CW: trauma, police, cells, mentions of Consent violations

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7.38am on Monday 30th January a police officer walked into my bedroom, waking me. I was sleeping naked. She stated that she was arresting me on suspicion of harassment and malicious communications. She stayed there as I dressed. Grabbed my phone off me as I picked it up. Watched me as I went to the went to the toilet.

All this as 4 other police officers wandered around my house. I was barely awake and thankfully I am blasé about nakedness around people but Lord, it took me off kilter and I did not enjoy the experience not one little bit.

I kept as calm as I could, my reaction in all crises and I spoke briefly to my panicked husband, I had an idea why this was happening and wanted to do what I could to ally his fears. I was at that point expecting to spend a while at the local police station, answer some questions and come home. It was a lot later that the words ‘arrested’ really sunk in.

I saw one police officer talking to my hubby, another grabbing my laptop. I was taken out into the street, patted down and put in the back of a big ol van. I was completely surrounded by police. It was surreal. It was scary. Why did they need a gang of police to get me? I needed a hand to get up into the van. I clasped on to my inhaler. I’d not taken my morning medications as I had no real idea how long things would take. I was befuddled and confused, tired and out of spoons. I’d been at Kage the day before. I was physically and mentally drained from the moment I woke.

I was driven over to Bury police station. A good way from my home. Wearing randomly thrown together clothes –I’d not even put on a bra- and with my hair unbrushed. I couldn’t understand why all this was happening to me.  I had a vague idea but it seemed quite out of proportion for something I thought had been resolved with a phone call some months before.

I ended up in a cell. Hours went by, not that I really had any idea of time. I was taken and questioned, after speaking to a solicitor and with him present and repeated what I’d said before.

More time in a cell and finally, 9 hours later, I headed home to my distraught husband and non-binary son. No bail conditions, just waiting on what they’d find on my phone and my laptop.

So last summer sometime I was contacted by someone who had a friend who had concerns about an individual who had been to my events. Often it’s a friend who contacts me about these things first. The person involved contacted me a little later and told me some things about an attendee of my events that were very concerning. In following days more people contacted me about the same person. I took the decision to ban him. I contacted other event leaders too with a heads up that I’d banned this individual and why.

It was pretty immediate that I got backlash from this man for the action I’d taken. I was trying to give him a chance to tell me his side of things, all I got was anger and threats. He never once told me his side of things. Not once. In the end I blocked him. He was making me feel unsafe.

It was a few months later I was contacted by a police detective who wanted to talk to me about a complaint she’d received about me. I told her what had happened, why I’d taken the course of action I had and also mentioned the messages I’d gotten from the person I’d banned after that. I was told that she was satisfied with what I’d said and nothing more would be done. I was also advised to block the guy and get in touch if I got any further unwanted communication from him.

Life went on and I had very much put all this behind me when I was arrested. Arrested. I had no food all day (despite asking 3 times), I’d not had my medications (I didn’t think to insist on them. I was not awake and in shock) and was in a room with my thoughts (and for a long while, not even a toilet) for hours trying to work out how the fuck I’d ended up there and worrying about my husband and son back home, completely in the dark. I worried I might lose my job as I was expected at an important skype meeting about it that morning and I was concerned for my fellow arrested event leader. My mental state was not great, which won’t surprise you, and it continued to be not great for a long time after too. It is still shaky.

For the following months I’ve been scared by vans coming down my road or flashing lights. What if they’re back for me? I am petrified of police cars, police officers or even anyone in a high vis jacket. Not that anyone was nasty with me, I must say, but being arrested and held in a cell is traumatising even if the nice young police officer offered you a hand to step down from the van and spoke in soft tones. Police now = panic for me.

Only recently have I been told that no further action will be taken and I’ve gotten my phone and laptop back. It is only through the generosity of great friends that I’ve been able to work since they were seized as they lent me a laptop to use. I’d have been screwed otherwise.

I could well have lost my job. Luckily, my employers were super supportive. I told them exactly what happened and they were so very kind and gave me the extra time I needed to sort out the work I needed to give them. An advantage of working for a fetish company. They understood.

My husband and son were worried sick. It took a long time to calm them when I got home. I was more upset about their distress than mine. It made me so angry that they’d been put through that. It took a lot longer for me to get to anger on my own behalf.

I’m still processing all this. I have self-referred to mental health support. I don’t know how helpful it might be. But I know I’m not okay. I am still feeling the impact of the arrest and everything surrounding it.

I am writing this basically to get it all out there. Cleric’s writing on fetlife has excellent points for event organisers to think about, I point you there for advice.

 

Running events is rather wonderful fun for most of the time. I enjoy it. I did think about giving it all up as I sat in that cell. They’re totally glum places. There is melancholy and angst soaked into their walls. I was scared, I was upset and I was frightened. I don’t make a packet from the events I run – we don’t even earn 1 person’s minimum wage between hubby and I- so it’s not worth it from a monetary aspect. I can’t believe the loss of our events would leave a huge dent in the massive North West kink scene and I’m not a well woman. My family are all disabled and everything we do takes all our energies and ends in pain (not the fun type) and lack of spoons for daaaaaays.

So why do I continue?

Because I love my scene. I love you, my fellow kinksters. I love being in a community of people who are so welcoming, it’s a place I call home. And I want that to continue. I want to give safe space for people to embrace their kinky selves. I want to stand up for those who need it. I want to stand up against the people who prey on our community for their power hungry lusts.

If you have a run in with someone who violates your consent, who abuses you, stalks you or makes you feel unsafe tell me or the relevant event organisers about it. We need to know. We run our events knowing the risks. We do it so that you can kink in safer environments. I am incredibly shit at standing up for myself (though I’m getting better at it) but I will fight tooth and nail for another person. Yes, even to arrest.

What should you do if you have a concern about the behaviour of an individual?

  • Talk to an event organiser as soon as you are able to. It might not be possible straight away, it might take time for you to process what happened but an organiser can only act on information they have. Yes, we want to know.
  • Give as much factual information as possible when you report something. When, where and what happened, who was involved and how that impacted you (made you uncomfortable, left you injured etc) and if you’re a friend of someone involved explain why you’re contacting in their stead.
  • Be patient. We have to remain some kind of neutral. Need to gather the other side/s of what happened before taking action. UNLESS we’ve seen the action take place ourselves we can’t immediately act. Getting hold of the other person can take time, people have jobs and responsibilities away from event organising. There are reasons it might take a while for an action to be taken.
  • Understand that the action taken (or not taken) might not be what you want or feel is necessary. We can’t ban your ex ‘cos you had one hell of a toxic break up, we can’t just let your bud come to our event ‘cos he’s always been lovely to you, won’t just ignore a report because ‘they’re my crazy ex!’ etc.
  • Give Grace. We are human. We are making decisions often on a small amount of information and sometimes we just can’t do anything because we don’t know enough. Sometimes we fuck up. Sometimes we are taken in by abusers – annoyingly they’re good at hiding in plain sight—and I can only apologise for mistakes I have made and mistakes I may make in the future.

An event organiser can only ban someone from their event, pass info onto other organisers and give some limited support to the person who’s reported the incident. There’s no way to get a person banned from everywhere. We’re not counsellors, police, judge or jury. Just the person where the buck stops for our lil’ kink space. It’s a responsibility as much as a joy.

As I thought through my place in the scene and my response to my arrest I weighed up what I had done in banning this man. I decided I’d do it all the same again and again and again. How could I do anything else? I couldn’t.

And so I stay. So I continue to put myself out there, I run events and take on the responsibility of what that means.

I am but one woman but goddamit I will do all I can to look after my community, my family, my flock of weirdos and perverts (I say that with love as a weirdo pervert myself) and I ask you to do what you can too. Together we can weedle out the bad seeds and grow a field of flowers – kinky, happy, bright and beautiful flowers.

 

Since writing this, a conversation was had leading to the creation of The Malicious Coffee Club as a fetish on fetlife (It will be a real life event soon too!) and a fundraiser for Trauma therapy for the Manchester organisers affected by this.  Which has broken it’s original target in Just 72 hours!  I can’t tell you how touched I am by the love and support of my community.

 

Why the malicious coffee club you ask? Well the person who I banned tried his intimidation on a friend of mine claiming our regular coffee dates were just to maliciously communicate about him and threatened to get them arrested too. So we’re leaning into it. Malicious coffee all round.  Kev has designed us a Logo and merch will soon be available with it on!