My husband just called to ask me how my day is going.
“I’m bored,” I said.
“Why don’t you go for a walk?” he said.
“I don’t like going out,” I said.
“I know,” he said.
He does know. I guess the suggestion that I might want to go for a walk is a reasonable one but the thing is, you see, I am afraid. Not always but often.
I’d truly love to go for a walk but after suffering for years at the hands of a paedophile, the resulting PTSD makes all sorts of ‘normal’ become abnormal. I am afraid that if I go out, I may never come back. I may be attacked. Or worse. If I go out, the safety of the four walls in which I am imprisoning myself may no longer be as safe as I currently consider them to be. Someone might break in and be waiting for me to return to attack me. Or worse.
No one really gets to hear what it is like for those of us who have been abused as children (and possibly for those abused as adults, too), after the fact.
This morning I have read the comments from the public on two stories in the national British press. One is about Sir Clement Freud – after a documentary was shown alleging that he was a child abuser, last night. The other story is about the CPS no longer pursuing Sir Cliff Richard for similarly alleged offences.
Many of the comments – in fact, the majority of the comments state that if there was any truth to the allegations of sexual abuse, why would those coming forward all these years later not have said something earlier. They think that they are being clever in making those comments. That the date when you speak up in relation to the events taking place has some kind of relevance to the truth of the allegations.
It does not.
The truth is always the truth.
A woman helpfully pointed out that she, having being abused as an adult, would have said something as a child, as if that proves the point. She’s an idiot and an unhelpful one at that.
None of us knows what WE would do in ANY circumstances until it happens to us. An adult cannot possibly know what they would have done as a child because they are no longer a child.
Furthermore, the children who are most commonly abused are those whose security network is flawed. They are in care. They are from broken families. Somewhere behind the scenes there is dysfunction and an abuser can smell it a mile off.
The abuser makes small moves to gauge the response of the child and very quickly learns that the child does not have the wherewithal or the self esteem or even the ability due to lack of age and experience to respond like an adult would.
To assume that someone who speaks up so many years later is only doing so for compensation (yes, another bright spark made that suggestion) is ridiculous and unhelpful.
Firstly, you have no idea whatsoever whether the person in question did ever speak up and what the result of that confession was. Just because you are only hearing about it now, does not mean that those words have only just been uttered.
I can only speak for myself when I tell you that I spoke up at the age of 14. Nine long and horrific years after the abuse first started. My mother didn’t even look at me, turned her back and continued to clean the bath whilst snapping this question at me: “Are you prepared to stand up in court and say that?”
Understand this: my body was 14 years old. My emotions in many ways were nowhere close to my physical age. A great deal of me was stuck at the age of 5, the age I was when he first put his filthy hands on me. Some of me was mentally many years older than my physical age as my innocence had been taken from me before I even knew how to say the word. My fears were so long held that I behave, even now in my middle years, like a fragile old lady at times worrying constantly about my survival and at other times like a little girl.
That’s what it comes down to ultimately. Our fear of survival or lack thereof. PTSD. We don’t speak up because we don’t believe that we will be heard, because we are afraid of being the one to blame, because we don’t want to give up the only card we have that we foolishly think is going to win us the hand.
Telling and not being believed or heard means, we think in our naive childish brains, that it will get worse because there is now nothing for them to fear.
It will get worse anyway.
What if you are heard and believed? Then what? Well, the police may be called and you will have to tell them in all sorts of gruesome detail what has happened to you. Tell them about things that you just do not have the vocabulary for or the ability to put your shame aside for so that you can tell a stranger what you yourself have tried so hard not to attach to. Saying the words out loud means that you have to think about what has happened to you. You have to picture and relive those terrifying and despicable moments. You will also feel responsible for the ensuing drama, stress and most likely chasm in your family.
No one wants that.
I told my mother at 14 and was ignored.
I told a female Police Detective when I was 26 what had happened after being sexually assaulted in the street by a stranger. The CPS in their wisdom said that after only 6 years since the last assault (assaults that went on for 15 years) that too many years had elapsed and it would be my word against his so they wouldn’t bother pursuing it.
My abuser died on 04/12/2014. Since then I have made my abuse public. Friends I have known for decades now know my ‘secret.’ Except you see, it was never a secret. I just didn’t talk about it with everyone because there are so many people who have absolutely no comprehension of how to respond.
Someone who was once very close to me said that they couldn’t understand why, when I was 16, I still let the abuse happen. No, they really did ask that!
I tried, whilst fighting guilt, shame, fear and utter disbelief to explain that I had never allowed the abuse to happen. Never, not once since it started at the age of 5.
At 16, I was out of my family home more than I was ever in it. I went to friends’ houses after school, I stayed with them on weekends and eventually many week nights. I went nightclubbing and if I ever went home, I crept in at 4, 5 and sometimes even after 6 in the morning – just long enough to change into my school uniform and pack my bags for the next day of school.
When my step-monster sidled into my room, or silently opened the bathroom door from the outside, I fought. I screamed. I made myself as small as possible curling myself into a ball so that he couldn’t access those parts of me that he wanted to touch. He would laugh. He thought it was funny.
Not ever, never did I allow him to abuse me.
When you read a story in the paper, or watch it on television, when someone is telling you, finally after all of those years that they were abused by someone, do not dismiss their claims on the basis that a great deal of time has elapsed. For many, it will never be the right time. Some will go to their graves with their secrets held deep inside them.
What I am trying to say is that it’s none of your damned business anyway.
The truth is always the truth.
*For all the posts in this series, please click here: