Religion can be a powerful hiding place for terrible atrocities. I watched a short clip of this interview in the morning on telly, and I became overwhelmed with sorrow and anger. I cannot begin to imagine the excruciating torture these individuals have been through, my own experiences pale in comparison, and even then, I felt as if I was being systematically torn into smaller and smaller insignificant shreds. Voiceless, with no hope for being heard. I don’t ask for redress, there can be none that will erase the nightmares, but just a space where the abused can find a voice and be heard – not as a rabid angry ranter out for revenge, not as a deviant lunatic raving at imaginary shadows, but as a valid human being whose story is a true one.
Abusers are usually former victims themselves. However, there is no righteousness in blaming one’s past. Many others have chosen not to perpetuate the pain. We still have the power of choice, as long as we have control over our actions. I do not apologise for my lack of empathy for former victims who insist on transferring their pain onto other innocents.
Why do victims often take so long to speak out? Many times, abuse victims are simply unable to describe their experiences in a manner acceptable to social norms for coherency, and they are thus relegated to the trash heap of gibberish. Victims often also suffer from mental anomalies, whether predisposed before the abuse began, and hence handpicked by the predator, or as a result of long term abuse. Many victims may not even realise they are being abused until much later, when the damage is done and so firmly embedded into their existence and identity that they are altered forever.
I have witnessed a child being tied to a gate in the hot tropical sun, by a 16 year old (approximate). The same child being repeatedly locked inside a dark and smelly toilet and beaten and caned, and punished viciously because she was ‘naughty’ and ‘unmanageable.’ That child grew up to serve the very people who abused her. With love and forgiveness. Yet, it was not enough for the abusers to stop there. They continued to use her and then aggressively condemn her when she ceased to be useful. They now relegate her to the abyss of mental instability and spiritual darkness because she no longer conforms to their wishes. What has this child done to deserve this from her religious familial elders? No, it isn’t me. It is someone I love, who loves me dearly and faithfully – it is horrifying enough to remember watching and standing by, haplessly unable to do anything to help, and still powerless. I still have terrible dreams. The eye witness relives empathic pain, and that too is tortuous.
I have heard so many accounts by victims of loss, some first hand – not only losing their dignity and sense of self, but also losing their friends and family, when they dare to begin to find themselves and speak up against abuse. The subject of abuse is vast and wide ranging, but it is about this particular loss that I am musing today.
I am lucky. My own experiences have been comparatively mild, and mitigated by providential Grace. Yet, I still mourn the loss of those dear to me, who have been won over in similar fashion by the guile of the powerful and artful. A mere tip of a very large and cold ice berg. My heart goes out to all the sufferers who did not choose to enact their abuse upon other innocent victims, but instead choose to live as bravely as they possibly can.
I cannot yet write anything about the immense suffering of others. My own is small and hence more manageable. Here is a ‘broken’ poem to a treasured friend, lost to the insidious charm of the far more socially ingenious Abuser.
i have not
i am not
but i know
and i grieve
for my loss
i have not
how do i
my dear friend
of her hand
all i have
i am not
to my home