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.