Tuesday, March 1, 2016

YOU DON'T KNOW HOW IT FEELS UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU

"You don't know how it feels till it happens to you" belted Lady Gaga at the 88th Academy Awards as a throng of sexual assault victim/survivors joined her onstage. When she was done, the cameras panned over the faces of Hollywood celebrities and caught the tears brimming in their eyes.



 As I listened and watched, I asked myself "Will this do it?" Can Lady Gaga reach the millions with the message that I, a non-celebrity, a child victim of incest, who kept quiet about what happened to me for nearly 45 years shared in my book "No Tears for my Father"? Someone, somewhere must get the message across that non-consensual sex is rape! 

Before Lady Gaga sang, Joe Biden took the stage to urge us all to pledge our support for the countless numbers of victims of rape on College campuses. We could do this by visiting the website at IT'S ON US where we pledge to do the following: 

1. To recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault
2. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur
3. To intervene in situations where sexual consent has not or cannot be given
4. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. 

The pledge is a wonderful idea, a step in the right direction for students on college campuses. But is there any hope it might raise awareness of those other victims of sexual abuse, the children, the ones being abused in their own homes. 

There is no question: all rape is horrid for victims of any age. But is there any rape that compares to that of a child by a member of their own family in their own homes? I think not. Taking each point of the pledge above into consideration in relation to child sexual abuse by family members, I ask you:

1. Will that father, grandfather, stepfather, brother or other family member who rapes a daughter, grand-daughter, step-daughter, sister, son or brother not once, but repeatedly, day after day, for years in their own homes accept, or even care that the child didn't consent? My father certainly didn't. 

2. Will the general public ever recognize, admit to the reality that sexual abuse, namely incest, is happening in our homes, maybe right next door. Will the neighbours, teachers, clergy "identify a situation in which sexual assault may occur"? Does anyone want to admit, identify that home can be the ideal situation for sexual assault to occur? We victims know better. 

3. Will people "intervene in home situations where sexual consent has not or cannot be given". Will even the mother whose child has just told her that Daddy is doing something bad to her believe her child? Will she intervene or even have the courage to ask her husband or father (the grandfather) about what her child has claimed? Ask the victims of incest what response they got from mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and other relatives when they dared to speak up. Many of those victims were told to never mention it again! And they didn't.  As a result, the family itself allowed the non-consensual sex to continue. 

4. Is it even possible to "create an environment in the home in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported?" Incest exists in so many cultures. It continues through generations because incest is a family affair: what happens in the family, stays in the family. 

How wonderful it would be if all it took was someone like me sharing my true story of incest and getting folks to sign a pledge to bring about change. But I'm not famous. I'm not Lady Gaga or Joe Biden. I can't reach millions with one song. I reach small groups of people here and there, and sure, it all helps raise awareness. But for every one who buys my book, "No Tears for my Father" and reads it, 2-3 times as many tell me there's no way they could read that: the details, the horror, the ugliness is too much to handle. Tell me about it! It's easier not to know than to know. And even if you do read the book, as Gaga sings, "You don't know how it feels till it happens to you." What you hope is it never will happen to you or your son or daughter. 

It's On Us is a wonderful and necessary project and is a great beginning. But it will take a lot more than Lady Gaga singing her song and letting us know she too has been a victim of rape to help the children being raped, not on college campuses but in their own homes by those they should be able to trust most: their immediate family members. These children are doubly raped: by the abuser and by the family that denies the abuse. As Joe Biden said at the Oscars: "We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man like the survivors that you see tonight will have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?' They did nothing wrong."

That is exactly the message in my books, except my focus is the children. While I can never reach the millions that Lady Gaga and Joe Biden did, by sharing this blog post you can help me reach a few more than I have already. Every little bit helps. Thanks for reading and sharing. Your comments are welcomed. 


Viga Boland is a speaker and the author of a Trilogy based on a true story of incest:













2 comments:

  1. Despite Lady Gaga singing about sexual abuse, I wonder how many viewers felt the subject inappropriate during the Oscars. People do not recognize the importance of speaking out about the subject whenever a platform provides itself. So kids continue to suffer, both in and out of the home. It is not the victims who have to change, it is the abusers. Does Lady Gaga have the power to make them understand the suffering they cause, and convince them to stop?

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    1. Thanks for commenting Barbara. At least someone did LOL. But yes, I very much agree with you on whether Lady Gaga's song, as powerful as it is, will not get through to those who abuse. They don't care. All that matters to them is getting what they want. The best Lady Gaga's song, or films like "The Hunting Ground" or "Spotlight", or books like mine can do is increase awareness amongst those who do care. It may help them to better recognize signs of abuse and be prompted to help victims; or on college campuses, to not just stand back and do nothing when they see something happening. As for the children in the homes where outsiders don't see what's going on and those inside don't have the courage to stand up to the abuser or go get help, I have no replies, just heartache.

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