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.