The Line Between BDSM and Emotional Abuse

For this reader, the line was difficult to see at first:

Thank you to Olga for publishing her compelling article on emotional abuse. Normally I would post a Facebook comment to convey my appreciation for a great article, but much like the woman in the story, I am not keen on having my own struggles go fully public. Also much like Lauren, I’m an alumna of an Ivy League university, I grew up with parents who have been happily married for 30+ years (they are still married and in love with each other), and I could not see from the inside that my last relationship was abusive.

I was completely in love with my ex, who is an active-duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard. My own career is in animal rights. I have a master’s degree and spend my days investigating cruelty to animals, doing research and writing as well as handling animals directly in an office that doubles as a shelter. Most of the animals who come to our shelter have been abused by awful humans.

My ex has been a vegetarian for several years and acts compassionately toward animals and humans. He is exceedingly liberal, leaning toward socialist. He’s been a Coastie for nearly 20 years and looks fantastic in the uniform, he’s in charge of maybe a dozen people on board his (relatively small) ship, and he loves the search-and-rescue aspect of his job. How could I have possibly found the one member of the military whose philosophies and ethics align so closely with mine? Dream come true!

When I first met him, I was over the moon, and he apparently was, too. Things moved so quickly that within a month or two, we were discussing moving in together. I was dealing with PTSD that came from a violent rape two years before we met, and I had a few physical triggers that would send me into hour-long panic attacks. He was patient with me, telling me he wanted to help me heal and recover from the PTSD.

We are both into the BDSM lifestyle, and he was both my boyfriend and my Dom. He would test my limits, and I would tell him “please don’t do this without verbally warning me beforehand.” He would abide by that for a while until he “forgot” and did it again without the verbal warning we’d agreed was necessary.