Why We Keep Talking

The backlash against survivors who dare to talk about their experiences is incredible. From well-meaning relatives or friends who hope to lessen the pain somehow by telling us, "It can't have been that bad," to death threats and stalking from abusers we've confronted, to organizations operating on a large-scale to debunk reports of abuse (such as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation), survivors are beset on all sides with walls of disbelief. We are accused of making it up, of being crazy, of being "oversensitive", ungrateful, just out for attention, or any of a thousand demeaning labels which not only insult our individual persons, but also give no respect to the horrors we've survived, or the strength we have shown in doing so.

It is my personal opinion (as illustrated on other parts of these webpages) that people just don't want to admit abuse exists. Sometimes, this is understandable. Sometimes, a person might have great faith in the goodness of humanity, and can't even conceive of abuse as happening (or else, can't conceive of it happening except "over there", or "somewhere else"). Or perhaps they don't want to imagine that abuse might have happened to someone they care about, and so they minimize it. Maybe, they even believe they are helping to relieve a survivor's pain, by suggesting that the survivor focus on something else.

Other people have a more vested interest in letting abuse happen. A parent who was negligent in protecting their child from being abused by the other parent, for example, may not want to hear about what happened, either because they have incredible guilt about their failure to help, or because they don't want to admit that they were partly responsible for what went on. (Yes, I said responsible -- there is no excuse for failing to protect a child from abuse. Parents in this position are known as "passive abusers": they did not directly harm the child themselves, but they failed to do anything to stop it. The only acceptable reason for not stopping abuse is if you really don't know that it's happening -- and this is extremely rare.) People who buy into an abusive system -- say, overly macho or aggressive men, or very submissive women -- might deny that abuse happens as well. A good portion of college men apparently believe that there is no such thing as rape, and that it's okay to have sex with a woman if she's drunk or unconscious. (I say, if the only way you can get laid is with a woman who's out cold, you're probably the most pathetic asshole that ever lived -- and a criminal to boot.)

Yet another group has a direct investment in whether or not abuse is revealed: abusers themselves. For one reason or another, abusers want to get away with it. Why? I don't know. I've never been inside an abuser's head, I've only been on the receiving end of their abuse. I don't know what makes abusers tick -- and in some ways, I hope I never find out.

The bottom line is, this isn't a very survivor-friendly world. Yes, resources are out there. Yes, people know more about abuse and recovery than they ever did before. Yes, more strides are made daily, in healing and in research. Yes, we keep talking. But it isn't easy. All of the above makes our lives very difficult. Add to this the reports of abuse which actually do turn out to be false, and it just adds one more wall -- if one "victim" cries wolf, it makes those of us with true stories to tell that much more likely not to be believed.

But talk we do, and talk we will. With our friends, our families, on Oprah, in books, in journals, through artwork, with therapists, online, in webpages... on and on and on. We have to. For those of us who have suffered abuse at the hands of others, the only way out is by revealing what happened -- bringing it out into the light, naming it for what it is, looking at it good and hard, assessing the damage done to our selves and our lives, and then assimilating the damage and moving on. No, there's no overnight cure. No, we can't just "snap out of it". DUH!

We have to talk, because if we don't, abuse will never come to light, for anyone. It will continue breeding in the silence and shame, on and on, for generations to come, causing the same debilitation and hatred and confusion for future generations that it has to us. We have to talk, because we can't let abusers get away with it anymore. The toll they take on all of humanity is simply unacceptable.

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