Tag Archives: sexual abuse

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.

When Abusers Die

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Trigger Warning: Details of incest, childhood and adult sexual abuse and physical violence.

I ran away from my violent, abusive family 28 years ago.  Last night I discovered that two of my worst abusers died – my mum and my eldest brother.  I awoke from a nightmare about one of them, and then I did a ill-advised thing: I looked up my old surname on the internet.  My old name was pretty unique, and I’d never met anyone with it unless we were related.  Looking up my old name is something I have only ever did when I was drunk or petrified, but I still wish I’d never done it.

I always thought I’d feel a sense of relief when one of my abusive family members died.  But I felt a howl of pain build up inside me instead. A few of my Alters went into a state of panic and dread. I started crying and couldn’t stop for hours.

My mum sexually abused me once.  I’m trying hard to not say, “just the once,” because one time is too many.  What she did far more was physical and emotional violence.  I still have terrible flashbacks to a beating she administered to me on Christmas Eve in the middle of Ridley Road Market, as all the other shoppers looked on.  She also set up weird ritual stuff that makes me want to vomit just thinking about it.  I grew up terrified of her, and that I’d become just like her.  Many people don’t want to acknowledge that a woman can sexually abuse someone. They don’t have a penis, right?  Women don’t need a penis when they have fingers, hairbrush handles or bottles.  The shame felt by survivors of abuse, where the perpetrator was a woman, is incredibly hurtful. We shouldn’t have to silence ourselves because so few will believe us.

Where my mum was pure rage, my eldest brother was totally charming.  He was the rebel of my old family – a soldier, a painter, an open drinker, and non-religious in a community where church was only thing you did on a Sunday.  He would give me booze and pills in secret.  He would talk to me like we were equals, instead of 15 years apart.  He also sexually abused me right up until I ran away.  

There’s a page in my zine about surviving abuse, where I write of a time I once woke up in a pool of my own blood.  That was his doing.  The thing that stayed with me the most though, was of how neatly he’d adjusted my nightie, folding it under my armpits in a concertina, so none of my blood got on it. I realise how my Alters and my own brain employed amnesia to protect my fifteen-year-old self from the worst of that incident, but I still feel so messed up about that.

For most Black people, family is the most important thing in the world.  For survivors who are Black, we face meagre support from medical and social services who don’t even think these things can happen to us.  We also face ostracism from other Black people who see us as ‘deficient’ for not having a family or at least a good relationship with them.  As survivors, we are often seen as broken and potential abusers instead of victims of terrible crimes that were done to us as children.

Support adult survivors of child abuse. Because right now it feels like nobody does. 

Animals and Child Abuse Survivors. Trigger warning: abuse mentions.

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This shame is not mine to hold.

Some survivors of child sexual abuse are scared of animals. I don’t care how ‘friendly’ your pet is. The involvement of animals in sexual abuse of children is one of those things that is next-to-never spoken about. A few examples of this: Dogs can be used as a threat to a child – if they don’t go along with things, the abuser will say the dog will be released to attack the child. Animals can be used to take part in the acts of sexual abuse with the child, or used as a threat that this will happen. And family pets can be used as leverage – the abuser will say they’ll hurt their pet if they don’t cooperate.

Even within medical, judiciary and clinical settings, people don’t want to accept that these things happened to the person sitting in front of them when they were a child. Well it happened to me, and to other survivors of abuse too. So when I flinch when I see a dog, or don’t want to pet your cat, it’s easier for me to say I’m allergic to cats, or I was know someone who was bitten by a dog, than to tell you the truth. It’s desperately humiliating to share this post, but I need people to understand that Adult survivors can be affected by their experiences for decades after, and the shame we feel because of the reactions of non-survivors, only adds to it

Larry wrote the following piece. It’s the first time I remember splitting due to Dissociative Identity Disorder.

We were always the cats

The stairs were concrete.The walls were bare.  There was always the smell of alcohol in the air.  There were always men; always Black.  There were a few other children there.  We were always the cats.  There was a dog, sometimes two.  The scariest times were when one man would pretend to be one too.  There was little talking.  I can still hear all their breaths.  I gripped my father’s hand tight as a little girl in a simple dress.  They made me watch.  Watch dogs fight, attack each other, fangs bared.  Then the children would be next, and when it was my turn, they watched  me as I stood there scared.  We were always the cats in that sick game.  The men would take Polaroids, as I crouched with shame.  Positioned next to a dog, or the man who was one too, I had to make noises, had to prove.  That I was a cat and I was their pet.  And I had to stay still as I felt the dog’s breath.  But one night I realised I was watching myself.  From the outside instead of inside, my perspective altered and went.  A part of mind that couldn’t handle the pain, separated off and became a teenage boy without a name.  We had to meow, be good and come to the men when they called.  I stood as a boy in the middle of it all.  The breath of dogs against my legs; the fear they would bite me made me want to beg.  But begging is for humans and that wasn’t us.  We were just bodies violated in the dust, and though I could bear more than Lizzie could, I still hold the sounds, the gold teeth and the fear of blood.  The man who pretended that he was a beast would snarl and grab and show his teeth.  The dogs would surround us, just as the men did.  I had to be still while they licked all over my skin.  Time split off, just like I had done; all these moments merged into one.  It still plays out behind my eyes, and though I am older, Outside Jacq wants to hide.  For sometimes when Jacq is having sex with someone they trust, the old instincts come out as an animal does.  The shame they feel when they mutter a ‘meow’ confuses them, but they understand now.  The understanding doesn’t help their pain.  Outside Jacq just feels the shame.  We were always the cats.  We were victims without names.  Though time has moved on for them, I as Larry remain, the cause and the cure; the balm and the bane.

Trauma and Time Travel

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Trigger Warnings: Ableism.  Non-detailed brief mentions of childhood abuse and incest.

a felled tree in Muir Woods, San Francisco, showing (mostly) Settler conqueror moments throughout its 1,000 year history.

Trauma and Time Travel

I used to be obsessed with time travel stories in science fiction and fantasy.  From H.G.Wells’ The Time Machine, to multiple episodes of TV shows like Star Trek and Stargate SG1, time travel and time manipulation was something that beguiled me. I kept my thoughts to myself, but I knew I would do anything to make it into a reality; to go back and change the past so I was never abused.

When I was diagnosed as having Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), I realised that flashbacks were a form of time travel, and a very effective one at that.  There was no Steampunk inspired device, no futuristic faster than light machines, and no way for me to control when my mind would yank me back into the traumatic past.  Flashbacks were not only sights, but tastes, temperatures, and a myriad of senses that moved past the five I only thought existed.  My flashbacks were in high fidelity.  In one moment I would reach for a door handle, and the next I would find myself stepping into the back seat of an Austin Cambridge, travelling down the North Circular road.  My journeys to the past were not flashes of memories, but slow exposures that retained absolutely everything that happened at that time. Events repeated itself over and again.  I was forced to experience my fears, yet feel unable to change even a fraction of it.  I was never prepared for when flashbacks would occur, and this was especially the case when it came to flashback-nightmares, when I would time travel whilst asleep.

Where C-PTSD dragged the adult me into the past without notice, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) transported a fragment of me forward in time from the past to the present day.  This fragment had never aged as I grew up. My fragments were stuck in 1972, 1984 or a nebulous slice of time, depending on which Alternate Personality came to the fore, with a different name, a different gender, and a lack of understanding that the host body is alive in the twenty-first century.  This isn’t time manipulation, but a very real type of time travel that is cruel because i have little choice but to embody that part of myself as a child, with a child’s voice, vocabulary and mannerisms.  My youngest Alter, Lizzie may look nothing like me, yet she is part of me, separate and often confused as to why her family are not around and so much has changed many decades later.  

Dissociative identity disorder and the presence of Alters is something shown in science fiction, horror and fantasy, but which is almost always seen as a negative.  The Stargate SG1 episode, Life Boat, is one of the only positive examples of a character with this condition.  But a single episode can do little to counteract blockbuster films like Psycho or Split, which has caused even more stigma.

What happens when part of me refuses to grow up?  How do I manage to exist when an Alter will not move forward in time for long periods, and then pop up thinking they are still in the same era they were created?  Since I was diagnosed with DID, that my Alters each hold a section of my trauma that I as the host body could never manage unaided.  One of the major causes of DID is long-term repeated trauma starting at a very young age.  My brain was still developing when the abuse started, and it was unable to grow in a typical way.  Parts of me split off and became independent, defusing bombs in my mind that had a high chance of killing me outright.  With such dangerous work done by young parts of my personalities, it is no wonder they were never able to grow up with me as time passed.  Instead they settled in their own pockets of time until I as the host learned to speak about the past – not only of the abuse, but of the way I knew skills I had never learned, displayed traits that made no sense to me, and how my voice would change many times over the course of a single conversation.

I had my wish it seemed; time travel and time manipulation were real, and I was part of it. I was my own mechanism for this transport. But having C-PTSD and DID are more than ways to trace the road back to the past. They are both ways to cope with trauma, and a way to cope with the threat of trauma happening again.

On occasion, I feel adrift in time and space.  My host personality once surfaced when I was on a train travelling to where I used to live thirty years ago.  I had no memory of how I had come to be there, but I as the host knew I had to get off the train and make my way back to my present home.  Sometimes I feel as if I have lived several lifetimes, when in fact part of me was stuck in the 1970’s for over forty years. The BBC series Life on Mars comes to mind when I feel like that.

Trauma at a young age can often affect how a child’s brain develops. One of the brain’s functions is to process the passing of time.  This process got rather messed up for me.  As an adult I realise that my desire to change the past – to stop my parents from ever meeting, is a sad fiction.  I would need to be born in order to create a way to go into the past.  Plus my obsession with time travel made it so I could sidestep facing painful truths and realities that I as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse have to live with every day and with every tick of the clock hands.

Some of my favourite science fiction episodes that involve time travel and time manipulation:

Stargate SG1:  Window of Opportunity 

Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Far Beyond the Stars

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.

If you learned something from this piece, consider making a donation to my tip jar at Paypal.me/ACrystalGem

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Repeat victims of S.A and C.S.A

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Trigger Warning: Sexual abuse, Sexual assault, Rape, child sexual abuse survivors

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Repeat victims of sexual abuse/assault are often left in an isolated place.  Few enough people (including medical staff) want to discuss it happening once. Even less want to acknowledge that it has happened multiple times.  I agonised for decades over the fact I’ve been sexually assaulted by several different people & groups over the course of my life.  It was only a little while ago that I heard so many survivors of child sexual abuse grow up conditioned to be compliant/not make noise/not kick up a fuss about things.  This conditioning often follows us into adulthood, where it is difficult to to judge other people’s intentions and our own safety.  We have learned to ignore our instincts, to not question others who behave inappropriately to us.  Other things like body language can get screwed up when growing up in with sexual abuse.  Body language is not a conscious thing for me, but other abusive people pick up on my wish to not be seen, and my ability to shrink myself so I’m less of a target.  These are all things I did to survive as a child.  I shouldn’t have had to do any of this, and we survivors should have grown up being protected and loved.  All of this isn’t to say that survivors will inevitably be assaulted again, but rather to say: if it’s happened to you many times, it’s still not your fault.  You can refuse to hold the guilt and shame.  You can be there for yourself, not matter how physically and emotionally isolated you are.  You can know that you are not alone.

I’m sending you all my love in your journey to heal.

The following articles go into this in more details: https://tinyurl.com/t3ay5ex

And this one by the World Health Organisation has lots of further links

 

 

Self Harm as Survival

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TRIGGER WARNING: Self Harm, Suicide, Mentions of sexual abuse.

Below is a small zine I made whilst on a secure ward in a mental health hospital.  I wanted to create something about self-harm in an honest way. Self harm often has the stereotype of only being something done by white, young, cis het women/girls.  Well I’m old, Black, bisexual and nonbinary.  I self harm, and it’s very difficult to talk to anyone about it who understands about how living with multiple marginalisations, as well as being a survivor of long term sexual abuse, affects me.  My experiences are different, and not the typical discourse you will see.  So here we go: I hope you get something out of it.

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White revenge TW: Rape, Racism

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You may or may not have heard about what the actor Liam Neeson has been up to lately.  A friend of Liam’s (a white woman) was raped by a black man.  When Liam found out, he admits he went out looking for a black man to kill. Link to Guardian article.

What Liam did was want to take revenge when the survivor of a terrible experience didn’t ask him to.  He took away her agency, using his anger to have revenge on all black men.  This is something I’ve seen an awful lot.  A white woman or girl is hurt by black men, and all black people, involved or not, must pay for that.  This is in stark reality to the higher numbers of women, femmes and girls of colour who are raped, abused and treated violently by white men.  Who goes after their rapists?  Who cares what happens to them?

Nobody does.

Sadly not even men of colour seem to care about the fate of black women and girls.  If you have a look at images for any Black Lives Matter protest when a Black man is brutalised, there will be massive crowds.  Now look at a protest when a black woman is brutalised.  It will be a hell of a lot smaller, if it happens at all (especially if that woman was a sex worker, trans, disabled, fat etc)

In the UK, the tale of white girls who were sexually abused by Muslim men in Rochdale is a terrible example.  Instead on focusing time and resources helping the girls to heal, the far-right and many other white men have used this to demonise Muslims everywhere.  It’s almost as if they don’t actually give a shit about the survivors of abuse.  If they did, they would take action on the high numbers of children sexually abused by men of all ethnicities (with white men topping that list of abusers).  They would make it feel safer for all victims and survivors to speak up.  But once again, white men have used their idea of white female fragility to fuel their need for violence against men of colour who hurt “one of their own”.

As a survivor of 2 decades of incest and sexual abuse, I know that my abusers were black men, black women, and white men.  I know nobody’s going to try to get revenge for me and what started when I was only three years old.  The thing is, I don’t want revenge.  Apart from the fact that it’s almost impossible – the major abuser (my dad) is long dead, and I never learned the names of the men in vehicles who my dad led me to in a car park on the outskirts of Epping Forest.  What I want is for there to be better support for people of all genders who survived incest, sexual abuse and rape.  I want white men in particular to donate to charities who help the most vulnerable survivors who are People of Colour, disabled, old, and hurting so much.

Keep your revenge.  It doesn’t do me any good – it just satisfies a lust for control that you crave.  I was never yours to start with anyway.