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A Feature Article from the Archives ofThe D/s Times

*Abuse:

A Common Link?

An Insightful Look at a Serious Issue in D/s Relationships

by Lord Colm and jade


Is There a Connection?

For some time, we've grown more and more curious about the number of submissives who contact us and relate an all-too-common story. The connecting link is past abuse in their lives. Over and over again, we share our support in e-mail and online chats with women (and occasionally a man or two) who are struggling with issues arising from events in their past that are creating real havoc in their relationships of the present. Many are too embarrassed to bare their souls to the world by sharing their stories with friends or the ones they love. This phenomenon has cause us to scratch our heads and wonder if there is a connection between submission and an abusive past.

 
Lord Colm's View

From time to time I receive requests for assistance from dominants who find themselves frustrated and at a loss about how to deal with a submissive who has been the victim of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. I can empathize with their concerns, since I found myself in just such a situation when Jade and I decided to make the transition from friends to lovers. I recall a conversation that we had very early on. She told me I needed to know that there ghosts in her past that would come to haunt her at unpredictable times. Without going into much detail, she warned me that her behavior might be unpredictable when specters of her past came calling. I was curious, naturally, but sensed that it was not yet the time to press her for details. I knew this woman, and trusted that when the time was right, she would reveal her trauma. I reassured her and left it at that. It wasn't long before I had the opportunity to come face to face with the apparition that dwelled in the deepest recesses of her soul. One evening I said something to her that seemed innocuous enough, but suddenly her face clouded over, she stood up and walked to the nearest wall, plopped herself down and peered back over her shoulder with a look such that I had never seen; a confusing mixture of anger, hurt, sorrow and fear. I was bewildered, searching for the connection between what I had said and this dramatic response.

 Ghosts

In time, Jade gathered the courage to reveal to me the domestic abuse she had suffered at the hands of a partner. In the years that passed between then and now she has come to understand much about what kept her in such an unhealthy relationship. She discovered her submission, and that shed much light on why she had remained with him. The issue that faced us was how it would affect our relationship. As someone with the purest of submissive hearts, her need to trust and surrender control to me was overshadowed by the hurt she had suffered when she had done so before. It caused her to behave in ways that we both knew were counterproductive to building our relationship. I had a choice. I could get angry at her reluctance to open up to me, her master, and punish her. I could ignore the situation in hopes that it would go away.

I also could have simply decided that the effort wasn't worth it and moved on. As much as I care for her, none of these options were acceptable. I was in this for the long haul and wasn't about to let the best thing that ever happened to me slip away. I chose instead to chip away at the barriers she had erected around herself and to help her face her past and vanquish the ghosts that lurked there. 

Trust is at the heart of the issue. Those who have been abused will probably find it very difficult to be vulnerable to another. Where they have had their control wrenched from them involuntarily, they will naturally hold onto it very tightly.

I used this understanding to guide my actions. In every action and deed, I had to show her I was worthy of her trust, and that I would not abuse her vulnerabilities. Rather than punish her for her struggles, I gently encouraged her to open up and speak about what was going on in her heart and mind. I offered her tools to help her find alternative ways of dealing with the pain. Early on, I realized that she was unwilling to communicate to me that she was in crisis, so I gave her a simple, non-threatening phrase that she could use to let me know:

"Master, I'm struggling right now and I'm not able to talk about it."

Think of it as an emotional safeword. When she did use it, I understood that it was time for me to be nurturing and supportive, to not press her. To help replace her negative thoughts with constructive ones, I gave her other tools, too. You can read about one of them on our page entitled The Shoe Box. These techniques worked wonders. I let her know that I wasn't going to abandon her simply because she had failed to please me on occasion. I reassured her, encouraged her to share her burdens with me and not attempt to carry them alone.

 A burden shared is a burden halved

A joy shared is a joy doubled Like so many who have been traumatized in these ways, there were issues of self-esteem that needed to be addressed. I was careful not to intentionally set her up for failure, but gave her small physical and emotional tasks that she could fulfill with relative ease and I praised her successes. Over time she grew. With patience, love, support, understanding and encouragement, she felt comfortable in the safe environment I had created for her. We continued to build our relationship on the foundation of love, trust, and mutual respect.

My tenacity would not let her retreat. Oh, there were times when she would grab back something that she had previously surrendered, but that showed me she had not been quite ready to hand it to me completely, so we took a step back and worked on those issues. One step, one issue at a time. I couldn't wave my magic crop and erase her past, but I could guide her gently forward. With each new success, she bloomed a little more fully until one day we took a moment and stopped by the side of the road of our journey to look back at how far we had come together.

At some point along the way the ghosts had vanished, unable to remain in the light of exposure, and she was free from their destructive influence. Where she had been timid and reserved with her deepest feelings, now she expressed them openly. Where she had previously thought herself unworthy of love, she now basked in the warmth of a loving and protective Master, able to give of herself completely with a trust she never dreamed possible.

She could once again be vulnerable, safe in the knowledge that her Master saw this not as a weakness, but as a strength. As we sat there silently looking back, each counting the milestones we had passed together, we realized that we had, indeed, traveled a very long way.

Remember these things:

  Trust is very much the issue--do all you can to build it.

  Be trustworthy. Earn trust by giving it. 

 Your patience will be tried. It is a sign that they are struggling.Help them through this time.

  Slowly build on small successes; do not intentionally set themup for failure. 

 Reinforce positive steps. Praise and reward successes.

  Offer them tools to overcome their difficulties rather thansimply punishing them for displeasing you. 

 Encourage communication. Don't shut them down by pretendingto listen or worse, by not showing you care.

 
Jade's View

As a former victim of domestic abuse I had to do a lot of soul searching a long time ago to determine my own feelings about my submissive nature and the abuse I discovered in a previous relationship. In my case, the abuse was not a factor in my submissiveness but my submission was a factor in continuing to tolerate an unhealthy relationship To explain that more fully, I have come to learn that my submissive nature existed within me long before I encountered abuse. 

The issues of power and control are essential to an understanding of Domestic Violence.


From W.I.S.E. Women's Issues and Social Empowerment

I truly believe that most submissives are born with the desire to please and surrender their personal power to those they trust and hold in esteem. That natural desire to please is what allowed me to remain in a situation from which most would have fled. I tolerated the control that was misused because of my need to give myself fully to the commitment I'd made with the wrong person. I believe this is what makes some women such willing victims of the tyranny of their abusive male partners. Abuse didn't make them submissive, but a submissive nature makes them targets for abusers and they remain in a negative situation when other personality types would not.

Different Kinds of Abuse

Domestic abuse is a pattern of assaultive andcontrolling behavior, both criminal andnoncriminal, perpetrated on one adult intimateby another. As part of a broad scale system ofdomination that affects women as a class, it has become a serious public heath and safety issue.From "No Excuse for Abuse"Domestic violence, sometimes refereed to as "spousal abuse," is only one form of abuse. Like all abuse, it comes in many flavors: sexual, physical, emotional, neglectful and verbal. The duration and intensity of the abuse may vary but the aftermath is usually similar:

difficulty with issues of trust, relationships and self-image.Many of our contacts have suffered an even more devastating type of abuse: childhood abuse. A child is powerless and often voiceless in our society and the damage done to them at the hands of others, especially loved ones or family members, is frequently so profound and deeply rooted that it requires some serious therapy to reclaim their lives.

Usually the younger the victim, the more profound the effects but no one escapes unscathed. Specters From the PastIn talking with submissives who have survived some form of abuse, we hear a similar theme--the past is influencing their present. They may be involved with a loving, caring person now but they keep experiencing difficulties because of past events and are stymied as to what to do as a result of their uncontrollable behavior.

A few of the most common issues they deal with are unfounded fear, moodiness, withdrawing from their partner and inability to trust. Any one of these things is enough to stunt the growth of any relationship but are particularly deadly to one based on the D/s lifestyle.Dealing with ghosts from the past can be difficult for both dominant and submissive. Here are just a couple of the events that can take place.

  You're having a beautiful session of lovemaking and without warning your blood turns to ice water. You don't know why it happened and neither does your partner. You're both left shocked by the sobs, screaming or somber silence that occurred and the walls that suddenly materialized between you has left you both feeling helpless. Maybe you honestly can't remember what triggered it, but you know it was connected to something that happened long ago.

 You've agreed to allow your dominant to take control of the finances. He's a good provider, excellent with his money and always makes sure you have more than enough cash for your needs, but when it comes time to hand over the checkbook you go into a tailspin. You love your dominant dearly but no matter how hard you try, you just can't let go of your control and trust him with it.

  You're both working very hard on establishing some rules for you to follow in regards to your submissive role. Things are going along smoothly, then for no reason you rebel at the whole idea of letting him tell you what to do and explode over his expectation for you to call him "Master." If any of these things sound familiar you, just might be dealing with those apparitions that still haunt your life.

Getting rid of them isn't always easy but it can be done if you're willing to work at it.Excerpt from a letter. (used with permission)"I never know if I'm really being submissive or if it's fear. I want to believe I let my dominant control me because it pleases both of us but sometimes I feel like I do it just to prevent his anger if I would go against his will. Is there away I can be sure?" Does anyone else feel like I do?"Vanquishing the GhostsWhile you don't need an exorcist, you do need to develop some skills to overcome the past and its haunting spirits.


The most important thing you need to begin is communication. You have to open your soul and pour out in words all the hurt, fear and anger that you've kept hidden away. Ghosts don't do well in the sunlight and in many cases simply bringing them of a dark closet causes them to evaporate before your eyes. Planting seeds of trust can yield some beautiful fruit.

In order to learn to trust you have to put it into action. If you have a dominant who is trustworthy it's up to you to give him the trust he's shown he's worthy of. If he's encouraged you to hand him your burdens, then you need to begin to loosen them from your back so they can be shared. You might grab them back ten times before you finally let go completely but you have to make a start or it will never happen.Excerpt from one of our guests.

My Master has done more to help me heal from my past than 10 psychiatrists were able to do. He has changed my life for the better and made me happy for the first time...Finding the Keys to FreedomHiding your feelings and keeping secrets are imprisoning for you and your relationship. The past never stays hidden and it can steal the joy from the present and future if you allow it to continue to live and breed in the dark recesses of your mind. Here are a few helpful keys to unlocking the chains so you can fly over walls that no longer can hold you. 

 Tell your dominant about your past and how it affects you. Let him know there are problems and how they manifest themselves. It might not be a cure but it will prevent needless anxiety on his part when something unexplained happens and he won't be left wondering what he did to cause it. 

 Face the ghosts that are lurking in the closet. Talk about the things that cause you to have flashbacks or what might have triggered an unpleasant episode. Together you can find what cause it and avoid it in the future.

 Don't expect him to be a mind reader and know when you're struggling with past hurts and disappointments. When things have calmed down, explain how he might have helped you overcome the obstacle you encountered so the next time he'll be able to lead you over or around it. Share as much of your past with him as you feel you're able to do. Make it a continuing process in your relationship. You might not be able to drag it all out at once but in time you can learn to unburden a little at a time until there's nothing left to haunt you.

 Learn to accept yourself and acknowledge your worth and right to be happy. In order to love fully, you have to be capable of loving yourself. In order to to give happiness, you have to be happy. In order to trust someone, you have to trust in yourself. In order to believe in tomorrow, you have to face yesterday and live for today. Begin today to take back the part of you that was stolen.

Long ago I had to make a conscious decision that I was not going to let my abuser take one more thing from me. I'd already lost too much and wasn't going to give one more day to him. My future became mine that day. Yes, there have been some rocky spots in my path since then but I found my life's travel companion in my Master and together we have smoothed out the road and are continuing on our journey one joyful day at at time.
Some Frightening Facts About Abuse in AmericaThere are really no accurate frigures for abuse statistics. Far more cases go unreported than are recorded. Here are just a few of the sobering statistics available.

 Approximately one in three girls is sexually abused before age 18, and one in four by age 14. 

 Approximately one in six boys is sexually abused before age 16.

  Most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of authorities. This is especially true of sexually abused children: there may be no physical signs of harm, there is always intense shame, and secrecy is often maintained, even by adults who know of the abuse, for fear of destroying a family.

  Almost four million American women were physically abused by their husbands or boyfriends in the last year alone.

  A woman is physically abused every nine seconds in this country. 

 Forty-two percent of murdered women are killed by their intimate male partners. 

 More than half (56 percent) of Americans say they have at least one friend, relative or co-worker who they know has been involved in domestic violence -- either a woman who has been a victim or a man they feel has been guilty of it. 

 Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in families where domestic violence is present.  Over 3 million children are at risk of exposure to parental violence each year. 

 There are nearly three times as many animal shelters in the United States as there are shelters for battered women and their children.

(Senate Judiciary Hearings, Violence Against Women Act, 1990) 


*This article is reprinted from the March 1998 issue of the D/s Times,

the defunct monthly online newsletter presented by Castle Realm.

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