Solitary sex chat
“The ever-repeated scene of the unlistened-to story.” This is the bit I know. Australian Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell was in Rome at the time to give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse via video link. They work with survivors of institutional sex abuse. They say, “Yes, we have outsourced it.” How does one witness the earth-shattering revelations and testimonies the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has been eliciting and documenting?
What I don’t know, what I believe is becoming harder to know, is what witnessing is. It is not taking someone’s pain and putting it in a box with your name or some organisation’s name on it and calling this box a book, or a report, or a recommendation, film script or thesis. – twisting, contorting under the burden of suffering and secrecy. And this thing she does has nothing to do with insisting that vicarious traumatisation is an ethical precondition to witnessing, and it cannot be summed up by Dominick La Capra’s good term “empathic unsettlement”. Until recently I thought taking someone else’s pain and putting it in a box and filling this box with people in wigs and special costumes and calling this box a Tribunal, or a Royal Commission, and giving the people in costumes expressions of sorrowful intensity and the tasks and the tools of naming previously unnamed things, and of bringing to justice those people who are as skilled at hiding in the shadows as they are at torturing other human beings – I’d thought this was one of the main kinds of witnessing available to us. All these things must continue, they must be done, but I wonder what price we may be paying for believing that’s pretty much all there is to witnessing. It’s always those people who testify of their anguish into what might end up feeling like a black hole. I ask Nigel Denning and Linda Tilgner, “Have we outsourced the witnessing of child sexual abuse in Australia to the Royal Commission? Linda Tilgner says, there is a perception that those proceedings in themselves have produced something. Royal Commission – the danger is that people see it as the first and the last step. It focuses a large amount of energy, mobilises research, mobilises discussion, has the potential to lead to something very transformative. I told them very clearly that no one should shake my hands. I wondered, if I am telling people something horrible, will they get sick? You travel back, you go back to all the horrible stuff, you re-experience it. I came out and the first thing I said to my friend, ‘How did I sound? ’ Straight away I had no memory about what happened in the room. When I left that room I walked out with the burden. Therapy shifted it to another part, but it’s still inside of me.
If you're anything like me, you think of men: Slithery, sexist men banded together to forge underground alliances of high-fiving bros, with the solitary shared goal of bedding women.
Just the other day I was sitting in my office here on campus waiting to chair some event I stupidly said yes to, eating a Portuguese tart out of a brown paper bag. I picked up Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl (1997). Somehow my students knew this woman’s, Lyusya’s, capacity for love and pity was incredible, too big to witness fully. ’ Walking in the hospital courtyard, ‘I love you.’ Carrying his sanitary tray, ‘I love you.’ I was in my office with Portuguese crumbs all over my jeans while reading Alexievich. That’s not a person anymore, that’s a nuclear reactor. In the mornings, just before eight, when the doctors started their rounds, they’d be there on the other side of the film: ‘Run! Witness itself failing at its most fundamental duty? Former head of the central Queensland diocese of Rockhampton Brian Heenan (right) and Francis Sullivan from the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, leave after giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing in Rockhampton, Friday, April 17, 2015.
When I am walking streets of Melbourne, I cannot stop myself from imagining abused children hiding in adult bodies.
When you hear the term "pickup artists," what—or who—do you envision?
She will, I hope, use her name for the telling that is hers and hers only.
I’ve taken all the specific details out about what happened to her in one of those institutions.
We, the social debt, community, the wider society …