Don’t Be “That Asshole”- On Reporting Crimes in the BDSM/Leather Community

In every conversation by or about someone who was assaulted and/or raped, especially in the BDSM/leather community, it seems like “that asshole” has to spout off. You know the asshole I mean. The one who says something like this: “Well, did you report it to the police? If you didn’t report it, it must not have really happened/must not have been serious/you’re just a slut.” I just want to tell a couple stories to better illustrate how much of an ignorant fuckwad “that asshole” really is.

I was recently assaulted at work. I’m an ER nurse, and I’m used to dealing with patients who are demented, intoxicated, or otherwise out-of-control. However, this incident was the worst of my 10 year career. I was assisting a patient with using a urinal. I had an ER tech with me, because the patient was drunk and I was concerned he might fall, and a security guard, because the patient had been verbally abusive. As I was helping him, he began yelling at me- “Stupid fucking bitch, I don’t need you, leave me the fuck alone!” I was holding onto his hand, and told him I was worried he’d fall. Continuing to yell, he gripped my hand and began to twist it around. It was painful and I was starting to panic- I yelled at him that he was hurting me, and to stop. He looked right into my eyes with the same malice that my abusive ex-husband used to, twisted my hand further, and tried to bite my arm.

At this point, the ER tech and security guard were able to pull him away from me. I left the room, went to the nurses station, and melted down. The cops had already been called, per ER policy. I got an ice pack for my hand and tried to get my shit together.

One of the responding officers went to check on the patient, and the other came over to ask me what had happened. I informed him that I wanted to press assault charges. He appeared surprised (it seems commonplace that nurses are just supposed to accept abuse on the job), but took me to a private room to take my report. I started explaining what had happened- “I took the patient into a private room because he said he had to pee. I took a security guard with me because the patient had been yelling at me…” Now the officer interrupted: “Well, if he was dangerous and violent, why didn’t you have him in restraints?”


Because I’m used to drunks verbally abusing me, and he wasn’t physically dangerous and violent… until he was? Because restraints are an absolute last resort for controlling a patient, and if I restrained someone when it wasn’t unequivocally necessary, I could lose my job? Because IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER WHY, HE ASSAULTED ME AND IT WASN’T MY FAULT?!?

This was the most stupidly clear cut of all possible cases. I was wearing my uniform, working my job. I had two witnesses to the assault who were also professionals, on the job. I had a perpetrator who was, even while I was being interviewed by officer 1, hurling insults at officer 2 (he later tried to bite the police when they cuffed him). And still, despite all this, the first thing that came out of the interviewing officer’s mouth once I started to tell him what had happened was a piece of victim-blaming bullshit, and the rest of the interview proceeded in much the same what-did-YOU-do-that-caused-this-to-happen vein.

And then we wonder why victims of assault and rape, especially in the BDSM community, don’t go to the police. Well, try this on for size: “You see officer it’s like this. I had seen this guy around a couple munches, and I decided to go back to his place to do a BDSM scene. (possible pause to explain the words “munches” and “BDSM scene”) Oh, his name? Well, he goes by Koloro, the people in my group often go by nicknames… no, I don’t know his legal name… so anyway he had me tied up and spanked me… yes, I had agreed to that part… but then he did X Y and Z thing that I hadn’t agreed to… and no, I didn’t yell for him to stop, because I was gagged… yes, I agreed to be gagged, but he didn’t pay attention to my non-verbal safeword (pause to explain what a non-verbal safeword is)…” Does this sound familiar to anyone? Because this is the kind of “word-on-the-street” stories that are shared in the BDSM community all the time. And inevitably “that asshole” will say, “well, did you go to the police? If you didn’t, we don’t have to take you seriously.”

As I briefly referenced above, I also have a history of domestic abuse that predates any of my involvement in BDSM. I never filed a police report against my ex-husband. Because he would cry after he abused me, and tell me how sorry he was and that it would never happen again. Because he said he would kill himself if I ever left him. Because I was financially dependant on him. Because it takes a strong sense of self-worth to say to yourself that being treated like that is NOT OK AT ALL, and other people, people with the authority to do something about it, will listen and agree that it’s not OK. I was strong enough to leave, but not strong enough to report him. After I left, the woman he’d been having an affair with moved in, and he abused her, too (she tracked me down years later to share stories with me). I feel badly about that, sometimes, like maybe if I had reported him I could have protected her… but that’s a type of victim blaming, too, and not something I feel I need to put on myself, because I am not responsible for his treatment of me, or his treatment of her. He is responsible… and after that, a culture that tacitly condones his actions and shames me into silence (because it must be somehow my fault) shares some responsibility, as well. For more discussion of this particular issue, see this excellent article on xojane:…

I am certainly not trying to discourage anyone from reporting crimes- ideally, more crimes (especially rape) would be reported, and ideally, those doing the reporting wouldn’t be further traumatized in the process. There’s a lot of work to be done there. But for now, I’m just making the case that a lack of a police report does not equal “nothing serious happened.” I’m afraid I don’t have solutions (I’ve read other great articles on rape culture that do have proposals). But if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “why didn’t they report it?”– I hope perhaps you’ll remember this, and consider all the reasons why, and not be “that asshole.”

(Originally posted to FetLife:

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