“Social support is a biological necessity, not an option, and this reality should be the backbone of all prevention and treatment. Recognizing the profound effects of trauma and deprivation on child development need not lead to blaming parents. We can assume that parents do the best they can, but all parents need help to nurture their kids.”
– from The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk
I am no longer shocked or amazed at the insensitivity of our population, especially the more educated and social-media savvy, when it comes to their callous and judgmental comments on current issues. Their most recent display of ignorance and outright shallow-mindedness about sexual abuse and sexual crimes was in relation to the attempted sexual assault of a sixteen-year-old boy by Roy “Bullet” Craig. I don’t want to repeat some of the debates I read or the finger-pointing, but will deal with it generally, as my purpose is not to call out individuals, but to sensitize those willing to keep an open mind and learn about an issue that has been taboo for too long.
Victims of abuse
I must make it clear that until you have been a victim of abuse, worked with victims of abuse, studied the topic of abuse, or seen abuse in your surroundings, you will never fully appreciate what is the trauma caused by abuse. However, you do not have to be a victim to become sensitive and to understand that the mind of an abused person is not like the mind of a non-abused person. Abuse is a form of trauma and the reason I used the above book is because it’s by reading it that I too have learned to be more compassionate with victims of abuse and understand my own abuse as well. The reason the book is called “The Body Keeps The Score …” is because, as I learnt, trauma becomes recorded in the memory of the body and when faced with trauma even the biggest and baddest bully can react in the most “unpredictable” or “cowardly” or “timid” manner … no judgment here against anyone, and such trauma becomes imprinted in the body of the victim.
Bessel van der Kolk writes in the chapter, “The Imprint of Trauma”: “We remember insults and injuries best: the adrenaline that we secrete to defend against potential threats helps to engrave those incidents into our minds … the more adrenaline you secrete, the more precise your memory will be. But that is true only up to a certain point. Confronted with horror – especially the horror of ‘inescapable shock’ – this system becomes overwhelmed and breaks down”.
That would explain why some people become so shocked that they do not act as others looking outside would expect them to act; they become so fearful and/or paralysed by fear that they seem to just submit and even appear to go along, but it is the trauma that does not allow them to respond as “normal” persons are expected to respond. You see people on the outside can easily be judgmental until they are faced with their own trauma. I have also learnt from reading and experiences that often those people who are so quick to judge and say hurtful things, do so because that is how they put on a façade about the trauma which they themselves have been victims of. You see, to accept that others are abused and accept it’s real, means that they might find themselves reliving their own trauma and have to accept that they too were victims; thus in order to be dismissive of their own abuse and pretend it is not as bad, they trivialize it and make fun of others … sad, but true. It may be their coping mechanism. It’s like a friend of mine likes to tell me: “HURT PEOPLE, HURT OTHER PEOPLE”.
One of the most traumatic forms of abuse is sexual abuse, as it goes to the core of what defines the person – their sexuality, and thus the dominance exercised by another over said person sexually creates a trauma that impacts the person’s ability to relate and even healthily be intimate with others. Too often this is the abuse least reported because of the guilt and shame the victim experiences, not because they are guilty or should be ashamed, but because sexual abuse by its very nature creates that level of trauma on the brain. The person having become a victim, self-blames, and feels they caused it on themselves by being too friendly, trusting, naïve and even deciding to be where they were at the time of the assault. The shame comes from the very assault and the invasive nature of sexual assaults because it violates the most intimate and private part of the person’s body, which by right a person should be able to freely chose to share with whom they want and not allow just anyone to forcefully invade and violate.
There are more sexually traumatized persons in our midst than we want to admit and those same persons are now become predators, or are acting out because they want to numb the pain or are being judgmental as a form of easing their pain. Some of this may be too much for some readers to appreciate, but when you have been in the belly of the beast, you get to appreciate and understand the seemingly illogical behaviour of persons who are victims and have not resolved their own trauma. Now I can spot and identify a victim of abuse and especially sexual abuse … but the majority of our society is in denial of that.
The “Bullet” case
It is appalling how some people took to Facebook to attack the minor victim in the case as it hit social media. I saw the most ignorant comments, such as the child was old enough to have run away, left the room, get out the vehicle or escape. Hmm, I guess, until you are in said situation you would not know what you would do and what is then “normal.”
Readers need be reminded that the police reports give a brief of the allegations and are not the best written, and that the situation report is an attempt to put in brief an entire story told by a victim or his witness, and so a lot is “lost in the translation,” to put it mildly. Moreover, these reports are not prepared by professional communications experts who know to properly weave a story to convey the true essence, but rather at times they are even sensational or they reflect the bias of the author. There is a proper way to prepare these reports, but maybe the best decision may be not to make public police reports involving sexual abuse because of the multiple victimization the victim will have to live with.
Sadly, not making it public is also a safety net for the perpetrator, who then is protected by the fact that his alleged acts remain unknown. The balancing act is whether to shield the victim from public ridicule or expose the alleged perpetrator at the expense of the victim. Now it’s true that the name of the victim is not called or published, but the victim knows who he or she is and as such when faced with reading or hearing about the public comments that ridicules him or her, it is bound to cause much hurt and humiliation, despite the fact of those being so mean and hurtful, not knowing his/her identity.
According to the various reports I have read, the victim was a sixteen-year-old boy and apparently had some mental challenges, which suggest he was not capable of giving true consent. However, I focus on the fact that someone at the hotel or someone seeing “Bullet” going into the hotel with the boy, did not find it right to see this grown man and this boy checking into a room. The interview done by the despicable Alfonso Noble and used for political mileage by the United Democratic Party (UDP) is only proof of the level of insensitivity surrounding this and other like cases, and how low the media would go to discredit a child, at that! Really, it is a shame that the UDP, which forms the majority of a sitting government, would actually promote a defence that the said “Bullet” was set up by the Opposition … OMG! To that I say several things:
1. If it’s a set up, then that could have only been set up if they knew that his penchant was for little boys;
2. “Bullet” is not a significant or credible party official of the UDP that the PUP would benefit from a set up, so he is seeing himself more grandiose than he is … traits of narcissism;
3. “Bullet” was once a fanatical PUP who then switched party affiliation and loyalty, but his shift did not make or break the PUP, so no motive is established. Readers may remember his staged calls into the morning shows to promote this political agenda, then and now … these are not missed!
4. The discrepancies in the version from “Bullet” are just too much and any sensible person can detect the contradictions. He should have shut his mouth up and had he obtained legal advice he would have known that this public recording now forms part of the evidence against him.
To be continued in the Tuesday issue of the Amandala