“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.” ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery
WANNA HEAR A GHOST STORY?
When it comes to your human rights, what does “taking responsibility” for a violation against you mean? I had the chance to discuss what it means to me with the man who abused me. For some of us it’s easy to understand how “actions speak louder than words” and yet when an abuser acts violently why do some of us find it so hard to hear what those actions mean? I want this man to be accountable for what he did to me. I want the courts to hear me and act. I want reparations. This act of responsibility on his part will make it clear to us both just what happened to me, why he did it and how we can be assured it never happens to anyone again. I am being the change I want to see.
Listen to pieces of my story here:
THE TRAUMA THAT HAUNTS US
I never knew about the effects of the trauma I was experiencing until now. Just the other day I was writing poetry and making songs about and with him… my abuser, Antonio “Boo” Rudder. We could never stay away from one another too long. It’s a disturbing feeling to miss and long for the company of someone who has consistently abused you. But with all things, time heals and the application of knowledge empowers future decisions. I swore that I loved him and that is what I rationalized kept me with him. I remember the first time he choked me only 2 weeks after meeting him and as I lay there on his bed with him on top of me, I didn’t struggle, I didn’t scream…in a distant reality I saw myself drifting away. It was the beginning of me falling into a deep state of shock that I am now recalling in its familiarity among the memories I have of sitting in corners as a young girl with my hands covering my eyes and ears as I witnessed my mother either being abused or defending herself from a host of male abusers, none of them were my biological father. Her path has crossed with mine. Full circle I’ve found myself having to dig into my toolbox to break the cycle and move on from my attempts to fix a broken man while at the same time holding my mind, body and heart together.
Just as Frederick Douglass noted many generations before me, I too know why “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. Follow me through my own paper trail as I work my mechanic skills only to end up discovering my fear of things that cannot be fixed. It’s nice to try to work things out is what my upbringing has impressed upon my heart. Hard work is something to put into anything you have found to be worth the effort. But what happens when our best attempts at “making things right” fall upon deaf ears? What do we make of the silence? How do we explain feelings of “hopelessness” to the mind that seeks reason for why there has to be no hope? Maybe just as much I as enjoy editing footage, I can piece together a story about how I ended up lost in the fragments of debris shedding from one broken man’s life as hair does from a mangy dog. How I ended up cut. Why I decided to scream. And why the justice system and my abuser aren’t listening.
HOW DO I BURY THE MEMORIES?
“The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.
Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.
The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.
The psychological distress symptoms of traumatized people simultaneously call attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect attention from it. This is most apparent in the way traumatized people alternate between feeling numb and reliving the event. The dialectic of trauma gives rise to complicated, sometimes uncanny alterations of consciousness, which George Orwell, one of the committed truth-tellers of our century, called “doublethink,” and which mental health professionals, searching for calm, precise language, call “dissociation.” It results in protean, dramatic, and often bizarre symptoms of hysteria which Freud recognized a century ago as disguised communications about sexual abuse in childhood. . . .” ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery