Portrayals of Violence - is it TMI?

**** WARNING ****
**** WARNING ****

I was reading a book today (of my usual favourite genre - paranormal romance) and in the story, the heroine was kidnapped and tortured, physically, sexually and emotionally by her kidnapper, who was determined to use her as a breeding mare but wanted complete and utter control of her, breaking her spirit until she was an empty shell of the strong woman she had once been.  She was rescued by her friend and hero of the story, a man, who like her had been tortured in POW camps and he had only managed to survive because she had given him hope through telepathic links in his mind, helping him hold strong against the pain and violation, giving him something to live for.  Of course, during her time of need, he did the same for her.

I was shocked, and I cringed as I read the chapters or her incarceration.  I know violence against women exists.  But did I really need to know that it was like that?  Torturing, beating and whippings and then being able to elicit a sexual response from sexual stimulation implying that the victim somehow enjoys the punishments?  Making the victim beg to be taken to the toilet or relieve oneself, and then giving them no privacy so that they are made to feel even more helpless? And every time the victim tries to fight back a pain so horrifying and mind breaking that the will to fight eventually is broken?

Though it was terrifying for me to read, I thought that it added a lot to the story.  It wasn't glorifying rape or torture, but it set the scene for the recovery and strengthening of the heroine and a better understanding of her hero's behaviour and why he was the way he was.  The feeling that you could never be clean.  The feeling that you are not worthy of any sort of happiness because all happiness has been driven out and replaced by rage.  The terror that all moments of happiness and love will always be overshadowed by the memories of evil.

When I read reviews of the book when I was done, there was a lot of criticism about those early scenes. Many people felt it was unnecessary.  Many felt that the post trauma the heroine endured wasn't long enough - that she was able to be intimate with her hero after only a week.  But perhaps that was because the love they had for each other was already there, and she had seen what torture could do and recognise that her hero was trying to help her on the road to recovery, trying to replace the bad memories of being touched in certain places with good ones.  But the biggest thing that people said was that descriptions of violence were not necessary.

Because such violence was an eye opener to me, I felt that knowing about these sick behaviours actually helped me, educated me, make me realise the horror of what can really happen.  Did I not know these behaviours existed?  Of course I know, but somehow, even though I KNEW, it was not like I had ever really thought about it.

It's a bit like the violent acts on women in Siege of Orgrimmar:

Was it meant to shock us, or was it meant to open our eyes that bad people really do harm women?  In war, women and children are victims as much as men.  We rarely see it in computer games or media, and so even though we sorta KNOW it happens to women, we don't see it, so it's not in our minds and we don't really think about it.

Another example is where our food comes from.

We all buy meat from the supermarket or butcher, but you KNOW that it comes from those cows, chickens and lambs that we see grazing in farmyards.  And we KNOW that they have to die in order for us to get their meat.  Do you really know how your meat was killed so that we may have the protein that graces our tables?

Animals are killed in the most humane way possible, so ethically we don't have a heavy conscience weighing on us for taking the life of another for our satisfaction.  First the animal is taken and it is stunned by an electrical charge to the head or carbon dioxide gas.  Then as the animal lays insensible, they are shackled by their hind leg and large blood vessels are severed so the animal bleeds out and dies of blood loss whilst insensible, so that they die painlessly and not in distress.  It sounds humane but if you actually watch it, it is rather disturbing, even though it is the most humane way to kill an animal.  Many people are vegetarian because watching or even knowing how this process works has turned them off meat forever.

Some people don't want to know how their meat is procured, or how the animal died for it to get there.  And why?  Perhaps because if you don't know about it, then in a way it has nothing to do with you as it doesn't really affect you.  Or maybe, you just never thought about it, took it for granted.  But to me, I think it's important that you know these things, so you can respect, understand and know that this is the reality of the world that we live in.

Is that so different to knowing the violence that exists in the world out there?  Or being shown pictures of it, reading about it?  Are we afraid that if we detail or show these obscenities that it will trigger copycats or give them ideas on how to torture more people?

I can understand if people don't want to see these images because they bring back bad memories - traumas they experienced before and are trying to shut out. But for those who don't know... is it wrong for them to want to find out the reality?  After reading about brutality, I find perhaps I have more insight, and perhaps a better ability to understand and sympathize with a victim, knowing, from someone else's words which were burned into my brain at the time.

Another thing I thought was that maybe this was like a gradual desensitistion - I'm not saying that I am trying to make these things not affect me, but when it's suddenly presented to you for the first time then it is a REAL shock to the system, and the mental shock of it can leave you psychologically scarred.  With gradual exposure, in a less realistic way, I think that maybe I have time to build those mental barriers to cope with the scenario if I ever had to deal with that situation.  A bit like the abattoir workers - surely they must have some sort of mental training program to be able to cope with slaughter livestock every day.  Because for a first time visitor to an abbatoir - the uninitiated could be really traumatised.

So with portrayals of all these horrible things, you don't really know what it's about unless you've been there.  And if you haven't been there, you won't really know unless someone SHOWS you - in words or pictures.  And, you take for granted that that your life isn't full of that awful stuff. Perhaps we should all be a little bit grateful for the good things that we have, and I must say, that after looking into these things, and understanding it a bit, I appreciate my lot in life a whole much more.


  1. Sometimes I read articles in the news about something horrible that has happened to a person or an animal. I just have to read it even tho I know it will be disturbing and it will make me angry and sad. But I would never watch pictures of it happening, real or not, it's just horrible. I can't even watch movies with torture. It doesn't make me sick or anything, I just think it's awful and I wish it was illegal to make movies like that. You know, horror movies with people getting tortured, like the Saw movies. Seen the first one when it was new, it wasn't good, just disturbing.

    But I know, it's just a movie, it's not real, so it's more ok, I agree. It might make you appreciate your life more, yes, so it was something positive, right. I wish people just read books about it or watched movies. But what people read and watch makes some, sick, people want to do it for real. I bet there are people out there who take it as an inspiration, they read and watch movies because they enjoy it, it turns them on in some creepy and sick way that makes us other normal people want to throw up.

    Your post reminded me of this website, one of many websites of that kind I bet. I first saw it when I was visiting some friends of a friend. All boys around 20-25. They sat at the computer, watching clips and pictures on some website. It had everything from normal funny pictures to creepy gore pictures and clips of people and animals being killed, raped, tortured and so on. I didn't know what to say, I was so shocked, it made me sick. I told them I didn't want to watch that stuff and I have been afraid of visiting them since that. Another friend of a friend we visited some time asked if we had seen the clip of a man being executed by a chainsaw. What the hell. I can't believe how people watch that, how they search for it on internet to look at that kind of stuff. It should be illegal. I don't care if they watch it to get shocked or scared, it's not normal to enjoy that kind of stuff. I'm afraid my other closer friends are watching this kind of stuff, because I just can't be friends with anyone who's into that shit, it's too horrible. But this stuff is everywhere, even on websites I thought were ok. It makes me sick and it makes me hate being a human, because we are the worst animal on this planet.

    There is a lot of animal cruelty going around these days, even here in Norway where I thought people knew better and respected animals, still one reads those stories almost every day about how animals are abused or left alone to die. It makes me so angry! I wish we had animal police here and that those who abuse animals got a real punishment like prison not just a fine. But I do eat meat, it's good. Of course I wish we treated the animals better, even those we're going to eat, but I can't just stop eating what comes from animals because of that. But I wish I had more money so I could buy organic food, it costs more here.


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