So the horrifying story of the Cleveland kidnaps are beginning to come to light and the wearying, oh so predictable scenario of how it was possible for 3 men to keep prisoner and abuse 3 women and a child for over a decade with no-one noticing, is also coming to light.
The Cleveland police have been criticised for not taking seriously phone calls from neighbours who noticed young women in the garden on dog-leashes and phoned to report. It seems that putting a woman on a dog leash and walking her round the garden is not worthy of police attention.
On one level, the people who are into BDSM and tell the rest of us we’re boring vanillas because we’re not, have a point; if people are going about their lawful business engaging in consensual abusive behaviour, then it isn’t the business of the police.
What is disturbing however, is that the default mode of the police was to accept that whatever was happening, must be consensual and therefore not worthy of further investigation.
Is it really too much to ask that the cultural mainstreaming of the eroticisation of violence against women, should not be accepted by the police as being the default mode of relationships between men and women and therefore not worthy of even the most box-ticking of questions in case there is a crime going on?
Should the default not be for the people who are supposed to enforce law and order, to assume something untoward in this scenario unless they are told by the potential victim (in a safe space, away from the potential abuser) that it’s all consensual and everything is OK so they can put their clipboards away and go on back to their police station?
It occurred to me while reading about this crime, that one of the reasons to resist the mainstreaming of BDSM (among others) is that if it is so mainstream that the police assume that every report of violence against women is simply kink spilling out of the bedroom into the garden, then the world becomes a more unsafe place for women than it already is – and it’s already dangerous enough for us. This isn’t a post urging everyone to give up kink immediately if that’s what they’re into; just pointing out that it’s one more source of danger for women if we accept it as normal and assume abuse is consensual when we see it.
That’s apart from the fact that the police received other calls which indicated that there may be some domestic violence going on in that house and ignored them because DV is simply so normal.
When it comes down to it, the three kidnapped women remained captives for so long, because of the cultural acceptance and support of male violence. Neighbours would have been more curious, police would have taken calls seriously, Amanda, Gina and Michelle would have been free a long time ago, if we didn’t accept male violence against women as being normal enough for the police not to need to even check it out.