Alice Sebold’s Lucky made me sad, angry and strangely happy. Rape is a difficult word. Difficult to say, difficult to discuss and indecently invading to read about.
Alice, who was raped when she was 18 tells her story in a language that is simple, straightforward and uncomfortably honest. The world for her is divided between those who have been raped and those who have not. She speaks of her anguish at being treated like something no one knew what to with, of her humorous tolerance towards those who tried to be nice to her, of her having to become her family’s emotional crutch post her rape and her relentless battle to get her rapist convicted .
Makes me question empathy. To what extent can we truly claim reach out and feel another’s pain as our own? A pain that we may never have experienced? “Oh I know how exactly how you feel!”……empty even if well meaning.
The fumble, stumble of words. “Just give me a call if you need me”….., the discomfort of hanging around the person, not knowing what to say. The intellectualization, or worse, the “it could have been worse” cliché….(someone had told Alice she was lucky that she had not been killed), the pity, the deep sighs and the whispering of “poor thing” compound an already terrible situation.
Perhaps sexual abuse is the worst of traumas that a person can experience. Even as I type this, I am already dividing and distancing myself from those who have experienced such abuse. I wonder how I would feel if I were to read this if I had been abused. Would my mind replay the trauma each time? I do not know.
And what about life? Is it ever the same again?.....relationships? will they ever be the same? The way a person is perceived?...what changes?....
We are a cowardly lot, we humans. We cannot deal with our own discomfort. And don’t we feel a guilty relief at not being the person we cannot suddenly deal with?
Disillusionment….that’s what I feel…with myself and with the way we have turned out to be.