classes, etc. I’ve got links to many of them on my blog, so you might want to take a look.

And then there’s my nascent BDSM Abuse Survivors’ Network that one day I’ll set up a separate website for, which is currently housed on the front page of my blog.  It’s purely volunteer, just allowing me to post whichever contact information you prefer that people use so that others who have been through this or are going through it now can find someone to talk to on a peer level.  I have no idea if anyone thus far has actually contacted anyone on the list, and I don’t monitor it in any way.  I get pretty good SEO rankings, though, and am getting more and more hits as time goes by, so eventually something should happen.

And then there’s just speaking out, telling others about your experiences, encouraging still others to speak up.  It very well may cost you something in terms of popularity, I can’t lie, but I’ve come to realize that the people who are ready to pooh-pooh me, particularly because they don’t see my ex doing what he did themselves, or who believe his crap, are people I don’t need in my life.  As some “friends” started dropping away, I found new ones who have a lot more sense coming into my life.

I’ll tell you this, too.  If the person you had a problem with is indeed popular at the Citadel, or in any other way a “leader” in the community, it is *highly* likely that you are far from the only one with a negative experience of him.  The same is true of many others as well, but it’s a near certainty with these most visible people.

One of the hardest things to communicate to newbies is that just because someone is well known and popular around the scene, or even a well-known presenter or group leader, or member of a board of any of the kinky groups, that in no way should serve as an endorsement.  Many such community leaders are just fine – but there is a frightening number who are quite dangerous to one extent or another.

As to what you said about blaming yourself, I do think it’s important that we all look at whatever our own contribution to a problem situation may have been, if any, and there are in fact times when we need to take that sort of responsibility for what has transpired, but when you say “Stop”, and someone doesn’t, or they just flat out violate limits you’ve already set, then hon, I’m sorry, but it is often entirely on them.

This game we play of “the dom is the boss” is a game, although many people do take it seriously.  There is nothing wrong with any level of that as long as both parties are consenting, and in agreement as to the parameters of the dynamic, but at the end of the day, no means no, no matter what, and you are entirely within your rights to object and pin the blame on them if someone violates those agreements with you.

The hard part is that it *is* hard sometimes to know how far is OK to go in any given encounter, but this is one reason we have things like safewords and promote the idea of thorough negotiation.  Pay attention to your gut.  If you don’t like what’s happening, and you do not end up feeling as good or better overall when all is said and done, and especially if the top involved responds poorly to your objections and even continues what he is doing if that is not your agreed-upon dynamic, then there’s an issue that needs attention, even if it’s just finetuning the negotiations next time.

Empathy and Trust

[W]hat good is it to be in a relationship with someone who can’t tell the difference between being really mean, and being REALLY mean. How could I trust someone like that? How good is play as a submissive if you have to keep one eye open?

Most definitely. It completely sucks to play with one eye always open.

SheIsReedS really nails it here, followed by an exceptionally good explanation of the ways in which both dominants and submissives need to be able to trust both themselves and each other – including how the dominant needs to be able to trust that the submissive is “rendering genuine responses…”

That means he needs to be both willing and able to believe that she not just actually likes what’s happening, when that is the case (which is what people are most often referring to when they speak of the dominant needing to be able to trust that it’s really what she does want), but that he is also willing to accept it as truth if she says she cannot handle something he is doing, and needs it to either stop or change.

He needs to be able to accept that the stroke he just landed was an 8 for her even if he thinks it should have only been a 3.

Unfortunately, a lot of dominants seem to think that they know better than their subs do how said subs are feeling, what they are experiencing.  It’s a dangerous notion and fantasy that the “community” has promulgated to the point that it really endangers a lot of submissives – and in turn, endangers the whole relationship.

What dominants who have gotten themselves into hot water with their submissives by failing to respect that the sub really does know what’s happening for her better than anyone else on the planet can often don’t seem to realize is that it is devastating to a submissive to have to stop play, to have to defend herself – indeed, as SheIsReedS says, to have to always keep one eye open.  Much more will be gained by taking her at her word, and patiently helping her work through whatever the difficulty is – or adjusting his own way of doing things to accommodate her needs.

There may in fact come a time in a relationship when the dominant really can read the submissive well enough – and there is a strong enough foundation – that he can then push more for her to take more than she thinks she can.  When that happens, though, it’s not a function of role name as much as it is about maturity, patience, and respect for the submissive – and a matter of having developed a track record together that allows both parties to reach that point of trust in each other.

This really does not happen overnight, or even usually in a matter of weeks or months, at least not in any informed, lasting way, and if there’s already been any breach of trust, it is likely to take a great deal longer to regain what has been lost than most people have any idea.  You can’t just expect it to happen chop-chop.

And at the end of the day, no matter how well he knows her (or thinks he does), and regardless of what D/s relationship agreements there may be, no still means no, and it needs to be respected, without question.

For a dominant to push past what his submissive says she is able to take despite her protests (or to even show displeasure that she can’t take what he wants to dish out) is likely to be the kiss of death to any trust that has already been built up, and the death knell to any further trust developing.  And with the demise of trust, so follows the end of the relationship eventually, no matter how promising it might have been otherwise, no matter how compatible the two parties overall.

Sometimes all it really does take is that empathy – the willingness to just accept the sub’s feedback without defensiveness, without taking safewords or requests to modify what is happening as a threat, to be able to recognize that it is his responsibility to help her find a way through whatever the issue is without expecting her to process on the same schedule he wants and thinks appropriate.

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.

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.

Survivors’ Nightmares

Do you have nightmares about your abuse?  Have a partner who does?  Take a look at the article “Almost all survivors will have nightmares while healing: How to  help your survivor partner during nightmares” for some helpful ideas about how to deal with them, or to help your partner do so.

I wonder why I thought it was just me.  The flashbacks I have always understood; the nightmares not so much.  I didn’t realize this could be so universal.

 

Why People Stay in Abusive Relationships

In a thread entitled “[I]s this abuse?” in the “Submissive Women” group on Fetlife, subbiegirl9 describes a situation in which a male dominant friend of hers is trying to turn a basically vanilla woman into a slave, and is going about it by “[B]asically [doing] the things he is into doing but without her consent, prior discussion or her even liking it”. The woman keeps telling him this is abusive, and not how a relationship should be, but in the end always forgives him and somehow reportedly gives him the idea that she secretly likes what he’s doing to her.  The poster has become very worried about the situation, and wanted to know if this was out of line and abusive, and if so, how to get through to the guy.

Darlin’, yes, it absolutely is abuse.  Even if she secretly likes it, she hasn’t consented beforehand, and continues to object.

It’s also rape, sexual assault and battery, domestic violence, and probably a few other things that could be separately charged.

Bottom line, it’s nonconsensual – and that just ain’t OK.

As often happens in discussions about abuse, other posters wanted to know why she’d stay in an abusive relationship, particularly when she herself already recognizes that it is abusive.

Truthfully, why women stay with guys like this that can be quite a complicated answer.  There are many possible reasons, and often more than one is in operation.

Many of us who end up in and stay in abusive relationships get there because we’ve had a history of being abused, and at some level, it’s not only familiar, but what we’re drawn to precisely because it’s what we know best.  Hope tends to spring eternal that he’ll change, or that you’ll be able to find some way to get through to him that will make the problems stop.

Oftentimes, the victim thinks it’s somehow her fault – and indeed, frequently the abuser tells her that himself.  Denial also is a very strong element operating, because when you’re with someone you care about and have had high hopes for the relationship, you have a strong motivation to try to find some way out of the situation, or to make yourself believe that it’s really not as bad as it actually feels, that you know it actually is.

It can take a very long time for any person who is abused to work their way through to the conclusion that nothing you can try will change things, no matter how smart your abusive partner is, and so, in the meantime, you still end up staying and trying to work things out.  The rest of the world, not knowing what is actually happening (or not believing it), just sits there and passes judgment, saying she should just leave and that because she doesn’t, that must mean she isn’t actually abused, or that it just “isn’t that bad”.  That by itself is a hard judgment to face, particularly when it comes from people you care about and you believe ought to know better.  That alone might contribute further to her having difficulty leaving.

Oftentimes men who see fit to force their partners to do things they don’t want to do the way the OP’s friend is doing to his new partner threaten them if they tell or leave.  Or they threaten the victim’s children, pets, and/or other family members.  The first abusive guy I was with made death threats to me and my whole family when I left, via endless harassing phone calls, in an attempt to intimidate me into coming back.  And that was after he very nearly did kill me in a blind, incoherent rage.  It was beyond terrifying, and took years to heal from.

Or they do actually harm the children, pets, or relatives, or victim herself, or do something else that makes it really obvious that they will indeed follow through if the woman doesn’t stay.  If a woman thinks that others she loves will be harmed if she leaves her abuser (or that he’ll come after her and kill her), the incentive to stay is incredibly strong.

The injuries may even look accidental or incidental – until enough of them happen that a clear pattern of either deliberately or carelessly doing them eventually emerges, particularly despite much communications about them being a problem for that person and maybe promises to not repeat them.  Or they might be things that might not harm another, but do harm this particular woman – and yet they are still repeated anyways.

The net result is still fear that they will happen again if she resists – because they always have.

These sorts of things can still happen quite early on in a relationship.  They are not limited to longer term pairings.

The threats can also be subtle or implied, conveyed only by an attitude, temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, etc.  The effect is the same as overt threats – it creates fear, which includes the fear of leaving, and the fear of what will happen if she does not go along with the abuser’s demands, no matter the cost to herself.

Oftentimes an abused woman won’t leave because she is completely financially dependent on the abuser, and can’t leave, particularly if there are also children involved.  She may have no money of her own, no transportation, no safe place to go, etc.

Then there are possible religious reasons, especially if the couple is married.  Catholicism, of course, prohibits divorce, so many women stay in bad and abusive marriages because they don’t want to be excommunicated, and fear the wrath of the church and going to hell more than they fear the abuser in their house.

In the Jewish community, there is a huge misconception that we don’t even have abuse (or alcoholism or drug addiction) in our midst, as if we’ve got some kind of genetic protection from these problems, which is of course patently inaccurate, but the myth persists.  Mass community denial of this sort fuels an even greater inability to recognize it when it happens to us, particularly when our partners are also Jewish, so we tend to look for other explanations for what is going on because we cannot even recognize it for what it is, at least early on.  If you grow up believing that it’s not even possible for abuse to happen to you for a reason like this, or it’s not even possible for the man you’re with to do it, how would you ever recognize it, much less admit to it and leave when it does?  Even knowing better intellectually, this kind of early conditioning still keeps operating at a deep level and may contribute strongly to why the abused woman doesn’t leave.

For the extremely observant in particular, the fairy tale is even more pervasive than in the more liberal branches of the religion, and people can end up with zero community support (in a particularly tight-knit community) and losing everything at a time when they most need it if they break these kinds of religious taboos.  A frum (very orthodox) Jewish woman may never even be able to get free of her husband and able to marry again, because a) divorce in those circles requires that she obtain permission from a rabbinical court, and b) that her husband give her what is called a “get”, which is his own permission – and it is far from unheard of for husbands to be willing to give the get just to keep control of her life long after she may have left.

She can, of course, still obtain a legal divorce in secular courts, but no one in their circles (including she herself) will ever consider her actually divorced until both the rabbis decree it and the husband gives the get, so that is rarely a real option for these women.  Even if both happen, she becomes “tainted goods” in those circles and others will shun her as a potential mate, and even altogether.  At the same time, religiously, the man can divorce her by something as simple as turning around three times and telling her he’s divorcing her.  With usually a large brood of children to care for, few observant women are willing to risk this, especially if they have no other means of supporting themselves – which women with a lot of children typically do not have.  And if shunned like this, she may well actually be considered dead, which has an even greater set of repercussions to herself and the others she loves.

No doubt some other religions have their own variations on these themes.

Abusive men are often quite charming, too, to the point of being widely loved and respected by others who have no idea on the planet what they’re actually like at home, and to the point that people often don’t believe the victim’s tales of what is being done to them.

These types may then end up turning everyone who might be sympathetic to the victim against her.  Social isolation may result, which makes it harder for someone to leave, because it may leave her without an adequate support system.  This is a particular problem in small communities.  And because people tend to believe him over her (because he’s often much quieter, and apparently oh so nice, and she may be more vocal), people often don’t believe her because what she says doesn’t match what others see.

The woman often ends up with her own support system completely undermined, and even her own friends turned against her, including, weirdly enough, other women who have themselves been abused severely and managed to get out and find a way to avoid abusers, and who claim to understand the whole dynamic because they’ve been there.  The fear of not being believed and ending up without friends and a support system from a situation like this can thus be an extremely powerful incentive to stay in an abusive relationship.
She might also begin to wonder what is wrong with her that she does not see the wonderful angel that others think he is.

Appearances can be exceptionally deceiving, though – look at people like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.  They were quiet and kept to themselves, never caused anyone any problems, were helpful to neighbors, etc., and so everyone thought they were such nice guys.  Their secret lives behind closed doors, however, told a very different story – and should serve as a cautionary tale about the extent to which abusers can go when no one else can see them doing it.

Most abusers, of course, don’t do such heinous things, and if they do, are not able to hide it as effectively for as long, but the issue is still the same – an incredibly nice, upstanding pillar of the community-type presentation to the rest of the world, but a holy terror and perhaps real potential death threat behind closed doors, where no one else can see them operating in their true colors.  And because they are nice and charming to everyone else, people have a very hard time believing the tales of abuse behind closed doors by the partners.

Also, just because they say all the right things in public, or online, that does not mean they actually practice what they preach at home.  It is infuriating and frustrating beyond words to see them promoting appropriate behaviors they themselves have never practiced at home (and maybe violate the very same day or later in the same week in which they have made these pronouncements), ranting rabidly at others for doing exactly the same negative things they themselves have done, claiming to do the “right” things they never actually did, etc.

If a woman tells you her partner has been abusive to her, and particularly if she describes specific actions like violations of limits, ignoring safewords, temper tantrums, etc., especially if there is a consistent pattern to those complaints, please, please, don’t just dismiss her claims out of hand because her partner seems to be one of these upstanding types and has been nice and never shown this side of himself to you.

The smarter they are, too, the better they tend to be at hiding their abusiveness of their partner from others outside the relationship, but also at keeping even their victims from fully registering what’s actually going on – and then pinning the responsibility on them.

And just because another partner says they aren’t abusive, doesn’t mean the guy hasn’t been abusive to the one who says he is.  Abuse is not determined by how many people the abuser abuses, but by what he does to a particular person.  They aren’t always abusive to everyone, including other partners (although such patterns do tend to repeat themselves, at least eventually).  There’s nothing to say that those other partners don’t have such deep-seated issues or depravity of their own that they themselves either don’t recognize what’s happening or aren’t themselves in denial about it.  Or maybe they just haven’t seen that side of him yet for any number of possible reasons.  Or they’ve got their own other set of reasons for not making their own abuse known to others or leaving.

In addition, few abusive relationships are 100% all bad, and are often actually quite good in many other ways.  Along with the charm they turn on to others, abusers can be extremely charming, generous, and even quite wonderful at other times within the same relationship in which they are abusing their partners, as well as to others.  It’s particularly hard when there is a lot of other good happening to decide to give that up, because when you leave someone who is toxic to you, you also leave behind whatever was good about that person and the relationship.  It can be an extraordinarily difficult decision, especially when overall compatibility is extremely high.

Then there’s gaslighting, where they make you feel like you’re the crazy one for protesting what they are doing, or they blame you for being the cause of the issues, when it’s really them, and get you to actually believe the same thing.  When that goes on for long enough, you end up seriously doubting your own perceptions, and then it becomes really hard to leave, because you’re no longer sure that the problem you thought was there really is due to them – or, in fact, is even actually real to start with!  This sort of thing tends to deeply undermine one’s self-confidence and self-esteem, which only makes it all the harder to walk away.

Life with abusers tends to go in pretty predictable cycles, where a lot of abuse will occur, then a “honeymoon” period when everything seems fine and as if things will finally work out, and the abuser may even be quite apologetic and go out of his way too woo his victim back.  For many of us, it’s easy to get sucked back into all of that lovey-dovey stuff that mirrors what they did when things were still fresh and new (and happy), and to think repeatedly (and often for very good reason) that things are finally getting better this time – and then the whole cycle starts all over again.  It can take quite a while for it to sink in exactly what’s happening, and to fully recognize the cycle.

By then, you’ve usually got enough invested in the relationship that it’s hard to walk away from because of what is still good and perhaps other reasons as well.

It’s also not uncommon for the abuser to blame his victim for her own abuse, or to pin the blame for the cycling back to it on her, telling her that she is the abusive one, or that she somehow “made” him do it.

And in fact, her reaction to whatever he is doing may well look like the precipitating factor, particularly if his abusiveness tends to be subtle and potentially plausibly deniable.

Usually no one else in such a woman’s entire life has ever told her that she’s abusive, though, and she may in fact be widely known for her compassion, caring, understanding, and supportive nature – but suddenly she’s abusive with this one person?

Oftentimes these people will leave a trail of destruction behind themselves, a life littered with lovers and others who are close to them who say he is abusive, has a nasty temper, is dismissive or belittling, are afraid of him, or he himself acknowledges in so many words that he has been abusive to.

But suddenly, she is the abusive one for objecting to what he does, trying to maintain her own boundaries and limits, and keep her own self safe?

  Sorry, it just doesn’t happen that way.

Not to mention that the vast majority of women’s abuse of men, when it happens, is actually in response to and often self-defense against abuse by her partner.

But men who pin their own abusiveness on their partners tend to just ignore their own role (or justify it as her somehow “making” him do it), and often manage to convince their victim that she herself is, for one reason or another, either the abusive party herself, or the direct cause of her own abuse. Such things can be absolutely crazymaking, and lead to such self-doubt that that that alone makes it hard to leave.

Then there are the rescuers and codependants, who tend to think they cannot or should not leave someone who is obviously hurting so much as to strike out at the ones they say they love, that somehow just because they started up with these guys that means they’ve got to stay no matter what is happening, particularly if the guy is going through a rough time.  Because you shouldn’t kick a person when he’s down, dontcha know, and friends/lovers should be loyal to each other at all costs, no questions asked, until the end of time.  Even if they’ve only known each other for a very short period of time.

When marriage vows or other promises are involved, a sense of honor and not being willing to break one’s word can be very strong and also lead to an unwillingness or inability to leave.

At one point, I left the guy I was with because of everything he was doing, then realized I’d made a mistake (or so I thought).  We did get back together – but as one of the conditions, he also made me promise I’d never leave him again, no matter what, that if either of us wanted to leave, we’d only do so if we mutually agreed to end things, even if one of us literally threatened the other’s life.  For a time after that, it appeared that we would indeed be OK.  But later, when things really got bad, there were a number of times I dropped large hints that I thought we should end things (I felt I couldn’t come right out and say it because of the promise I’d made), and even went so far as to actually suggest that maybe we should put the relationship out of its misery, but he never picked up on them or agreed, and so I remained committed to trying to work things out no matter what, at times only because that was what I’d promised to do.  I knew there would be no turning back if I did say I wanted to leave, so I’d better be absolutely, 100% certain that that was indeed the only way to end the problems, and that I was willing to live with the consequences – and for a very long time (far too long), I wasn’t, despite the problems.

I also rationalized staying by thinking that every couple had problems at times, and the only way to really deal with them was to meet them head on and to continue to deal with them and work through them.  Even though, in order to stay safe, I had to set new boundaries at times (or make others more explicit) that I told him would be dealbreakers if they happened again (which he took to be threats to leave, but weren’t, because they left the matters entirely in his own hands), I was still bound and determined to honor the promise I’d made him,and to do anything in my power to sort things out.

Long before, we’d already agreed that this relationship was going to be for life, and particularly after the promise not to leave, I took that as seriously as a marriage vow, and my commitment was to do whatever it took to work things out.   And since I consider a collar the equivalent of a wedding ring (absent only the legal status), once he collared me, it became virtually unthinkable to even consider leaving even once I finally came to the conclusion that I really needed to.

Finally, to acknowledge that one is in an abusive relationship in the first place also requires the abused party to face the fact that something is likely wrong with her own “picker”, as one of my friends once put it.  That she either missed some key red flags early on, or deliberately ignored or didn’t recognize the full significance of others she did see.  That is an extremely painful and difficult thing to face, especially if she has done a lot of work on herself and learning how to spot and avoid abusers, and come a long way in keeping herself safe from them.

Oftentimes, many or all of these factors may be operating, and contributing to why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship, especially once she herself recognizes it for what it is.

By the time you sort through all of these kinds of issues and finally realize that you really are in an abusive relationship, it can really be hard to get out because of ties that have been formed, and more.

In some cases of the nature that the OP describes, it’s even possible that the victim is actually drawn to what’s happening (as in may actually be submissively or masochistically driven), but may have a hard time admitting that even to herself.  Or she may think she deserves this kind of treatment for any number of possible reasons in addition to him managing to convince her of this.

To the people who say that it couldn’t really be that bad or she’d have left by now, all I can say is that you’ve simply got no idea how incredibly wrong you are.

To those who only believe him, realize that abusers are particularly good at pulling the wool over other people’s eyes.  If you yourself were not there, you have no right to judge, or to tell anyone else, including the victim, what actually happened – because you don’t fucking actually know.  I can just about guarantee that you’ve been fed a line of BS that’s been totally fabricated by the abuser, because that’s what they specialize in, as part of the way that they control their victims, as discussed above.