No Safe Words, 50 Shades of Abuse

There is a lot of attention being given to so-called BDSM relationships since the 50 Shades of Grey series came out. The subsequent movies have only brought more people into an awareness of this type of sexual relationship. Many women have found themselves interested in finding a man like this main character, and have sought out these men online.

The problem is that anyone can claim to be a “dom”; a person who is dominate sexually over their partner. Some of these men (and women) are respectful and decent people, who do enjoy sadomasochistic sex, but they honor boundaries. You can enjoy BDSM while respecting your partners hard limits.

A common way to address this issue of boundaries is the use of safe words. A safe word is a word that can be used at any time during a scene or sexual encounter, and as soon as it is said everything stops. Using your safe word is a way to say “I’m serious. I want this to stop now.” Most people use the word “red” because it is commonly understand to mean stop. Some people choose to also use the word “yellow” to indicate that they want the scene/sex act to continue but at a lower intensity.

For example, if your tied up and your Dom is spanking you, and you suddenly feel overhwelmed and want it to stop; you can say RED and it will stop. Or, if your in the same situation but you merely want the spanking to be less intense you can say YELLOW and your Dom can slow it down.

If someone tells you that you dont need a safe word, do not listen to them.

I made this mistake.

I have been involved in BDSM since I was 17 years old, and I am now 28. I was in my marriage for 5 years and we had a period of separation. I was in a very mentally unstable place. My mental illness was in full swing. I found a man who, I believe, took advantage of my mental state. We did not have safe words. He did go far beyond my limits. I was not able to escape because I lacked the emotional strength.

As a woman who has suffered sex abuse for most of my life, I fell back into old survival habits of “give in”. People who are not sexual abuse survivors may not understand it, but I was incapable of getting myself out of this situation until my husband and I reconciled. I felt strong enough knowing that my husband was there to protect me to break off this brief relationship.

The damage that was done has not gone away. I have gotten better though, and I am no longer plagued with flashbacks.

I want to share what happened the second time I ever saw this Dom we will refer to as “M”.

“Look at yourself,” his words barked into my ear.

Following his command, I slowly moved my eyes forward, and stared at what my big screen TV reflected at me. My thin, naked body in front of his. His arm was across my neck in a choke-hold. My toes were desperately touching the ground, my heels being lifted upwards. My hands hung uselessly onto his muscular forearm.

My thighs bore bright red streaks against my pale skin, still burning from the cord whipping he gave me.

Next thing I know, air is getting away from me. His arm is tightening. I try in vain to breathe a little air. Then, I feel weightless; darkness.

I hear buzzing in my ears, and everything feels light and confusing. I feel him slapping my face with his free hand. Where am I? What’s going on?

I am still in a standing position; his arm is still around my neck. I realize where I am again; my apartment. I realize who he is again; my newest abuser, who I just met through a dating site. I realize that I have just been choked unconscious.

I feel scared. I don’t want to pass out again.

I don’t have a “safe word”. I trusted him. I was naive. I was vulnerable. He knew this.

I didn’t even want him here this night. I was almost asleep in my bed when he texted me earlier in the evening. I told him that I was exhausted, the children were sleeping, and I needed to get my rest. He told me that he was not asking me, and I had better let him in.

My spirit was not strong enough to say no. I couldn’t emotionally handle resisting him. I surrendered. I probably deserve it anyway, I surmised.

But now, he had choked the air out of my lungs. Now, he was dragging me still upright through the hallway, into my kitchen. Now, I understood in sudden terror that I was at the mercy of a sadist I hardly knew.

My children are sleeping upstairs. Please, don’t let them wake up to a dead mother.

He has me in the kitchen. He is tightening his grip around my neck again. I gasp, “please don’t”. He loosens his grip, “what did you say?”

“please…don’t…don’t do that again”

“why not?”

“it scares me. Please, I don’t want to pass out again.”

He is silent for a minute, it feels like an hour. Then, he laughs to himself quietly and tightens his grip again.

My hands are pulling at his forearm, but I am acutely aware of how impotent I am against him. Still, my fear will not allow me to stop trying to keep myself from passing out again.
Air is getting harder to take in.

My mind feels fuzzy, like I’m going into a dream.

I feel my consciousness falling away from me again, but just as I am about to go out—he lets go.

I gasp! Air! I’m awake.

Next, he pushes me onto the floor of my kitchen. It’s hard, and cold. His body is on top of mine now, pushing my hip bones and spine into the hard floor. He has sex with me, and it hurts.

Everything hurts.

Eventually, he leaves. It is close to morning and I have not slept but I say a silent prayer of gratitude when I shut the door behind him. He is gone. I am free, until he calls again.

I walk upstairs, stunned.

I open the child gate and check on my children, still sleeping; utterly unware of the abuse I just endured below their rooms. I am so thankful to be here for them. I am so thankful for their ignorance.

I crawl into bed. I feel lonely. I can’t sleep.

I go into my bathroom and examine the damage done. Bloody streaks and raised red lines across my back, buttocks, and thighs. My eyes look tired, circles under them. I turn around and cringe, my back is killing me from the kitchen floor. I know I will be covered in bruises soon.

I cover the evidence with my clothes. I spend the rest of the night justifying what I allowed to happen. I tell myself that I am testing my endurance, reaching the strongest parts of me through pain. I am lying to myself.

The bruises come, and go. The red lines come, and go. But my heart’s hidden wounds cannot be so easily healed.

I wish that I could have just said no, but when “no” was ignored for so many years it become an impossible protest for me. I just couldn’t say it. I just couldn’t speak up. I just gave in and accepted it, did my best to survive.

My sadness is remembering that night, and so many others like it.

My pride is knowing that if it happened today, I would so say no—defiantly and proudly and without hesitation.

My healing has begun, because I have finally deemed myself worthy of peace.

If you have found yourself intrigued by the world of BDSM for the first time, or if you are a veteran of the S/M scene; please use safe words and lets play safe, sane, CONSENSUAL.

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37 weeks Unassisted Pregnancy

Well, here I am at (almost) 37 weeks pregnant. This is my second unassisted pregnancy but I transferred to the hospital with my first unassisted birth attempt (due to my own unfounded fears, we were fine!). A UP is when a woman receives no professional care during her pregnancy, with a OB or a midwife. This doesn’t mean that the pregnant woman does not take very good and diligent care of herself, often times we who make this choice pay far more attention to the details of our pregnancies and health than do women seeing traditional birth professionals.

I stopped seeing my OB practice around 18 weeks. I knew that I had zero interest in taking the tests they wanted me to take. I felt stressed and pressured after each appointment. Then, I realized that I was doing this to myself for no reason. Yes, I am pregnant but pregnancy is not an illness! I am healthy. I do not see a doctor on a regular basis when I am not ill, so why would I do that while pregnant? I went over all the painful memories of my first baby’s birth due to the cruel manner of my old OB. I thought back to my midwife hospital birth with my second baby and understood that although it was significantly better, I was still not given full control over my own body and had to fight to keep my baby with me after she was born. I thought about how I had never, ever been helped in any way, shape or form by any medical professional during any of my births or pregnancies! I realized how absurd it was for me to continue doing something for the fourth time that stressed me out and had never proven beneficial to my health or my baby’s health! I left and never made another appointment.

This is has been a time for to regain my power and voice. Pregnant women in American are treated like children who cannot make their own choices. We are told what we are “allowed” to do, and we are bullied and shamed into major medical decisions like c sections when we disagree or push back. They want us drugged up, numb, laying down and quiet. They want us to be “good” and obey their orders. They chastise us for not being happy our baby is healthy after we endure all manner of physical and emotional abuse in labor and birth. I, for one, have had it.

This pregnancy has been a time for learning how to trust myself and honor my body. I have paid attention to what my body needs in regards to food, rest, hydration, sex. I have chosen to believe that my body knows how to grow this baby and birth this baby. I have taken steps to connect to my body in a way that I never have before. As a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, it is incredibly freeing to connect to and honor my body as I grow this precious baby.

I have learned that many times you simply cannot please other people with your choices. I will be maligned and spoken badly of due to my choice to UP/UC (unassisted childbirth), but I will let it roll off my back. I have only told my husband and my mother, but I do not allow my mother to speak negatively about it to me. She can have her feelings about it, but I do not have to listen to it. After the baby is born and has been seen healthy for months, I might make my choice to UC public. I have really enjoyed connecting with other women over the internet who are making this same journey as I am.

Pregnancy is a spiritual time. I am connected to my child in a way that is unique; because pregnancy is unlike any other human experience. It is a creative time and a sensitive time. I am emotional, but not in that negative stereotypical way. Women are mocked for our emotions during this time, but it is good for the heart to open and grow and be shaped by deep empathy.

I think this baby will be born soon. I am ready to welcome him, and I am ready to wait for him in peace; either way. I am at peace.

 

 

Trauma and Memory Recall

Memory is a strange thing for the traumatized mind. Some memories are nothing more than apparitions of smell, emotion, and touch; try as I might to put flesh on these ghosts, they remain as formless as mist rising in the morning. Other memories are clear on the big picture yet lack details. I remember his size, the tenor of his voice, the time of year; but his face is an empty and blurred image, as if I can only recall the outline of what happened and who he was. And still others, more strangely, are incredibly vivid and detailed. I can recall the color of my shirt and the exact size of his member on me. I remember the lunch I ate, and the cigarettes I smoked. I remember his face; he isn’t a blurry image I struggle to recall. I can still see the lines on his forehead and the way his lips drew together in rage against me.

Sometimes I have to close my eyes and think “ok…I was very cold and wearing a jacket so it must have been Fall or Winter….yes, it was because the soup kitchen gave us Christmas dinner…” and that is how I put some things together. It is like tracing lines, connecting dots, until I can place a certain event in the timeline of my life. “Was I 18 or 20 when this happened? Well… didn’t meet my husband yet so I wasn’t 20…” and on it goes.

Why are some memories so detailed, and others so far away? They were all traumatic. I was high during some, and sober during others; but it makes no difference in my ability to remember. Why, oh mind, do you insist that I remember the drug dealing pimp from Harlem who raped me but will not reveal the face of a similar man from East Orange? Why, oh mind, do you allow me excruciating memory of shame and secrecy during childhood but will not permit me his name? What is this game of ours we are playing?

There has got to be some reason, no? I just cannot figure it out. This memory puzzle, this strange collection of blurry and clear snapshots in time.

That man from Harlem, I don’t want to remember him. I want to forget. Yet, my mind insists on not forgetting him. But then, I wonder why on earth I am trying to coax details from the misty memories of my mind. Surely they must be worse? But are they? I don’t know.

I am my own puzzle, and my brain has stored the pieces in various places in different ways.

I suppose the most important thing is to resolve the feelings. That is what I focus on now.

If I cannot recall what I want to at will, then I will focus on healing the wounds they left behind. I will work with what I have available to me, and trust in my mind’s way of storing these events long left behind.

As long as one day, I am whole again. Free again. Me again.

Trigger, Trigger. (PTSD)

Where does this despair hide itself from the rest of me when life is going smoothly? Does it seep into the corners of my mouth when I smile? Does it retreat into the shadows of my insides? How can it escape notice from the very person it inhabits? Until—a nightmare during sleep opens me up and the despair that was hidden comes squarely before my face.

And it laughs at me. Taunts me. Turns my gut into twisted pieces.

Causes me to doubt everything that I am, believe, and wish to be.

I carry this endlessly deep space of despair around, it suffocates my heart and fills my belly. I force my body to move the way it is supposed to. I make myself walk around like a human being, like the person I was before the latest trigger. I can’t cry. I can’t think. I feel as if I am being stalked by this shadow enemy.

Just. Leave. Me. Alone!

I don’t want you here anymore. I don’t want to face whatever horrors of my past your trying to foist upon me. I have a present, and a future that I love living; stop dragging me down with those claws. Those claws of despair that pierce me, cut into me, slash my heart in two.

I question everything. And I know this is all a show. I know how it ends if I follow you down this rabbit hole. I have never been able to survive it. I have never been able to be strong. I always fall apart into a thousand pieces and then after you leave, put myself back together (yet never quite as together as before).

Is there a way to swim through this ocean without choking on the pain? I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I feel emptied out. Terrified, again.

The sick thing is, as soon as this storm passes…all I see are clear blue skies. And then I wonder, what was I scared of? Why was I so lost in this emotional war? It all seems so..obvious and simple.

But then these triggers come and cut me open again, exposing that hidden despair. The same old cycle. I just have to hold on and let it tear through me. I have to be inert and unmoving. I have to allow it to run its course without choosing any actions, without thinking any thoughts. Then, I survive it without destroying myself. Then, I stand under the clear blue skies and realize the insanity of the storm.

But, is this the only way? Is there a way to stop these emotional tempests and finally have lasting peace and calm? I don’t know. I only know how to survive. But survival gets exhausting sometimes. I want to have that peace. Please, let me have that lasting peace.

And the storm is rolling over me….

Dear Mother, Dear Father..Your Child Was Sexually Abused.

Dear Mother, Dear Father:

There is no easy introduction. There is no careful beginning to help soften the blow. When I was a child, a small child, I was sexually abused. This is a confession a life-time in the making. This is a truth never uttered verbally from my lips. Even staring at those words makes me tremble and my stomach churn.

But how? And who? Where and when?

This is the place of my condemnation, I may never be able to answer these questions. For you, or for myself.

Well, then how do I know? Where does this confession come from if I cannot give you the face and the name and the place? If I cannot give you the who, why, where, when; how can I possibly know?

The answer is easy, because I have always known.

There has never been a day in my memory that I have not known this as a simple fact of my life.

I may not be able to remember the event(events?), but I remember the aftermath which has always been with me.

As far back as kindergarten age, I recall the sickening feeling in my belly. I remember the heavy weight on my shoulders. I most of all cannot forget the deep, enduring sense of shame and disgust at myself for what “I had done”. I was a little girl, and I somehow heard of the word “rape” and had a sense of what it meant. I knew it involved a violation, and a physical act of some private kind. I didn’t know anything about sexual intercourse, neither was I violated in that particular way. Yet, I sat on my bed in my room trying to swallow the panic lodged in my throat while thinking, “I’ve been raped.”

“How can I tell my mother?” I would think through tears. I don’t understand to this day why I never did say something. I know I wanted to. I know I really wanted to. It seemed too big, too grotesque of a truth to say to my mother who knew me only as an innocent girl. What would she of think of me? Will everyone hate me? I must be really, really bad. I bet God hates me too because I’m dirty.

I tried to forget. As I got older, left elementary school and went into middle school. I tried to push it far away. I tried to convince myself that I had to put it behind me. I was worn down by the secrecy. I was worn down by the weight of it all, crushing my chest and making it hard to breathe. I wanted peace. I wanted to be a girl, unmolested. So, I decided I would never remember it again. I was in 6th grade. I told myself it was forbidden to think of. I pushed it way, way down and wrapped up it up in a box and threw away the key. I would not allow myself the knowledge of it anymore. It would be gone, and I would be free.

melake
I am in 6th grade in this picture. Just a child.

But I was not free. I did forget though. But never the feelings, they stayed stubbornly with me. They insisted on bubbling up to remind me of my uncleanness, of my secret, of my ugliness.

I turned on my body. I took out my rage against this cage of flesh so determined to destroy me. With diets and vomiting and scratches with pins until I bled. I will forget. I will be normal.

Soon, whatever rage and despair I had carried with me was combined with the new traumas I endured. I realized my body was once again a deceiver and a problem, when that 40-year-old man painfully forced his fingers into me at 14. I had tried to move on. I had tried to be new. I had tried to be clean and forgiven. But here I was, laying still on the dark grass while a man taught me the same lesson again; your body does not belong to you. Your body is a temptation and a problem. It must be me. It must be my fault.

gothstef
Me at 14. Depressed inside and my outward appearance reflects that here. I wore only black.

You see the body does not allow you to forget its violations. It remembers. When I shudder at the gentle touch of a friend, because I wasn’t expecting their hand on my shoulder. When I still cannot sleep without some sort of light on, I have to know who is coming for me. When I am overwhelmed with anxiety from a doctor’s exam, their hands and tools triggering a flight or fight response. I am not allowed to forget.

I tried to overcome this body-remembrance dilemma by cutting off all feelings of attachments to it. Punishing my body didn’t work, just left scars and fluctuated my weight. So maybe I could become a spirit, totally separate from this fleshy prison. I would leave my body whenever I was abused, now as a teenager and young adult. I could watch myself from outside of my body. I learned how to go through motions and sounds without feeling anything or being present.

oldfb15
16 years old here

But you know what? The spirit doesn’t forget either. And then, when I tried to make love to a man that I wanted to be with; I realized I had been robbed of the ability to feel. I couldn’t just turn it back on. And, even worse, my problem body would react as if I was being abused even if I wasn’t. I had been trained to associate anything sexual with pain. I was stuck.

Drugs helped to numb the pain away, and distract me from all this hell. But it also led me to places where I was being hurt on a regular basis. My body became currency, because it was all I had left to give. If I didn’t give it, it would be taken anyway. Once again the same lesson, your body is not yours. I was taught at 16 by the men who dragged me down a hallway kicking and screaming that it is better not to fight. Just give in, fly away, endure it.

I have endured. But now, I want to stop running away.

This is just too big. How can I possibly address every act violence committed against me? I don’t think that I can. It is too much. But I can address the feelings. I can address how I relate to myself, to my body, which is in fact mine. I can ask for help. I can set boundaries and actually stick to them. I can find myself worthy of defending again. I can place blame where it rightfully belongs, not on my fragile bony kindergarten shoulders, not on the broken back of my teenage self, but rather on the broad grown shoulders of the men who choose to hurt me.

And you, my parents, could you try to remember with me? Maybe there is something, anything you can recall about what took place? If not, then just support me. Believe me, and believe in me.

I am starting to believe in myself.

Through Muddy Waters- A Poem of Remembering

Through Muddy Waters

There is a reservoir inside of me
Quietly streaming
Until words break forth and
The waters come rushing over me.
There is a secret a child is holding
So closely to her heart
That even now, it’s terrible truth is hidden;
Even from herself
What is that heavy burden you carry, child?
What a cross to bear on those tiny shoulders
Speak to me.
I am here now, waiting…
I know your fear—your trepidation
But it is safe now
Someone is listening
And I will believe you.
Because I have felt your buried rage,
Your broken will,
Your tired pain—
And I want to make it right again for you.
Those waters broke open,
And my mind is swimming in the puzzle pieces
Of memories long forgotten
But not completely.
Your trembling hands have held onto this
(bruises you are hiding, tears you keep from falling,
That heavy cross of a secret to bear…)
For far too long
Come out, child inside of me,
Whisper to me the truth I want to hide from
Because these pieces will fall into place
And I will see
His name.
And remember.
Then, the healing can begin.