Monday, November 21, 2011

Self Mutilation - The New Foreplay

Katherine Scardino

Self mutilation has been around for a long time. Why? I certainly do not have that answer. Experts say that self harmers use violence to the self as a means of coping with intense emotional trauma, pain or distress. It is a deliberate act that can result in serious damage to the skin or underlying tissues, and possibly cause infection. Sometimes there is permanent scarring. It is not a “fad” or something that only young people do. It is more likely to affect young people, but self harm is being seen in any age group, even among the elderly. One in ten teenagers are self harmers, and most do not receive counseling or medical help. Your children, if not a self harmer himself, probably knows someone at school who does.

Self harm is almost always closely associated with a traumatic event of some kind. He or she may feel depressed, confused, angry, frustrated, fearful, guilty, and the list goes on. But, the self harmer feels there is no other sensible alternative (from his point of view) other than to do violence upon himself. One person who engaged in self cutting said that her feelings were so overwhelming that the physical pain of self injury forced her to focus on something other than those debilitating emotions. This practice has been around for a very long time - remember self flagellation by the bad guy in Tom Hanks’ movie “The DaVinci Code”. The ritual of self flagellation is practiced annually by the Shi’ite, using chains and swords, during Ashura where the Shi’ite sect mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. The Hebrew Bible refers to the priests of Baal “cutting themselves with blades until blood flowed”. 
Self cutting is the most prevalent form of self mutilation, but burning, head banging, deliberate poisoning, self biting, hair pulling, picking wounds so they don’t heal are all manifestations of the self harmer. The signs of self injury are not always apparent because the act itself is so secretive. Sufferers will often cover themselves up - wearing long sleeves and pants, even in the warmest weather. If anyone sees the injury and inquires, the response is usually that it was an accident.

Self harm is listed in the DSM-IV-TR as a symptom of borderline personality disorder. Depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia and other personality disorders are also associated with self harmers. Self harm is also apparent in high-functioning individuals who have no underlying clinical diagnosis. These people could be the person sitting next to you on the bus or airplane.

Or - even here in Houston, Texas. Last week a jury heard a criminal trial involving two people who were a “couple”, with children in the house, I might add, who were engaging in burning as part of their sex play. The male partner, Gregory Longoria, Jr., was accused of burning the genitals and breasts of the female partner with a Bic cigarette lighter. The prosecution initially claimed that her nipples were melted and her vagina was melted shut. The charge was later lessened from Aggravated Assault with Serious Bodily Injury to Aggravated Assault with Bodily Injury. Apparently, the medical testimony did not substantiate the “serious” part of the bodily injury. 

Nevertheless, a jury found the Mr. Longoria guilty of Aggravated Assault and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. My friend and criminal defense lawyer for Mr. Longoria, Stan Schneider, told me that consent was the defense and that these two had engaged in other types of acts such as bondage and other sorts of specialized “equipment”, if you know what I mean. Mr. Schneider indicated that this type of self-harm had been ongoing.

I have had a case where the wife admitted to self burning as a form of teenage “angst”. It was described as “no big deal”, just a few of us girls getting together and doing it. But, the question most people do not, cannot, understand is “why?” As stated above, the reason is serious and one that needs immediate psychological attention.

So, in summary - it’s a bad thing. It is harmful to the body and a bit strange, but not new. Watch your children. 

photos: ChantelBeamPhotography, escalade328sChrisGoldNY


Mary in Austin said...

Members of the elitist Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei and members of some Roman Catholic religious orders still practice regular self-flagellation and self-harm in the form of wearing jewelry such as the cilice, a spiked metal band around the thigh.

A Voice of Sanity said...

"Nevertheless, a jury found the Mr. Longoria guilty of Aggravated Assault and sentenced him to 30 years in prison."

This 'jury' is as dumb as a sack of rocks. And the prosecution is no better. Who is the complainant? And what the hell happened to consent as a defense? Will the US have to follow the UK (as in the Spanner case)?

"Land of the Free"? Yeah, right. Only if you do as I say. Let's outlaw boxing, wrestling and all similar 'sports'.

Leah said...

I am no psychologist but self mutilation is no different than being a drug addict or alcoholic. Its just another way for a suffering person to continue to hurt themselves.

Jolie said...

@ Voice of Sanity

The woman who was burned told the police she was a victim of domestic abuse right the night of the burning injuries. SHE was the one who said she was a victim and wanted protection for herself and for her children. It is a question of whether she recanted because she lied that night or whether, like so many abuse victims do, changed her testimony out of fear or love for the boyfriend, Greg Longoria.

Anonymous said...

I read this article last month but was not able to write down my thoughts at the time.

I was a cutter. I'm 57 years old and I started cutting when I was in my late 30s. At the time, I had no idea that others did the same thing. I have received help and the last time I cut was almost 10 years ago.

I cut my arms and thighs - hundreds of cuts each time. I still have visible scars.

I cut to release. The pain and anguish I felt inside had to be released and in the state that I was in, cutting was the answer to releasing the pain.

It was not pleasure, it was a release. I do not want people to think it was an enjoyable thing.

Outside of cutting, my life continued. I went to work every day and kept everything organized in my life.

Cutting was a way to release without anyone else getting hurt.

Sorry, but I have to sign this anonymous because I do comment here periodically. Being a cutter is also an embarrassment.

Amy Waderson said...

Anonymous, I completely agree that being a cutter is an embarrassment. When I was 18, I used to cut myself in order to gain attention from my peers. I used to be proud to show my scars, but now I can barely look at myself in the mirror. I am struggling to like self image, but I have found ways on to help cope with my past as a cutter. I suggest taking a look, it has definitely helped me!