Abuse vs. Healthy BDSM

Knowing the difference…

What is abuse?

Random House Webster's Dictionary defines abuse as "to use wrongly or improperly" and "to treat in a harmful, injurious or offensive way." Domestic violence is abuse between family members or related persons. It also occurs in any relationship between two or more intimates. Non-consensual dominance and control, also known as "domestic violence" may come in many forms: actual physical abuse, threats of physical abuse, emotional abuse, threatening telephone calls, disturbances at a place of employment, and stalking. Domestic violence is distinguished from other kinds of abuse because of the special relationship between the persons.

Domestic violence is further defined as the chronic, physical, sexual and psychological maltreatment of one intimate partner by another, with the intent to control in non-consensual or harmful ways. This misuse of power harms the psychological, social, economic, sexual and physical well-being of the victim.

Abuse is often hard to recognize and many people believe it can only happen to submissives or novices. That is untrue. Abuse can and does happen to anyone.

What is healthy bdsm?

Healthy bdsm is when two or more adults consent to exchange energy, power, sensations or experiences (however extreme) in ways that fuel their mutual happiness and personal interpretation of well-being. It can also be when two or more people agree to forego a "formal" or verbal consenting process (often called consensual non-consent). Only you can know when you agree to something.

Many partners use "safewords" as a way to distinguish their level of agreement but a number of other healthy bdsm practitioners do not. The use of safewords is not the only way to distinguish consent. If you are being fulfilled and have increased self-esteem as a result of your activities and your partner claims the same, then chances are you have a very healthy bdsm relationship. Only you can know. A healthy bdsm relationship is one where both parties are actively invested in the well-being of each other and themselves.

What does abusive bdsm look like?

If you have lingering feelings that "this isn't right" or that "something is wrong with this picture" then there is cause for further consideration. It may not be abuse, but it is important to listen to your internal alarms and explore areas of concern. An unhealthy bdsm relationship will have one (or more) partners acting in ways that create harm to another, be it physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sexual, social or economic. In an abusive relationship you may notice the following:

If you think you may be in an abusive bdsm relationship:

You may feel that no one will understand what you are going through. You may feel alone. Look up a bdsm sensitive therapist on-line through the KINK-Aware Professionals list (www.bannon.com/~race/kap) and get help. You do not deserve to be abused and you cannot prevent it with more control or better service. Abuse and Domestic Violence can occur even in well-negotiated relationships to bottoms and tops alike and it is not okay. Get help.

Call: 1-800-799-SAFE
1-800-787-3224 TTY

Or email: NLAIDVProject@aol.com

Trust your instincts. Make a plan. Get help so you can get out.

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Dr. Gloria Glickstein Brame
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