The second part of that quotation, from a poem by Muriel Rukeyser, and first published in 1968 is: ‘The world would split open.’
I think about this quotation often – not least because there’s as much truth in it now as there was nearly 55 years ago. The other lines in this poem which particularly resonate with me, are these: ‘I am in the world to change the world’.
I know that little old me can’t possibly change the entire world, for the better. I also know, however, that I must do what I can to change, for the better, the worlds of as many people as I can. That means being a cycle-breaker. The role of cycle-breaker is a very uncomfortable one; not everyone likes the truth – and those who object to it most loudly are those who are guilty of trespassing against it. Those we speak up against will do everything in their power to silence those of us who have the audacity to speak the truth, because it reflects poorly on them.
My guide when I am writing, and speaking, is a wonderful quotation from Anne Lamott. In her book ‘Bird by Bird’ (which I first read when I was a teenager) she says : “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better”
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better Anne Lamott
I am careful not to lie. I am careful not to exaggerate. I am careful to say, and write, only that which I know to be true.
This is why, when I appeared on LMFM on June 1st of 2016, and spoke to Gerry Kelly, I was very careful to speak only the truth. Even more than that, I did not name the abusive brothers I was talking about. I spoke about my experiences, and the impact being sexually abused, and raped, by (among others) my father and elder brothers, had had on my life. I spoke about the long-term effects of child sexual abuse. I was honest, even when it made me slightly uncomfortable.
After that interview, I was contacted by a number of women – some old enough to be my own mother – who wanted to talk to someone else who had been raped by her brothers. Women who had always felt they were the only one to whom this had happened. They were relieved to hear they weren’t alone. They spoke to me of how the abuse had damaged, shamed, and shattered them. They told me that, at least, they took comfort in knowing that they weren’t the only ones. I felt that I had done what I had set out to do in the interview; to change, for the better, the worlds other abused women lived in. Even if just by the smallest bit.
What also happened after that interview was that Cormac Talbot (who happens to be one of my rapist brothers) contacted the station and insisted they broadcast an apology. Which they did. I found out months later when a journalist from the Belfast Telegraph contacted me because Cormac wanted an apology from that paper, too. This was on account of an interview they had published, where I mentioned being raped by my brothers. He wasn’t happy with the truth being in the public domain. (Even though, again, neither he nor Nigel Talbot – my other rapist brother – nor Barry Talbot, nor Ross Talbot, my rapist apologist brothers, was named in the piece. Nor did I name my sister – Tracey Talbot – who was also sexually abused by Cormac, but who saw fit to carry files for him into court in 2015. I’m sorry she’s trauma-bonded, but she needs to do better.)
My family of origin is a sick, sick, community – in part because we are as sick as the secrets we keep. And I stopped keeping secrets for abusive men years ago. As a result, I was very hurt and frustrated when I learnt (third-hand, because LMFM didn’t have the courtesy to contact me themselves) that LMFM had chosen to broadcast lies and defame me.
I contacted the radio station and eventually got the apology I deserved. It’s short and sweet, but it says all it needs to. It’s an acknowledgement that I am honest, that I speak the truth, and that I act with integrity. I pride myself on being an honest person. It’s important to me. It always has been.
I’ve been thinking about publishing this blog post for quite some time. Today seems like the right day, not least because Ashling Murphy was murdered yesterday, in the middle of the day, in the middle of Ireland.
As a result, women have taken to social media to recount how unsafe we feel on a daily basis, of how exhausting it is, of the lengths we go to to try to preserve our bodies, our minds, and our lives. Predictably, the response from many males has been ‘not all men’. Or it has been virtue-signaling from some men. A very few are putting fingers to keyboards to reiterate a message that they have been consistent with, and acknowledging that men are the problem.
Why am I drawing a parallel between Ashling’s murder and my treatment by LMFM? Because it’s a continuum of abuse.
The CEO of a radio station who told me to shut up and go away when I initially complained about being defamed by his radio station is on that continuum. His message to a woman who had provided documents proving the veracity of her on-air claims (including a confession from one of the rapists) was that he was taking the side of the rapists, and wanted said woman to be quiet about it.
I gave up being quiet about it years ago