***Standard Triggers Warnings and Shit Like That***
Last Monday (29 November) I was honest and, for a change, fairly open with Paul (particularly in contrast the previous week, where we had a very long conversation, but in which I was chronically unable to speak in detail). After my initial and customary avoidance techniques, I admitted that I was starting to be persecuted again by the ghastly ‘They‘, and ultimately we engaged in a candid discussion of, firstly, my mother’s outright denials of my experiences with Paedo and her continued attempts to bury her head in the sand and, latterly, about the gang rape.
It’s odd. I can write the word ‘rape’ or the phrase ‘gang rape’ without any inhibitions. But I simply can’t say them to Paul, nor (I’m guessing) to anyone else either. The words stick in my throat, and I am paralysed by them. He said himself that it was as if I couldn’t say them – as if, if I did, I would be physically damaging my throat and/or my vocal chords. We were agreed that this in itself is probably an avoidance technique; if I refuse/am unable to utter these heinous syllables, then it can remain a fallacy, I can somehow pretend that it isn’t or wasn’t real.
There seems to be little point in going into great detail about this session, as most of what I said has already been detailed in the two posts to which I’ve already linked. He spoke of post-traumatic stress disorder, with the emphasis on ‘post’ – ie. what happened after the traumatic event(s) – and in doing so, referenced my mother. His point was that, if she had reacted as she really should have done, that although I would have been traumatised by abusive experiences, that trauma would have been ‘contained‘ by her appropriate response. I would have had my anxiety, fears, horror etc validated, and with her support, could perhaps have been able to deal with it all in a less destructive way than I have (unwittingly) done (in other words, I might not have gone so mental – or ‘doolally’ as Paul now loves to call it – as I have done).
We talked for a while about how a lot of my abusive memories are new. About how I had always remembered more than I had ever let on to anyone, but about how quite a bit was, or had been, conspicuous by its anamnestic absence. About how I knew that some things had actually happened, but about how I had ‘pixellated’ them out of my head. About how I’d been unaware of yet others for many years, having then had them come back to haunt me in my 20s.
Paul said something to the effect of finding a safe place to experience the recollections – namely, in session with him – and being fully cognisant of the fact that what happened was in the past. I said that the problem was that when I experienced flashbacks, it was distinctly not the past at all. It was now – presently, current. I pointed out that this applied both to the psychological sensations and to the physical ones – raw pain, somatic discomfort and mammalian flight-or-fight instincts seize me on these occasions and hold me tenaciously for long enough to add trauma to trauma.
Paul asked me to describe the flashbacks in detail, and in order that I avoided the specifics I told him of the somatic problems and apparently contemporary nature of the experiences. Predictably, though, he desired information as to what exactly went on.
I bollocksed around the issue for a while but eventually described the geography of Maisie and Paedo’s yard, which is where the majority of the abuse took place. The hidden lane between the garage and the hedge, the relative obscurity of one of the many erstwhile outhouses. Behind the garage. Oh yeah, and over at Grandpa’s premises too.
Rather that utter the word ‘rape’, I eventually heard myself refer to “the ‘R’ word”. Pathetic.
He said that he had encountered others in the past who had difficulty articulating the relevant terminologies because it was connected to oral abuse. A oral utterances-oral rape direct correlation. He wondered if that made sense to me. I avoided his eyes but nodded.
How exactly we got there I now don’t recall, but eventually I heard myself describing Grandpa’s byre in detail, which was the location of the gang rape(s?). I told him in detail of the structures I now supposed had been bed frames, about the white construction to my left which I reckon was either a cooker or washing machine, and about the particular choreography of those involved. Five people, I recalled. Men. Uncle to the right, random-moustached bloke doing that thing which I could not utter to me, three men behind him – one to his back-right, one to his back-left, one directly behind him. I mused on whether random-moustached bloke was one of my cousins (ie. Paedo’s second son), but concluded that most men in the late ’80s or early ’90s were similarly offensive looking, so my cousin’s meeting the vague description of this man meant very little in general.
“OK,” Paul said, “but what did you feel?”
Not an easy question to answer. I thought about how the way in which I’d described the incident here, but in the moment, that didn’t really seem to ‘get’ it. As I sat there, reliving it to some extent, I felt very little overall. Resigned? Kind of. Defeated? Yeah. Perplexity? Absolutely (especially with the contorted face of the random-moustached bloke. Why does he look like he’s in pain like that?). Horrified? Not really, actually. Just…bleugh. Something that couldn’t be described as positive, but not the unspeakable horror that one might imagine. Meh. Just…[lots of face contorting, no words].
One thing of interest that I did note was that whilst it hurt, it didn’t hurt as much as it should have done. A telling clue as to what had gone before – and a little more guidance for me as to when the whole thing – in its systematic, one-on-one manner – started. Since this was no later than the age of six, the abuse itself could have started no later than at the age of five, which had been my original estimate.
“You get used to it, I suppose,” I mused, wistfully.
I don’t remember that well how Paul immeadiately responded to my discussion of the gang rape, but eventually he said, “that’s one of the worst things I’ve heard in a long time.”
This completely took me aback. ”Really?!” I demanded, genuinely surprised by this assertion.
“Yes,” he replied. ”You haven’t told me how you felt in the situation, because I don’t think you actually can do so. The horror of the situation is beyond your description, and the words of the child. Being led there, being forcibly undressed, then being forcibly raped [what other type of rape is there?!] by five different men – it’s just terrible. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Silence ensued briefly, and then he asked how discussing specific stuff with him was.
I said that I felt a bit “disconnected” from what I was saying. I had expected the whole thing to be enormous, to be overwhelming. I’m not saying it was anything less than horrid, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had expected. “As long as I avoid the specific terminology, I seem to being finding it marginally less difficult than I expected,” I added. ”But I wish my mind would stop distancing me from stuff – I’d rather get to the point I suppose.
He noted that on the occasion that I actually did voice the phrase ‘gang rape’ that the words fell from me in a contorted fashion – as if the more I could make them alien (or, indeed, non-existent), then the less the incident would have been real. ”You can hold on to your dreams of Munchausen or False Memory Syndrome as long as you don’t enunciate those words,” he noted.
This speaking issue contradicts an long held belief of mine. I hold that we attribute horrible connotations to words; words themselves are benign. Who decided that ‘cunt’ was nasty and that ‘love’ was nice? (Of course you’ll know from the previous post that I have something of a Fair is foul and foul is fair attitude to those specific words). Humans, and their various sensibilities, did. Is love an inherently good concept? Not all manifestations seem to be, to my mind. Is having or being a cunt really so bad? If so, why?
Anyway, this is not a blog on linguistics, but that demonstrates my dichotomy on the issue. I do not, per se, believe that words are emotive – and yet here I am, unable to say important and significant ones, reduced to little more a anxiously crippled mess as soon as I try.
Backtracking to the story of the five men in the byre, I asked, “but why would they do that?” I asked. It sounds stupid and childish, but my point was that I could understand one man finding a child fuckable, however systematic and however distasteful the thought of same may be, but five? Who all happened to find each other in this nothing of a community? It must have been something about me, then, rather than them.
“Have you heard of the Sirens from Greek Mythology?” Paul queried. ”They ‘lured’ sailors with their beautiful music, resulting in shipwrecks. In that way, they were almost all-powerful. Do you think this five or six year old girl had that kind of power?”
“OK, it sounds ridiculous,” I conceded, “but really. Five paedophiles, out in the arse of nowhere – in the days before commercial internet? That they found each other is one hell of a coincidence, don’t you think?”these oth [Incidentally, Paedo and Maisie still don't have an internet connection].
It was Paul’s turn to shrug. He said that paedophile rings had always existed, whether communication had been easy between their members or not.
Time for another tactic, then. ”Well, worse could have happened,” I said nonchalantly.
“Really? How can it get worse than that kind of unspeakable dreadfulness for a five or six year old?”
“Not that it’s some sort of perverse competition, but I got off lightly,” I concluded.
“No you didn’t,” Paul said. ”My children got off lightly, because they had normal, abuse-free childhoods. These other writers of whom you speak certainly did not get off lightly, but neither did you.”
I shrugged. ”The thing is,” I told him, “that’s far from the worst incident. It seems like it should be the worst, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. As I said, you get used to it. My worst memories were when I genuinely thought I was going to be killed, however ‘accidentally’. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to be choked to death.”
“This was an incidence of oral rape, then?” he queried. I made myself retain eye contact with him and refused to react to the word he had used, and nodded.
The thing is, that’s not even the very worst – the very worst thing I remember was a perverse game, somehow associated with the gang rape personnel but not the incident itself (I think) – but I’ll leave the specifics of that juicy titbit for my forthcoming account of this week’s session, where I actually told Paul about it: I didn’t on this occasion.
At one point, he asked me would I rather be mentally ill or the victim of these kind of experiences. I told him that I would rather have the former, and indeed that it was so chronic and so much part of ‘me’ that I’d come to self-identify as ‘mentally ill’.
Paul opines that I made a choice – admittedly an unconscious one – to experience mental illness, rather than experience the memory and living reality of any of this. It’s exemplified in my willingness to bang on about ‘borderline personality disorder, ‘PTSD’, and ‘dissociative identity disorder’, but reluctance – nay, inability – to utter “the ‘R’ word”.
When we came to the end of the session, I sighed in audible relief. It had been tough going. Paul said, “I’ll be interested to know what they think of me after this.”
“Who?” I asked. ”That lot in my head?”
He nodded. ”I’m attacking their defences,” he said. ”They’ll not like that.”
Well, indeed – they’ve not been too happy. But Paul and I will fight on. If they don’t take a florid and less transient hold of me, that is…