One night when I was about thirteen the local police called my father to examine a body that had been found in the park. The woman (the girl?) was eighteen. She had been raped and strangled. Dad returned, a great sadness in his face. His voice was drained. He said, ‘Her only crime was being a woman.’
I did not understand.
I met a young woman recently who has been treated over twenty years for depression and anxiety. She’d been given medications as well as psychological therapies and psychiatric help. She still sleeps poorly and takes sleeping tablets as well as Valium when she’s anxious. She tells me she spent years drinking a bottle or two a night, ‘closed away’, later using cocaine, ecstasy and ice. She hears the ticking of her fertility clock, she wants children but she feels unready.
Diffidently I asked about abuse. She trusted me enough to confide, ‘I was raped when I was thirteen.’
‘Was it a relative?’
‘No, a school friend one year older than me… I looked for him recently on Facebook and I wrote him a message. I’ll email you what I wrote if you’re interested.’
I was interested.
I’m not sure if you remember me but just wanted to touch base after so many years and confront something which happened when we were at school together.
Remember the night we went to one of your female friends place and another one of your mates came along (apologies but their names don’t spring to mind).
Anyways, the events of that might have haunted me since and, well, finally I’ve managed to build up the courage to message you and speak up.
It saddens me that what happened has affected me so much and for so long.
I honestly thought that you were a friend back then and you and your friend took something away from me and I have never forgotten and it has affected me all this time.
My dignity was taken away and diminished.
I still have vivid images in my mind of being extremely intoxicated even to the embarrassing point prior to what happened that I had been sick on your jacket which I wore as it was cold. After this I was too ill and had to go to the spare room to sleep it off and at that point both you and your friend had taken advantage of the situation of me being passed out drunk and you both fucked me.
I will never forget also to this day that your mum, and I understand her being your mother defending you and your friend in saying that neither of you would ever do such a thing.
Saddens me that I was the one apparently untrue to the situation in yours/your families eyes.
The next morning my mother and brother had picked me up and they saw that something was not right. I had blood on me and looked a mess and was taken to the doctors but I was too shocked and embarrassed to admit to anything.
XXXX this was probably not the best way to do this via FB and just understand I’m not wanting anything from you nor an apology or anything but just feel that this is something that I’ve had to stand up to and to give me peace of mind after so many years.
I understand violence born of anger or fear. What is it in a male that allows him to hurt a woman or a child by calculation? I know this violence, I see it and I treat its fruits; but I don’t understand it. That people live and re-live and suffer and endure I do know. Some suffer beyond endurance and slash or die. I know some few who manage to create an enlightened response. This young woman said, ‘I changed cities to change my life.’ Soberly she added, ‘I think I am making progress.’
She found work in the justice system. And she found a sort of spiritual greatness that shows in these closing lines to her old school friend:
I would however like to ask you to always watch over your daughter, nieces if you have any and younger family members so this never happens to them.
This has been difficult! I retired 1984 as a sergt. with Vic.Pol. after 26 yrs. service! and dealing with many, many crimes including rapes! I do NOT remember any? or many with “violence involved with physical injuries! more of that very, very fine line between yes and NO! ( many feminists will not agree?) but that “line” is hugely indefinite! As a very fit athlete in late mid teenage! when with my girl friend, now wife of 57 years felt my very highly sexualized brain inspired hand moving to where she did not desire! I received a message very clearly!! and desisted! (NOW! it is at that point we could all chat for all eternity about THAT message to desist!!) I still have that control! BUT sadly it is not needed!! sob. xx
Thank you. I worked at the Centre Against Sexual Assault at the Royal Women’s for some years. It was on a research/education project on sexual and domestic violence within the christian churches. Our report on it hit the headlines in the early 90s. I have heard so many stories of lives destroyed by ‘good’ men. I deeply appreciate your words (and those of your father).
LikeLiked by 1 person
There is something in our brains that encourages us to abuse power. I was aware of it in myself when my children were little. Because I had the power to hurt them, physically or mentally, if I was angry with them, I occasionally (to my shame) did so. There is a biological hierarchy of power, in both body size and in voice level (higher versus deeper). I think we have to work hard to overcome this as well as cultural stereotypes. We also have the brain power to understand this weakness and must learn to harness this.
I guess human violence is as old as Cain
I guess we can improve
I am sure we hear more of violence now because so many barriers have fallen – everything can be said aloud today
But with all that it remains dispiriting to look around at my own species and see what low animals we remain
Not every human but too many
An unhappy start to a year of writing.
I expect to cheer up presently