Comparisons

The other night I watched Sunitha Krishnan’s TED India talk about her fight against sex slavery and Deliver us from evil: The Catholic Church lies, a documentary about clergy sexual abuse.  As a note: both the talk and documentary carry trigger and adult content warnings. I’m not familiar with either of these forms of abuse, other than what I’ve read and seen through the media, but both of these clips affected me.

Sunitha talked with passion and courage when describing the horrific stories of some of the people she has rescued. To see the smiling photos of the children who had been used so badly by society that they died of HIV/AIDS before their 10th birthday…  The main focus of her talk, was not to tell horrific stories, but rather to confront societies attitude towards the survivors that she and her organisation Prajwala have rescued.  She was challenging our intolerance, judgments and the cruelty directed towards this group of survivors.  Turning a blind eye to the abuse is not acceptable… Finding excuses not to employ these survivors is not acceptable…  Society shuns these victims and ostracizes them to the fringes, making it difficult to find employment and develop a sense of self.  Society refuses to open our minds and hearts to their plight…

Within my context, I know that my mental health issues would be treated with scorn, derision and skepticism amongst my co-workers.  I know this, because I have seen how they have treated students who have mental health issues – with one being labeled a stalker!  Because I had to take time off work after my ex-husband attacked me, everyone at work knew that I was a victim of domestic violence.  In the months that followed, I got sympathy and understanding from some people, but I also heard domestic violence jokes from others.  If this is the reaction within my small workplace to what is a relatively common occurrence, I’d hate to imagine how they would react to my full abuse history – would I hear child abuse or suicide jokes?

My situation cannot be compared to the situation of those rescued from sexual slavery.  I live in a relatively wealthy farm based city where homelessness and drug problems are considered the greatest blight on our landscape.  I will never know the horror of the sexual slave industry as experienced by those children; and looking at their stories of survival, I’ll never experience their strength.  The context and extremity of the situations is worlds apart, yet there is still a general theme regarding a lack of acceptance by society.  Both situations show how people can be stigmatised for being a victim…

The documentary, Deliver us from evil, affected me for several reasons – our family was asked not to return to the Catholic Church after the mother started using birth control, and we have been subjected to varying forms of odd Catholic based indoctrination by the father, youth groups and camps.  But, the single thing that affected me the most about the documentary, was witnessing the father’s pain at knowing his daughter had been victimised by one of the priests.  The priest was a man the family had welcomed into their home, and he had abused that trust on so many levels.  The images of this grown man crying and distraught over the pain inflicted on his daughter and his inability to protect her were so confusing for us.  Is this how an otherwise healthy family reacts to such an event?  When I told the mother that I had been raped by three teenagers when I was 7 or 8, I don’t think she shed a tear.  I know she told my oldest brother, but he hasn’t said anything to me about any of my abuse history…  I compare this to when my sister was raped by her boyfriend when she was in her late teens, and both my brothers were willing to track him down and beat him up.  They didn’t, but there was some emotional response.  Am I so worthless that I don’t deserve such emotions?  I don’t want anyone to be hurt because of what happened to me, but some sort of reaction would have helped me gain some form of validation that I am a person worthy of concern.

Again, I can’t compare what happened to me to those who suffered at the hands of the abusive clergy.  There can be no generalisations made that those who were victims of the clergy were from otherwise healthy families or that all parents were as demonstrative in their grief over what had occurred to their children.  The daughter of the man who was open with his grief had been abused for years, and the daughter had made a conscious decision not to tell about the abuse for fear of her father being sent to jail for killing the offending priest – basic questioning as a child had led her to believe this as being a very real possibility.  So again, there are some similar general themes, but the context is totally different.

Sex slavery, sexual abuse by the clergy and my own situation should never be compared in regard to their severity; but there are similar themes which run through all incidents – societies acceptance and reaction to the victim seems to be the most common.  Anger seems to be the another.  Sunitha mentioned that she trained her survivors in male dominated trades because they have the courage and strength to push through and succeed in that area – she mentions anger as being one of the drivers.  The survivors of the clergy abuse, openly and strongly voiced their anger.  I’m just starting to realise that I might be angry about what happened to me, and more importantly how angry I am at those around me at the time – the mother suspected something but did nothing, while my sister would’ve been blind not to notice.

The question for all of us is, what do we do with that anger?

—————-
Now playing: Audioslave – Like a Stone
via FoxyTunes

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10 thoughts on “Comparisons

  1. I am not surprised you are angry. You have every right to be angry! I would think you would be FURIOUS about what happened to you and how people responded – or didn’t. I’m so sorry that they didn’t give you the love and support you needed at that time.

    As for what you do with the anger… I’m not really sure. I know my anger has lessened, but I’m not really sure how it’s happened.

    Take care.

    • Hi Kerro,

      I don’t think I’m at all in touch with my anger, as I find it more curious than validating that you say I should be furious. I just don’t get that… But that’s obviously the place I’m at right now. Although Liz says that it’s the anger driving my self-destructive thoughts, I’m not really aware of it as an emotion.

      I’m glad your anger has lessened… 🙂

      Take care,
      CG

    • Thank you T.I.O. One day I hope to be able to look at this sort of thing and not make comparisons and lessen my own experiences…

      Take care,
      CG

  2. Comparisons are often not helpful or healing, especially when non-survivors are the ones doing it. When I have done them in the past it seemed to be another way to make myself feel worse about myself, to judge myself and find myself lacking. The truth is something else. I was abused. It affected/effected me and I still live with the longterm consequences and aftereffects of those abuses. I have a lot to be proud of in my survival. I had and have courage and so do you. You just aren’t seeing it in it’s proper context. It is okay to be proud of yourself, even though you didn’t have the worst possible abuses imaginable. It is okay to be proud of the truth, you are courageous. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

    • Hi Kate,

      I appreciate what you say about comparisons not always being helpful – I often lessen my own experiences and pile guilt upon myself for not being able to cope with what I soon equate to being nothing.

      I’m glad you’re in a place where you can be proud of the place you are in…

      In this post I was trying to slowly ease myself away from harsh comparisons. I was trying to avoid looking at the differences, but rather the similar themes that exist in any instance of abuse. I know I didn’t do it all that well, and I still ended up drawing some comparisons, but at least it was a start.

      I’m thankful and stunned you consider me courageous Kate… Again, it is a harsh comparison, but I see courage in other survivors, not myself.

      Take care,
      CG

  3. Castorgirl.

    I understand that comparisons are generally not helpful. They are not helpful if they serve to invalidate your own experiences. It’s easy to get stuck in that. But comparisons, if done carefully, can be validating. I, for example, identified with a good deal of the sentiments expressed in “Deliver Us from Evil”. When I was really “sick” in the 90s, I connected with Schindler’s List even though my experiences were not at all the same as theirs. When we are able to say “we are all survivors”, then comparisons become healthy. And even going to high school when we saw real live movies of concentration camps or reading “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”, these had particular meaning for me on some level even though I didn’t know what that was all about. It was somehow strangely comforting.

    I am able to appreciate now, but after a lot of work, that my reaction to what happened to me is individual. I know now that young parts of my psyche experience events that are “not that bad” for an adult part as being catastrophic to them. So, there are layers of judgements and comparisons. For those of us with DID, having empathy for the young parts’ reactions is also healing.

    Thanks for writing, and do take care.

    Paul

    • Thank you Paul. In some ways the comparisons and similarities I outlined here were validating. I was trying to ease myself into the possibility that I might be angry about my past. I didn’t do it all that well, but like all baby steps, they sometimes miss the mark and you have to keep on trying.

      There was a time when I could read survivor non-fiction and feel validated by the similarities and differences. So I can see why you found comfort in others history. I sometimes wonder if it helps to see the history of others so we can make some sort of sense of our own. This is where the non-fiction has the advantage over the blog format, the entire story is laid out with a definite ending and some indication that there is a way through the pain.

      I know what you mean about the layers of judgements and comparisons… Our young ones will not be affected by something I consider horrific, but will be triggered by a common smell or word. I find it hard to understand the younger ones… I know I need to address that in the near future. Intellectually I know why they’re there, but I don’t feel the connection.

      Take care,
      CG

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