What are the most taboo subjects I can write about? Child abuse, rape, miscarriage, domestic violence, birth trauma… what if I write about all of them? In one sitting? Are you squirming already?
The thing is, making all of this taboo makes it more taboo; we compound the problem by making it a problem.
When I turned to the police and revealed that my mother’s husband had sexually assaulted me, I was told we would “keep it quiet” and not tell people because it was shameful to the family that this had happened in our “safe home”. When I lost my baby at 14.5 weeks and my body went into labour I was so scared to ask anyone about it, I was ashamed that my body was rejecting a baby because women’s bodies are there to grow babies, not reject them. When I broke up with my first long-term partner I let people believe that we broke up because I cheated when we actually broke up because he was abusive; I was ashamed that I allowed myself to abused for so long, I should have just walked away when it started. When I talk about the birth of my daughter, I joke about my waters breaking on the toilet, comment how fast she came and how she came on her due date – Friday 13th – and not about the horrific abuse I received at the hands of the medical staff, not about the way I felt the people I loved and trusted let me down, not about the nightmares I have about it, because I am ashamed that I did not fight for myself.
Shame is a debilitating emotion Image Courtesy of WikiMedia
I was ashamed because we don’t talk about it; I was ashamed because every time I tried to talk about it I was told it was my fault. I should have told my mum when he was abusive towards me – considering that the first time he displayed the behaviour was the first time he raped me, considering he told me he would kill my mother and then me if I told her, considering that I had watched him beat my mother, I wasn’t willing, as a victim, to take that risk; I couldn’t tell my mum without risking our lives.
I should have just had the D&C the doctors recommended when I miscarried and “get over it, I did” – considering the success rates of D&C, considering the invasive procedure of a D&C at a time when I felt most vulnerable, considering I had to come to the terms that my baby was dead and that my body had failed not only to tell me that the fetus growning inside me had died a few weeks ago, but also failed to do what it was built to do, considering that none of my close friends (as far as I was aware) had miscarried and I had no one to turn to for helpful and empathetic advice, I wasn’t willing, as a mourning mother, to take that risk; I couldn’t even accept my baby was dead, I wasn’t about to let some desensitised surgeon vacuum him from me.
I should have spoken up when I left my partner and told everyone that he was abusive – considering I was scared he would hurt me, considering I was an emotionally broken person who could barely look after herself, considering my “friends” believed that I would do something like cheating on him, I wasn’t willing, as a victim, to take that risk; I couldn’t tell my friends without risking my safety and I couldn't tell them without seeming like I was lying.
I should have fought for my rights when I gave birth – considering I was lied to by doctors and told my baby would die if I didn’t do what they said, considering the people I should have been able to love and trust pinned me to a bed then told me to shut up and push before I killed my child, considering I was IN LABOUR I wasn’t willing to take that risk; I did not want my baby to die.
Through victim blaming, through not talking about these things we make the problem worse. One in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. That means that many women have had a miscarriage, how many women do you know who have had one – and did you find this out when you had your own miscarriage? No one talks about miscarriage, no one wants to address that we sometimes loose a life because of many different reasons and no one wants to talk about the emotional impact that has on a women, her partner, their relationship and the future impact it will have on every part of her life.
We are certainly more able to talk about child abuse, it is much more in the public view than it was 50 years ago, but there was no offer of support for me when I told someone, I was put in a room with a male police officer (who looked like the man who abused me!) and told I needed to recount exactly what happened to me, using the correct terms for everything. I did not want to tell this man “he told me when we were alone and he looked me in the eyes then down it meant that he wanted me to put his penis in my mouth and pleasure him with it” for many reasons, most pretty bloody obvious. I know other child sexual abuse victims, and this part is exceptionally hard. Then when I was given a physical exam, at fourteen, where a woman looked at my genitals and declared “there’s no sign of abuse, you need to lose some weight” I felt like no one believed me, so what was the point? Imagine being put through a depraving act then having to explicitly explain that to lots of strangers in a time in your life when you are told it’s all dirty and wrong and bad.
We victim blame “speak up”, “say no”, “you should have just walked away” and then we tell them they can’t talk about it “you’re playing the victim”, “just move on already”, “it’s in the past”. We tell people to internalise these feelings, thoughts and memories. When what we should be saying is “share your story”.
I beg you to share your story. I beg you to tell everyone what happened, how it was NOT your fault, how it was the fault of another person and how you will NOT be shamed into silence. These are my stories, I have shared them and I will continue to do so because I did nothing wrong, I have no shame that another person took advantage of a good person. I was raped, I have miscarried, I have been in a domestic violence relationship, I was subjected to birth rape. These things happened to me not because of me. I am a victim and by definition that means I was subjected to a negative experience at the hands of another person. I DID NOTHING WRONG and I will no longer be shamed into silence.