January 29, 2012

'Wholeness' by Suzie Burke: a very personal response.

I'm glad that Burke's book exists and others like it but all the survivor stories I have read so far have left me feeling like there is so much more to be said, so much more that needs to be learned and the writers did not put as much of themselves into writing as they could of. I do not want to take anything away from the extremely important work done by Burke's and others just that I feel I need to explore the issues such books raise in me and how little I feel they are addressed. As I said in the title this is a personal response, the abuse I experienced occurred over a longer period and involved many more people so it is not surprising that I should finish the book thinking 'is that all?'.

The first thing that bothered me about it was the beginning where she describes her life first in terms of her relationship with her father then her husbands. As a feminist this is frustrating for me, surely there were other important relationships in her life as she grew up but these are not explored. Her relationship with her mother is barely touched on beyond stating that her mother suspected but did nothing. There is little exploration of how this affected the writer. Due to my difficulties with my mother it is not surprising that I search survivor stories looking for something thing I can identify with some sort of help. Recently I have started wishing again that my mother was not as big a part of me and my son's life as she is but I don't know what to do about it. I really don't feel strong or self supporting enough to tell her to fuck off forever and then stick to it. The role of woman and in particular mothers in abuse either directly or indirectly tends to be glossed over. In Burke's case her mother was more interested in money and wanted a boy but very little else is said. I couldn't help thinking there must be more to the woman who gave birth to her than that.

The portrayal of the main abuser, her father, was also pretty flat. Maybe I can not remember any examples of her father showing her any love because he never did. But the writer believed she had a 'normal' upbringing for so long there must of been moments when he behaved fatherly towards her, even if this was just to manipulate her, she would not of felt this as a child. I believe as survivors we have to explore the good and the bad of our incestuous families, when nothing but hate and neglect is shown a child tends to go numb but when there are happy moments we sometimes think that things will be different from now on, we come alive again, we hope, we feel. Good times can make the bad times so, so much worse. I believe we have to be careful when simplifying out stories so they can neatly fit into a paperback, surely we write to challenge preconceptions not confirm them.

I can understand people not being interested in what motivated their abusers, especially when we are talking about satanic ritual abuse but to me calling some one an 'SOB' just isn't good enough. It may sound strange to say but perpetrators are people to. How the fuck does someone get into something like that, did they ask around at the pub because they wanted to spice up their lives? Were they initiated at a young age, as an adult? Did they hear about it through involvement with child porn? Or did they become involved with child porn through the ritual networks? I do not have the answers to these questions in my current situation but I still think these questions need to be asked. Putting a big circle around it all and calling it evil teaches us nothing.

It is these questions, around why ritual abuse occurs in 'advanced' civilisations and my need to answer them without turning to very texts that were used to brainwash, undermine and disenfranchise me that I am increasingly uncomfortable with notions of 'God'. To me faith in such a higher omnipotent being can curb peoples' intellectual and spiritual growth. Although Burke states at one point that she does not affiliated herself with organised religion, she believes her children should go to church to learn compassion. If compassion isn't taught in the home it wont be picked up anywhere else but I understand the social and communal aspect of church going. I just have a problem with people turning to others for answers they should seek out themselves. I would never want to diminish any one's experience of faith and healing I just wish people had more confidence in themselves and the whole human race. We are the darkness, we are the light.

Another thing I have been thinking about and not just because of reading 'Wholeness' but because of other books I have read and by own efforts at writing, is how much sparing of the details should go on. In Wendy Ann Woods' section on ritual abuse in 'Triumph over Darkness', the words of survivors were edited to extract the more 'gruesome' aspects. As someone who has thought about writing for as long as I can remember the thought of my words, my experiences being sensationalised or tabliodised (and they have been) is sickening, never mind the fear that too many details would be used by current abusers but I am also sick of feeling like I have to protect other people from what people did to me. I believe(optimistically maybe) that everything that happens should be discussed and needs to be if there is to be real moving forward both individually and culturally. Ritual abuse thrives on taboos, not just in terms of what we can and can not speak about but what we can not think about. It has been explained to me that satanism is all about 'liberating' people from these taboos. I do not know if it was a baby or a doll that Little Suzie was forced to sacrifice. I do not know if the writer knows. It matters to me. The reason I read and want to write about such things is not to give voice to those of us that survived, although I'm glad that it does but because of all victims that will not be writing anything, simplified or otherwise about their experiences. They are dead, they are 'missing', or as far as the state is concerned never existed to begin with. I identified with each one, especially from the black men slaughtered in Fife that I refused to believe were bad, the white kids in Jersey to the little black boy I saw ripped apart in Glasgow, every cat, sheep, baby, child, prostitute, fetus and everyone else in between held a part of me. I wispered 'I love you' to as many of them as I could. I matter, so do they.

There are only a few experiences of ritual abuse actually depicted in the book and again I do not know if this is because there was only a few or because the writer is keeping much to herself. As someone who experienced uncountable abusive cults that either inverted or simply reinterpreted every main religion and many others it is silly of me feel I know better than someone who 'only' experienced incest, prostitution and 'a bit' of Satanism at the hands of her father.

In conclusion, I think survivor books should not try and soften any blows, if people can't handle it don't read them. We have to learn how to handle the worst or the secrecy and the silence will last forever. Easier said than done though...