Monthly Archives: February 2014

Solution: Support Survivors to Create Safe Spaces

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Abuses within the #BDSM community keep us wrapped up with fear, because realistically what recourse do we really have?

[EDIT: this post, originally written in 2014 was in response to conversations, posts & controversy within the Denver BDSM community and specifically addressed on FetLife. Some of this is dated, some of it is out of context, but as of this edit (2017) the problems continue to manifest, particularly among leadership. Additionally, in September of 2016 I was notified by a local group trying to book me to talk about consent that I had been banned from the our local BDSM club, apparently as a result of my consent activism. I specifically asked whether I had been banned because of being unsafe when playing and was told that it was because I publicly highlighted the ways in which that owner was perpetuating rape culture and implicitly discouraging victims reporting bad players. I have since gone back to edit this piece, just for clarity and structure but not for content, because I think this is still important to know and understand.]

How we do respond to and protect survivors?

This is something I’ve given a lot of thought and effort toward over the past year. In fact, it’s kind of taken over my life. It’s prompted me to begin the work of building bridges and identifying allies within law enforcement and victim services available outside the community. My goal has been to minimize the numerous obstacles to reporting assault and abuse, but more than anything to empower survivors through giving them back their sense of control over their own path toward healing or justice.

I think the disconnect I have seen within the community has been the pervasive denial and dismissal of the existence of harm and trauma within our community or the useless nitpicking and tone arguments made to distract from addressing this issue. This has been damaging to the community, our messages about consent and as one poster termed it, “mutual respect”. And it’s been damaging to the survivors in our midst, whether they be vocal about their experience or not. It leaves people feeling lost, angry and hurt but more than anything disappointed. Mutual respect must also include room to air grievances with the status quo, allowing for the free expression of the pain associated with such a deep trauma.

For a community that boasts “The difference between what we do and abuse is consent!”, I’m shocked at the display of hostile and verbally violent resistance to empowering that very thing: consent. I have watched survivors who finally muster up the courage to speak up be buried under an avalanche of silencing, shaming and blaming patterns. And it’s not just newbies who we do this to, we do this to seasoned veterans of our community as well. This has a detrimental chilling effect on not just survivors, but those who are actively in crisis and seeking signals of support and safety.

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