Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What stuff are we made of?

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” clichĂ©….(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.


Jellicles said...

i remember when alice sebold's lovely bones came out and it got rave reviews. i refused to read it.

i suppose writing about one's trauma is cathartic.

rape is a difficult subject to discuss. a couple of years ago, i got into trouble when i argued that the best way to deal with rape is to consider it as an injury or accident. if we are enlightened enough to consider a fetus as a mass of tissue and cheer pro choice, why cannot one consider and deal with rape like one would ..say..a mugging or assault? i dont mean to be apathetic or flippant, but sometimes misery feeds on itself. the path to recovery starts at cut it off and stem the wound the minute it starts to bleed.

unfortunately, there are women..some with false memories..who trump up rape charges. especially in a climate when statutory rape means that a 17 y/0 boy friend cannot snog his 16 y/0 girlfriend of many months because of a legal clause. the matter is complicated with the age of consent sub clause. i am certainly not talking of alice sebold's tragedy, but it is not uncommon for women to trump up false rape claims because there is no way to check if she said 'no'.

to trivialise pain is not being cruel. it is merely delegating it to a place of no importance in order to prevent a tragedy from ruling our lives.

Yasmine Claire said...


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