Originally posted on January 27, 2008
I recall a while back watching a martial arts special on TMC. It was about the beginning of martial arts films and the impact various artists had on the industry. For the most part I was pretty clueless as to who any of them were until it got to Bruce Lee. But the part about Jackie Chan stood out the most. He spoke about his experiences while learning martial arts. Apparently there was a film and book made about these experiences, but the name escapes me. What stood out was that Jackie said that he left a great deal out because people just would not believe it.
That reminds me of the choices a lot of victims make when it comes to relating their experiences. They hold back information, not to lie or deceive, but because people just would not believe that kind of thing was possible. I find that I do the same quite often. In fact, outside of my family members I can only think of two people I ever spoke openly about my experiences with. One was a priest from my high school (in confession, so I do not think he knew who I was) and other is someone I stay with.
I suppose the disconnect for me is where people stop believing. Why are people willing to accept that a mother would beat her child, but not rape him? Why do people accept that a man could be tortured, mutilated and humiliated, but not sexually assaulted? People seem willing to believe a certain list of abuses and violence, but the more outside of the usual it becomes the more people find it difficult to accept.
Perhaps it is simply a side effect that I and other men and boys who have had similar experiences go through. We do not see any real limits on the capacity of human depravity. People are capable of a wealth of bizarre acts that would normally never cross any of the average violent person’s mind.
But it is difficult trying to gauge how far you can go in a description. It gets easier once you have been around enough people to know what generally is accepted and what is not. That does not make it feel any better knowing that some things simply cannot be said. I think it hits males the hardest because we have a hard enough time just being believed to begin with. Winning people over in the first place is a big enough challenge. Throwing out something like having to ingest your own blood would probably make people roll their eyes.
I do wonder though how much of this effects whether men and boys come forward at all. It would not necessarily have to be anything extreme either. It could be as simple has having multiple abusers or being abused by a person the boy does not even know. The added burden of shame and blame that gets attached to this definitely does not help. But I do wonder whether not being able to find a way to say it “believably” stops men and boys from saying it at all.