When writing your life story, how much privacy do you owe to the other people who show up in your story? I included in my book a retelling of an incident of sexual abuse that occurred in my childhood. I did not name the abuser or tell what relation that person may or may not be to me. But anyone who knows me very well can probably tell who the abuser was. I thought long and hard about how much to write about the incident, but ultimately I decided it was not my job to protect him and writing about the abuse was an integral part of my story.
When I wrote about the abuse I was careful to relay the facts as I recall them and my own feelings. I did not try to explain his actions or assign feelings to him. That is HIS story, not mine. I was not going to vilify him but I wasn’t going to sugar-coat it either. I had no reason to name him so I didn’t. But it was important to me to include the abuse in my book because it is one element that created the person I am today. I have struggled with the aftermath of the abuse for my entire life and to leave that out of a memoir would mean leaving out a large chunk of the story.
I found out from a relative that he read an excerpt of my book online. That’s all he said. I quickly went to Amazon.com to see what exactly is included in the excerpt they chose for the site. There is a reference to the abuse on the website. My guess is he’s NOT going to buy the book. But I wonder what he thinks of it all? Does he see himself as a victim now that his secret is kind of out in the open? Has he even admitted to himself that I was writing about him?
I’ve never been able to confront my abuser. We have a somewhat hesitant relationship that is sustained solely by birthday and Christmas cards and I have no desire to be any closer to him than that. I am afraid to talk to him about this and, I suspect, for us it’s better left unsaid. But I could not write a memoir without writing about the abuse. How he chooses to react to it is his concern, not mine.
I watched a documentary on PBS Monday and Tuesday entitled “Kind Hearted Woman” which followed a Native American family for two years. The family consisted of the mother, a preteen girl, and a boy a couple years younger than the daughter. It was a particularly difficult time in their lives because the mother just got out of rehab for alcohol abuse and she was fighting her ex-husband for custody of the children.
The mother had suffered from sexual and physical abuse in her childhood and she was determined to get a degree in social work so that she could help families and children who are facing the same difficulties. It was a very difficult documentary to watch because she talked openly about her struggles. The worst part, however, was when the daughter told her mother that her father had touched her inappropriately. This was all caught on camera. First I thought she was such a strong girl to tell her mother with all the camera crew people in the room. Then I started getting angry that the mother even put her in that situation. Not that the mother could know what was going to happen in the future when she agreed to appear in the film, but couldn’t she have seen where the conversation was heading and kicked out the camera crew?
The more I think about the film, the more angry I get at the mother for putting the children through the added drama of a camera crew following them around. Their world was still spinning from being separated from their mother while she was in rehab. They were still trying to get used to the whole divorce situation. The mother had also been in a relationship with a man who had beat her and her daughter, especially, was traumatized by that. Why would it occur to you, with all this going on, to agree to let a documentary film crew follow you around for two years? It just seemed a cruel thing to do to your young children. To be fair, the children didn’t seem to be too fazed by the ever-present cameras but it still had to put some strange stress on them.
Welcome to my little corner of blogland! I’m very happy to announce that I’ve published a book, A Life Less Lived, and it’s available on Amazon.com. You can purchase it in the paperback edition or the Kindle edition. The book is a personal memoir about my struggles with clinical depression, sexual abuse, weight, and gastric bypass surgery. It sounds like a heavy book but you’ll be left with feelings of hope and optimism.
This blog is a further examination of these topics as well as my feelings on life and people in general.