Monday 5 November 2012
Are we all condemned to live in ‘cycles of abuse’?
"It is now heresy to question the idea that child abuse damages a person for life. But such a deeply fatalistic idea must be questioned.
The abhorrence virtually all of us feel towards paedophilia makes it very difficult to have a balanced, dispassionate discussion about its harmful impact on young people.
Indeed, as we have seen in the Jimmy Savile scandal, the dramatic and highly charged language used to describe different forms of child abuse warns people off being dispassionate, by promoting the idea that the damage caused by child abuse is unique and qualitatively different to all other forms of suffering. Metaphors such as ‘scarred for life’ or ‘damaged for life’ convey the belief that victims of child abuse are literally condemned to a life-long sentence of painful suffering. The frequently repeated claim that a single act of abuse can have consequences that last a lifetime is rarely interrogated.
And yet, the impact of abuse on a child or an adult is far from straightforward. The experience of psychological trauma is different to the experience of physical trauma, in that the way people respond to such pain, the way they choose to deal with it, will greatly influence the levels of emotional damage they experience. And such responses are inevitably mediated through the prevailing system of meaning and values in our society and communities. Cultural and social contexts influence how we are expected to negotiate painful trauma. The way that the consequences of abuse are discussed in society has a significant bearing on the way they are actually experienced by the individual."
"Since Hacking wrote his study (in 1995), cycle of abuse theories have strengthened their grip on the public’s imagination. Yet when society embraces a prejudice that masquerades as research, it inevitably loses its way. Too many sensible people feel that this prejudice cannot be questioned. Which is why we need to have a more open-minded discussion about this difficult subject. Clarity about the consequences of abuse and its differential impact is in the best interests of those who have experienced it."
Monday 5 November 2012
No, I am not scarred for life
"I was abused as a child, but I won’t define myself as ‘damaged’. I have chosen to do something more life-affirming – move on.
I have lost patience with the Jimmy Savile affair.
After weeks of prurient coverage in both the broadsheet and tabloid press, I am tired of all the probing. I am tired of the BBC posturing, and the nanny state interventionism. Tired, too, of my daily serving of sex abuse allegations. Freddie Starr… Leonard Rossiter… Tory MPs. I wake up each day wondering who the paedo du jour is going to be. And now, those who have come forward with claims of abuse against Savile are being encouraged to form an orderly queue and sue both the BBC and the Savile estate for compensation.
This is not going to be yet another column examining the culture of complicity at the BBC, the shame of the latest public figure, or the potential culpability of any organisation where abuse has been uncovered. Let’s instead look at British compensation culture and the industry behind it. And let’s examine the viewpoint of someone who has decided to reject monetary gain in favour of something altogether more life-affirming – I think it’s called moving on."