Tag Archives: sexual assault

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. 

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

 

 

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TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of Sexual Assault and Abuse.  Transphobia, Victim blaming.

These are all my own experiences as a Survivor of physical & sexual abuse.

Holidays are rarely good for me.  Where other folk spend time with their families, I am left with solely bad memories of the people I grew up with.  Long before the rise of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, there has been a strong belief that women cannot be sexually abusive to others.  Women are seen as carers, nurturers, Victims, not perpetrators – if they are “bad” then it’s only ever as emotionally or financially abusive, never physically or sexually abusive.  People who readily believe me when I speak of the men in my old family, and how they hurt me, rarely believe me when I say similar things about my sister and her female friend or my mum.  Once I ran away from my old family, I’ve been pretty open about my experiences, but this refusal to even acknowledge women can be abusive, is incredibly painful and stops me sometimes from seeking help or sharing my experiences.  Acknowledging women can be sexually abusive isn’t a way to put women down or pass the blame: it’s a way of  believing survivors and what they say when they talk about painful things.

Something I read on Twitter recently made me despair: “Women can’t rape, because women don’t have dicks!”***  And other tweets along the lines of trans women are really men, hell bent on sexually abusing women and girls.  The fact that these kind of statements often come from other women, is the icing on the cake of wretchedness.

1: Men don’t have to pretend to be anything or anyone else in order to sexually abuse others; they will just do it if they want to.

2: Perpetrators of sexual abuse don’t need to have a dick, when they have fingers, bottles, handles of hairbrushes or anything else insertable.

3: Trans women are women. Some are abusive, and some are not, just like any type of human.

Transphobia only adds to the silencing and dismissal of survivors of sexual abuse, but this problem was there long before the addition of trans folk to the argument.  I’ve been called a liar for saying anyone in my family could be abusive, because “That doesn’t happen to black kids**”.  There is such a desperate push to mantain the narrative of abusers solely being men, that it railroads over the experiences that take such bravery to talk about in the first place.  I wish my mum and my sisters had not sexually assaulted*** me, but they did.  i wish I wasn’t forced to run away from my old family and everyone I knew, but I did.  and 26 years later, I wish I didn’t have to deal with people who deny and dismiss the things that almost cost me my life.  But I still have to.

** I gave this horrible quote as the title to my first zine, on surviving child abuse. https://writteninshadows.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/surviving-csa-zine.pdf 

*** In the UK, non-consensual sex between women is defined as sexual assault, not rape.  Other countries have different definitions, so please don’t generalise or use this as a way to derail survivors.  Whatever it is called, it’s still a terrible thing.  

A link to a few UK specific resources for survivors of all genders https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/rsa/rape-and-sexual-assault/support-for-victims-of-rape-and-sexual-assault/

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TW: Sexual Assault, Biphobia

Long-term Victim Blaming & why it sucks especially bad for Bisexual women.

This post refers explicitly to women and femmes who have been victim to sexual violence from men.  There are some very different things male & masculine victims have to deal with, when violence comes from other genders.  Also women and femmes who are victims of violence from other women, deal with even less understood/talked about effects.

Most people are aware of victim blaming that comes up shortly after a traumatic event where sexual violence is reported.

“What was she wearing?”
“Why didn’t she fight back?”
“Why did she leave it so long to report it?”
“Why was she so quick to report it?  She must be doing it for attention/money.”
“She must have led him on.”

All of these things are hurtful, damaging and designed to put the blame on victims, and deter other victims (regardless of gender) from coming forward.  But what is not often considered or spoken of, is the effect of long-term victim blaming.

“She said she was raped, but she’s out there going to clubs!”
“Her boyfriend’s in prison for attacking her, but look at her kissing someone else!”
“How can she be so happy, after what she said happened?  She must be a liar!”
“She ruined his life by reporting him for sexual assault!  Now she’s always smiling in photos!”

The above examples all reinforce a nasty myth: once something bad (sexually) happens to a woman, she must remain in mourning for the rest of her life.  No smiles, no sex, no new relationships (especially not lesbian or bisexual ones).  It also plays into the myth of the ‘Almighty Dick of Power.’ And of how it can affect you permanently.  This is the same myth that states “One dick can turn a queer woman straight!”

The truly sad thing is, many women believe these myths too.
“How can you go out to a party/Wear that short dress/Talk about positive sex?  Do you want to be assaulted again?”

And when these women are lesbians, it sometimes colours their view of bisexual women and other lesbians who have been raped/sexually assaulted too.  The “Almighty Dick” means that if you’ve been with one man, consensual or not, you’re tainted for life.  The Almighty Dick is partnered with the Gold Star Lesbian.

Bisexual women have higher rates of sexual assault than either straight women or lesbians. See Bisexuality Report 2011, Open University.  https://bisexualresearch.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/the-bisexualityreport.pdf But when long-term victim blaming is aimed at us, we have few places to turn to.  Racism, Fatphobia and Disability definitely makes things worse, as respectability politics comes into play as well.

As a bisexual femme, and survivor of multiple rapes and 20 years of sexual abuse, I implore EVERYONE to think before they say hurtful things like the above.  I still have nightmares & flashbacks to awful things that happened to me, both as a child and an adult.  Biphobia is toxic, just as victim blaming is toxic.  If I have fun or wear a short dress, it doesn’t mean all the hurt has gone away.  It doesn’t mean I was lying or exaggerating about my experiences.  You have the power to make the world less shit for me.  For God’s sake, do the right thing.

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SPOILERS FOR STAR TREK: DISCOVERY

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Sexual Assault, PTSD

Season 1, Episode 9 sees the fictional world of Star Trek Discovery give a visceral view of a real-world issue of male sexual assault and rape, as well as the after effects including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  When I watched the episode, I was affected by flashbacks of my own past incidents of child sexual abuse, incest, and sexual assault as an adult.  I knew what direction the storyline of the character Ash Tyler (pictured above) would take, but wondered if Star Trek would fully explore the subject.  There have been mentions of sexual assault of major characters in the televised series, most noteably the Next Generation Enterprise’s Head of Security Tasha Yar, in Naked Now (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Naked_Now_(episode)) but we don’t (thankfully) see details or flashbacks in such a vivid way.

In Star Trek: Discovery’s ‘Into the Forest I go’ we see the flashbacks of torture and sexual violence that Ash Tyler has survivied for 7 months.  The images are dark and upsetting, but for me the most upsetting thing was hearing him talking to another character, as he explains what happened to him, and what he did to survive.

“I encouraged it.”

As an adult survivor of decades of sexual abuse, the things I learned as a 3-year old stayed with me for years.  I learned how to survive in a physically, sexually and emotionally violent family.  I learned that people were more amenable and less likely to beat me if I offered sex.  I could get food or alcohol when I was strung out or starving if I offered sex.  I could be kept away from even more brutal ‘family friends’ if I offered sex.  No child or adult should ever have to make those decisions to avoid physical pain, yet I learned those lessons so well that it became an automatic response, taking many years to even realise what I was doing.

Star Trek: Discovery is a fictional television show, but the responses and memories it stirred up in me were very real.  It speaks to excellent writing, photography and acting.  I hope that showing a male victim of sexual violence will show others that it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender.  Whether Ash Tyler is human or Klingon in disguise, his reactions and feelings are laid bare during this episode.  I hope it can help bring some understanding on what victims of sexual violence have to do in order to survive, and that there is no shame in these coping mechanisms.  I may have encouraged it, but no rational adult would agree just because a child wanted sex with them.  Consent is an ongoing thing, where all parties involved have to be informed about what’s involved.  A slave can’t truly consent to sex with their master; neither can a prisoner consent to the same.  This goes double for children, especially when the alternative is, as it was for me, a beating, a burning, starvation or being handed off to ‘friend’ instead.

I hope that the character of Ash Tyler is handled in a positive way in the rest of Season One, regardless of who he might really be.  I also hope that this episode and others will get people talking and thinking about a subject that very few even acknowledge.

Online support from a very good forum https://forums.psychcentral.com

A few resources if you’re in the U.K

The Havens (for survivors of all genders)  https://www.thehavens.org.uk

Survivors UK (for male survivors) https://www.survivorsuk.org


A few resources if you’re in the U.S

One in Six (for male survivors) https://1in6.org

RAINN (for survivors of all genders) https://www.rainn.org