We have Idiot guides and manuals to almost everything nowadays; for example, An Idiot’s Guide to Plumbing, An Idiot’s Guide to Microsoft Office and an Idiot’s Guide to Parenting. I have been thinking that we should have an Idiot’s Guide to the Profound and Irreversible Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
Of course it’s not the kind of book that people would want to be seen reading on the tube or bus during rush hour given that our society as a whole tiptoes around this issue; it’s a definite conversation killer (try bringing it up at your next dinner party) and a topic that most want to avoid with a barge pole as if its a smelly disease or a horrible contagious plague.You can just imagine people’s noses flaring outwards with disgust and the perceptible shifting in their seats when the subject of childhood sexual abuse is broached.
The reaction is even worse when the said abuse occurs within their own family. How could one of their ‘own’ be responsible for such a heinous crime. Such an admission and acceptance would mean a seismic shift in the very core of the family structure, upsetting the status quo and causing ripples of discomfort. It means accountability and self-reflection. Isn’t it just so much easier to re-victimise the very person who was abused as a child; imagining that the victim himself or herself is not seeing things clearly as follows:
“She’s being overly dramatic,”
“She probably imagined it happened and is feeling quite fragile since her divorce”
“How could she remember what happened all those years ago, nobody else remembers anything”
“It happened such a long time ago, why can’t she just forgive and forget”
“Those are her parents after all, so she has to just forget and move on with her life. You can’t live in the past can you?”
Ahhh ….alas, would that it were so easy for us who have suffered so profoundly to just forgive and forget and move on.
I had the displeasure recently of telling my aunt, my mum’s sister, that I was abused as a little girl by my ‘father’ and that my mother did nothing to help me and continues to deny it. I was tired of her asking when I had last heard from my mum and ‘father’. So on one unsuspecting sunny day, I dropped the bombshell over ice cream in a colourful and cheery cafe on the High Street.
My aunt listened in stunned silence and watched the tears pouring down my face like heavy rain sweeping over a busy road on a stormy day.
She first asked me if I was sure that my mother knew. She is a mother herself and knows that there is no way my mother couldn’t have known. When I recounted a particularly painful memory confirming that my mum indeed knew, she went on to say that even if I chose not to forgive my ‘father’ that I should still ‘be there’ for my mother (her sister). She went on to plead my mother’s case by saying that my mother must be very sad that I don’t talk to her and that my mother is a good person deep down. She has proceeded to message me all week with tales of how much my mother misses me and how she is suffering.
Well FUCK all that!
My aunt refused to see the little girl in me who was raped by my ‘father’, the violent robbing of my innocence and the gross neglect of her sister. This will really make you laugh, she told me about a friend of hers who had revealed that she was abused by an uncle and as if to admonish my histrionics aka. my deep courage and strength in truth-telling, she told me how her friend had just moved on with her life implying that yes, I should do the same.
Wow!! What problems I am causing! I was abused and now I have the audacity to believe that it isn’t my shame and that I can finally face the truth. How bloody inconvenient for everyone!
If you have suffered dear one as I have, be relentless in your truth telling and stand tall and proud. There will be many who don’t see or hear the inner child within you who hurts and hurts. Many who can’t see the courage and fire within you but I see it and you see it and we do the very hard work of healing and that’s what really matters.