On individualist lifestylism and woman-blaming: musings on recent attacks at Liberation is Life

Cross-posted from: Liberation is Life
Originally published: 26.02.17
Many of you have seen one of the latest women writers to come under attack – the author of Why I won’t let any male babysit my children, Kasey Edwards.

Edwards takes a cold, hard look at the too-high likelihood that males with unsupervised access to children will sexually abuse them, compares it with the far lower prevalence of women committing child sexual assault, and concludes that the policy of her and her husband in only allowing women unsupervised access to their children was the most responsible choice they could make.


Read more On individualist lifestylism and woman-blaming: musings on recent attacks at Liberation is Life

CRIMINAL OR VERY ILL? by @anewselfwritten

Cross-posted from: A New Self Written
Originally published: 28.02.16

Was my abuser a criminal, a very sick man or both?

That is the question I am confronting right now. And while I generally feel I am an expert by experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I don’t instinctively know the answer to this question.

Logic, rationality, the thinking things in life can of course supply an answer straight away – he was probably both. But to jump to that conclusion without truly knowing why is lacking somehow. I need a bit more to go on; my education didn’t include the rigours of studying jurisprudence so I don’t know the questions to ask about criminality. My education also didn’t include any aspects of psychiatry or other clinical disciplines which might help the sickness bit of it (I’m discounting my biology O level here).
Read more CRIMINAL OR VERY ILL? by @anewselfwritten

Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny

Cross-posted from: Young Crone
Originally published: 05.10.16

On Sunday night, I watched the Louis Theroux documentary ‘Savile’, which investigated why he (and by extension, others) hadn’t realised who and what the thankfully deceased serial rapist and abuser Jimmy Savile was, back when he interviewed him in 2000. In it, Theroux recognises and acknowledges that he missed certain signs, etc., as did so many others, but at the end, when he finally concludes that we will probably never truly know how Savile got away with so much for so long, he is completely mistaken. Because it’s totally obvious why he did – misogyny. And Theroux, for all his soul-searching, for all his sense of guilt and shame, for all his willingness to research the topic and hear difficult things from victims, including insulting things about his own past involvement with Savile, never stops to analyse the most obvious reason for why he also failed to spot the truth – his own misogyny. As a liberal, lefty guy, he probably doesn’t think he’s sexist at all, and I imagine that if you met him, he probably would come across as very nice and less sexist than a lot of men. Like so many men, because he’s not an out-and-out leering chauvinist pig who thinks women should only exist to attract and service him, he thinks he’s not sexist. BUT. BUT. His misogyny and male entitlement and participation in patriarchy are glaringly obvious in the documentary.
Read more Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny

The Scottish Write to End Violence Against Women and Girls Award!

The Write to End Violence Against Women Awards Nominations close on Sept. 30!

Violence against women is often in the news. Its prevalence in society makes it a ‘hot topic’ for reporters and its complex nature makes it an interesting issue for feature writers. However, the fact that violence against women is so complex can mean that even journalists with the best of intentions can misrepresent some of the issues and perpetuate myths that are harmful to women.

On the other hand, good reporting can play a vital role in increasing understanding of violence against women and challenging its place in our society. And many journalists and bloggers produce high quality work which confronts violence and gender inequality.

We believe that their hard work deserves to be recognised, which is why Zero Tolerance with the support of NUJ ScotlandWhite Ribbon ScotlandScottish Women’s AidEngenderEveryday Victim Blaming, Women 50:50Rape Crisis ScotlandWomen for Independence and the Scottish Refugee Council are pleased to present the fourth annual Write to End Violence award for excellence in journalism. We are also pleased to announce the Sunday Herald will be working with us as our media partner.

This award seeks to drive up standards in journalism by rewarding those committed to furthering the cause of gender equality through their work.  It is open to all those writing in Scotland, and there are categories open to both paid and unpaid writing. Articles and blogs must be published between 01/09/15 and 01/09/16.
Read more The Scottish Write to End Violence Against Women and Girls Award!

I Believe Her by Outspoken Redhead

Cross-posted from: Outspoken Redhead
Originally published: 04.02.14
So, here we go again.  An older, famous, successful man is accused of child abuse.  By his adopted daughter.  An investigation takes place, but there is no ‘proof’.  Of course there isn’t.  There never is.  That’s the trouble with seven year olds.  If they were properly abused, they’d secretly film it, take a semen swab or call the police immediately.  But no, they keep quiet and then years later blab about being abused.  They’re so “me, me, me”.

The Did he, Didn’t He furore over Dylan Farrow’s repeated claim that she was abused is no more than a We Love Woody Allen/We Hate Woody Allen, We Believe Women/We Think Women Lie To Attack Men tribal warfare.  None of us will ever really know.  But here’s what I do know:
Writing about being sexually assaulted at a young age while playing with toy trains or any other toys, risks being shamed publicly.  Of being forever seen as the girl who was ‘interfered with’, at best an object of pity, at worse, someone asking for it.  There are so many ways of wreaking revenge – who would choose one that also shames you too?


Read more I Believe Her by Outspoken Redhead

gaga feminism by @smashesthep

Cross-posted from: Smashes the P
Originally published: 15.01.15

soda-can-hair*Content Warning- Pedophilia*

I’ve recently had the misfortune of reading a particularly bad post-modernist book entitled Gaga Feminism. The author is Judith Jack Halberstam who can be reached on twitter at @Jhalberstam.

Halberstam comes from a queer theory background and uses this framework throughout the book. Within the first few pages Susan Faludi, author of the insightful book Backlash, is bashed for not incorporating the latest female-erasing queer theory analyses into her projects.

Within the first fifteen pages, however, we see an incredibly worrying passage. Halberstam recommends civil libertarian Judith Levine’s (twitter here) “brave and controversial” book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex.  From wikipedia:
Read more gaga feminism by @smashesthep

In the child’s best interests

Cross-posted from: MairiVoice
Originally published: 15.06.15

wsas

It is pleasing that Background Briefing presented a critique of family law last Sunday.

In the child’s best interests

In Child best interests
They were critiquing the way the family court in Australia deals with family law cases.

“Today, we look at some of the most vexed cases that come before the Family Court; those alleging child sexual abuse. Background Briefing has been contacted by numerous mothers who claim that the Court is biased against parents who raise abuse allegations, and disbelieving of the children who make them. It’s a claim the Family Court rejects.”


Read more In the child’s best interests

SEQUELAE – ANOTHER WORD IN THE ABUSE SURVIVOR LEXICON by @anewselfwritten

Cross-posted from: A New Self Written
Originally published: 02.05.15

Trusty old Wikipedia tells me that a sequela (usually used in the plural, sequelae) is a “pathological condition resulting from a disease, injury, therapy, or other trauma.” Basically, something medical and noticeable, an identifiable condition that happens as a consequence of something else.

I was prompted to find a definition after I read an article in the New Statesman by Dr Phil Whitaker. It was an article that I applauded and that also made me sigh. He tackled an important issue: many women who have been sexually abused or assaulted are often unable to undergo primary healthcare checks and screening that require intimate examinations.

He related the tragic story of Martha, a woman in her late thirties, who, despite suffering ongoing infections (which is why she presented for treatment), was unable to have an internal examination. She revealed to him that she had been sexually abused in childhood. The terrible outcome of this was that she had advanced cervical cancer and died shortly afterwards. A psychological sequela (painful in itself) and a physiological sequela (in this case terminal).


Read more SEQUELAE – ANOTHER WORD IN THE ABUSE SURVIVOR LEXICON by @anewselfwritten

Paedophile: Misleading language & child sexual abuse

cross-posted from Everyday Victim Blaming

orig, pub. 21.11.15

We have become increasingly concerned about the (mis)use of the word ‘paedophile’, particularly on social media. We wanted to write a short and succinct piece about the problems with using this word, and we’ve referred to Prof Liz Kelly’s piece Weasel Words: Paedophiles and the Cycle of Abuse and the Child & Women Abuse Studies website.

It has become clear that the term ‘paedophile’ is now most commonly used to collectively describe child sexual abusers. It seems to refer to a type of abuser – usually one who is abusing children outside of the familial setting, the ‘loner’ with uncontrollable sexual urges, who appears ‘different’ to others within the community.

One issue with this is the assumption that most abuse takes place outside the family. This is not the case. Children are most at risk from adults who are in a family caring role – usually fathers or step fathers. The description of ‘paedophile’ is a move away from those men we know are most likely to abuse – our fathers, grandfathers, brothers, family friends. They are the men sharing our lives and and this term takes us into the more comfortable place of ‘other’. It presumes a fundamental difference between men who sexually abuse children and ‘ordinary’ men; a difference that does not exist in reality.

The dichotomy of ‘paedophile’ vs ‘ordinary men’ is a dangerous one. Ordinary men are the ones abusing children. Generally, these men do not only have a sexual attraction to children. These men have wives and partners and girlfriends and maintain successful sexual relationships with adults as well as abusing children.

Using the clinical definition of paedophile, that of these men only having a sexual interest in children, stops us looking at strategies of abusers. These strategies are the same regardless of whether the abuser fits the clinical definition. Abusers choose the children they abuse and they make a deliberate attempt not to get caught – they make strategic decisions in order to facilitate abuse. The ‘paedophile’ discourse prevents us from discussing this and also helps the abusers avoid responsibility.

Describing men who sexually abuse children in this way focuses on their ‘deviance’ – an ‘abnormality’, a ‘sickness’. It stops us looking at men’s entitlement, the notions of ownership and we lose the option to talk about choice & responsibility for our own abusive actions. If ‘paedophilia’ is thought of in these terms, we become distracted away from the real issue, which is actually one of ordinariness.

Abusing others is a choice, as is not abusing others. If we use terms that allow abusers to say ‘I can’t help myself’, what does that say about the likelihood of preventing child sexual abuse? Child sexual abusers describe themselves as such; using terms preferred by abusers means we collude by using their language. We must challenge the notions of ownership, sexuality (especially that of men) and ensure that choice and agency of abusers is acknowledged and discussed. Othering them into ‘paedos’ or ‘sickos’ prevents that.

Let us call them what they are – sexual abusers of children or child rapists.

Ending Victimisation and Blame [Everyday Victim Blaming]: This campaign is about changing the culture and language around violence against women and children.  We aim to challenge the view that men cannot help being violent and abusive towards women and children.  We want to challenge the view that women should attempt to ‘avoid’ abuse in order to not become a victim of it.  We challenge media reports of cases of violence against women and children where there is an almost wilful avoidance of the actual reasons for these acts.  Power, control, women and children being considered ‘possessions’ of men, and avoidance of personal responsibility all contribute to a societal structure that colludes with abusers and facilitates a safe space in which they can operate. This is what we are campaigning to change. @EVB_Now

Girl and Woman @Carregonnen

cross-posted from Carregonnen

orig. pub, 18.2.15

I wrote this poem five years ago. I have tried to edit it, to improve the language, to make it better but I can’t. I don’t know how else to say this in a more ‘good poetry’ way – so I have left it because at the moment it says what I want it to say. My mental health problems have been severe over my life and I have made some very poor behaviour and relationship choices. Like many other women, I think about what my life would have been like if I had not had a violent abusive father. If I had grown up with few problems and had fulfilled whatever potential I had. If I hadn’t been such a damaged teenager and had been able to stay on at school and go to University like my brothers eventually did. If I hadn’t been so desperate to get married and have children but had been able to wait till I was really ready. If I had been a mother who was not driven by anger and despair and fear but one who was able to give her children a more stable childhood without screaming rages that made them fearful of me and my responses and reactions. I have said before that the guilt I feel about the way I was as a young mother will stay with me forever – no matter how much insight into and understanding of the reasons why I was the way I was. I cannot do any more to fix this although I still try. I no longer have rages, they ended many years ago when I realised why I was so angry. Now I have fear and this immobilises me and creates feelings of despair and pointlessness. But I am still here and I have a good life and I do enjoy many parts of it – friends family lots of interests. There’s bits of me I quite like and many bits I do not like and actively scrutinise and judge far more harshly than anyone else could!

I am a girl
I am eleven years old
soon I will sit my Eleven Plus examination
and I will go to Grammar School
to not go to Grammar School
would be ‘unthinkable’ says my Father
My Mother is beautiful
I have a handsome Father
so he says.
I have two brothers
they are both younger than me
and I love them both

I am a woman
I am sixty three years old
I have three children and nine grandchildren
now I have only one brother and I love him
I have good friends
I have a job a house and a car
I enjoy most of my life
sometimes I go a bit crazy
then I take pills
this has been happening on and off
most of my life
I have friends who understand me
I have children who don’t
This is not their fault
This is my fault
But it is His fault in the first place
If I try to imagine a different girl who is eleven
If I try to imagine a different life
then I can’t imagine a different sixty three year old woman
I have no idea what she would be like
at least I know who I am
this sixty three year old woman
I know her crazy as she is
I am glad I have the children I have
I am glad I have the friends I have
But the life I have is difficult to live

February 2009

 

Carregonnen: I do life writing in poetry and prose about child abuse and mental health – politically I am a radical feminist. [@Carregonnen]

CHILD ABUSE OR CONFRONTING ABUSE – WHAT’S THE REAL TABOO?

Cross-posted from A New Self Written

orig. pub 18.10.14

I do work hard. Yes I do. Really. But in the middle of an important meeting, I found myself considering what we really mean when we talk about a taboo. It is broadly defined as a “system of prohibitions connected with things considered holy or unclean”. I’m no social anthropologist or sociologist, but it seems clear to me that even when we collectively uphold something as a taboo, it’s not actually a prohibition; it simply stops us talking about it.

Child sex abuse is a taboo; within the confines of trusted structures – such as family or school or religion – even more so. This is quite right. Yet although we operate this “system of prohibitions” it doesn’t translate into action from us, as a society, to prevent it in the first place. This is because where abuse is concerned the actual taboo is talking about it, acknowledging and confronting it.

It’s unsurprising, I suppose. We are frightened of taboos; how they challenge us, what we might need to do to stop them. Take death. Since we left the Victorian theatricality surrounding death behind, it is high up on the list of taboo subjects. We can’t talk about it. We deny it and at best address it euphemistically. But this doesn’t stop it. It just means we aren’t prepared for it. Of course, this is where that comparison must rightly stop. Death from natural causes is inevitable, child abuse is not. However until we break the talking taboo childhood sex abuse will continue and will remain inevitable.

You see the things that start at home – private, unshared, tacitly understood – are perpetuated. A taboo, such as family abuse, is a crime committed, known about, but rarely talked about. The more trusted, tightly wrought and familiar the institution, the greater is the taboo surrounding revealing any deviation within its confines.

Recent high profile celebrity abuse cases are really helping us to peel back some of the layers here. The reporting is so often skewed, but the conversation has started however uninformed and misguided it may sometimes be. Like Sophie Heawood in her column I too punch the air when another case is revealed because some fresh air has been blown into the musty long held secret. But I also have to temper my exasperation. The bind is that a concept such as ‘celebrity’ and the notion of an ‘institution’ enable us to put a distance between these horrors and daily family life. This is what gives it license to continue, unchallenged. We speak out about the famous, but we can’t speak out about our families. The more we know about it, the more we defend against it.

The family is our smallest unit of society – many would see it as a fundamental building block of society. In so many ways it forms us, teaches us, sustains us. We are taught to trust it and everything that happens within it. The rules learnt within the family – including what you do or don’t talk about – are virtually impossible to break as a child or an adult. If you experienced something hateful, perpetuated by someone you trusted and actively or passively sanctioned by those you loved, how on earth do you know it is wrong and how on earth do you summon the resources at any point in your life to speak out? Society at a macro level can’t believe you and society at a micro level, your family, may well reject you. The talking taboo is an important contributor to this.

Twitter is alive with the fact that the Home Secretary’s long promised inquiry into historic child sex abuse has been kicked into the political long grass with the substantial controversy surrounding its new chair, Fiona Woolf. This, I believe, is a living, breathing example of my point. We know it’s happening, at scale, but we can’t talk about it, for fear of what might ensue and what it might unleash. It is, in fact, too close to home for everyone.

The inquiry matters for all sorts of reasons: first it was promised by the Government and the Government needs to follow through. Second it would send a message to those who have suffered and are suffering abuse that this issue will be taken seriously. Third, and most importantly, it would mean talking about abuse. Although the inquiry will focus on institutions, it should shine a light on the fact that it happens inside families, outside families, in institutions, by those we trust and don’t trust, in every class, faith, colour, and household, and make it part of our discourse. Only in this way can we take some small, firm steps towards putting an end to abuse.

I am not living embodiment of what I say here. I am not out of that particular closet: I was abused for a long time as a child. I write about it, think about it, have opinions about it, take medication because of it, feel huge empathy for others who are suffering and admiration for the struggle of survivors. However talking openly is still a taboo for me – I blog anonymously and I share my experiences with very few people.

In my family the abuse is known about but not talked about or acknowledged. It remains a silent, living secret…although the perpetrator is dead.

So, the taboo of talking is created and reinforced in families from the bottom up. I’m usually of the opinion that small scale action leads to big scale change. But in this case I believe a top down, national inquiry, signed up to by politicians of all persuasions and supported by all agencies, with survivors and their representatives at its heart, would start to create a discourse that might help permeate every layer of society. This could outlaw the taboo of talking about childhood abuse and enable us to focus on stopping the real taboo – the abuse itself.

 

A New Self WrittenA New Self Written A brand new blog aiming to explore the power of poetry, public policy, feminism, current affairs, art. Interested in putting views out into the blogosphere and stirring the virtual pot now and then. TWITTER @anewselfwritten

Eat Rice. Have Faith in Women

(cross-posted from I am because you are)

The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Recently my adult English class were studying the topic of ‘nature’ which had a section on ‘animals’. One of the opinions on the page was something along the lines of ‘the world would be a healthier and happier place if everyone went vegetarian and it would be good for the environment too’. After giving time for students to discuss this and other ideas, I asked if they agreed with it and was answered by a chorus of heartfelt ‘no!’s. Why not, I wanted to hear, and the students vehemently insisted that eating meat was essential to survival and health. You have to eat meat they said, using the strongest form for expressing obligation available to them. Since I’ve mentioned that I’m a vegan before, my students were arguing against the evidence standing in front of them, and perhaps I should have demanded an explanation as to how I had somehow survived for the past 16 years during which I haven’t eaten meat, but I focussed on dismissing The Protein Myth, which has folks believing that essential amino acids are missing from vegetable foods, or that the amino acids in such foods are not the same as the ones we need to make proteins in our bodies. I wanted to squash the bad science quickly and move the class on to ethical arguments. I was unprepared for this wall of resistance and strength of conviction in the necessity of meat.

I don’t know why I was so surprised, since I had been reading Carol Adams’ book ‘The Sexual Politics of Meat’, which addresses the mysterious difficulties of vegetarians to be heard over the dominance of ‘the texts of meat’. Since these are written into white culture we are heard as aggressive in our very refusal to partake. Plutarch is quoted suggesting vegetarians flip the question everyone asks us and invite the interlocutor to explain why they feel it’s alright to eat the dead flesh of animals, but this level of provocation usually backfires. One of the uses of spurious scientific arguments against vegetarianism is obviously to deflect the possibility of an ethical discussion; likewise the hypotheticals wise guys and gals love to bombard us with relating to desert islands and other unlikely situations. ‘What would you do if I put a gun to a cow’s head and threatened to pull the trigger if you refused to eat a burger?’ wondered a classmate of mine recently, surely begging the question ‘but… why would you do that?’

Anyway, while the terminology seemed a bit out of date to me, much of the analysis was valuable. The idea of meat as a macho food is overt, but Adams seeks to illuminate how deep the parallels run between the status and optics of women and of animals in white Euro-USian culture and society. I was actually most moved by the opening section in which she points out that women everywhere go without food, especially meat, to ensure that men eat well and eat meat. The discussion of rape though, made neither logical nor intuitive sense to me, and I lost the thread of the argument at times.

A key topic that does resonate for me is the development of meat consumption. Adams identifies four historical stages, the first being vegetarianism, followed by hunting, followed by subsistence farming, followed by industrialised agri-business. The Euro-USian world is obviously in ‘the fourth stage’, which is mostly pretty horrific. Adams considers meat-eating on the scale of this cultural group to be enmeshed with white supremacy and to some extent imposed with colonisation around the world. Listening to Radio 4’s Farming Today I regularly hear reports on British farmers seeking expanding markets in ‘BRIC’ countries where animalised and feminised protein (meat, dairy products and eggs in Adams’ terminology) are being consumed in increasing quantities. The analysis on the radio never gets beyond ‘they want it because they can afford it now’, continually reinforcing the food hierarchy with meat at the top. Little attention is paid to the health or environmental implications, or the farmers’ intention to create demand. Compassion for ‘livestock’ is obviously unmentionable.

While I appreciate Adams’ reflections on meat-eating as white supremacy, and agree with her critique of Pat Parker’s poem ‘To my Vegetarian Friend’, I feel the aspect of intersections between culture and racism and meat industries is underdeveloped. Reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved, one of many books that confronts me with the fact that Black slaves in the US were treated far worse even than animals raised for food who, as Adams points out, receive ‘the trappings of care’ from humans, I am reminded that white veg*ans like myself are regularly guilty of reinflicting, reinscribing or callously ignoring white supremacy and other aspects of kyriarchy. This week I read about vegans of colour protesting the antics of Thug Kitchen. The Sistah Vegan Project and other thoughtful, intersectional work should be required reading for vegan activists!

Still, Adams started the ball rolling taking veggies to task for misogyny, not that it’s over. Tweeting as my local Green Party branch on the topic of raising the number of women in parliament, I received a response from a white man: “why not focus on helping animals instead? #govegan” presumably, only male animals. Adams makes an intriguing connection between the fragmentation of animal bodies and of texts, specifically, the silencing of women’s texts and especially as ‘bearers of the vegetarian word’. It is important that Frankenstein, much analysed and admired, has been ignored as a vegetarian text, and also that so many attempts have been made to attribute it to Shelley’s husband, since it’s inconceivable that a woman can have written something so brilliant. I really enjoyed the literature analysis, and I will add veg*anism to the lenses I try to look through in my reading, as it seems to be all too rarely applied.

One of the questions addressed by Adams’ analysis is that of why women, and specifically some feminists, have been drawn to vegetarianism. Aside from the clear association of meat and masculinity, to what extent have women embraced plant based diets as a form of protest against patriarchal violence? Because feminism and vegetarianism both tend to be ridiculed and excluded from mainstream discourse, there is a need for loving excavation of vegetarian reflections in woman oriented texts, such as the work of Alice Walker.

She mentions an (Victorian?) article about teenage girls who refuse to eat meat, which treats the behaviour as an eating disorder (but, happily, recommends kindness and healthy alternatives, not coercion). This apparently common experience of the body rejecting meat, of meat becoming ineffably wrong was my own at the age of fourteen. Disgust is a strange emotion, and I still cannot say whether mine has its roots in my conscience. I can only say that as I have removed animal products from my diet, I have ceased to see them as food, and increasingly I can’t imagine how I ever ate them. I was led to vegetarianism by disgust, and ethical conviction followed; perhaps then, I act, and afterwards find my action good! Going vegan though, I was led by concern for hungry people and warming planet, and compassion for other animals, and disgust came after. It is not possible for me to separate them – when asked why I am vegan, I say ‘all the reasons’, so I knot that this journey out of eating animals is very personal and full of obstacles. I have to thank countless people for clearing my way, including Adams, but I also have to acknowledge many privileges that have enabled me, such as money, time, whiteness, education, and living in a place with an active and creative vegan community where veganism has some recognition.

I am publishing this review in celebration of the start of World Vegan Month and the 70th birthday of the Vegan Society! I invite all my readers to get involved in some delicious way – you definitely don’t have to be vegan to <3 vegan ice cream, for example ; )

I am because you area bookworm trying to decolonise my mind

NOT JUST HORROR IN “AUNTY’S” HOUSE by @anewselfwritten

(Cross-posted from A New Self Written)

Dave Lee Travis, stalwart of BBC youth and popular viewing in the 70’s and 80’s, was sentenced on 26 September, after being found guilty of sexual assault. He was given a three month suspended sentence for assaulting a researcher on one of his shows. It’s hard to imagine that what she has suffered or been through since then has in any way been ‘suspended’ apart from her belief in the criminal justice system perhaps…

But Dave Lee Travis is just the most recent example of a string of now shamed BBC entertainers: most famously Jimmy Savile, as well as Rolf Harris and Stuart Hall. Understandably much of the focus in the media has been on the role of the BBC. It sits in our collective psyche as an important institution; beloved “Aunty” – an honorary family member – has essentially let down a generation. It has wittingly or unwittingly sanctioned crimes to take place against vulnerable people. And it has made a generation of viewers reconsider the nature of those programmes and celebrities that alongside schooling and friends made up the weft and warp of their childhoods.

But think about it – isn’t it time we, as a society, widened our focus when we consider and respond to child abuse? Any perpetrator of this crime needs to be brought to justice. Yet one of the most enduring institutions of all – the family – is overlooked in this welcome exposure of abuse in our different institutions.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner recently launched its important inquiry into child sexual abuse in a family environment. You’re unlikely to have heard about this unless you follow these issues relatively closely or you’re an early riser. It received scant coverage on Radio 4 at around 5.35 am on Thursday 3 July then it sank with very little trace. This is an important inquiry that needs everyone’s attention, not just from professionals and people with a statutory role or function… But without the celebrity status to give it a profile or the whiffs of political scandal that are following the Home Secretary’s attempts to launch an inquiry into this issue, nobody will find it important or interesting.

But as a society we really need to. If Top of the Pops, Jim’ll Fix It, and It’s a Knockout were a favourite part of your childhood and teens you’ll know the feeling of shock, disgust and often disbelief that these people did these things. Those feelings can give everyone a window into an aspect of how it can feel to live with the knowledge and memories of abuse by a member of your family. Somebody you loved and trusted isn’t what they seemed, and there’s very little of what you may actually have held dear that hasn’t been contaminated by what went on behind closed doors.

Just as more abuse “scandals” continue to emerge and shock us further, so those realising and confronting that they were abused have to come to terms frequent revelations and reminders. What happened to many many individuals at the hands of “Aunty” needs to be fully investigated. And what has happened to probably hundreds of thousands of children at the hands of uncle, father, brother, grandfather, family friend, parent, cousin also needs to be investigated.

Childhood is a series of formative experiences, memories and routines. When you realise you’ve been abused it’s not just your memories of tea-time TV routines that are turned on their heads.

This is what the routine felt like to me.

ROUTINE ABUSE

Between the ages of five and eleven
Week days after half past three
Saturday Sunday twenty-four seven
Holidays? Let’s wait and see

Upstairs meant the serious business
Downstairs it happened more casually
Get to the kitchen – safety and happiness
Outdoors, uncharted territory

The rules are relatively easy to learn
I picked them up at five years old
You’re called, you go, it happens – a pattern
Now broken by having told

 

A New Self WrittenA New Self Written A brand new blog aiming to explore the power of poetry, public policy, feminism, current affairs, art. Interested in putting views out into the blogosphere and stirring the virtual pot now and then. TWITTER @anewselfwritten