Much lucid commentary on the treatment of women has appeared in the media over the last month and a half, and rightfully so. Largely I have stayed out of saying anything on the issue because all the stories that are being aired, all the stories about rape, sexual assault, inappropriate behaviour, careers diminished, objectification and powerlessness, and all the expressed opinions on such matters, can have such a powerful triggering affect on an older person like me, and on so many other older women and men who are like me.
The last few months has not been the time to try to fully re-raise our older voices, the voices of aged childhood sexual abuse survivors, but I do believe that the time will soon come when our voices, and the many things they have to say, will begin to be fully heard and truly listened to by society, or at least that is my hope.
Human beings like Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins and others like them, to me, represent a young vanguard of fearless articulate women who are not just politely requesting change of real substance, they are out there putting their lives and reputations on the line as they confront the protected bastions of male power. I note that their focus is not just entirely upon themselves and their own terrible experiences, I note that they are standing on the shoulders of their own experiences and calling for societal-wide change.
I think that many aged survivors have simply kept quiet, and tried to deal with their own maelstrom of triggered feelings, while the legitimate rage of women has found a powerful collective voice, a collective voice that I believe will enable real change not only in the way that Parliament treats women, but also in the way that society treats women.
I have a very deeply held belief, a belief that is not necessarily shared by all. I believe that the most pervasive form of violence in our society is the level of violence directed at, and experienced by, women. I believe that unless society truly addresses the level of violence directed at women first, then we as a society have very little chance of starting to address all the other forms of sexual violence and misuse of power that exists out there in our suburbs, and in our care institutions.
Some older survivors of childhood sexual abuse are right now treading a delicate path where the issue of ‘voice’ is concerned. I certainly am. Right now is not the safest of times for our feelings and for our hopes. Social media is a brutal swipe-fest and any older survivor trying to raise legitimate concerns in the current climate are likely to be attacked as diversionists or deflectors or whataboutists, so little wonder that so many of us have stayed quiet because we not only do not deserve the rage, we have no wish to attract it.
Violence in our society is disproportionately genderised and women are the main recipients, and my own experiences as a male recipient of childhood rape and violence does not diminish that unassailable fact.
I know what being the recipient of rape feels like. I know what powerlessness feels like. I know what being punched and controlled feels like. I know the legacies that such events can impose on the life of human beings. I know that now is the time for men to stand against other men and stand with women.
Empathy cannot be taught. If it does not exist within it does not exist at all. The current politician who has been sent for empathy training is nothing less than a smokescreen to protect a parliamentary majority that is whittling itself away day by day.
Our Parliament is a cesspit of male misogyny, as is our society, it is beyond time for real change.
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