THREE: Writing it down

Lake at Night


The days are filled with doctors, counselling, lawyers, and writing it down.

Yesterday I walked into the room downstairs where  Big Dog used to sleep after he became too large to sleep on my bed. I can smell him, I told J. That warm Big Dog smell that filled the whole room when I walked into it first thing in the morning to let him out into the garden. He would very gently take my forearm between his jaws in greeting, while his tail joyously whacked the floor. I loved his smell, like I loved the smell of my new babies. I would give anything for either of those smells, right now.

The white rabbit that suddenly appeared in our garden a couple of months ago is still here. It likes to sleep on Big Dog’s grave under the mango tree. It follows us when we’re in the garden, wants to be stroked but when J picked it up the other day, it mauled her. Even rabbits have their boundaries and are entitled to defend them.

Two nights ago, I slept for thirty minutes. I couldn’t shut up my head. A phrase kept running through it. I want my body back. I want my body back. I want my body back. I made use of the time writing it down, not that phrase but the statement of events I have to prepare to speak for the police.

As an undergraduate, or was it in my Honours year, I studied a unit on narratology. It was the most boring thing I’ve ever studied, outside of statistics in psychology. I wrote at the beginning of my essay: Narratology is the most boring thing I’ve ever studied. I got a high distinction, my argument was so convincing. But anyways, where I am going with this is, when one writes it down one becomes a narrator and that is a completely different experience from being a speaker. Or, as Roland Barthes would have it in Death of the Author, “As soon as a fact is narrated…disconnection occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters into his [sic] own death, writing begins.”

I have never before been in such a unique position to observe the difference between writing it down, and speaking it. When I speak it to my counsellor and my doctors, emotions overwhelm me. When I write it down the narrator comes to my rescue, disconnecting me from emotions.  A character is born: she is the I who writes, the creator who is the organising principle.

The I who speaks it has no such organising principle. The detective, who is one of the most kind yet firm individuals I’ve ever met, explains to me the necessity of allowing the counsellor to take me through the emotions until I can speak it without collapse, because I will have to speak it when I make the statement of events. The counsellor can be with me when I do this. It will take a long time, he says. Maybe several days but I do not have to do it alone and the counsellor will stop it if I falter.

Just now, I am stuck at one point in writing it down.The narrator is wavering under the pressure of the emotions of the I who speaks. The phrase causing all this trouble is not mine, but his. “I’m not really doing this,” he said, in the car in the bush by the lake. “I’m not really doing this,” he said as he did.

Did he say this to me? To himself? Who was the subject of his enunciation?

If ever I was upset about anything, Big Dog would not let me out of his sight. If he were here now he would let me lie down with him for as long as I wanted. Somewhere under the house are the remnants of his bed. Yesterday, I spoke of shame. There is, I told the doctor, a shame that is entirely to do with being a woman, and being fuckable. You are so sexy, said the man as he kneaded my breast. Were I not, in his perception, so sexy, I wouldn’t have been there in the car in the bush by the lake. I would not now be writing it down. It does a woman no good to be so sexy.

I must think more about this woman shame, this shame we can carry just for being female without, much of the time, even knowing that we carry it.

The white rabbit is gazing at me through my study window. It’s raining. J is upstairs making chicken soup, and I would give anything to once again smell my new-born babies’ heads.



10 thoughts on “THREE: Writing it down

  1. Powerful
    Writing it down breaks the silence we are shamed & blamed & punished for speaking.
    No-one silences you when you write it down
    Not the Patriarchy
    Not the Family
    Despite what the courts deem
    or the govt.
    or God
    or your community
    Not even yourself
    And my truth needs to be spoken
    for me to be me
    for me to be free
    I am entitled to my truth
    As we all are

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For that toothy dog to lead us into the garden …

    I read this from Cave’s the sick bag song the other day:

    “Everything is happening and has happened and will happen again. Everything that exists has always existed and will continue to exist. Memory is imagined. It is not real. Don’t be ashamed of its need to create. It is the loveliest part of your heart. Myth is the true history.”

    I like this quote because I think we harden our memories into narratives thru writing or speech or images – and then the memory itself is quashed and disappears. I like this quote because it forgives us this hardening of a memory into a story worth ‘the loveliest part of your heart’. Narratology is bullshit and boring but it is how most of us have framed our lives.

    What an amazing detective you have on your side.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so impressed and grateful for how police are handling this. I dreaded the process and avoided it for months until others convinced me it had to be done.

    Music, poetry, and loving friends make it possible.


  4. Why do i think i’ve really missed the point after reading selkie’s response & then re-reading your piece?…never mind, it’s all a learning process.
    Your comment re; victim/survivors being given the chance to speak their truth.
    At what cost to them i asked.
    So cruel,…. seems at every turn they are re-traumatised.
    Why does it have to be so hard…it doesn’t.
    Why should they have to fucking prove anything when it’s obvious that they were victims of systemic & sustained serious criminal assaults.
    -a lot of parasitical stakeholders running the show…
    Feel like telling the Royal Commission into CSA to fuck off at the moment.
    I’ve paid an enormous price for speaking my truth & suffered the consequences.
    Sounds contradictory to my poem…never mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I know what you mean Maria, each person has to weigh up the cost to them of speaking out or keeping silent. The people who testify at the Commission do it because that’s what they feel they need to do, there are very many others who don’t, because they feel it will cost them more than they want to pay, emotionally and mentally. Nobody can make the decision for anybody else.

      I don’t think you’ve missed any point. I think you’re pointing out the contradictions that exist for everyone who has experienced CSA, lifelong contradictions. Some people feel liberated when they have the chance to speak. Some people feel re-trauamatised. What is important, it seems to me, is that there is an opportunity for each person to make their own decision as to whether to speak or be silent.

      Many of us can’t speak as it’s an inquiry into institutional CSA, and doesn’t cover those of us abused within our families. We are probably never going to be publicly recognised, offered compensation, or anything else unless we can take action on our own behalf through the legal system.

      Your poem said it all, really.


  5. Yes, i know what you mean Jennifer…from my own experience as a survivor of both instit. FV CSA, who started the process of speaking my truth at the RC into instit., some years ago, i found the process elating & then v. quickly re-traumatizing & pulled out pretty quickly. Phew!
    Also contributed to the Vic. RC into FV, recently….
    was re-traumatising also, but got over it in a day or two which was a small price to pay i felt….(really made sure they got what i had to offer tho)
    Spent years exploring the possibilities & process of achieving justice thro the legal system, VOCAT, compensation, AVO for my disabled sister to be safe from sexually abusive, (historical CSA) older brother, (18yrs older), from dropping into the family owned home where she still lives & he has a share in.
    .Women’s Legal Service telling me, (as her carer), that it was out of their scope & we needed an estate lawyer…
    -not sure if i can share this but every woman, (around 90 of them), at the RC into FV session i went to, had a story fraught with the same crazy systemic dynamics to tell.
    I would have to say that seemed to have the most calming & therapeutic impact on me of all.
    I garnered support from that in a strange & sad way.
    The validation that i wasn’t so alone in my experiences going mad.
    Good news was, (after 4mths of backward & forwarding to the Magistrates Court), was we got the AVO.
    Shit reality is that it’s it’s almost expired & we have to thro’ the whole fucking process again.
    A lot stronger & informed this time around tho.
    The positive spin on this nightmare is that it gave my brain a through workout trying to navigate & understand the system, the law, as tho my life & my sisters’ depended on it & in many respects it did.
    Never seen my sister more happy, in control of her mind & life & independent.
    ps..she’s applying on her own behalf this time around & will be asking for a life-long AVO.
    Comfort- i think babies & children are entitled to comfort from their parents./carers.
    Let me know if it’s all getting a bit heavy going…
    will totally understand…*


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