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Response to Jeroen & Bob (RopeMarks)

Since Jeroen van der Klis of BizarreDesign and Bob Roos (not his real last name) of the RopeMarks brand have written about me on Facebook, I feel it’s time for me to write about my side of the story.

(Scroll down to read Jeroen & Bob’s texts about me and other additional information)

Jeroen I want to let you know that it isn’t personal that I’ve requested content removal. We always had friendly communication in the past. I’ve send you an email in which I’ve asked for all content depicting me to be removed from your websites and social media accounts, just like I have asked other people the same question. Me-Chiel, Kaskuyken and CarmineWorx have all removed the content immediately after I’ve asked them, they all worked with me to remove the content from their websites and social media accounts, without any problems.

After your first reply to my email you haven’t responded anymore, which ended the conversation about the content removal, even though I’ve asked you via email to remove the content again and again. Since you didn’t respond to my emails I’ve asked you to remove the content on Twitter by writing a comment under each tweet depicting me (Just like I have asked other accounts who share content depicting me to remove their tweets), which you have also ignored. That is why I started the process of reporting all tweets depicting me or referring to me. Which eventually led to Twitter blocking your account.

It’s important that you understand that there is not much else that I can do when an uploader refuses to remove the content. The only thing that is left for me to do is to report the content. Content that is online without my consent from the moment I first requested content removal by email or otherwise. After this request has been received and responded to, the uploader is aware that I have withdrawn my consent and therefore the content that is still on the internet is shared without my consent. The other option for me is to contact my lawyer which isn’t something that I want to do if I don’t think it is necessary.

Bob/RopeMarks, you write that there is a lot wrong with me, “more than I have let on to show”, you say that I am “too chicken” to confront my “collaborators” yet as you can see in my previous message to Jeroen is that I have contacted many people that I’ve “collaborated” with.

You say that there is a lot wrong with me, more than you thought at first, which shows that you were aware that I have had problems already when we first started collaborating. Before we made content together I have already been through some very harmfull events in my life and I was already in contact with people who have mislead me for years and who have turned out the be very harmfull to me during the time that we were “collaborating”. Results of these harmfull events were visible as seen in the scars on my body, they were visible to you and anyone else I’ve worked with and everyone who has seen the content that we have made. At the time I wasn’t aware of the way some of these people have negatively influenced me and I wasn’t aware of how far their abuse would go but I am fully aware of what has happened now.

All the signs of abuse were already there when we first started collaborating, yet you offered me a contract which basically stated that I give up my rights to you and to use the content for commerial purposes, without any financial compensation. During the time that we collaborated I believed that we were friends and we never spoke about the contract again. Making content for free for one or a few times doesn’t really strike me as odd but we have made a large amount of content, “as friends” content which you have been able to make money off for many years. The contract has many contradictons and doesn’t seem to be a legally binding document. I’ve also had contracts with some other producers who have removed the content depicting me after my request.

You were aware that I have wanted to build my own website from the beginning, in order to have more autonomity. I’ve come across a few people who have wanted to “help” me build my website but I sensed that they wanted to exploit me in some way. During the beginning of the covid era you offered to “help” me with my website as a friend and I accepted and trusted you. Just like I trusted you when making the extreme content that we did.

The result of this “help” was a website that, before anything else, had banners on it to all your websites. You made a website that was basically an extention of your RopeMarks websites. In the stories you have written about me on your websites and social media accounts you have refered to me as the RopeMarks house slave or other similar terms. As if Arienh was an extension of your brand. While my reason for having my own website was being able to do what I wanted with my stage name, you knew this. From the moment you started to “help” me you have made it seem like having a website was very difficult, you would help me with this, “as a friend”, the website would be on your server. You basically controlled the whole website instead of me. Yes you paid me a few hundred euros over the years when some content was sold but you never gave me full transparancy of the websites finances. You said you would “help” me but I have had no autonomy or control over www.arienh.com whatsoever.

My request to you, to remove the content we made, was different than the way I approached other people. This is because I’ve began with a request to you, to take down the website www.arienh.com on December the 20th, 2021. Which on January the 20th , 2022 you redirected to a page on Clipspool.com. (Now I know you have a clipspool account as well), then on 21st of January you redirected www.arienh.com to your website. Which I at first agreed to because I believed I had no other options. This all was way before I contacted anyone else about the removal of content depicting me. Since December the 20th, 2021 you have never once asked me, or anyone contacting you in my name, what had actually happened to me. You asked how I am doing but you haven’t asked why I left the scene or anything like that. You also wrote that I was “passive aggressive”, while I was being formal and straight to the point, which I had to be to get my point across.

In our whatsapp conversation at the time I can read that you have said that you can’t and won’t give me full transparancy of www.arienh.com ’s finances (you send me a few screenshots instead), you also wrote many reasons why you couldn’t transfer the domain yet. By then it was already May 2022. I’ve repeatedly said that it is possible to transfer a domain to someone else at any time, you said I had to wait for the domain to reach the end of the contract date, which as I could read on the internet wasn’t necessary and multiple real friends have adviced me on this matter as well. And it turned out that it wasn’t necessary at all when you finally transferred www.arienh.com to me on July the 10th, 2022, more than 7 months after my first message to you about www.arienh.com. I have downloaded our full whatsapp conversation, so I can read the exact dates.

Since I’ve gained control over my own website and with everything I had to do to gain control over my own domain in mind, I have created a website with the purpose of telling a bit of my story. Which I probably would not have done if I didn’t feel mistreated by some of the people that I have “collaborated” with. Nothing on my website relates directly to you or your brand, however it does now.

After the whatsapp conversation about www.arienh.com I’ve asked help from a lawyer to get the content depicting me removed from your websites and social media accounts, because I was sure you wouldn’t agree with removing the content if I requested this by myself. The situation concerning www.arienh.com has shown me that your main interest is making money off of the content and by doing so of off me and other women who have never asked you for any financial compensation in return.

I know you haven’t paid other models because you told me many times while “collaborating” that paying the models is not something that you do. I accepted this at the time believing we were friends. Knowing that a friend would remove anything refering to me from the internet if I’d ask them, I do not consider you my friend anymore nor do I see our previous relations as friendship. Seeing you as my friend so far has been a “misinterpretation of reality’’ indeed.

The only time when I have received some money from our collaboration, other than the few hundred euros I’ve earned from www.arienh.com over the years, was when we went to do a show at the tattoo convention in Germany, both of us received financial compensation for doing the show “@tattooconventionnewgeneration on Facebook”, October the 6th, 2019. During this show you hit me with a wooden cane while being completely suspended “for the show effect”, multiple times on the same spot and so hard that it left a permanent dent in my left upper leg. I’ve told you about this but you never once said that this was something you shouldn’t have done. In my opinion, hitting a dent is someone’s leg isn’t something you do just because you want to give a crowd something spectacular to see. I’m not saying that you did this on purpose but you never once said you might have made a mistake there, even though we were “friends”. I mentioned the dent in my leg to you once when Jeroen was present, we were at his atelier. I’ve send you the photos of the dent in my leg via Whatsapp as well and you acknowledged it was visible. I’d rather not have had the money, nor the dent in my leg.

My partner has requested “@tattooconventionnewgeneration on Facebook” to remove the photos they share from the show from Facebook. You haven’t removed the links to the redirection to these photos, that you shared from their Facebook account either. At first they were very understanding but somehow the photos are still online and there hasn’t been a response from the tattoo convention anymore.

My lawyer has contacted you about removing all content depicting me, as well as the stories you’ve made up about me. She contacted you on November the 15th, 2022. What you did was remove the content from your websites. Make your social media accounts private – the content depicting me is still online on these platforms, except Twitter.

You also didn’t contact SMRevenue/Shopmaker to end the affiliate programs with third parties who showed content depicting me that was shared from your websites. You even wrote to my lawyer that you don’t have control over what third parties are sharing on their websites. When I send an email to these websites to remove the content, they often say I have to contact you, Bob, if I want the content removed. Which I already have requested through my lawyer. However some websites actually do remove the content, when I ask them. I’ve been working on getting the content removed for the past year, something which you could’ve done in days. I’ve learned that it doesn’t take long for content to disappear from the internet, even though you have claimed in an email to my lawyer that it can take a long time for content to disappear because of my search engines cache. Which also isn’t true, because a removed image will change into an icon saying “this image has been removed”, or a variation of this, which will be gone in about a week after content has been removed.

You are aware that I have been raped, that I have been violated and that the videos of this experience have been shared all over the internet, yet you share my real name on social media, by doing so you are putting me in danger. Since you haven’t asked what has happened to me you aren’t aware what my concerns are based upon, nor if my behaviour is a healthy response to the situation I am in or not. At this time I am not at liberty to disclose the full extent of the situation but you are able to read enough about the matter on my website www.arienh.com just like anyone else, to understand that my behaviour of the last 1,5 years doesn’t spring out of nowhere. Since you are not a licensed psychiatrist I also advice you not to make assumptions about another person’s mental health. I also want you to know that I am the driving force behind all my interactions and those send in my name and that I have a large support system standing by me, privately and professionally.

I’ve preferred to have kept our communication private through my lawyer but since you’ve made claims about me so openly on Facebook I feel obligated to share my side of the story, which I have tried to avoid. It came to my attention that this isn’t the first dispute you have had with a former “model” that you have openly communicated about online. As you know, my lawyer has requested removal of all content depicting me as well as all other references to me, “Arienh”. Afterwards ending all communication. We can make this a slow process or just get it over with.

Kind regards,

Arienh Autumn

Emails with Jeroen and comment I wrote to Jeroen on Twitter.

Facebook message posted by Jeroen:

Facebook comment written by Bob, RopeMarks:

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BDSM Normalized Abuse In My Last Relationship. What I Wish Every Woman Would Know

by peaceful dumpling, February 7, 2022

I had never strayed far from a “vanilla” sex life until my ex-boyfriend slapped me in the face during a kiss. This was very early on in the relationship. I did not see it for the bright red flag it was. I balked, mouth agape and asked him, “What the hell was that?!” He simply told me “I thought you’d like it,” as if it was something so common it didn’t even cross his mind to ask.

Even though the slap was an unwelcome and unexpected intrusion, I brushed it off. The friend who introduced me to him told me he was into some kinky stuff, describing him as reminiscent of the man from 50 Shades of Grey. I ignored the violation. Maybe he was used to women who did that sort of stuff. We continued seeing each other, and he didn’t slap me again. At least, not until after he’d systematically groomed me into accepting it.

abuse

Now I understand the initial boundary violation for what it was: a test. He wanted to know what he could get away with. At first I had a strong reaction to physical abuse. However, he slowly broke down my boundaries, becoming increasingly violent and verbally abusive during sex.

Throughout the relationship he subtly emotionally abused me outside the bedroom, and outright physically assaulted me—but “only” during sex. It took me nearly two years to extricate myself from an extremely abusive relationship. I wholeheartedly believe I would have been able to clearly see the abuse, if not for the normalization of many of his behaviors by pornography.

I began to be disturbed by the things he said during sex. He called me a stupid sl*t, worthless, a slave. There was genuine hatred in his eyes when he strangled and hit me. If I brought up my discomfort with the things he said during sex, he casually brushed it off, saying it was “just sex, it doesn’t mean anything.” His excuse that he didn’t mean anything during sex seems to be fairly common among men.

It was as though he had two distinct personalities.

Immediately after sex he became a caring and loving partner. He would get me water, hold me, and act as though he hadn’t strangled me and told me he wanted to kill me. Within the BDSM community, this is known as “aftercare,” but I believe it is a form of trauma bonding. Trauma bonding is a psychological term for a deep connection with one’s abuser, especially when the abuse occurs as a cycle: periods of abuse and periods of regret or “fixed” behavior.

Outside the bedroom, we had a “normal” relationship. We went on romantic dates, hiking trips, adventured, made plans to go skydiving, and had regular board game nights with friends. When I got sick he took care of me. We were outwardly a happy couple. My family liked him, and my uncle even told me I should marry the guy. Nobody knew I’d tried leaving him twice, and he’d followed me in his car while I tried to find somewhere to hide. Nobody knew he’d held me down in our shared home and wouldn’t let me out the door until I threatened to scream. Nobody knew the police had been called by a good Samaritan after he wouldn’t stop following me. He ended up taking my dog so I’d have to go back to his place. I couldn’t leave. There was no way out, nowhere to go where I’d be safe. I couldn’t tell anyone. I stayed.

I remember the look on his face after he anally raped me. I was bleeding. Wide eyed, he profusely apologized. He claimed he didn’t think it hurt me—even though I had repeatedly cried “Stop!”

He hadn’t stopped. He promised me he wouldn’t do it again (he lied). There were tears in his eyes. I forgave him. I knew it was no accident but I couldn’t bring myself to face the fact that my partner raped me. It was easier to ignore the truth. He got carried away. It was an accident.

He loves me, he’s sorry.

The sexual and emotional abuse took a toll. I became depressed and withdrawn. When I mentioned I’d like to go back to university to finish my degree, he asked me, “Are you sure you can do it? I think it’ll just be a waste of money.” Maybe I really was too stupid. Worthless. I didn’t apply.

I made friends with a woman I worked with. My abuser didn’t like her, and would have panic attacks when I’d make plans to see her. He went out of town one weekend and I took the opportunity to meet up with my friend. After a few drinks I started crying. I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

I told her everything. He showed up at her house that night, stood outside her window and listened to us talk. I don’t know how long he watched us, but when we spotted him outside a jolt of fear ran down my spine. My friend’s male roommate forced him to leave. The woman I’d only known tangentially opened her home to me. She let me stay until I was able to move as far as possible from my abuser. I owe her my life and freedom.

After I left him I wrote about the harassment, emotional abuse, and coercive control I’d survived. He was calling me at least 30 times a day, texting incessantly. He called my own mother multiple times to tell her how “crazy” I was for leaving him after I blocked him. He got new numbers and continued to harass me. One of my close friends (ironically the woman who introduced us) refused to believe me because “he’s a great guy, you’re blowing this all out of proportion.” Public shame didn’t deter him from attempting to contact me. He claimed repeatedly he was moving across the country to be with me. Only after I threatened him with a restraining order did he stop contacting me. He was terrified of law enforcement, and cleverly hid his abuse within acceptable confines to escape legal consequences.

BDSM acts as a magnet for abusers. It’s an easy out, when your partner “consents” to being harmed. Even those who aren’t abusive may become desensitized to extremely abusive acts common in porn. Children are being exposed to porn, and internalizing what they see. Younger and younger girls are expected to accept violence during sex. Teen Vogue has written articles grooming young girls to accept BDSM, strangulation, and anal sex—so long as it’s “consensual.” Can one truly consent to an act that is expected as part of “normal” sex?

There have been cases of women being strangled to death during sex and men getting a slap on the wrist for it, because the woman “consented.” We Can’t Consent to This is a website dedicated to fighting the “rough sex” excuse, listing the stories of numerous dead women in the U.K. murdered by their partners. Most of the women listed were strangled to death by their male partner. According to Family Justice Center, “People who have been strangled are 7 times more likely to be killed by their intimate partner (past or present).”

Many people within the BDSM community claim strangulation is “safe,” and there is a correct way to safely cut blood flow to the brain. Women’s Health Magazine wrote an article describing “choking” (choking is a misnomer; strangulation is the proper term) as a thrilling and exciting way to spice up one’s sex life. Strangulation is posed as harmless fun.

But the truth is, there is no way to safely strangle someone.

Dr Helen Bichard of North Wales Brain Injury Service and The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust says of strangulation (also known as erotic asphyxiation): “I am extremely concerned by the cultural normalization of strangulation. Erotic asphyxiation should be as much of an oxymoron as erotic brain damage, because brain damage is the potential result. Much of the online advice is misguided; some of it is fatally wrong. When you compress the carotid artery you cut off oxygenated blood flow to the brain, and the brain therefore cannot function properly. Consciousness can be lost in as little as four seconds—a sign that the brain is being compromised. Any pressure to the artery can lead to dissection, in which blood clots can form and cause stroke, sometimes delayed by weeks.”

I’m sure there are those who will claim my ex wasn’t actually into BDSM, since he didn’t seem to care about consent. I may even be called a “kink shamer” for critiquing BDSM and its ability to disguise abuse. I’m not interested in shaming anyone.

I’d like to understand why “kink” is something that cannot be criticized or questioned, especially when the BDSM community is rife with abusers and women with stories like mine.

Why must we unquestioningly accept the hordes of men chomping at the bit to physically and sexually abuse women under the guise of “kink”? Obviously consent is an important issue but we can’t overlook the fact that the abuse of women is considered sexually rewarding to men. Can abuse truly be consented to, so long as it is relegated to the bedroom, or are we as a society playing with fire by normalizing the brutalization of women during sex?

It’s been years since I left him. I still have nightmares of being trapped in that house, that relationship. Now, I’m in a healthy relationship with a man who has never even raised his voice at me. Even so, I still have flashbacks to the terrorizing vulnerability I felt. The echoes of sexual abuse haunt me when my current partner tenderly caresses my neck in intimate moments. A flash of terror courses through me, despite the loveliness of the moment.

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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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