In approximately a week or so time my book JAGGED will start to appear in serial form on The Australian Independent Media Network platform. I would like to thank the owners/editors of AIMN for affording me this opportunity – they are brave and beautiful people.
JAGGED is nothing less than a seen-from-within Case Study compiled over sixty-three years on the long term affects on the human spirit of sustained exposure to violence and childhood sexual assault while under the care of the Catholic Church.
I have been case studied to infinity and beyond by mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists, and at the end of the book I will put up their assessments of me. Nothing that they ever tried, whether it be this technique or that technique, ever helped or ever changed how I am. That fact is not a reflection of their abilities or any failure on my part to strive for something better, that fact simply exposes a very stark truth that for some survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and I stress the word some, the damage caused by those early experiences runs too deep, and cannot easily be repaired.
What may well prove unusual about this book, both for you and for me, is that it will be unfolding live on AIMN. Unfolding live in the sense that I will be posting up the Chapters in blocks of one or two as they are written. Sure, I will be drawing on my first halting attempt to write the book, which I completed in January 2020 just before COVID dropped in, and sure, I will be drawing on some previous articles that I have written on this subject matter – but all of that combined will simply just give me some guideposts
In many ways this book called JAGGED, this Case Study, will be an unfolding experiment, both for me, as well as for AIMN, as well as for you. I cannot predict where it will take us all. This wonderful site generally carries articles on all sorts of topics, and over the years to a small extent I have contributed to that by submitting articles on subjects such as AI and the punitive nature of the Welfare System in Australia – but I would like you to understand something about me – in order to write articles such as that I have had to step outside of my true self and create an artificial fugue state where I can at least pretend to be an objective writer – sometimes I can manage to do that, but generally I cannot. The subjectivity of my own state of mind owns me.
So who is writing this book? Well, I could concoct a flattering version of me and create some sort of happy photo to personalise things (much as most writers do on the dust-jackets of their books) but I don’t see that such falsity or fantasy would serve any real purpose along this path, along this reach, for truth. I am soon to turn sixty-eight. I am permanently clinically depressed, and have been so for as long as I can remember. Everything, and everyone, scares me. I cannot, as desperately as I would like to, I cannot trust. In my own assessment I operate at about 50% capacity (professional assessments rate that one slightly higher or slightly lower). Unless my friends really encourage me – I hardly ever go out, or socialise, or do anything. That is why the book is called JAGGED.
I am writing this book for that percentage of survivors who endure permanent damage; for the children of survivors who have struggled to reach through and understand why their parent/parents cannot easily communicate or talk about what had happened to them; for my own children; for my own partners (beautiful women all); for the professional mental health workers who try to understand and who try to help people like me, and others like me; for the members of the legal profession who supported my pursuit for justice, and whom I so admire; for the members of the legal profession who opposed my pursuit for justice and who chose to represent the Catholic Church, well, detest is too polite a word to use; and finally, for anybody who has a genuine wish to understand why survivors like me are the way we are – why we are so difficult to reach – I will do my best to inform your understanding.
I have no personal need for Trigger Warnings but I understand that others genuinely do. So I would like to point out that some sections of JAGGED, but by no means all, seek to comprehensively deal with such issues as mental cruelty, mental health, rape, physical assault, the nature of violence, childhood sexual abuse, depression, addiction, religion, power, silences contained within our society, PTSD, suicide, and what the legacies of all such matters can do to a human being.
Everybody comments on everything these days, and that is just the way of it, but if it is possible I would request this of you – if you can reserve your commentary until the presentation of fact, thought, and context, has been fully played out (I’m assuming that will happen when the last Chapter has been posted) then I will be in a solid enough emotional space to be able to respond fully and respectfully to you.
A while ago one of my best friends said to me … you have a book in you … you have THE BOOK on a certain subject in you. I don’t know about that one, I don’t believe that one, but I do know that I have this book in me.
The following quote comes from a book by Jon Krakauer entitled Into Thin Air – A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster (Pan Books, 1998).
“I distrust summaries, any kind of gliding through time, any too great a claim that one is in control of what one recounts; I think someone who claims to understand but is obviously calm, someone who claims to write with emotion recollected in tranquility, is a fool and a lier. To understand is to tremble. To recollect is to re-enter and be riven … I admire the authority of being on one’s knees in front of the event.” (Harold Brodkey “Manipulations”)
Well I am not calm, I am not tranquil. I am in control of nothing that I am about to recount. I cannot possibly re-enter a world that I cannot possibly leave. To understand continually tears at my guts. I have never not trembled. The rivening does not decrease. I am angry because of every bloody thing that has been lost.
Will I be judged for what I write? Will I be supported with what I write? Both of those things will happen.
Will what I write be studied and discussed by mental health professionals? Will they take up and seek to understand and learn from this view from within the closed world of a permanently damaged survivor of childhood sexual abuse? I hope so – I will not let my fear of standing up and being seen get in the road of that hope. I want the experience of my life to be of informed benefit to somebody, I want it to mean something, I want it to create value and understanding in somebody else’s life.
What happens now, what I do with JAGGED, what I recount and how I recount it, will finally define who I am as a human being.
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