I am a great fan of Stephen Fry. Not only since I know he does brilliant work for the UK mental health charity MIND but long before. About 20 years ago I accidentally watched a film in which he played Oscar Wilde. I was not only hooked about the writer himself but also by the actor who depicted this troubled man with such affection but also accuracy.
So you can imagine how shocked I was when I heard the comments he made about the self-pitying abuse survivors. I was taken back and said to my husband: “He should really know better!”
It just did not sit right with me that a man who has been open about his bipolar disorder diagnoses and has spoken out against stigma and discrimination against people living with a mental health condition for such a long time could say such insensitive words.
I wondered if these words were born out of him being close to another crisis of his mental health. So far I haven’t heard anything about him being worse of however he has apologised for his words which sounds much more like the man I think him to be.
Besides that, I wondered how much we put activists for good causes on a pedestal which might put them under enormous pressure. After all, no matter how much they fight the good fight they are also human and humans do make mistakes. Unfortunately for activist or famous people, in general, their mistakes are not anonymous. They are seen all over the world and even more so today in a world where we are connected 24/7 via social media.
And I also wondered about speaking out about our experience of being abused as children. This is a dilemma I face since I have started to blog about being a survivor about seven years ago. On the one hand, I want to help other survivors see they are not alone and there is hope of healing. After all one of the biggest problems a survivor faces is the fact that the silence about the abuse is forced on us often with cruel threats by the abuser. To speak out can be very healing.
But there have also been times when I thought: “It is enough! I have said enough, I have faced enough, I want it to rest!” And “I do not want to be faced with abuse on every news programme, crime tv show and any book I am touching”. There is both in me that wish to change the experience of abuse into something positive and healing but also a wish of it to rest at last and finding peace.
I do not want to pity myself even though speaking about the pain and rage that is still living in me might look like it. However, there is an awful lot of innocence, faith, security and happiness I have lost in my childhood and I feel I have the right to mourn this.
I also feel it is important to use every channel possible to make other survivors see that they are not alone. That we are many. And it is time that the world faces the truths about sexual abuse: it is not strangers who abuse our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. It is friends, lovers, partners, parents, teachers, coaches, priests known to the person who is abused and raped. Sexual abuse and rape is not a rare occasion. It happens daily to 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. These are the official numbers. There are many more we do not know about.
So shall we share our experiences as survivors of abuse or hold our tongue and heal in silence? For me, there is no general answer to this question. Surviving and healing from sexual abuse and rape is a very personal experience in which we find very personal solutions.
In an ideal world, there would not be restrictions to the way we heal. In an ideal world, there would not be VIP’s passing insensitive judgement over us. In an ideal world, there would be no sexual abuse or rape.
However, we do not live in an ideal world and we have to face our healing journeys combined with many compromises. A famous activist for mental health saying cruel words about us is just one of the compromises we have to live with.
What do you think? Shall we talk about our experiences of abuse or not?