Sometimes, it's just a cigar

This is our truth, tell us yours

Unable to speak.

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.


8 comments on “Unable to speak.

  1. georgefinnegan
    November 29, 2014

    I hope Mr. LaBeouf looks for and finds effective help to deal with this. I think one unfortunate part of this is that it occurred during a performance, so everyone will look at it as if it were a put on, or planned, or have any number of other reasons to do what people do when they hear that a woman raped a man, i.e. deny that it can happen, congratulate him for being a ‘lucky bastard’, etc. Not being believed is just about the toughest part of being victimized like that, and the circumstances of the assault aren’t helpful.


    • jemima2013
      November 29, 2014

      I agree that far too much attention is paid to unimportant circumstances around an assualt, your comment reminds me of how dancers/strippers often have assaults on them ignored, because of the perfomance aspect of their work, indeed you could i suppose extend that to all sex workers.


      • georgefinnegan
        November 29, 2014

        The circumstances are very similar, and the common response is the same. I think, unless they’ve been raped, people don’t do well in understanding why victims act as they do and they just simply aren’t easily motivated to see rape where it has happened. But, not one rape is acceptable – people need to wake up.


        • jemima2013
          November 29, 2014

          Yes, and there is no one correct way to react after a rape.


  2. ValeryNorth
    November 29, 2014

    This is so valuable. There are so many reasons to keep silent, no one should be disbelieved because of waiting.


    • jemima2013
      November 29, 2014

      Indeed not, thank you for reading


  3. Jane
    December 9, 2014

    There are parallels with the attitude to domestic violence. The kind of knee-jerk “why doesn’t she leave him” response which fails entirely to understand that every incident of abuse is unique in every way, including how a person might chose, or indeed be able, to react within the limited options which are available to them.
    For heaven sakes, most of us have at one time been so angry that words just fail us. Afterwards we think of the put down remarks and pithy replies we wish we’d said instead of having simply frozen to the spot. So why no understanding for the fact that for something which truly traumatises the effects can be quite simply unexplainable?


    • jemima2013
      December 9, 2014

      Thanks for reading and yes, maybe if people thought about those, relatively untraumatic moments when they were lost for words, then they might have more compassion for times when people could not speak up.
      I think the parralells between domestic violence and child abuse are very strong, in both cases speaking out can seem more dangerous than enduring the abuse.


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