Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lessons from a militarized childhood: Are people really not willing to hear what happened?


Let me elaborate.

A lot of folks who've read my Lessons from a militarized childhood posts have asked me why I seem so angry at people not being willing to listen to the stories of those who've suffered abuse. Surely that doesn't happen, they say. Surely people are willing to hear about what happened to these poor folks.

Yes, it does happen. It happens all the time.

No, most people don't want to hear.

I hate that. It pisses me off.

I know women who've suffered abuse, physical and sexual, from family members, people whose sacred duty was to care for them, and they can't talk to their spouses. I know men who were beaten, and they can't talk to their spouses. I could go on, but I'm not going to enable anyone who knows me or my friends to play a guessing game; these folks get to choose if they want to talk.

What I wish is that the rest of the world would be willing to listen, to hear their stories, to not ask stupid questions, questions like, "What did you do to make it happen?" or "Why didn't you stop it?"

The answers, by the way, are the same as those for rape victims: nothing, and because they couldn't.

I don't enjoy talking about these parts of my past. Like all abused kids, I still at some level feel guilty and weak for somehow making it happen and for not stopping it--even though intellectually I know the right answers. The reason I am talking about it is that I want to demonstrate to these people that they are not alone.

That they have ever right to talk about what happened.

That those questions are stupid.

That people who care about them should listen and understand and comfort them and never never never blame them.

That it was not their fault.

Because it wasn't.


Dan Campbell said...

This is my third attempt at commenting on this post. It's relevant to where my own thought and feeling is just now, but I need more rumination to develop those into something written. Suffice to say, for now, that I agree with you and have been wondering how much the notion of "being normal" subconsciously enforces the secrecy--and how much "normal" or "mainstream" culture is a myth. I'm having a hard time coming up with more than a minority of the people I've known who haven't survived trauma, been close to someone who had, or who had experienced being othered for reasons aside from trauma.

J. Griffin Barber said...

Foolish, the desire to stick one's head in the sand and try and drive the unusual, the uncomfortable, the hard thought away with obtuse remarks and questions tailored to offend rather than learn.

Keep pushing.

Mark said...

I believe that it's uncomfortable to hear people discuss their traumas, but we all put up with some discomfort for those we care about.

Mark said...

Maybe foolish, Griffin, but very common.

J. Griffin Barber said...

Yes, all too common. But then, the common is not the correct or healthy, it is merely common. Like the common cold, such ignorance sucks the life from those it afflicts.

"Ever get to shoot someone?" is a question I have been asked many times. My first useful response is, "No, I've never _had_ to shoot someone to protect my life or that of another person. Thank God. I have enough stains on my soul."

I do not always have the patience to reach that response. More often it is a couple four letter words.

Mark said...

I'm sorry for that. The ignorance in the question is stunning but all too common.

Laura said...

Thank you.

It's hard to break the silence, and being faced with thoughtless, if not downright hostile questions--or even silence, as if no one heard the words that struggled so hard to come out--can make it even harder.

Seems to me that every person who speaks up makes it just a little bit easier for the next person to speak about their own traumas.

Mark said...

That is my hope, Laura.


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