Know Better

Youth is no excuse …

Shit happens to you when you’re a kid — it shapes you; turns you into the adult that you become. Thus spake the apologists for bullies and abusers throughout the years.

When you’re on the receiving end of any kind of abuse it can cause a lot of interesting phenomena, like body shame, insecurity, and weird feelings that you don’t quite know how to process. There are varying degrees of abuse, it is true, but if the act causes damage and bypassed a person’s right to choose then it is wrong. Hard to argue against that right?

Except if you’re British, and euphemisms rain down on embarrassing situations that no one wants to talk about — being fiddled with sounds so much better than being abused. Being fiddled with sounds positively comical in comparison to being held down and having someone’s hand thrust in your pants and being molested.

The thing is, euphemisms aren’t just a method of pushing embarrassing incidents under the rug — they are trapdoors which molesters and other abusers can escape through.

It took me a long time to dig through all the shadows and identify where the source of my bad self-perception came from. I have been naked in front of precisely two people since I entered adulthood, and you are unlikely to ever see me in bathing trunks, and I consider myself in a good place. Those two people were the only partners I have had, and there had to be a lot of trust there to enable that nakedness.

My parents had a backed off attitude to talking about sex — I was given a book to educate myself, but whenever sex came on the TV they giggled and tried to navigate past it by making a joke of it. I don’t think this is uncommon. The British and their relationship to sex is not healthy — just Google the Mull Of Kintyre Rule and ask yourself why an erect penis is such a problem? If you can have a dialogue about normal sex it opens up the forum to preparing people and arming them against those whose proclivities aren’t so run of the mill.

The guy that abused me tried to friend me on Facebook about a year ago. I don’t think he even thought he had done anything wrong, because it was never communicated to him that he had. He was just a weird kid I had to stay away from. Let’s snigger about the pervert — but let’s not make sure he gets handled and doesn’t do it again.

I don’t know, but I think my bed-wetting was date coincident with this person pinning me down and grabbing me. I weirdly think I have even joked about how boys can’t get abused because having someone play with your junk is the thing you most want; this was a copydrift version of the explanations for how this wasn’t a big deal that I mentally photocopied and carried with me for years. But it’s bullshit — if you blame the victim of abuse you don’t have to be uncomfortable and handle the abuser.

Interesting that the bed-wetting — a result of abuse, pulled in more abuse in the form of bullying. Bodily attacks that came with such a frequency that I reached a point where I came up with the notion that if I demonstrably hurt myself in front of people it might remove their need to hurt me … kind of like joking about yourself before someone else does. It works. They think you’re crazy, and they don’t want it to rub off on them. Or they’re scared. Or they realise you don’t hurt easy, so what’s the point? What would they get back from that exchange? I was good at hurting myself and proving that it gave me no pain, so people, I think, began to wonder whether or not I might be able to hurt them and not feel anything. It created a safe space around me, and I needed that.

I am writing this after reading about Bill Cosby. It got me thinking about Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris. When people get off for these kind of crimes, or someone feels they can say that they should be excused for one thing because they did something good, like it balances the scales or something — they should be slammed hard. It isn’t a balancing game.

So, The Cosby Show helped African Americans — that is fantastic. What kind of licence does that give you to do the kind of things you are accused of doing? No licence whatsoever.

Friending me on Facebook because you have had some good intervening years? Sorry, but no. Forgiveness is one thing — I am unburdening myself of a need to hate, but friendship? Not on the cards.

We have to talk about this. I think guy’s have to talk about it more — bring a greater understanding of the causes and the effects on the male psyche into the light.

I remember the first time I talked about this in a public forum I was drunk, and the people who I told couldn’t handle it, and used the revelation to mentally beat me up later. It’s not something to talk about — I think I was told exactly this.

Cut to ten years later, at a writer’s convention, where everyone was, to my mind, at that point reading polite bits of poetry and prose, and I decide to bust out a piece I have written about this abuse, which is floating to the surface of my mind, after years of not really remembering it. I can’t make it through the story, I am in pieces, so one of my friends steps in to finish the reading. Following this everyone started to read their more revealing works. Real talk, right?

It’s hard putting it out there. But it’s necessary. It is something, and euphemisms, and joking, because it’s hard to deal with, don’t make it go away. The only thing that is going to make this kind of thing go away, is like all the other problems — education and confrontation, and handling the crap out of things.

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