This is something that has gotten a lot of talk on some of the forums and social sites, and is mentioned occasionally in some of the many BDSM books that I have read. What is the differences between someone who is Dominant and when the line is crossed into abuse. I hope to convey what red flags to watch for, when that line is crossed, and to show what is healthy or not.
I come to these thoughts after many years of living in and around the BDSM lifestyle as well as many talks and communications with many leaders in domestic abuse centers. I have found that while there are somethings that are obvious signs of abuse, a lot of those that teach anti-abuse seminars or are helping those that have been abused see a lot of what happens in a Dominant/submissive as signs of abuse.
The first point I would like to make is that of Dominance. Yes, when someone is Dominant, they take control of some or all aspects of another persons life. The biggest difference here is that this is done with consent of the person giving up that control. Because that consent is given freely to the Dominant, that consent can be taken away just as freely. If that consent can not be removed or taken back then that person is no longer being Dominant and it has become abuse. I make this distinction because control is one of the major signs of an abusive relationship but also within a Dominant/submissive relationship.
Isolation is also a known sign of abuse. Now I have seen some aspects of isolation within a Dominant relationship. The distinction comes in how much. Isolation comes when you are removed from your friends and family, having the feeling of being alone. I agree that this is abuse. Now I have seen Dominants that will restrict or stop their submissives contact with some people in their life. The difference here is that in every one of those cases, there was a very good reason for that contact to be removed. From "every time you hand out with Scot, you get drunk and do something stupid" to "when you have seen Tammy, she gets you so depressed." This is not isolation, but usually done for the better of the submissive. Isolation is the removal of all friends. Also, no Dominant, no matter what, will not demand removal of your family.
Lastly would be physical abuse. This can be a sticky subject with most, but that is because most abuse counselors can not fathom that pain can be something that people enjoy. The difference here does fall back to consent. If the pain being inflicted is consensual then this is Dominance, if it is not, then it is abuse. It is really that simple.
I hope that this helps understand the differences between Dominance and abuse. Comments are always welcome, here or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep it kinky!