Monday, February 23, 2015

On Shadows and Shades

You saw it all over the place in the past months. People going back and forth on #pullingbacktheshades versus those who really cannot see 50 Shades of Grey for what it is - a book glorifying relationship violence and a controversial "lifestyle." I read a lot of these posts and their comments, shared a few, prayed a lot for the hearts of women and men to be protected if they did read the book or saw the movie. I heard of people coming out of the film almost in shock at the violence. Honestly, if it wasn't a rich person doing those acts, would people still be praising the story?

Time to get a bit personal. Eleven years ago I went through a divorce. I had been married for 3.5 years to a man I had been a relationship with for two years before that. While I knew he had bad traits and that I was "settling" and thinking he could improve, I was very... very wrong. Within 9 months he had me lying to everyone about what happened in that house, finances, with friends, all of it. He was a master of manipulation and knew just how to get me to return to him when I'd try to back away. When his "brother" moved in, I was already under the strain of the verbal and emotional abuse. He brought drugs into the house and I nearly lost my job and teaching license over it. Not that I could do anything about it, as he was already angry because I had been on antibiotics (making birth control less effective), he had assaulted me in a drug and alcohol filled moment, and I had become pregnant. Thankfully, I miscarried two weeks after we found out.  When I stood up for myself and spoke back to him about the drugs, I spent three days locked in a room. My best friend flew out to Colorado right afterward and spent eight days pointing out all he was saying and doing. The blinders came off on day three. I left him four days after she went back to NJ.But it left me with flashbacks, nightmares of what he had done to me, the feeling that I had failed because I couldn't "fix" him- all of it...even though I had fledgling independence now. I submerged myself into music and books... unhealthy books at that. A year later, we moved back to the east coast. I was living in a camper on my brothers' property and had started through the Chronicles of Narnia and then the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. When I returned to my fantasy series, something snapped in my mind. I started to feel horrible, like my mind had been run through a mud puddle. I couldn't get scenes out of my head. Right then and there, I put the books down and never picked them back up again.

Fast forward to now. Much as I want to avoid the topic, the storm surrounding the release of the movie was in overdrive. Battle lines had been drawn for the minds and souls of women and men. It is kind of scary that, out here by UVA, we are in the middle of a storm over rape and the mistreatment of young women... yet there they are filling their minds with the most unhealthy concepts. I read one article where the woman went through the book, a woman with a story like mine, and found 50 scenes of abuse - all before she made it midway through the second book. She posted the sentences and surroundings. Just that article was enough to start the flashbacks over again. The scenes she posted burned into my mind and went on repeat. Reading the comments to her article, hundreds of women felt the same way.

It seeps into everything, you know? Everything. I am a gamer and I work very very hard to keep my guildmates safe. They chose me to be their leader. They entrust me with the stories and boundaries and I do all I can to not betray them. But this kind of evil runs far and wide.  Let me set the stage: A young woman in a complicated relationship and a complex friendship has a visitor to where she lives. This visitor is a former instructor from when she was at a university. She trusts this woman, has listened to her in the past and knows the instructor cares about her. However, as they talk and the young woman tells her elder about her situation, the elder starts to make comments about darker ways to take control. She asks if sexually explicit actions have ever been taken, then says it is a shame and she was missing out on so much. The young woman isn't even sexually active with the two people she is discussing - but that doesn't seem to matter. The elder feels she needs to learn how to be more of a leader, to be more dominant and she knows just the way to do so. She encourages the young woman to stay near her for a time and "learn."  Do you see where this is going? Right there, over the weekend, concepts which were in that book (bdsm) was spewed across digital text inside the safe environment I had worked so hard to build. Those two who were in this complex situation saw it, were in bits of the conversation, and we were shocked. Nothing is sacred. I had to dig in my heels, put the story on pause, and verbally make my point very very clear that this was forbidden. Oh, I was accused of so much... especially of not being "tolerant" or "open-minded." My guildmates were in shock over the whole thing. One became angry at me for salvaging the scene by using something the person said, in a different context, as a way to divert the conversation. Me? It did the same as before, just those concepts the elder brought forward to my young woman, the violence to "teach how to be dominant" burned into my mind. I shuddered.

How can we, Christian or not, keep ourselves - and those we hold dear - from abuse, being stalked, coerced to do what we don't want to if we keep glorifying it? How do you clear your mind after being exposed to something that makes you want to vomit? How can you undo damage after it has invaded a safe place you worked so hard to build? It is very hard, as I am learning.

#pullingbacktheshades, #roleplaysafety, #shadesofabuse,