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Categorie: Feminism

Pornography as crime scene videos: Suzzan Blac discusses her Pornhub research

BY NMN

etail from Suzzan Blac’s painting entitled ‘Let me entertain you’ which depicts the sexual and physical violence now commonplace in mainstream pornography
Detail from Suzzan Blac’s painting entitled ‘Let me entertain you’ which depicts the sexual and physical violence now commonplace in mainstream pornography

This is an edited transcript of the second part of Suzzan Blac’s talk at the ‘An evening with Suzzan Blac’ webinar we held in July 2021 and the subsequent discussion with Ygerne Price-Davies. The transcript of the first part of the talk, which was about her extraordinary paintings, is in a separate article. You can watch the recording of the whole talk on YouTube.

Of all the harms done to girls and women, pornography is the most damaging and far-reaching, affecting not just the victims within the porn industry, but also women and girls outside of it.

I first saw pornography when I was six years old. It was shown to me by one of my mother’s boyfriends as he sexually abused me. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, every older boy and man who sexually abused and raped me had pornography. And that’s not forgetting the sex traffickers who forced me into pornography. [Editor: Suzzan talks about this in the first part of her talk.]

So, I knew that there was a connection between sex offending and pornography. Over the years, and in my obsession with perpetrators and why and how they could so easily abuse and hurt girls and women, I researched sex offending, rapes, kidnapping, torture and sexually motivated murders and noticed that high pornography use was a significant and prime factor in their offending. I began writing about this in my blog, The Violence of Pornography, in 2016, documenting such cases.

I also read about research on the aggression in pornography. Whenever I posted about this on social media, however, I would be attacked by men. Some would laugh and say ‘You’ve never seen any pornography’. Well, yes that was true, I hadn’t seen any pornography – at least not since I was trafficked into it in 1977. I knew I would be traumatised if I accidently came across any.

So, in 2017 I decided that I had to watch it. How could I speak out against porn if I had never seen any recently? I chose Pornhub, because it was the most popular mainstream porn-site, having 115 million hits a day. I watched and took screen-shots of hundreds of videos on it.

Like many women who don’t watch porn, I had no idea about it’s true content. You just assume that much of it is ‘adults having consensual sex’ with maybe a bit of hair pulling and slapping going on. How wrong I was!

Crime scene videos

I could not believe what I was seeing, I thought that these things could only be seen on the dark web. I watched women being sexually and violently abused, humiliated, degraded, raped and tortured.

These were not sex videos. They were crime-scene videos.

There were women being raped when they used their safe words in ‘kink’ videos and when they were sleeping or passed out from alcohol or high on drugs. There were drug addicted prostitutes unaware that they were being filmed. Women being suffocated with plastic bags, water-boarded, strangled manually or with ligatures. Women being really hanged with ropes.

Many are ‘professional videos’, but a significant amount of user-generated content is uploaded onto Pornhub, often with no consent from the women appearing in it.

I watched one man film a woman standing on a chair with her neck in a noose. He would kick the chair, let her hang for a few seconds, then pick her up, place her back on the chair and do it again. And again. And again.

I watched a tied-up naked female being shot continuously for fifteen minutes by a man with an automatic BB rifle. I watched women’s breasts being tortured with needles, cigarettes being stubbed out on their nipples, and breasts already heavily bruised being punched or stood on by men in heavy boots. I watched women having their genitalia whipped with nettles or being sharp whipped, causing deep lacerations, some were ‘live streamed’ with requests from paying males.

Many of these videos have millions of views and endless derogatory comments along the lines of, ‘Loving the torture and seeing women suffer’.

There were tons of ‘domestic violence’ videos, mostly home-made by men who abuse their wives and girlfriends, filmed on their mobiles.

I frequently came across child sexual abuse imagery, some of real children and also CGI child abuse. I only saw these as thumbnails. I never clicked on the videos. Obviously, I couldn’t research this. I reported it to the Internet Watch Foundation, but never heard back. 

There is also a lot of extremely disturbing and realistic CGI bestiality videos.

There were a significant number of men sexually offending outside the home, filming their offences with mobile phones and uploading them onto Pornhub. Offences ranged from up-skirting, secret toilet filming, indecent exposure, to masturbating and ejaculating onto unsuspecting females.

There is an incredible amount of criminal activity on Pornhub and I have evidenced much of it in my blog in the form of screen-shots for all to see.

Pornhub is completely unregulated and violates its own uploading terms. I am happy to say at least they are now being held accountable and have many lawsuits against them.

And, there are so many views. You can’t actually ascertain how many views a video has, because one video might have two million views and is then uploaded with a different title that has 600,000 views, and then another, and so on.

Strangulation (aka ‘breath play’)

I’d also like to talk about how common strangulation is on Pornhub. The kink community have changed the language, so it’s no longer called strangulation. They now call it ‘breath play’, which can mean suffocation or strangulation or hanging or choking. Quite often they call it choking when it’s not actually choking.

Choking is the act of having something stuck in the oesophagus. Strangulation is completely different. It can be done manually or with ligatures or with their arms or legs. It’s extremely dangerous because even for a few seconds it can cause a lot of health issues including brain damage – and that is if it’s non-fatal. It really is extremely dangerous. There are thousands of videos of men strangling women until they lose consciousness, either suffocating them, putting things in their mouth, suffocating them with plastic bags and strangling them or hanging, and I mean really hanging, them.

Rape, donkey punch, incest…

There are other disturbing videos like of rape but they don’t call it rape anymore. You can’t type in the word rape. Pornhub removed that term, but other words that mean the same thing are there – for example, unwilling sex or surprise anal.

There’s hate fuck, and donkey punch where men kick and hurt women and then punch them in the back of the head as hard as they can. I’ve seen women’s vaginas being stapled shut. Electric torture, punch fisting. Women being pissed on, either in their mouths or in their vaginas or anuses and they have women licking toilet bowls. Or, their heads being flushed down the toilet while they’re being pummelled from behind.

The most humiliating and degrading stuff.

There are also tons of incest videos with titles such as ‘No Daddy Stop’ or ‘I’m Not Mommy’. They dress 18-year-old girls to make them look like little girls and put them in child-themed rooms with much older men or sometimes elderly men, like it’s a granddad abusing his granddaughter. There’s a lot of incest, an awful lot of incest, brothers and sisters and so forth.

There are also horrible channels called sexually broken where they destroy women in every way possible.

Normalising and eroticising sexual violence against women and girls

I have documented all these types of videos on my website, The Violence Pornography. I have blurred the genitalia and it is very distressing to see, but I put it out there because I think people, especially women, need to see what it’s like without having to watch it themselves.

My research makes it absolutely clear that pornography normalises and eroticises sexual violence against women and reinforces rape myths. It is common for the girls and women who are being abused in these ways to be portrayed as if they are loving it. As if they’re not really saying no. It is made to look as if they say yes because they’re worthless whores and they love it.

This is extremely dangerous – especially knowing that young boys are watching this kind of content.

I believe that pornography should be deemed hate speech and that it is a violation of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act: the right not to be tortured in an inhumane or degrading way.

I could talk a lot more about pornography but most of it, as I said, is on my website.

Gay men’s porn

Ygerne: I just wanted to say thank you so much, Suzzan, for such a powerful and moving talk. And now if it’s OK with you, I’d like to ask about gay men’s porn. Did you research that and what did you find?

Suzzan: Every time you speak out on social media there are people who love to derail you and that’s one of the many things that was said to me. Gay porn! And I realised that I hadn’t actually watched any gay porn. So it was clear I was going to have to. Believe me, I didn’t want to do it, I really didn’t want to, but it was the only way to get answers.  

So, one night I sat down with a big glass of wine and I went to Pornhub’s gay porn channels and typed in the same search words that I had for the women – such as rough sex, unwilling sex, torture, strangulation, everything. And I prepared myself…

At first I was confused because when I started watching the videos, they were lovely, absolutely lovely. The men were kissing. I had never seen any kissing on the straight porn channels.

They were also hugging and caressing each other. They were talking to each other; they were wearing condoms; they were respectful.

I thought I’d probably get to the other stuff later. So, I kept watching. I kept typing in the same search terms. There was one that came up under “rough sex”, and it was this huge hairy guy in leather. He was with another guy, a young guy, who was strapped to a cross and I thought, here we go. So, he gets a whip – but it’s a cat-o’-nine tails that has thick, wide pieces of soft leather – and he flogs him very gently so he doesn’t hardly even turn pink. And then he kisses him.

And I’m like, what? So, I type in torture and most of what I see is being tortured with feathers and tickling. Tickling torture! And it was like that in so many videos.

And I realised that this is the polar opposite of how the women are treated in pornography. There was no hate. There was no degradation; no humiliation; no cruelty; no sadism; no pain; nothing.

So then I did the same thing with trans porn. And again, I watched hundreds of videos and took screenshots and it was like the gay porn: caressing, kissing, and respect.

I looked at casting couch porn. You’ve probably heard of that. In the straight porn, it’s nasty: right from the beginning they start calling her names, humiliating and degrading her, and then some guy comes in and literally throws her about the room and pummels her. In the gay men’s porn, he’s asked some questions and then they start kissing and have normal sex.

The difference was astounding, really astounding and I thought that just proves the misogyny on that platform. It is virulent, it is horrific, and I’m glad I’ve documented it because now a lot of it has been taken down, as you know.

Pornhub has a lot of lawsuits against it as we speak and it took down millions of videos. Eighty percent of its unverified videos were taken down. So, that is some good news. We’ll see what happens next.

Wider implications

Ygerne: I saw that the house of Pornhub’s owner was attacked by an arsonist and burned down.

Suzzan: Yes, I saw that too. In the research I did years ago, I found him. I found that MindGeek owns Pornhub and so many other sites. I found a photo of him and put it on Twitter. Of course, nobody took much notice at the time. It wasn’t until, and I’m glad to say this, a male reporter at The New York Times took this story up, that anything actually happened and then Visa and Mastercard and other companies stopped dealing with Pornhub. So, I’m glad of it.

Ygerne: That’s why the work you are doing documenting it is so important.

Suzzan: I think it is important. Without seeing the images, it’s hard to believe. Images are really important to me – as you can see in my paintings. It’s not that people don’t believe exactly, it’s just that if you’re reading text, you’re detached from the reality. But, when you see images… It’s like, no one believed that the holocaust could happen – no one – until they saw the images and videos of what was going on over there.

It’s the same with everything. That’s the reason I took screenshots because I didn’t believe it. I’d read about it, but I didn’t understand the extent of it and how it’s worse than awful. The misogyny is truly horrifying.

As I said, it’s not about adults having consensual sex – as many people claim. They say that it’s consensual and if a woman likes a bit of rough, it’s her choice. But that’s not what it’s actually like.

And of course, a lot of the videos out there are not professionally made. There are millions of mobile phone videos – taken by men – boyfriends, husbands. I documented that too. It is domestic abuse – but it’s not only that because you’ve got men who are abusers, who are not just filming their wives and girlfriends and putting it on Pornhub, they’re also doing live cams and making money from it.

They’re actually making money out of their wives and girlfriends who are not consenting. And that says a lot about consent in pornography. No one can really tell if the person in pornography is consenting or not. Because you can’t tell if they’re a trafficking victim; you can’t tell if they’re a domestic abuse victim; whether it’s secret filming; whether it’s a minor. Simply no one can tell.

Facebook and YouTube have something like 20,000 to 30,000 moderators working on their sites to get rid of illegal content. Do you know how many Pornhub have? And we’re talking millions and millions of videos, I can’t remember the exact number, but millions. They had 20 or 30 moderators!

That’s a joke, isn’t it? I think they said a moderator can look through about 150 videos an hour. They literally fast forward through them. But they aren’t all in English. There’re a lot of foreign videos there, from all over the world. So, often they wouldn’t even know what the title said or what anybody said.

But, 150 videos an hour, how can anyone moderate that? It’s impossible. But, you know, it’s coming to a head now and people are finally understanding what Pornhub’s about and it’s about time.

Ygerne: The comparison you made with YouTube… It’s like when it comes to porn, the attitude is it’s just a bit of fun, and any criticism of it is deemed to be prudish.

Suzzan: Well, it’s free speech, isn’t it? [Laughs.] It’s free speech, but not for the women who are performing in these videos, or not performing, or don’t even know they’re in the videos.

And as I said, there is so much violence on there. It’s not sex! I’ve been called all sorts of names as you can imagine.

You know, we all like sex. But most pornography is not about sex anymore. It’s now about the humiliation, degradation and suffering of women. They love to punish women and there are millions of these videos, with millions of views, and men who are enjoying them.

What is that doing? What is that doing to young boys? What is that doing to their minds when they see that and they’re looking at it everywhere, including in school?

It’s awful and I think they should ban mobile phones in schools because even my own daughter, years ago when she was a teenager, was traumatised. She didn’t tell me at the time, but she was traumatised by boys showing her violent pornography. And it’s still going on and they’re getting younger and younger; we’re talking 10, 11, 12.

We must put the onus on the perpetrators

Ygerne: I remember getting shown porn when I was in primary school.

So now a question from the audience. What would you advise us to use in terms of language in the sense of putting the onus on the perpetrators? Would you use the word prostitutor to define this person?

Suzzan: Yeah, the problem has always been seen in terms of the victim and the perpetrators are hardly mentioned and that needs to change. The onus really needs to be on the perpetrators. We need to ask why they are doing this and make them accountable. Definitely more needs to be done about that.

Even with victims of murder, women who were murdered, the emphasis is always on her: she was drunk, what she was doing? Why was she out on her own? Why was she wearing headphones, why this, why that? But, not the perpetrator. And why is that?

It has to do with misogyny and, and victim blaming. Because it is women too who are doing this. Women can also be misogynistic. I’ve known that first-hand. Yes, it needs to be changed and we all need to collectively keep fighting for these things.

Ygerne: Misogyny is so engrained in all of us, isn’t it.

Suzzan: Yes. And with domestic abusers, it’s always been why doesn’t she do this, why doesn’t she do that. I’ve experienced it. My sister and my mother have experienced it.

Even though you’re married to that person or live with them, they can still terrorise you and no one understands that, unless they’ve been in that situation. Just because you live with that man, it doesn’t mean it will calm down and be okay.

I have been in that situation and my sister has too. The worst time is when you leave them. That’s when he would threaten. He’s broken her bones. He’s kicked her when she was pregnant.

When I was young and this was going on, she was only 17, 18, I was so used to violence it didn’t affect me, it was normal. In the end, when she would threaten to leave, he would say he was going to kill her and the children. When finally she did leave, he followed her and beat her up in a spa shop, and kicked the hell out of her. Nobody, not one person, said anything. Nobody did anything. They just watched or walked out.

When she fled to a women’s refuge, he came and found her and was swearing and throwing stones at the windows. Then they put her in a caravan with her four children. The terror that she went through hasn’t left her. She’s still not right from it now.

This is what people don’t understand. This is why we must concentrate and focus on these perpetrators.

Impact of watching porn

Ygerne: Thank you so much. We’ve got loads of positive comments coming in from the audience. Gratitude to you for your honesty and resilience.

Suzzan: Thank you. You’re so kind. I appreciate that. It’s worth the hard work.

It has been traumatising work, especially the pornography. For a year I’ve had to take a break because just watching it traumatised me and I was having other effects. For example, I would go to the shops or the post office and I would see different women, I would look at different women, young women, elderly women, all kinds of women and think about what genre they would be in. Every time.

If it’s done that to me, and, believe me I’m not masturbating to this material, I’m analysing crime scenes, because that’s what they are, what is it doing to young men in particular, who are masturbating to this kind of material? And then they’re out in the real world looking at women in the real world, what is it doing to them?

Ygerne: It’s terrifying.

Suzzan: It is and there’s so much to talk about.

I’ve researched serial killers and sexually motivated murders because most serial killers kill women. You can see the rise in serial killers, especially in America, since the early 70s, 80s, and 90s which coincided with the increase in violent pornography. You can see, it’s almost like an exact match.

And their prime motivation is fantasy. Sex offenders say that it’s all about the fantasy. Whatever they do, whether they look through a woman’s bedroom window or expose themselves or want to kidnap and rape and murder a woman, it’s all about the fantasy and this escalation.

What happens is, they start watching what they like to call vanilla porn, although there’s not much of that around anymore, I can tell you, except in gay porn. If you don’t want to see violence then watch gay porn.

They start with the vanilla and go on to harder and harder stuff, and then bestiality. And once they’ve covered everything, they can no longer become aroused and that is when they cross the line into real offending. And might actually film it and import it onto Pornhub.

I can’t tell you how dangerous it is and how many rapes there are a year and sexual assaults – but I bet you money they are rising and have been rising since pornography became so available on the internet.

Ygerne: We’ve run out of time now – so I just want to say, if anyone wants to find out more about Suzzan’s research, you can find it on her website, The Violence Pornography. If there are any parents that have been affected by topics we’ve talked about, we provide some links to some good resources below. Thank you for participating and all your questions.

And thank you, Suzzan, for passing on your wisdom. Good night, everyone, and thank you.


For the first part of Suzzan’s talk, which is about her life and extraordinary paintings, see: Suzzan Blac discusses her life, trauma, and extraordinary art.

Her book, ‘The Rebirth of Suzzan Blac’, is available on Amazon.

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Suzzan Blac discusses her life, trauma and extraordinary art

BY NMN

This is an edited transcript of the first part of Suzzan Blac’s talk at the ‘An evening with Suzzan Blac’ webinar we held in July 2021 and the related discussion with Ygerne Price-Davies. The transcript of the second part of the talk, which was about her research into pornography, is in a separate article. You can watch the recording of the whole talk on YouTube.

Introduction

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, sexual assaults, numerous rapes and sex trafficking.

This had been my life. My normal. So normal, that I didn’t even realise that I had been abused and been a victim for the majority of my childhood. I only began to acknowledge and understand this in my mid-twenties. I finally sought counselling when I was thirty-three years old.

Recovery was extremely traumatic and it took me more than twenty years to overcome the worst of it. One of the reasons it took so long to recover, was the victim blaming that many people inflicted upon me. In my experience, victim blaming is as painful and distressing as the abuse itself.

Between 2000 and 2004, in order to try and help myself, I decided to paint my story of abuse to help me process my pain, anger and trauma. I began by drawing subconscious doodles whilst watching TV, as I knew that these drawings had to come from deep inside of me and not my thoughts. I then turned the drawings into realistic paintings that depicted ‘me the victim’ and ‘the perpetrators’.

I was sometimes shocked by what I had painted, but I knew that they were my true feelings. I painted forty images over four years and I hid them away for over a decade, because they were for me alone, and not meant for anyone to see, especially knowing that I would be condemned if I showed them.

In 2011, I decided to put them online. I had other works out there, but I knew that ‘silence impairs the victims and empowers the perpetrators’. So I had to speak out by using my art, and although I had many people make hurtful comments, I had hundreds of survivors thanking me for giving them a voice.

I have also been training police and social workers in child sexual abuse (CSA), child sexual exploitation (CSE) and victim blaming since 2014.

I also paint about sexual objectification, sexual conditioning, pornography, prostitution and misogyny.

I am motivated by my pain, anger, injustice and indignation surrounding violence against women and girls (VAWG) and victim blaming.

I’m now going to show you twenty-four of my works with a very brief description of each one.

1. The trusted uncle

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The trusted uncle’. Oil on canvas.
The trusted uncle

This painting depicts my mother’s brother, who sexually abused me as a baby. I painted it like a ‘Happy family portrait’ to convey the lies and cover-ups of family members who knew that it was happening. It also conveys the horrific fact that babies are sexually abused and raped, especially since the invention of the internet and mobile phone cameras. I was actually told that ‘I was sick’ for painting this image.

2. One of mother’s boyfriends

Blac, Suzzan. ‘One of mother’s boyfriends’. Oil on canvas.
One of mother’s boyfriends

This painting depicts one of my mother’s boyfriends who sexually abused me from when I six to when I was eight years old. He was also extremely violent, and in this image I watched in horror as he beat my mother to a pulp. No child should ever have to witness such violence.

3. You’re such a good girl

Blac, Suzzan. ‘You’re such a good girl’. Oil on canvas.
You’re such a good girl

This was the first time that anyone had ever called me a ‘good girl’. He also told me that it was all my fault, because I was so ‘pretty’. Here, I am trying to express what sexual abuse was doing to me internally, whilst I remained frozen and detached throughout the abuse.

4. She likes it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘She likes it’. Oil on canvas.
She likes it

This image depicts the first-time my mother’s boyfriend sexually abused me in front of my mother, whilst she was at her dressing table. She turned around and asked why he was doing that, to which he replied, ‘Because she likes it’.

He laughed and said, ‘What’s the matter love, you jealous? There’s plenty to go around’.

I searched her face for a reaction, but all she did was ‘tut’ and resumed putting on her make-up. I knew then that it was not going to stop, that it was okay and was to become my ‘normal’.

5. Playtime

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Playtime’. Oil on canvas.
Playtime

This image depicts my childhood – although at the time, I didn’t feel like a child. I felt like an ‘Entity’ that existed, merely to survive every day, every hour, every minute. He destroyed my childhood and he destroyed my innocence. Still to this day, I get very emotional when I watch small children innocently play, because he took that from me and put me in the darkest of places.

After many years of sexual abuse from others, including those I had trusted, even a teacher, I became a teenager on a path of self-destruction. These next paintings depict the devastating consequences of my years of abuse.

6. Embracing death

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Embracing death’. Oil on canvas.
Embracing death

By the age of fourteen, I was regularly drinking, taking drugs, partying, being highly promiscuous and self-harming. I was called a slag, slut and a whore, and yes, I was.

One night, as I lay on the piss-flooded floor of a night club toilet, I felt like I was home. I was disgusting, vile and filthy and this is where I belonged. I was so intoxicated, that I thought I was going to die, and I embraced the thought, because I hated my life, I hated humans, and I hated myself.

7. Demonic whispers

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Demonic whispers’. Oil on canvas.
Demonic whispers

This painting depicts the time that I was sex trafficked when I was sixteen years old. This is a portrait of the man who threatened, hurt and (alongside others) repeatedly raped me. I had been taken to London under the pretence of ‘modelling’.

Locked inside a once former Victorian hotel with many other girls and women, we were forced into pornography and prostitution. This was a whole new level of abuse, terror and trauma, one that will always stay with me.

8. Tell me you love it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Tell me you love it’. Oil on canvas.
Tell me you love it

On the first night that this man abducted me, he led me to a room, told me to take off my clothes and viciously raped me. Whilst raping me, he forced me to repeatedly tell him that ‘I loved it’.

9. I’ve killed bitches before

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I’ve killed bitches before’. Oil on canvas.
I’ve killed bitches before

After raping me, he told me to get dressed, and as I did so – he grabbed me by my throat, shoved me against a wall and as he stuck a large knife underneath my rib-cage, he seethed into my ear, ‘I’ve killed bitches that misbehave before, so you need to think about that.’

My only thoughts were, ‘I’m only 16 and this is how I die’.

While I was still shaking in absolute terror, he withdrew the knife and laughed at me, saying, ‘You should see your face.’

This was pure sadism. I could never speak about how this affected me.

There are no words, and that’s why I had to express myself through my paintings.

10. Pornographic meat

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Pornographic meat’. Oil on canvas.
Pornographic meat

On the second day, along with other girls, I was forced into making pornography in a large room full of men. I had to completely detach; I became a ‘dead actress’, a ‘fleshed robot’ that obeyed their every command in absolute fear.

The other girls and I did not speak or even make eye contact. We were first made to watch films of the worst kind of pornography, including bestiality, sadism and child abuse. One man joked that he was going to get the popcorn.

When they began filming me, one of the men asked for ‘Butcher shots’ and I immediately turned inside out. I cried for me and I cried for the other girls, because we were no longer human beings, we were pieces of meat inside an abattoir.

11. Shut up and take it

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Shut up and take it’. Oil on canvas.
Shut up and take it

This image depicts one of the traffickers taking me back home. In a train toilet, he violently raped me – three times between London and Birmingham. As I whimpered, he shushed me, covered my mouth and told me, ‘This was part of the deal, so shut up and take it’.

He drove me back to my flat, asking many questions about my boyfriend and family. He then told me that I would be seeing him again soon.

12. The end of everything

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The end of everything’. Oil on canvas.
The end of everything

After I got home, I never told a soul about what had happened to me. I was still traumatised and knew that it was all my fault. I also was being terrorised by one of the traffickers. So I had to internalise all of that pain and fear.

After a while I deteriorated both mentally and physically. I cut all of my hair off, because I didn’t want to be pretty anymore. My weight dropped to six stone, I developed intestinal worms, severe cystitis, boils, chancres and weeping eczema that turned septic.

One night, I sat naked in the shower tray, and poured a bottle of red food colouring all over me. Rocking and crying that ‘I needed to die’.

13. The epitome of sorrow is to die alone

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The epitome of sorrow is to die alone’. Oil on canvas.
The epitome of sorrow is to die alone

This painting depicts one of my suicide attempts. I had taken all of my clothes off and laid down on my 9th floor balcony, one winters evening, after failing to jump off. I was hoping to die of hypothermia. As my face stuck to the icy concrete floor, hot tears ran down my freezing face as I thought how awfully sad it was to have to die alone.

I woke up at dawn. I slowly walked into my lounge which was like walking into a furnace and saw my reflection in a mirror. It was surreal, I looked like a wax model covered in blue and green veins. I just curled up into my bed, so sad that I wasn’t dead.

14. No one asked me why

Blac, Suzzan. ‘No one asked me why’. Oil on canvas.
No one asked me why

This image depicts the time I had my stomach pumped in a hospital after taking an overdose. After hostile staff discharged me, and as I walked away from the hospital, I began to cry – because not one person in there had asked me why I had done this to myself.

It was then I knew that even doctors and nurses never gave a shit about me, they didn’t care if I died, they just did their job.

15. I am a piece of shit

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I am a piece of shit’. Oil on canvas.
I am a piece of shit

This painting depicts how others made me feel, whenever I disclosed what had happened to me. I was condemned, isolated, abandoned and judged. Not believed, made to feel guilty, ashamed and that much of it was my own fault.

This is how many people make victims and survivors of sexual abuse feel. If someone says that they were robbed, mugged or beat-up, there is sympathy and empathy, but not if you are a victim of sexual abuse, you are literally treated like a piece of shit.

16. I’m fine thank you

Blac, Suzzan. ‘I’m fine thank you’. Oil on canvas.
I’m fine thank you

I painted this self-portrait to show how it felt, to constantly hide myself by wearing a mask for self-protection and social acceptance. People made me feel like an ‘outcast’. If I spoke out about the crimes committed against me as a child, I would be met with a wall of silence, made to feel uncomfortable, defective and dysfunctional.

No survivor of sexual abuse should have to hide their pain, anxiety and distress, in the fear of being re-victimised. No human being should ever have to feel what I have painted here.

Now I want to show you some of my other works, ones that I painted years after my story of abuse.

17. Your suffering is real

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Your suffering is real’. Oil on canvas.
Your suffering is real

I painted this image of myself to express and convey how severe, continuous sexual traumas impact your mental health, your body and your very soul.

Sexual violence is unlike any other kind of violence. It’s blackness creeps inside your every vein and permeates every organ until you emotionally shut down and are no longer the human being that you once were. Unable to speak of the horrors, you outwardly smile – whilst hiding the truth that you are internally destroyed.

18. The prostitutor

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The prostitutor’. Oil on canvas.
The prostitutor

This image represents the men who prey on vulnerable girls and women. They are the pimps and pornographers who target ‘bent but not broken girls’ in order to profit from their bodies. They are men on the streets, men online, sex traffickers, husbands, boyfriends and fathers.

The majority of these girls and women are victims of previous sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence, who have mental health issues and are often alcohol and drug dependant.

19. Let me entertain you

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Let me entertain you’. Oil on canvas.
Let me entertain you

This image depicts the sexual and physical violence now commonplace in mainstream pornography. Women are being humiliated, degraded, hog-tied, raped, punched, kicked, suffocated with plastic bags, strangled, tortured and even hanged.

This isn’t about sex; these are crimes committed against women. These videos are the stuff of serial killer fantasies. In fact, the only thing that they don’t do to women in mainstream pornography is kill them.

20. What women want

Blac, Suzzan. ‘What women want’. Oil on canvas.
What women want

Which brings me to this painting, which depicts a young boy watching this kind of sexual violence on his mobile phone.

For the first time in history, boys are viewing this horrific and hateful misogyny and violence against women, which has become so normalised that boys are completely desensitised. Many use pornography on their phones to sexually harass, intimidate and exert power over girls. Pornography alters and influences sexual behaviours and reinforces misogyny in young, malleable minds. This is why the government needs to implement age-verification now.

21. Blue Hair

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Blue hair’. Oil on canvas.
Blue Hair

This painting is one of a set of six images, named Abasement of dolls that depict issues that affect women and girls, such as sexual conditioning, sexual objectification and sexual exploitation. 

Right from birth, baby girls are objectified and conditioned with bows, ribbons, lace and frilly nappy pants. Toddlers wear sassy clothes, jewellery, heels and painted nails. Many little girls are only given ‘girly toys’: housework sets, make-up and hairstyle sets, etc. Girls are taught that only being attractive and pretty are valued, and this often stays with them.

Many teenage girls and women resort to extreme diets, Botox and cosmetic surgeries, because they don’t match up to the high standards of beauty.

22. Blonde girls

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Blonde girls’. Oil on canvas.
Blonde girls

Again, this is about the sexual objectification of little girls, in the media, film, dance studios and even by their own parents – for example, entering them into horrific ‘beauty pageants’ such as ‘toddlers and tiaras’ or buying Playboy merchandise for them. Incidentally, Playboy merchandise was sold to girls as young as eight in the high street.

23. Black Hair

Blac, Suzzan. ‘Black Hair’. Oil on canvas.
Black Hair

This painting depicts the young women who enter the porn industry, many because of mental health issues, oppressed religious backgrounds, suitcase pimps and coercive boyfriends. These are eighteen-year-olds – they are still kids! – who enter a world of grown adult men who love ‘fresh meat’.

Many pornographers make them appear even younger and then have them ‘punished’ and ‘destroyed’.

Many of these young women leave after a short period of time after being so traumatised, a trauma that continues, because their videos remain online indefinitely for all to see.

24. The life giver

Blac, Suzzan. ‘The life giver’. Oil on canvas.
The life giver

This painting represents sexism and misogyny. I portray a history of derogatory and sexist terms used to silence, erase, hurt, subordinate, humiliate, degrade, hate and punish women.

My point is that no one is morally or legally allowed to make racist, homophobic or transphobic slurs as they are deemed ‘hate crimes’ but you can call women anything you want, because misogyny is not deemed a hate crime.


The discussion

Ygerne: I just wanted to say thank you so much to Suzzan for such a powerful and moving talk. I personally find your work really significant. It’s very hard hitting and often can be quite disturbing, but I think that the depiction of such extreme experience and psychological trauma is pivotal because speaking with a lot of women who have experienced sexualized violence and sexism more widely that sharing stories especially in creative ways enables us to overcome misogyny together. So thank you for sharing your story with us.

Suzzan: You’re welcome.

Ygerne: In the past I’ve heard you say that understanding complex PTSD helped your recovery. Would you like to talk a bit more about that and how it’s helped you?

Suzzan: Absolutely. Recovery can take so long and it wasn’t until literally about five years ago that someone explained to me the concept of complex PTSD. I’m now 61 and I wish that someone had told me earlier in my life. That’s why it’s so important to talk about this.

Going through my teenage years and adult life, no matter how many times counsellors and therapists would say to me, it wasn’t your fault… I don’t mean just as a child, I mean as a teenager and a young woman because a couple of years after I was sex trafficked, I actually went back into pornography and prostitution. No matter how many times they said it wasn’t my fault, I still knew it was my fault. So I still had the shame, self-blame, the guilt, everything was still there, it remained.

And you can’t ever recover whilst you have those intense feelings inside of you. Then a few years ago I learned about complex PTSD which is different from ordinary PTSD. Ordinary PTSD occurs after a one-time event, say being held up at gunpoint. That actually happened to a friend of mine in Birmingham. Or like a serious car crash or something like that and afterwards you develop PTSD.

But, with complex PTSD you are traumatised over a long period of time, especially from childhood and the teenage years as in my case, as in many other women’s cases. You are constantly, repeatedly traumatised over years. For me it was every day or every other day for all those years.

Each time that you are traumatised you internalise that trauma and become detached – especially in sexual violence. Each time someone abuses you, you become detached and as in my case, completely detached, all through those years.

And so, you never really feel what’s happening to you, you never really feel that pain. All through my teenage and early adult years I was self-abusing because what you don’t ever want to do is feel that pain. So, you keep abusing yourself, in whatever way, drink, drugs, putting yourself in certain situations, like I did.

I would put myself into dangerous situations because I wanted to keep being abused or abusing myself so I would never have to feel it because it was too enormous. The enormity of it was too much – unlike someone who is suffering from PTSD from a one-time event – they can talk about it. If you were mugged or robbed or attacked physically, you can tell people. But, with sexual violence, you can’t. So that compounds it and you have all these extra symptoms because you cannot talk about it.

Once I understood that, I could understand that it was not my fault. In the end I understood completely why I carried on abusing myself. I wanted to relay that to other people because it took so long for me to understand it.

Ygerne: You mentioned victim blaming and how that made it so much harder for you.

Suzzan: Exactly! You don’t get victim blamed if you are mugged. They don’t say, you shouldn’t have worn that jewellery or you shouldn’t have carried money with you. Nobody says that.

But, if you are raped, especially young girls, around 14 and upwards, it’s what was she wearing? How much was she drinking? And they don’t ask such questions to elderly ladies who are raped.

There’s so much victim blaming of young women and it compounds the recovery. That’s another reason you don’t want to talk about it because people are really cruel. In my book I talk about the many times that I suffered victim blaming. This is something we need to address; we need to address this because it is only young girls and women who are targeted, nobody else.

Ygerne: It’s re-traumatising all over again and it comes from this hatred for women, doesn’t it?

Suzzan: Absolutely. Misogyny plays a large part in all of this.

Ygerne: OK, so we’ve had a question that came through from the audience. She says: are you married to a man and if so, how were you able to trust him or anyone? How were you able to move past the hatred of people?

Suzzan: I never wanted to have a relationship when I was a young woman. I never trusted anybody. How could I? So, I would just go out with someone and you know, whatever. I never wanted to get close to anybody or have anyone close to me.

And I never wanted children, either. I’ve been asked quite a few times by people whether it was because I was worried I would abuse them. And I would say no it wasn’t that. It was because I didn’t want to bring them into this evil world.

But I met my children’s father and I found myself getting close to him and I didn’t want to. I don’t think I’ve ever really trusted him and I had good reason not to. We ended up going through hell.

I even went to the women’s hospital because, like I said before, I thought I was mentally ill. At that time I didn’t know that I had been abused. People find that hard to believe, but I thought I was just a looney. That’s what I thought. That I was a looney who took drugs, drank, and had a good time and hated the world. I thought I was mental. We went through quite a difficult period.

I was on the pill from when I was 13 years old, and I went to the doctor because I had severe migraines. He told me to come off the pill and as soon as I did, I got pregnant, which was a big shock. And that’s a whole other story – of how an abused person feels when they have a child.

We did divorce years later. And I’ve only had one relationship since then. I haven’t had one now since 2017. I’d rather just not.

It not just relationships that I find hard, it’s friendships, it’s work colleagues. Because, being abused affects every aspect of your life. Say something comes up in a work situation – for example, Mother’s Day and you’re asked about your mother. I would often say that she’s dead. She’s not, but I would say she was. I couldn’t talk about her because I stopped seeing her when I was in my early 30’s and I’ve never seen her since and I don’t want to see her.

So, it’s things like that, things that come up all the time. It’s very difficult. So, I would rather be alone, I’d rather just write and go for walks and just be by myself these days, with my cat, I love my cat. And, of course, I’ve got my two beautiful grownup children and a granddaughter. And I’m happy with that, but it’s been very difficult to trust. It’s hard to trust people.

Ygerne: That’s understandable.

Suzzan: It is, because I’ve even been abused by doctors – when I was in my early 20s. I went to a place for help to get into work. One of the lecturers started abusing me there and I went to the on-site doctor and he closed the blinds and started abusing me too. So, all my life, up to a certain point – after having children and counselling, everything changed. But, before I had children, I was constantly, constantly abused.

And as I said, you just detach.

I didn’t know I had an inkling about being abused when I was in my mid to late 20s. Having my daughter was the catalyst to my recovery because I understood at that moment when she was born what it should be… How the protection and love that you have for a child, for a baby, for your baby, was so intense and everything kind of changed from that moment.

Ygerne: That’s a moment of hope.

Suzzan: Oh, absolutely. But it was so hard because even when I had children I had so many difficult times and even when I was in therapy. When I was 33, I’d had my second child, my son and suddenly social workers got involved because they knew I was in therapy for my own abuse and I had a lot of abuse from them. It just went on and on. It was absolutely awful, never ending.

Ygerne: It was the blaming again, wasn’t it?

Suzzan: Instant victim blaming, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I know things have improved, but they’re not good enough, especially when it comes to young women.

Ygerne: There’s definitely a long way to go. We have to keep fighting.

Suzzan: We do, absolutely. And all of us can impart the knowledge and understanding to younger women that I didn’t get, and that’s why I do what I do.

Ygerne: Thank you Suzzan. Thank you so much, it’s been amazing to have you.

Suzzan: You’re welcome. And thank you to everybody who watched. I wouldn’t say it’s been fun, but this stuff needs to be out there and women, especially younger women, need to understand more from us older ones.


The Rebirth of Suzzan Blac: book cover

If you want to see more of Suzzan’s paintings, you can go onto her art website.

She has also written a book about her life called ‘The Rebirth of Suzzan Blac’ which is available on Amazon.

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The second part of Suzzan’s talk, which is about her research into pornography, is available here.

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Why You Should Document Abuse

Your records may be allowed as evidence in court
Jun 08, 2015 By DomesticShelters.org

Keeping a diary of domestic violence incidents—both physical and non-physical—may seem like the last type of record a survivor would like to collect. The truth is, this type of documentation can be an integral part of your case when it comes time to file charges, file for divorce or file for custody of your children.

According to WomensLaw.org, each state has its own laws about what evidence is permissible in court. It’s best to talk to an attorney or legal advocate prior to your court hearing to learn more about your state’s laws. In the meantime, recording and gathering the following types of documentation can benefit you:

  • Verbal accounts of the abuse from you and any witnesses. This can include not only physical abuse, but also verbal abuse, stalking, or financial, reproductive or spiritual abuse. Ask these witnesses if they would testify on your behalf in court. You can subpoena a witness, which will force them to appear in court. Visit Womenslaw.org for more information on this process.
  • Medical reports of injuries from the abuse. Ask your doctor about safe ways they can make notes about this abuse, advises The National Domestic Violence Hotline. For example, some can write “cause of injury” on your medical records, without the report having to go to the police.
  • Pictures of any injuries from the abuse, documented with the date the photo was taken.
  • Police reports from when you or any witness called the police.
  • Objects in your home broken by the abuser.
  • Photos showing your home in disarray after a violent episode.
  • Pictures of weapons used by the abuser to harm or threaten you.
  • A personal diary or calendar in which you documented the abuse as it happened. This could also include a stalking log. The National Center for Victims of Crime shows an example stalking log here.
  • Digital evidence. Let your abuser’s or stalker’s threatening calls go to voicemail, and then save those voicemails. Save emails, threatening texts, screenshots of 30 missed calls in a row, etc.

Finally, make sure the place in which you to choose to save these items is a safe one. Don’t keep this evidence in the same home you share with your abuser. Keep it at a friend’s or family member’s house, in a safe deposit box or at your place of employment.

And, advises The Hotline, listen to your gut—if it’s not the right time to compile this evidence because your safety will be at risk, hold off. Know that what’s safe for one person, may not be safe for you. 

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