I found a book while browsing in a charity shop today. It was written by a Canadian writer called Sylvia Fraser and was called In my fathers House. I picked it up and started to look through it. the blurb said it was about incest.
I put it back on the shelf. No thank you. No more incest stories in my life thank you very much.
I browsed some more. Then I went back and looked at the book again. I skim read bits while standing up ( I am very good at skim reading ). Then I put it back on the shelf and left the shop.
I walked down the street and wanted to know more. So I went back to the shop and read as much as I could without seeming to be rude to the staff. I bought one of those scarfs that charity shops usually have in boxes next to the till so as not to appear rude. Then I read some more before finally putting the book back on the shelf. .
Now I’m sitting at home with a weathered polyester scarf that isn’t my colour and I’ve decided to go back and buy the book tomorrow. I hope somebody else hasn’t bought it in my absence. .
n extract from an interview with Sylvia Fraser
I have wanted to talk to Sylvia Fraser ever since we first exchanged letters back in 1994, when she wrote an impressive article in Saturday Night magazine refuting the then-popular notion of “false memory syndrome” in sexual abuse cases. When we met recently, I was surprised and pleased that she remembered our long-ago connection, and also surprised at how readily she was able to discuss the excruciating topic of childhood trauma, though her face sometimes revealed how difficult it still is for her. Her travel books reveal that much of her thirst for spiritual knowledge is a quest to heal herself at the deepest level.
……. When I was pursuing a journalistic course I became very much a materialist and a pragmatist. I just took that kind of thing for granted, that this was a one-shot universe, and that was that. The death scene was far enough in the future that there seemed nothing wrong with that. But then, when I had to deal with the issue of sexual abuse, I found I had managed to block out a whole part of my life. It completely undermined my faith in my mind and in my version of the universe, because if I could forget or put aside all these events I lived through in connection with my father, what kind of a labyrinth was I in, in terms of my own mind? So my whole sense of identity shifted dramatically. Of course when your identity shifts, your point of view shifts, and so I was forced out of that easy kind of approach to life in which things followed the usual pattern.
………. I also think that if you do have trauma in your childhood, not just abuse but any form of dislocation, moving around a lot or an immigrant experience, that is the extent to which one experiences anxiety or unhappiness. You have to look for a solution, or some way of viewing the world that is somewhat larger and higher than that which other people might be content not to question.
…..the premise I adopted as a child was that my house was unsafe, but therefore the world was safer. The real danger was at home. And so unless you are going to live an entirely fearful life, then you make the perhaps totally irrational assumption that the outer world is a safe place, or at least safer.
….when my memories started to come back, they were very physical. My body reacted very violently to the memories. That was what made it so indelibly truthful. My body knew. Every cell in my body knew. If you have trauma in your past, you have to resign yourself that it’s there. Just as I say that I have good peasant health, I also have trauma, very early level experiences.
… I thought that after writing My Father’s House, I couldn’t even wish that it hadn’t happened, because I wouldn’t know who I would be. I would be killing myself and bringing into existence an entirely different person. If you’re not your memories, who are you?
… There are things that just happen that you wouldn’t expect of yourself. For example, when I understood about my father’s abuse, my anger fell away and forgiveness seemed to be automatic. Now that’s not something that I would have expected of myself, it just happened. And that’s the way it was in the water. I would not have expected myself to give up, to surrender. It’s not my character, generally speaking, but I did. I don’t know where that comes from. Maybe I was just paralyzed. I don’t know. I also think that I learned a lot of survival as a child, without question, even though I don’t have conscious memory of how that all worked. I think my health is guarded by the fact that I can really tune in intuitively to my body, if my attention is grabbed. I tend to do a fair amount of healing with the mind, and I think it’s because of being abused. I just learned something biological, biochemical, something my body can do.
…A psychiatrist would say that even if you misremember a dream, the way you misremembered it is your projection, you own that as well. Even if you try to make up things, those made up things contain your own perception
And from another interview with Sylvia Fraser
My Father’s House was the first of what became a tidal wave of personal exposés that brought to public awareness an appalling truth: child sexual abuse is endemic in North America, cutting across barriers of wealth, education, religion and social prominence.
This was too much truth, producing a backlash spearheaded by an organization called the False Memory Syndrome Foundation composed mostly of parents who claimed to have been falsely accused. According to them, overly ambitious therapists were planting false memories in the minds of their vulnerable daughters.
This “syndrome” was a godsend for criminal lawyers. The media were also complicit. If you tell a story one day, then deny it the next, you have two stories. Therapists became frightened of legal suits. Our culture was back in its comfort zone: denying both support and truth to female victims.
Alleged scholar Elaine Showalter devoted a page to me in her 1997 book Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics And Modern Media, in which she attempted to rid the world of the nuisance of recovered memories, multiple personality, chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, etc. In her brief “analysis,” she got my book’s title and date of publication wrong. She claimed I was under the influence of a therapist – a critical falsehood – and that I’d made up the story of abuse out of guilt over an affair that caused my divorce, leading to “damage to her husband, who died soon after.” What?! In point of fact, my husband died 12 years later. The rest of Showalter’s nonsense is just that – nonsense.
Eventually, the reality of child sexual abuse became impossible to contain. It wasn’t only girls who were abused, but also boys. The predators might be trusted persons with opportunity: coaches, scout leaders, doctors, teachers, therapists, priests. It wasn’t just individuals, but groups that preyed on the most vulnerable: kids in residential schools, in orphanages, in reform schools. Covering up for these pedophiles were principals, professional boards, politicians and bishops.
And from another interview
As soon as I remembered, I no longer hated my father. The anger fell away like a rusty suit of armor that I no longer needed. I felt only release and relief to suddenly know the truth, to get rid of my label as a “bad child.“ I felt sad for my father. I thought he had been a pathetic man. He was not a man who had succeeded in any area of his life and I didn`t feel that he needed my condemnation. I also recognized, strangely, that I had loved him, and that this love was a part of my life to be acknowledged, as well as the fury.
To me, forgiveness is the cornerstone of healing. Forgiving my father was an act of self-forgiveness. By forgiving my father, I was able to step away from the whole situation. I no longer ask why, I simply accept. A lot of incest victims are puzzled at my ability to forgive my father. I think that a lot of people are afraid to give up their anger because they think it`s condoning the crime. I do not see that at all.
Today I am about the happiest person I know. One of the ironies of the situation is that this problem was so large and took so much energy to deal with, I never had any other energy to form any other neuroses. Once I got rid of this one, I was really clear. There is no burden
“All of my friends thought I was committing professional and personal suicide,” Fraser says. “It was essentially the first book to indicate that abuse might be a middle-class problem rather than just something on the fringes.” The book later got caught up in a controversy about “false memory syndrome,” which accuses therapists of effectively implanting “memories” of abuse in their patients. Today, Fraser jokes that her obituary will say she had “alleged memories of sexual abuse.”