This is our truth, tell us yours
Content note for rape, sexual abuse, and graphic personal account of CSA
I will confess that until late last night I had never heard of Shia LaBeouf. I saw a friend on twitter angry at people suggesting those with penises cannot be raped. Unfortunately British law agrees, and the only people I have ever seeing agreeing with that are terfs and rape apologists. We have a long way to go before the law, and society as a whole, understand that rape is about not consenting to sex. There is an excellent post on how the reaction to LaBeouf harms all survivors here, by @stavvers. I suggest you go read it, I will still be here.
The reason I will still be here is the very writing of this post is difficult for me. My mind is a whirl of thoughts while my body wants to pretend it doesn’t exist. Each harsh black letter a fight against that voice saying close the laptop, stop speaking, be silent.
Speaking out is a huge part of the story that Shia tells. After the rape he sat silently with his girlfriend. He was only able to disclose via email, even when he met the journalist he remained in the safety of cyberspace. It instantly spoke to me, this stranger who it seems struggled with the words, whose body resisted revealing what had happened to him.
To be a good survivour, as Stavvers says, is to instantly speak out, loudly, clearly (but not too calmly) to the appropriate authorities, and to be willing to repeat this as and when others demand. To be heard you must speak only as they, and society as a whole see fit.
What if you are unable to speak? I am, as I am open about, a survivor of child sexual abuse. I think the world likes to shy away from the reality of what that can mean. Recently I watched a Channel four drama, secret diary of a pedophile. Its moving, thoughtful and well worth watching if you are can. Afterwards one thing struck me though. The girl he becomes obsessed with, who he choses not to abuse, but who leads to his eventual suicide, was a teenager. She was young, vulnerable, perfectly portrayed, but she was not prepubescent. Even the makers of this challenging drama shied away from the fact pedophiles sexually desire children.
When dealing with child sexual abuse the idea survivors should speak out becomes even more dangerous. I was very young when my abuser first raped me. I am going to pause there and ask you a question, when I say very young what age occurs? What kind of child appears in your mind?
I was between the ages of 2 and a half and three.
Should I have spoken out?
Think of all the things we do to the bodies of toddlers that they do not understand, immunizations that hurt, wrapping them in clothes they do not want to wear, or covering them in suncream they do not want to have. We tell them certain things must be done in the potty, for reasons only adults know, that they cannot have chocolate for breakfast, that they must kiss the scary man in the red suit with huge whiskers.
I was hyperlexic as a toddler, but Janet and John books do not include how to explain someone has put their cock in your mouth. Even if I had known that this was not just another thing that grown ups did to my body, another one of their odd demands that I had to comply with.
Which of course is part of why as the years passed, and the abuse continued I continued to remain silent. By the time you are old enough to realise this is not what happens in every home, you are old enough to feel different. Conversations with the wise and wonderful Carter have touched on how CSA separates a child from its peers, adult knowledge in a child’s brain adding another layer of silence.
Silence, not speaking, not saying the words becomes ingrained, more than a habit, it becomes the only safe way to be. Even if you had the words how can you express them, who can you tell when everyone else seems to live their lives untainted by the knowledge you carry in your heart?
Then you grow up, and learn that the world does not want to hear your story. To speak you must never mention how special you felt, how you believed your abuser when they said you were beautiful, or clever, or desirable. You cannot speak since you did not fight, did not speak earlier, caught in a vicious cycle of “why didnt you tell”.
When I read Shia’s story, and then saw the response of so many, that he could not be telling the truth now, because he did not speak instantly after the rape, I thought of that child inside me, who still struggles to speak. More importantly I thought of the ones still choking on the words, being told yet again that if you did not instantly speak out, you will never be heard.