Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I am ashamed that this woman never held her father accountable for his actions. Her weakness is unbelievable.

"I am ashamed that this woman never held her father accountable for his actions. Her weakness is unbelievable."

So wrote a "reviewer" of my book, "No Tears for my Father" Based on that 2-line review, she gave the book a 2-star rating. If I were this "reviewer", I would be ashamed of being listed as a "reviewer". This is not how one reviews or ranks a book.

But far more important than that aspect is this one: I would be ashamed of being so judgemental. Has this person suffered childhood sexual abuse herself? Was her abuser her father? If not, how can she possibly understand the fear of a child who has been raised with physical, mental and sexual abuse? How can she understand the conflict between being abused all of her young life by a parent. Not a stranger. But a parent. Not a neighbour. A member of the family. How can she understand the long-reaching ramifications of bringing such ugliness into the extended family's life? Of the fear of not getting the justice she seeks, a justice so often denied victims in the courts? Of the fear of the abuser coming back to abuse more and even worse if the attempt to hold him accountable fails and the story has been aired far and wide.

Why did those women allegedly abused by Billy Cosby or those boys victimized by Sir Edward Heath so many years ago wait till now to speak up? Why do so many victims remain silent for so long, sometimes dying with their secret untold? Are we ALL weak? Is the reviewer above ashamed for all of us then? Oh wait. No, she's just ashamed of me because these victims have all spoken up NOW,  while these public figures are alive and can be investigated and possibly made to account for their actions? My abuser is dead. No accountability there. I let him get away with it.

Perhaps. But again, there's one huge difference between all of them and me, and all the other victims of incest who choose to remain silent: the Cosby and Heath victims weren't molested or raped daily by their own fathers. Guess what Miss or Mrs Reviewer: there is a difference here!

Regardless of what a parent does to a child, or even what a child does to a parent, there is that bond, a loyalty, or whatever you want to call it, that holds children back from ratting on a parent, just as so many parents can't hate a child who turns into a murderer. We all know what happened is wrong, but something holds us back. There is also that bond between mother and child that keeps that child from telling mommy about the bad that daddy is doing, especially when daddy has brainwashed you to believe no-one will believe you anyway. I've heard from hundreds of victims whose families have cast them out for telling lies about their father. No wonder victims choose to stay silent.

Just like I did. I elected to put up with the abuse, to die with it if necessary, rather than tell on daddy or hurt mommy. And that makes me "weak" as far as this "reviewer" is concerned.

I also elected to keep it all secret from my new family: my husband and my children, as I couldn't see how telling what happened while my father was still alive could possibly benefit me or my family. Instead, it could have torn us apart. My husband might have killed my father on learning the truth. Would he then deserve to go to jail for killing my abuser? And what of my children and their grandmother had they learned the truth while my father was still alive? How could blowing this all open while my father was alive benefit those I loved more than myself? Their happiness mattered more to me than me. Yep. I'm weak...if that's how one defines weakness.

I chose to tell my story when I was ready and when my family were ready for me to share it. I shared it to help others who needed to know they are not alone. I spoke up for the voiceless who may take as many years, or even more to speak up for themselves or to hold their abusers accountable.

And I stand up for all the other "weak" victims of incest like me.  In your "weakness", in your silence, in your willingness to suffer so others may be happy, you are incredibly strong. I am proud, not ashamed, to stand with you.

©Viga Boland
Author of "No Tears for my Father", a memoir of incest.
Author of "Learning to Love Myself", a memoir of recovery after incest.
Editor of Memoirabilia, a magazine for memoir writers.