Tag Archives: abuse survivor

The opposite of Mercy

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Trigger Warning: Physical and Sexual abuse, Child abuse, Torture, Victim Blaming

Cruelty is the opposite of Mercy; to have the power to hurt someone and choose to do so. It is not the same as being mean to someone. Here’s why…

Many times after I was sexually abused, the perpetrator blamed me for it.  It seemed to be a way to make them feel better about hurting me – a type of victim blaming for simply being vulnerable around them, for being who I was in their vicinity.  I was also blamed a lot for tempting men when nothing was happening, and all of that before I was even 8 years old.  To blame a child for the actions of adults is cruelty.

As an adult I found a different kind of cruelty that happened when I was genuinely interested in being sexual with both Cis and Trans men.  The men would often appear nervous at my enthusiasm, like they were assuming women and feminine people aren’t supposed to like sex, and so it they had to be tricked or forced into it.  How could men conquer me when I was willing and ready for them?  But many men don’t know what to do with that.  And after the nerves would come the nasty comments – I must be a dirty slut who will screw anyone, or I must be a sex worker only looking to make some quick money.  Some men cannot seem to be sexual without coercion, force and blame.  An assertive, sex-positive woman or feminine person terrifies them. And blimey, men have often made me pay a high price for their fear.

Cruelty is knowing you’re hurting someone vulnerable, who depends on you for their lives or livelihood.  This isn’t only where the victims are children, but the elderly, those with disabilities and sometimes even employees of the perpetrator.  Cruelty is humiliating someone until they believe the perpetrator’s words and actions are justified – that the victim deserves the pain, so fighting back isn’t even an option for them.

Cruelty is the act of torture.  Unlike the common depictions of torture in fiction, it is rarely about getting information.  Victims of torture will say anything to make the perpetrator stop inflicting pain, so any information gained can’t be trusted anyway.  Torture is not only done to prisoners of war either: it can be perpetrated by ordinary people in very strong positions of power.  Torture is done to break the wills of the victim so the perpetrator doesn’t have to do anything further to carry on the terror.

Cruelty is threatening to hurt someone or something even more vulnerable, and sometimes carrying out those threats, so the victim will fall in line.  Sometimes a perpetrator will eve encourage the victim to care about a pet, younger sibling, or even a doll, and then threaten to hurt that thing. I remember a few times where my little brother was asleep in the same room when my dad and his friend hurt me.  The only thing circling my head was, “I mustn’t wake the baby.”  It was all a form of leverage. 

Society can set up vulnerable people, making it harder to get help when they need it, and that in itself is a type of cruelty.  Men are supposed to be “too strong” to be sexually or physically assaulted, so if it happens then they are perceived as “weak”.  Women aren’t supposed to be able to physically or sexually assault others, so their victims are rarely believed.  Black women in particular are supposed to always be ‘resilient’ so they can shrug off the pain others inflict on them, and if they cannot then they’re silenced – the list goes on.  Victim blaming and victim denial are acts of cruelty because it hurts and shames people who have already survived a traumatic event.  Heaping pain upon more pain for the perpetrator’s pleasure and society’s reassurance is cruel in the extreme.

Black and…

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I was recently interviewed for a project that amplifies the voices and experiences of Black People and People of Colour who live with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The interview is up on YouTube, and will also appear on Spotify too.

It was a real pleasure to talk openly about my frustrations and difficulties, as well as the positives that come from living with DID. I also speak about fatphobia, racism, ableism, and how all of these impact one another. I ultimately see it as a positive piece, as Black people in the UK are rarely heard when it comes to physical and mental health, even though we are disproportionately affected by it.

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Triggering words as a Survivor of Abuse

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a hand holding a small amount of loose yarn in a multitude of colours.

Trigger Warning: non-detailed mentions of the affects of surviving ritual and/or spiritual abuse

Note 1: I see the word Ritual used a lot in Black & POC community healing.  There are people including survivors of abuse, who use this word as a way to celebrate and empower themselves and others.  THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT THEM IN ANY WAY.

Note 2: Ritual Abuse is not only Satanic Ritual Abuse, despite what we read in the media.  There is a good webpage that explores the different kinds, and the help that is available for survivors.  https://information.pods-online.org.uk/demystifying-ritual-abuse/. PODS – Positive Outcomes for Dissociation is a site that also provides resources for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder and OSDD 

Words and their meanings change over time – that’s a feature and not a bug.  Reclaimed words however can still wound me if I have spent most of my life hearing them in certain contexts.

As a survivor of abuse, the R-word is incredibly triggering to me, even in safer spaces.  For example: I joined a healing group meeting on Zoom a few weeks ago, and had to leave about five minutes in, as the facilitator kept using the R-word to describe what we would do.  I could have spoken up, but to do so would make me feel even more vulnerable than I already was. In addition, I am often unable to communicate normally when I’ve been triggered.  I have too many memories of abusive people using the R-word to mask their physical, sexual and spiritual violence to vulnerable adults and children in my past, for it to be a neutral term to me now.  Other words like Spells and Magic, don’t bother me as much, but Witchcraft does.  I know other survivors may have different connotations to these words.  I am writing from my own lived experience.  

In decolonised healing practices, R-word and W-word are reclaimed from a time where indigenous spirituality was outlawed or at the least mocked and disparaged.  The whyte Halloween/Hollywood version of W-word that many see as a bit of harmless fun in the media, isn’t what I personally feel when I hear them.  I see sinister ways to control people in a non-consensual manner.  I see practices that are distorted from their original intent, often mixed with Christianity (or other dominant religion) to make a truly toxic mix.  

Words can carry a lot of weight to people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and other types of trauma-related mental health issues. There may not be another word but those above that encapsulates a process involved in healing in a non-western way, but checking that others are okay with these words, is a way to be more inclusive. Speaking for myself, I’ve already been cut out of most healing practices because of my size, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.  And I’d like a chance to feel better too, without being triggered by the things supposed to help me

Whose Black Life Matters?

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I was born in 1969, just as the UK switched from Imperial to the Metric system.  One half of my old family were stuck with inches, yards and shillings.  The other half of my family used millimetres and kilograms.  I was stuck exactly in the middle. I learned how to be familiar with both, but I was never really comfortable.

This kind of straddling two worlds reflected itself in other ways.  The place I was born had a huge Black Caribbean population, but I still felt like a minority because the white voices were very loud and pretty racist. I was not supposed to mix with white kids.  I was not supposed to make friends with them.  I seemed to have missed that memo however, and so I was called “Coconut” from the time I was five all the way until I was in my forties.  I was never considered a “proper” Black person.

Feeling unwelcome in either world was something encouraged by my violent and abusive family – it seems a common thing that many survivors experience.  Having no trusted friends meant having no source of help or support.  I was totally dependent on the people who made my life a misery until I ran away from Tottenham.

I realised I was bisexual after a memorable episode of Star Trek the Next Generation.  As I took in the bridge crew of the Enterprise, I knew I was sexually attracted to almost all of them – men, women, alien and android.  My initial joy was short lived though. Bisexual was an orientation that was unwanted by everyone: from my straight white boyfriend to the rest of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Gay and Gay) communities.  Black and fat was unwanted by most of the white bisexual community too. It was almost five years before I met a Black bisexual woman on holiday.  I tried to straddle two worlds once again, however I was considered too straight by Black gay men to even hold a conversation with, let alone be friends.  I was downright shunned by Black lesbians, presumably for ‘sleeping with the enemy’ twice over.  White queer folks were openly racist.  Once again I belonged nowhere.

I became an activist a few years after coming out.  I fought against racism in the LGBT communities.  I joined DIY groups that wanted fat liberation.  I put a word to my romantic feelings: Polyamorous.  I became vegan. I felt like a powerhouse!  And then the bricks started to crumble away.  Racism and Fatphobia in veganism was massive – and still is to this day.  Fat liberation was a complete blizzard when I joined, and remains so in the UK.  I was treated as if Black people were not really human in the first place, unless it involved sex.  A high percentage of the white bisexuals and polyamorous people who were accepting of me, became distant and cold outside of the bedroom*.  There was no place I could feel at home.  

Now in 2020 I see everyone on this planet stating Black Lives Matter.  Countless numbers of Black Trans women and Black sex workers are brutalised and murdered around the world every day. The perpetrators sometimes include Black men.  Nobody goes on marches for them, or  acknowledges that they were even part of the Black race.  Black women are mistreated and murdered, by racist violence, the police, and often times by Black men they know.  Very few people say their name.  Even less want to look at the reality of living in a body that is supposed to shut up and put up with everyone else’s pain.  Black Lives Matter, but as a fat, bisexual, nonbinary, disabled Black person, I have rarely felt like my life held any worth.  I have lived with trauma, abuse, violence and my own self-hate for most of my life.  I have been so desperate that I self harmed as a way to cope being an abuse survivor with several mental health illnesses.  My first suicide attempt was when I was eight years old.  Everyone says Black Lives Matter, but the reality is unless you’re a cisgender straight man living in America, your Black life doesn’t mean that much at all.

I do not feel hopeful for the future.  I have seen the way older people without a family are left to rot by systems that are supposed to care.  When I was last in a mental health hospital, the fact that I had no family meant I was destined to stay there for good, despite being assaulted twice by other patients in just eight days.  It was my white friend with a posh accent, who called the secure ward and convinced them to let me out and into their care.  As grateful as I am to my friend, it saddens me to know the hospital medics would rather listen to a white middle-class person they had never met, than listen to my pleas to be discharged before I was assaulted again.  Medical racism, biphobia and fatphobia is literally life threatening for me.

Does my Black life matter to you? If you are white or a non-black person of colour, are you only concerned with Black folks murdered in the U.S, while ignoring those Black people being killed the next street over from you?  If you are Black, do you only care about other Black folks who look like you?  Do you ignore the most vulnerable Black lives because they are also queer, old, fat, disabled, homeless, or a sex worker?  Do you pick and choose which Black lives matter to you?

There are some worlds I can straddle, but many more I cannot when I am shoved between the cracks.  If the only way my Black life matters is to keep my sexuality a secret, ignore my gender presentation, and pretend I’m just like you, then my life never mattered to you in the first place.

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