The moving voices of survivors of childhood sexual abuse evoke the process of feeling pain, remembering, and healing the wounds of the past
The Memory Bird
Survivors of Sexual Abuse
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edited by Caroline Malone, Linda Farthing and Lorraine Marce
This book is a collection of drawings, personal essays, letters, poems, and journal entries created primarily by women, but also by some men who have recovered or are recovering from the emotional effects of childhood sexual abuse. They write about their experience of abuse by fathers, brothers, other relatives, and people outside the family.
The contributors offer a wide range of experiences ranging from the process of remembering and dealing with pain to the use of creative expression as a means to begin healing. The passages reveal anger and shame, full of the struggle to break the silence, and to act to restore oneself. Chapter titles like "The Survivor's Song," "Claiming the Right to Feel Pain," "Can You Hear Me?" and "Learning to Dance," define the emotions and stages many survivors share. A chapter called "You Want a Witness?" consists of recovered memories and helpful comments on False Memory Syndrome. Each chapter has a brief, accessible introduction by the editors.
My brother, sister, mother and I went to knock on Grandad's door; his wife opened it and was smiling tensely. "You have visitors," she called out. We went in. Grandad came out of the kitchen looking confused. His presence gave me no physical shock -- he was the same, just older. He was stooped, with a fat stomach, bent over, with watery eyes and thick glasses. He kept pointing with long fingers, being bombastic, mocking, trying to control and direct the situation -- but he couldn't. There was no way I was going to let him. . . .
I felt centered and focused on what I had come to do.
He tried to maneuver us into a room, but we decided to simply do it in the hall, all of us standing up, me opposite him.
"I'm surrounded," he said. The words of an ex-soldier, finally admitting defeat.
Then I read out my statement:
"I've got something very important to say to you. It's the truth. From when I was nine you deliberately and consciously sexually abused me: You put your fingers in my vagina and you masturbated me. This is not an act open to misinterpretation. You as the adult were and always will be responsible.
"You damaged me deeply. Your secret is out. I have told a lot of people and they believe me."
From Chapter 5 "Can You Hear Me?"
Caroline Malone founded a self-help network for survivors of sexual abuse in 1989 that continues to be successful today. She is very involved in the survivor movement and active in the arts.
Linda Farthing has worked in family therapy for 17 years treating both children and adult victims of sexual abuse. She manages a large family therapy center.
Lorraine Marce lectures in social psychology and runs a workshop on the psychological aspects of sexual abuse. She has been actively involved in promoting and lobbying for the social, political, and legal rights of children.