Abuse and asking why the papers can’t – please – JUST SHUT UP!

I’m sure I’ve written on this subject before, but it’s driving me a little mad again so I’m diving back in.

I read the paper today to find that there is to be an advertising campaign to promote possible compensation to victims of Jimmy Savile.

They are actually going to run a national campaign that effectively says ‘if Jimmy abused you – you might get some cash,” in some dreadful parody of the accident compensation commercials. The idea that the suffering undergone during sexual abuse can be reduced to some tawdry financial sop makes me feel sick – for so many reasons:

  1. That there will be vultures who lie about experiences to attempt to get money
  2. That people in need of therapy will instead develop expectations of some magical closure as a result of selling their experience – and when the money doesn’t work – what then?
  3. As a normal human being I am utterly sick of seeing abuse used to create sensation in order to sell newspapers on days nothing else interesting has happened.
  4. I’m sick of seeing abuse dealt with in superficial, unhelpful victim and monster stereotypes in the media
  5. As a person who has experienced abuse I am tired of being reminded of it on a daily basis
  6. As a person who has supported the abused I am sick of the experience being reduced to a matter of law at the expense of the emotional and personal

I could go on…

There are more problems here than one rant can accommodate, but I’d like to at least try and offer something more than a one-dimensional, knee-jerk spasm of superficial and ill-thought rubbish in the hope I can do a tiny amount to counter-act a seemingly endless piss-stream of medial effluvia.

Sexual abuse is not a shared experience, it is a private experience. If abuse is to be shared it should be in a careful and respectful way, through therapy and family support, it is not something made better by sharing it with the general public in sensationalist stories.

The experience of abuse is unique to each person. The effects of abuse are unique to each individual and situation. One person may survive severe abuse and feel only minor effects, others will undergo mild experiences which nonetheless cripple them for years afterwards. Taking these situations to the law or the media at present only serves to strip them of all nuance and treat them as somehow a single kind of experience, as if each sufferer will have identical experiences, thoughts and repercussions.

Our whole approach to abuse is beyond awful, the needs of victims lost at every turn, lost to twisted compensation claims, simplistic media imagery and hypocritical public outcry riddled with a fundamental moral hypocrisy. We abhor abuse while we revel in the sexualisation of almost every area of our lives, conflicting ourselves and our children by denying our sexuality on the one hand and selling lipstick, cars and magazines with sex on the other.

On the flip side we do no better when we deal with the abusers. Someone who commits such dreadful acts is clearly in need of help; they have become so mixed up in their thinking or suffer from such appalling drives that they are willing to cause appalling harm to another human being – sometimes even believing they are not causing harm at all.

These people surely need to be brought closer to us, to be helped to integrate, to see the harm they do and be helped to develop the necessary empathy, the healthy patterns of thought that might prevent future harm.

Instead we find it ugly and shocking and so take people already marginalised by their own illness and push them still further away. In reality we outright refuse these people – we will not allow ourselves to believe their behaviour is normal human behaviour – harmful and dreadful yes, but human. We can accept that people commit murder, robbery, violence and a multitude of awful, hurtful crimes and we can say “I’d never do it but I can understand how this person might…” But with sexual abuse we cannot. Here we say “I could never do that.” Yet those who abuse are human – so it only stands to reason that some of us can – even while that reality may feel quite terrible.

I know this is all very shocking but if I’m honest I don’t see our attitudes to abuse as very different to our general attitudes. Millions go hungry while we partake in societies which consume well beyond their needs. We kill thousands in wars which masquerade as humanitarian but are really only politics and greed. Every day new laws are created which are only laws for the poor and disempowered – who cannot afford lawyers to help them evade prosecution. Each day the rich grow richer while the poor are blamed for our country’s poverty.

We live in a society riven by forms of abuse, abuses of power, financial abuses, war crimes and political deceit. In this climate sexual abuse is only an extreme example of the fundamental sickness in our society. We refuse to see ourselves as capable of harm, or culpable, yet we cause harm every day. The cure for this is not to isolate, to reject or refuse those we feel have failed our supposed moral standards – the cure is to embrace, to recognise and accept.

While we continue to make whatever we cannot accept into a cartoon monster – to declare anything too uncomfortable as ‘inhuman’ and thus deny it, we will fail to reduce the harm it causes.

Just as I must accept that I am both good – a musician, a parent, sometimes hard-working, kind – and bad – I don’t do enough to help others, I am in other ways lazy and often ill-tempered – and that both these sides make the whole; so we must come to accept ourselves, our societies and our communities as being both good and bad, filled with good people who do bad things, and bad people who do good things.

If we could bring such tolerance and genuine, open-eyed acceptance and understanding to our treatment of sexual abuse we might help both victim and abuser to continue to feel like normal people – normal people who have been wronged or who have done wrong, but who are still part of the world, still have hope of a good future, of healing and change.

Maybe then we would finally see an end to the sickening parade of abuse stories which infest our media and yet fail to make any impact on abuse itself. I for one could live without this daily reminder of little pain matters when money is at stake.

 

If you need somewhere to turn to help cope with abuse or talk about your experience you could try:

http://behindthemaskofabuse.com/

http://www.lucyfaithfull.org.uk/stop_it_now_helpline.htm

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16 thoughts on “Abuse and asking why the papers can’t – please – JUST SHUT UP!

Add yours

  1. Panda, This is a complex, well-thought and well-written rant. Thanks.

    I only think you got one part a little bit wrong. The part where you admitted you may have a mixture of good and less-enjoyable parts. Everyone knows that pandas are totally good and sweet and soft and furry. 😉

    I mean… I think I might have been a victim too. Here’s my bank account number so you can deposit my check. How much will it be and when? I’ve ordered a new motorcycle. Top of the line. It’s the only thing that can help the pain.

    Greed, Panda. Greed all the way around. ((SIGH))

    Alice

    1. Dear Al Ison
      Congratulations, you are our 1,000th victim and will, in addition to your cheque, receive a limited edition cuddly Panda toy!
      We are so happy that you suffered and look forward to giving you money so we can make even more money telling everyone how terrible it’s all been for you.
      Thank you for contacting itpaystobeavictim.com. We hope we can trivialise some more pain for you again soon.
      Best regards
      Ivan Dior Story

  2. The hypocrisy in the British media knows no bounds. On a practical note, have you ever thought about submitting thought-changing pieces like this to the press? You have frequently reminded me of how limited my compassion is and how limitless my own selfishness. Other pieces I read are so busy repeating themselves that it’s too easy to tune out.

    1. Thanks Ginger. I have occasionally sent pieces in. If ever one is accepted I’ll let you know. I think we are all selfish and limited, it’s part of our condition, you don’t appear any worse than myself or others in that regard… be nice to my favourite spice 😀

  3. So so true. I remember when the Jimmy Savile story first broke and I was sickened by it, but I’m also sickened by the idea of this campaign. Turning it into a public spectacle and throwing in some cash? I agree that society in general is a reflection of every one of us, and that we aren’t doing a good job of understanding that evil and apathy are within all of us. I don’t know that a lot of abusers are capable of ever understanding the harm they cause, and/or developing empathy for others. But I believe that many could be helped immensely if we gave them the resources necessary. Abuse is generally part of a cycle, and so many abusers never got the help they needed when they were abused themselves. So many problems and nobody really wants to do anything about it except wring their hands and point fingers.

    Thanks a lot, now you made me all cranky.

    1. Sorry weebly. But I think you’re right, abuse is a cycle. I just think nothing gets cured by adding punishment. Harmful people may need to be contained, but also healed as you say.
      Anyway, back to the filthy jokes next time, I don’t wanna make my Weebles cranky 😉

  4. For those who have been very traumatized by sexual abuse & may not be able to work anymore, a financial settlement might be quite welcome. Although I doubt any would want to accept it if it required reliving the abuse.

      1. For some litigious people, the idea of being rewarded for suffering something is their main goal! There are always lawyers out there, ready to prey on someone who is vulnerable, so they can sue for something. Some people also believe you haven’t punished someone until you’ve hit them in their pockets!

  5. Thank you for reading this. As someone who has been abused on many levels – there is no magic pill and no amount of money would have ever made the pain go away. I think it pisses me off more than anything when I see a celebrity getting away with all types of abuse with payouts. It makes the rest of society feel as if they have to do that, too. Makes me want to throat chop anyone who says the pains of abuse can be cured by money.

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