Firstly, I want to emphasise that today’s blog post is not about me. For one thing, I’m not old enough and the second point is I would have done something about it. I’m a stronger character – or would I have been if it had happened to me? – and the third being, nowadays there are helplines and organisations that will assist.
I’m going to take you back to the mid-1950’s – “Call the Midwife” and “Darling Buds of May” era. Imagine the hairstyles, the fashions, the elegance. The Second World War had been over for nearly ten years and that community spirit would still have been much in evidence – children playing in the street, everyone knowing and helping each other.
And then imagine the other side of the coin – a generation of women who have seen their husbands, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins going off to war. Many not returning and no graveside to mourn by. Many returned but severely affected. I don’t think post traumatic stress disorder was recognised in those days. It was stiff upper lip time, be proud to be British and get on with the rest of your life.
In the midst of all of this, we must also remember that anyone who did not “fit in” was sent away, dismissed from public life. Anyone who we would now recognise as having a learning disability would have been institutionalised. Unmarried mothers were sent away to give birth and the authorities were very quick to take babies for adoption if there were doubts that the mother could cope. Family scandals were “swept under the carpet”.
I know this because something happened to a relative of mine. She was raped, aged 12. During this euphoric post-war era. Was it a shell-shocked soldier? Was it a relative? Was it a stranger? I don’t know…but what I do know is that this single shocking event has shaped the rest of her life. And we’re talking 60 years ago.
It was bound to…that feeling of being unclean, having her innocence taken away. Could she have done anything to prevent it? Who could she tell? There was no Childline, no victims support. If she had reported whoever it was, what would have happened? She may have been branded a liar, told she’d led the attacker on and if it had been a family member…who would have believed who?
She has never discussed this and I’m never going to discuss it with her either, it would stir up too many emotions, too many deep-seated feelings that would be potentially dangerous if they surfaced – to her mental state. Her attacker is either long dead or extremely frail now and what evidence would there be?
Knowing that this has happened to her explains a great deal about the way she is, the way she interacts, the way she doesn’t deal with problems but buries them, the way she comfort eats – to such an extent it has seriously endangered her health.
If I could change anything – apart from it never having happened, obviously – I would have changed the fact that she never told anyone. That single brave act may have changed her life so much.
This goes part way to explaining why I refer to my daughter as D, I very rarely publish photos of her and as she approaches puberty, I am so going to be watching out for her.
Comments as ever welcomed. This post was written as part of The Blog Dare but I can assure you, it’s not a dare, it’s a very real event.