Another article has been written about the damaging events which occurred at Centrepoint Community, in Auckland. I am sure there will be many people wishing that this was not being brought up again. Many who are traumatised over again by this resurfacing. Many who wish it would all go away. This time the article focuses less on the details of the abuses that happened, but more on the attempts of individuals of my generation to heal, and move forward, with greater or lesser success. It is encouraging to hear that for some at least, there has been significant healing.
The trouble with hearing these stories of pain and trauma is that they leave the heart heavy. They leave an uncomfortable mix of indignity and violation, anger and outrage. And despair, plenty of that too, about a time and events that are not distant to me, that are not theoretical or cerebral, but deeply matter to me.
So, to hear from Anke Richter that the four Meiklejohn siblings have moved forward together brings me deep satisfaction. They were damaged by their years at Centrepoint, and they have individually and as a unit, worked through many of these issues, growing closer together in friendship, and more committed to one another as family. Hearing about that is very uplifting. And in preparation for the documentary next month (‘Angie’ by Costa Botes), which profiles Angie’s journey in particular, I expect they will need that connection and friendship. I am sure that this exposure for the family will be very challenging to manage. I will be thinking of them all.
I was interested to read in the article about apologies. I would love if any apologies that have been offered were shared. Apologies by adults who were perpetrators, or by those who allowed abuse to occur without acting to stop it. Apologies by those who complied with a system that enabled vulnerable minors to be predated upon. Even an apology meant for someone else, but yet applies to my situation, would matter to me. A genuine, heartfelt and reflective apology honours my experience, and those of my peers, it helps to ease my frustration and anger at the injustice, it recognises that my human experience mattered. If it shows true remorse, and contrition, then it reveals to me that those people who had all the power when I was dependent have a consciousness which can be affected by my pain. This makes my pain and my past experiences valid. It reduces my anger, and stirs in me compassion, and enables me to reach out again. There is enormous healing and restorative power in humble apology.
I am not one who believes that pain can be pushed away into a corner. The pain system is designed to inform our brains that something is harming us, and that we need to adjust our behaviour and interaction with our environment in order to remove ourselves from a damaging stimuli and attempt to repair the damage. When we continue to experience pain - whether psychological or physical - it means we have either not removed ourselves enough from the stimulus, not adequately (or at all) repaired what has been damaged, or our feedback system has developed a glitch (and is sending the wrong message). Glitches are not the norm though - most of the time messages of pain mean something significant and should be listened to. Ignoring pain leads to more pathology - pain, heaped upon pain, heaped upon pain.
Sexual abuse is powerful pain, and both victim and perpetrator, and the whole system they exist inside, are damaged by it. It does not go away, it doesn’t skulk quietly into the corner, lie down or dissipate. It festers, and grows, and more and more bending and twisting is required to incorporate its presence into our lives. This is not the way of healing or laying the past to rest. Instead it is a prison of self deceit, shame, secrecy and emotional acrobatics which leads to chronic illness, broken relationships, alienation and isolation. Which leads to a lot more pain. And if that wasn’t bad enough, chronic emotional pain shortens people’s lives.
And interestingly for me, with a bit of self reflection, I note that amongst the feelings that this article provoked in me I have found that there is a serious lack of friends from the bad-old-days... those familiar feelings of nausea-producing shame, paranoia, panic, fear, exposure (like I am naked in a crowd), and isolation. So, I must assume, that given the intensity of those old un-friendly emotions on previous media-induced trigger-trips, that I must therefore put myself into the category of those that have found a way through the narrow tunnel of healing, and have popped out the other side.
I applaud another article which shines the light on the truth and invites us to reconciliation. Shame grows in the dark but light causes shame to shrivel and die, and releases the shamed from their emotional prisons. I invite people who resonate with these ideas to consider joining in the conversation with me. Take a risk and let me know what you think.