Resignation is not consent. Weariness and terror are not enjoyment. What seems compliant is not necessarily voluntary. Symptoms of the Stockholm Syndrome are not equivalent to a submissive’s consensual dedication to service. A submissive may want out—badly—but doesn’t know how to go about it or where to turn. And because it’s not consensual, what’s done to that person is illegal. And wrong.
For the last few months, I’ve been engaged in a very long distance conversation with a person who is trapped in a domestic violence relationship which masquerades as hardcore, ultra-violence BDSM. This conversation is not a professional one. It began as a simple acquaintance with an exchange of mildly eccentric pleasantries. But as time passed, I began to be the recipient of confidences which are highly disturbing. For me, it’s like watching someone nearly drown in quicksand, over and over again, and each time she/he/ze struggles back to the surface, it feels miraculous. I toss in “vines” of advice, but none are strong enough to matter. My friend is getting oh so tired. I fear that the quicksand will win.
The so-called “dom” in this situation apparently sneers at safe words and catch phrases like “safe, sane and consensual” and even “risk-aware consensual kink.” This person would rather beat, bite, and bleed this plaything without consent and without any regard for physical or psychological safety. The so-called dom figures she/he/ze won’t get caught, because posing as a big bad dom offers a dazzling, foolproof disguise. As for the victim in this situation, all the dom has to do is argue that the little so and so has been asking for it. Want proof? The dom has apparently even gotten a signed power of attorney (obtained under duress).
There are times, I confess, when I’ve wondered how much of this ongoing conversation is actually true. I've heard so many horrors that I’ve almost wished this story was a puerile hoax. I’d rather be taken for a fool than know this person—any person!—is actually suffering so. Yet what I hear is a consistent account, even given the emotional ups and downs as the victim tries to figure out how to exist (or not) within this seemingly inescapable situation. This person has already been shattered by years of childhood sexual abuse, and the physical abuse and rapes that are her/his/hir current lot compound the already considerable damage.
This person is tired of it. She/he/ze wants to die. And no one is helping.
From what I hear, the people who are part of this person’s overseas BDSM community seem to be universally gulled by the so-called dom. And they cannot recognize or choose not to see the dangerous fragility of the victim's mental state—so stretched beyond the breaking point, it's amazing that she/he/ze hasn’t totally snapped yet. When this person has reached out for help, she/he/ze is merely told that, as a sub, she/he/ze just has to get over it.
Where I live, I am a mandated reporter. I am required to report abuse of elders, children, and dependent adults. In fact, a few days ago I filed my first report of suspected child abuse with Child Protective Services. I experienced this as a jarring leap from the realm of confidentiality into the uncertain world of bureaucracy—and yet it was necessary. However, in the case of my friend, I am far away, I only know a first name and very little personal information. The protection of anonymity allows my friend to tell me what she/he/ze can tell no other. So I am not sure there is anything I actually can do, except continue to listen. I become then a mere vessel, a container, for one of the most poisonous accounts of cruelty that I have ever heard. I find this emotionally devastating.