What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
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 me can’t change the entire world, but I also know that I must do what I can to change the worlds of as many people as I can. For the better. That means being a cycle-breaker. That often means being very uncomfortable, because not everyone likes the truth. Not everyone wants to hear it, and many will do everything in their power to silence those of us who have the audacity to speak the truth that 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 :
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 them and my father, 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 of them 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, and shattered, them, but 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 a little bit of the worlds other abused women lived in.
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.)
We are only as sick as the secrets we keep. And I stopped keeping secrets for abusive men years ago. So 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 a pack of lies, and – essentially – 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. (And, to be completely honest, the financial compensation was nice, too!)
I’ve been thinking about publishing this series of blog posts for quite some time. Today seems like the right day to start. Because, yesterday, Ashling Murphy was murdered in broad daylight, 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-signalling 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 – although he phrased it in a more professional way – when I initially complained about being defamed 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.
Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be delving further into the background of this issue, publishing documents (including the afore-mentioned confession), and clearly outlining a number of things in our society that really need to change in order for women to be safer in a world where we have to live with men.