Testimony by Eli Shadow-Walker
“Let’s just look at it practically. Is reporting a sexual assault in a BDSM context likely to work? No, absent serious injuries or hospitalization, or video evidence, history shows that prosecutions are uphill battles, even for relatively privileged people within BDSM communities. So if it’s not all that likely to actually produce a conviction, the notion that we should pressure victims into the criminal justice system is busted. It’s a derail, a way of throwing up a hurdle and washing hands of the allegation. Until the system is fixed (if it can be), we can’t count on it to save us from having to figure out how to deal with rape and abuse in BDSM communities ourselves.”-[Feministe][http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/06/20/20993/]
Trigger warnings: details of sexual assault, frank discussion of sexual acts.
It’s coming up one the one year mark since I was sexually assaulted by a man who I was in a polyamorous relationship with.
Truth be told, I don’t really know how to begin this piece of writing. I still feel nauseous and cry every time I have flashbacks, I still shake (shaking pretty hard right now, as a matter of fact) and descend into panic mode despite the anxiety medication when I see his face or hear his name, and I still clench my jaw at night despite the muscle relaxants and the year of trauma counseling I’ve gone through. It’s hard to deal with. At times, it feels like I’m entirely alone. I’ve hermited and kept myself cooped up for fear of getting emotionally invested with anyone as a friend, let alone as a lover.
In one year’s time, I watched my entire world crumble to dust. I stood in silence as the first responding officer told me that in court, I would “sound like a vindictive ex-girlfriend” and that anything I had to say would “never stand up;” he told me that it wasn’t even worth trying despite him giving me the personal information on the assailant I needed in case I needed to file a restraining order. I sat in silence as two officers who both took my individual police reports promised to call me back, promised to let me know if they spoke to him, never contacted me again. I watched the rumor mill chew me up and spit me out again and again, watching him parade his innocence because he “showed the police [my] fetlife” and they left him alone. I had someone who I called a friend tell me that being assaulted was “what I needed” to find myself. I had someone I called a friend tell me that they “told me so” and laugh as I sat stifling tears on their living room couch. I had someone actively pursue the man who assaulted me immediately after I spoke up about what happened simply to spit in my face. I watched as I was publicly humiliated on his facebook by his friends, claiming I was “projecting” and that I was “psychotic.” I had someone attempt to use the assault as a furthering of their own agenda against a different individual with claims of “24/7 support,” despite suddenly stopping their responses to my texts and calls out of absolutely nowhere. An emotional conversation with someone trustworthy led me to discover he had given me herpes 1, despite his claim he was “completely clean” and, in my ignorance and naivete, I had trusted him on his word. No matter how I explained that the contraction of this disease was not through casual means, I was told I was dramatizing the situation. I had someone go so far as to tell me I couldn’t associate the assault and the contraction of the disease because of how common herpes 1 is, despite my knowledge of how I contracted it during one of the many assaults. I even went so far as to ask the man who assaulted me why he did it, despite how much I knew it was a Bad Idea (capitalization intentional). He never responded to that question, but he sure responded to everything (anything) else.
For a while, it really felt as if the whole world wanted nothing more to do with me, that I was meant to be forgotten and scoffed at. At one point, I wanted nothing more than to hide away forever, perhaps die and be done with it. I felt I couldn’t handle what I had gone through. The concept of having to go through this and not have the community respond as largely and as floridly as it so claimed it would in the face of abusers felt like the ultimate betrayal. I felt that the place I had grown up in didn’t care about me in the least, that it wasn’t worth trying anymore. I grew jaded and angry and bitter to the city at large. Hadn’t I done everything right? I did what I had been told to do by one of the educators in the community the very first day I entered the scene: file a police report. Talk to the police. They will help. The community will fall into place behind you when you have a court case. We don’t support abusers. I filed two police reports and never heard back from the police. I spoke up about being assaulted and the local kink community response was, in my perspective, indifference with a dash of smug superiority.
I decided to seek help from a counselor after the first flashback. Talking to her, explaining everything from the very beginning, intially felt like I was willingly subjecting myself to torture. I cried after (and often during) every session, begging to know why it was that everything I had been taught and everything that had been preached to me as a self-titled “BDSM newbie” had been wrong. Absolutely nothing had gone according to the formula I had been presented in 2009 at my first munch. The world, as I knew it, felt like it had been ripped out from under my feet like a rotting rug or carpet. The pain didn’t lessen for a good six months. It helped that the counselor was willing to work with me on previous physical and emotional trauma as well. I began to see the things that had attracted me to him, and more importantly him to me. All of my inner workings came to light in ways I hadn’t considered before. Some might say I needed the help. Truthfully, I agree.
In that year, I learned more and more about the assailant as people came out of the woodwork to speak to me. For instance, the ex-wife and son that he kept hidden from everyone else. The abuse in his previous marriage. The “Captain’s Chest,” where he kept his mutilation porn and snuff films featuring women. The restraining order preventing him from seeing his child, ever. The deep, extreme involvement in the Fourth Reich that hadn’t disappeared (despite what he told me). The coverup of the swastika tattoo on his back. His violent criminal history. His record of mental health issues (it didn’t take me long to realize I was lucky to be alive). The vast, vast community outside of the kink world who knew him, who knew OF him…and who weren’t surprised.
After one year, I can’t understand why the community I participate(d) in largely allows no room for growth. The overwhelming poison of a small community with a larger-than-life adulation for gossip and for word-of-mouth as opposed to facts and consideration for age and life experiences grew to a level of toxicity I felt was fatal. I’m only 22. I grew up in this community and in this city. This is the city that watched me flourish and find my niche. This is the place where I finally, after years of abuse and a sheltered upbringing, had the opportunity to find who I was, and who I am today. Why is it so hard to accept that someone who isn’t liked, isn’t popular, and is certainly outspoken, was sexually assaulted? Why is it so easy to believe that this never happened? It happened. It definitely happened. *One year ago, this man insisted on groping me through and under my jeans when I had a vicious yeast infection that kept me from even going to the bathroom without serious pain meds. This man insisted on trying to penetrate me anally despite my constant reminder and protests that anal sex and penetration was strictly reserved for my primary. This man held me down and pushed on areas of my body that had been told were strictly off limits, and despite my screaming and protests of “No, stop, stop please,” insisted on hurting me to the point that I was unable to breathe and lost consciousness from the searing pain. This man forced me to drink his blood by biting his cheek open and kissing me, spreading his blood all over my face and lips. This man demanded – and took- sex from me when I told him I wasn’t interested, wasn’t feeling it, and when I told him we needed to talk rather than just fuck.
*None of what happened between us was in scene. None of what happened between us had been negotiated with my primary.
Oh, my wonderful primary. I can still see the anger seething in his eyes. He doesn’t say much, but I know that what happened hurt him too. He smiles, pretends outwardly that nothing’s up, but I know his physicality. I know the way he moves. He is angry. He rages inside. He’s come with me to counseling before (after all, this affects us both) so I know he’s not going to do anything stupid or dramatic, but if you know him…you can feel the anger rolling from him when we talk about the assault. We’ve been together for four years. This didn’t break us. If anything, it brought us closer together. Our combined rage, hurt, and overwhelming passion to ensure that this information is spread to those who matter has created between us a bond we will share for the rest of our lives. I love him deeply, and he, me.
Everything I knew one year ago was wrong. But.In one year’s time, I made wonderful new friends. I strengthened existing friendships with picnics, blackberry picking and pictures on the riverbank. I learned what it was to truly, deeply value the rush of cool water with the contrast of the blazing summer sun. I told my story privately, one person at a time, showing them the reports and the medical results. I found amidst the chaos and confusion a small group of people who, despite barely knowing me from Adam, were willing to trust me and listen to the story I had to tell. I found old friends who understood what it was to grow up and to be hurt, to experience trauma no matter my age. I found old friends who I had never considered close who were willing to walk the shadow path with me and to help me break free of the emotional and spiritual bonds that kept me rooted in the pain. I found a Family who supported me no matter what happened, who understood my flaws and my issues, and *loved me anyway.*
In one year’s time, I found a group of amazing, beautiful people who see me as I am. I discovered amazing friends who practice what they preach and stick to their guns no matter what confronts them. I found individuals who are able to admit they are wrong with grace and dignity and retain the ability to change themselves as life changes around them. The more I say “I found,” I beg you: read “they found me.” For without them, I could not have come so far and made it through the initial struggle of learning to accept myself. Hell, I’m still working on learning to love myself.
But that’s this year’s work.
If you’ve read all of this, I congratulate you for being able to follow my rambling and for putting up with my self-exposure. If you are hurting, if you have been assaulted, *please* get help. File the police report (no, you don’t have to have the offender arrested) so that you have documentation that what happened to you, happened. Be aware that the most help you will likely get in case of sexual assault (and often rape) is just a report on file. Your community may not support you, you may feel lost and alone and hurt and angry. You have every right to feel that way. There are trauma counselors waiting to speak to you and to help you through this time of pain.Through all of this though, remember that you are NOT alone. You are NOT the only one, and without YOU the world wouldn’t be the place it is today.
There are hundreds of thousands of other men and women (yes, both) out there who are hurting in a similar fashion.. They are silent because others have told them to stay silent out of fear of “drama,” out of “outing” someone or the potential of libel. The problem is that simply handing our case to law enforcement doesn’t work specifically because we are kinky, and our consent is something that the law refuses to acknowledge because to them we cannot put ourselves in harm’s way. It is illegal, for the most part. There are so very, very few cases of sexual assault in the context of BDSM that are prosecuted simply because it is next to impossible to prove consent to harm. The scant few cases that have been prosecuted have only been so because they had hospital documentation from life-threatening injuries or video tapes. With the recent fire at the NCSF headquarters and the complete destruction of the case files there, I felt it more prudent than ever to speak up. To speak out. Sure, putting this all out there like this leaves me completely vulnerable to ridicule and gossip. Shoot, I have no idea if anyone will read this, save for the man who assaulted me. I admit it, I’m scared. Writing this scares me. Posting this scares me even more. But here it is, and here you are.