It was 10:28 on Wednesday morning and I was counting down the two minutes until I could go for my morning break. It had been a fairly standard morning of call after call of the standard mix – financially desperate people who had lost  their jobs and frustrated parents calling on behalf of their twenty-something kids who’d done nothing since leaving school but sponge off their parents and play computer games and who couldn’t even tear themselves away from their busy lives of luxury to call themselves. I’d even had one call from a very distracted young man with a lot of keyboard bashing going on in the background. When I commented in between questions about income and assets that it sounded like he was playing WoW he immediately wanted to know how I knew and I imagined him nervously scanning his bedroom for hidden government-controlled cameras.

Just as I was getting ready to log into a tea break and turn off calls to my phone for the next fifteen minutes, that fateful beep sounded and a file popped up on my screen. With a sigh of, “Here we go again…”, I put on my headset and settled in for another marathon call.

Over the next thirty minutes I heard a terrible story of eighteen years of domestic violence and abuse that even involved young children. I had a sobbing woman reveal to me how her husband regularly beat her and liked to smash their daughter’s head into the kitchen table over and over until it bled. The man would periodically abandon the family for several months to go and do who knows what, leaving them without as much as a cent to get by on and then return when he needed a fill of violence again. She said she couldn’t leave because she had no money and nowhere to go. The woman’s English was broken, but she painted a graphic-enough picture for me of her very sad life.

My heart went out to her and I tried to get some details about what sort of help she’d received. I asked her about doctors, social workers and DOCS and whether police had been involved. She said they knew all about her and could do nothing to help. She said the police had laughed at her when she’d called them. It was at this stage that I was holding back tears and wondering why I couldn’t have gone on my break two minutes earlier and remained blissfully unaware of this poor woman’s tragedy. Selfish I know, but it was what I was feeling at the time.

I told her how sorry I felt for her numerous times and reassured her that she was a very strong woman. She said her daughter had told her the same thing. I didn’t know what else to say to her. How do you comfort someone in that situation? What words can you give to someone who is obviously in so much pain? I haven’t had a seconds worth of training in how to deal with people in crisis so I did the only things I could- put through a claim for income support payments, told her to get a medical certificate and gave her the details of social workers who could give her some help with getting out. It felt so very inadequate, but it was all I could do. 

It’s not the first call I’ve had with an emotionally-scarred person on the other end. I’ve had plenty of calls from people holding everything they own in a plastic bag with a screaming child on their hip, but this particular call left me feeling very raw.

In BDSM, the word ‘abuse’ is often thrown around in a very carefree manner. Apparently, if you don’t have a safeword or a pre-defined script to work to, it’s abuse. Lol. Chrissy Hynde also tried to teach us that there is a fine line between pleasure and pain. But it’s not a fine line, it’s a chasm so deep that you know instantly the moment you cross it. 

I believe that it’s not so much what you do but why you do it that takes BDSM across the chasm. Are you intending to harm them or are you intending to fulfill a need? Are they a willing participant or there because they have no choice? Is it use or abuse? These lines never get blurry.

BDSM has participants. Abuse only has victims. 

A participant in BDSM always has a choice. They choose to participate, they label themselves as slave, submissive or whatever else they chose. An abuse victim has no choice, and is labelled as a punching bag, a hole for raping or whatever else the perpetrator decides.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.


8 thoughts on “Distinctions

Add yours

  1. What is it you do exactly?
    I don’t know if I could handle broke people like that. I have been broken so many times, and the best thing there ever was, was a friend to listen…


  2. Oh, gods. That poor woman.

    It takes real strength to do what you do. I admire the heck out of you. But my heart breaks for your having to take these calls, even if they aren’t the usual fare.

    ::hugs hugs::

  3. Ok not sure how to say this but don’t be surprised if what the woman told you (and others for that matter) is totally and utterly UNTRUE! Now I don’t know her so she could have been telling the truth but I worked for DSS/Centrelink for ten years and the stories people used to tell me would curl my hair. When I first started I’d be in tears about what they told me, 9 times out of 10 the stories were actually totally and utterly false. They would say anything (including that their children were sexually abused) just so they would not be pushed into getting jobs, help, whatever.
    The things some people will do to keep their dole money or whatever else they get from Centrelink is nothing short of disgusting.
    When I read what you’d heard the first thing I thought was I bet it’s absolute bullshit. Sad but true, I saw some terrible things, some of which were true others were not. People can be lying scheming pieces of shit and they don’t care about how their lies can affect others.

    So try not to feel bad or sad as I know from experience how hard that is, but be very aware that a lot of times they are lying.
    I actually hope that woman you spoke to is lying, otherwise she and her children have a terribly tragic life and that’s so bloody unfair… 😦

  4. Choices

    Everyone has a choice whether people chose to exercise that choice is another question, sometimes people say they can’t make a choice as they lsoe their kids, their homes, their lives and therefore they are terrorised into not making a choice at all.

    Most frightening movie l have ever seen on the topic of domestic violence is “once we were warriors” every person should be made to watch it and discuss it and evaluate themselves afterwards.

    I am sure there are lots of genuine domestic violence situations out there where people are repeating they’re own upbringing and the latest advertisements on tv by Government do exactly that by showing young kids standing next to their fathers learning its okay to abuse their mothers.

    Its not okay to be abusive in domestic situation, its not okay to have bullying, its not okay to sexually use young children but its been going on for thousands of years in all societies and cultures and religions which shows its a human behaviour and learning issue and not a tv or movie or boys talking at the pub issue.

    Your right in saying there is a difference between BDSM and Domestic Abuse, the BDSM person is seeking, wanting needing, voluntarily participating,one can debate whether again its learnt behaviour from a dysfunctional fmaily environment.

    Can Gay and BDSM behaviour be a brain disorder or a flaw in the genetics or is it purely personal preferences at work.

    Alcoholics are mainly made up of people with a gene flaw that reacts to alcohol and is particular for some reasons in New World native populations like Eskimos, North American Indians and Aboriginals or people with personal family issues that drives them to blot out there misery.

    You have always wanted to be a slave, you made a decision as an adult to seek out a life as a slave, you have chosen to remain a slave. I know l hurt you but l don’t abuse you, l think there is another subtle difference the harm done is not intended to damage the person but to stimulate and arouse them and fulfil a fantasy situation for them, it may be harsh and cruel but its welcomed by the receipent at some level as fulfilling their self image or desire of their situation.


  5. “…BDSM has participants. Abuse only has victims…”.

    So very true; so very well put.

    Best wishes,

    Master Dee

  6. The thought had crossed my mind that it was all a crock of shit, but at the time I was pretty emotional about it all. I’m actually finding that I’m distancing my self from everything that I hear, just so that I can have a bit of distance and not be affected so much. Now I totally understand why so many people in governments departments are so ‘sour’.


  7. I’m just doing some temp work at the moment in the government welfare call centre. Applications are done via a lengthy phone interview in which we have to ask them everything about their life and financial circumstances so there’s lots of icky stuff that comes to light.
    There’s not much more I can do other than listen to people’s life stories and throw in some empathetic comments here and there. It’s so sad that so many people are broken.


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