This month’s guest post is by Willow Thomas. It is a powerful analogy of ‘the life of many survivors of family abuse.’ Willow’s focus is on Australia, but as a survivor living in the U.K. it certainly resonates with me, and I’m pretty sure survivors around the world will relate too, regardless of their culture, upbringing or religion.
One day Sue woke up to find a “Poo” on her lounge room floor. She pointed it out to the rest of the family as she was only young.
As young children do, she presumed an adult would clean it up.
It did not happen.
The “Poo” just sat there, smelling terrible.
When Sue said anything, the family would say to her “We know it’s there you have already told us 100 times!”
Being a child, Sue knew she couldn’t push it any further so she learned to ignore it.
Sometimes when visitors came over someone would say something but most would watch the family’s reaction to it and choose to ignore it too.
One day a visitor said a lot about the “Poo”, (as the pile of poo had strangely gotten bigger.) After the visitor left they put a rug over it so it wasn’t a problem anymore. They didn’t invite that visitor back again.
One previous visitor noticed the rug was covering the “Poo” now and asked about it. The family said ”It’s fine, we can’t see it”. Then another visitor who was there said “These are good people, I am sure they have a good reason to cover up whatever that is… in their lounge room.”
The “Poo” made the family feel sick but they ignored it. They complained about being sick to their friends and nobody dared to mention it may be that poo decomposing under the lounge room rug. In fact after a while no one who visited even noticed the “Poo” under the rug or even the lump and smell that it was causing. Everyone liked the family and chose to ignore the “Poo” problem.
One day when Sue was older she felt so sick and was very frustrated with the way the family couldn’t see what the “Poo” in the lounge room was doing to everybody. They didn’t even notice the brown stain and the flies that were on the rug.
She put some gloves on and brought in a bucket and disinfectant and started to lift up the rug. The family yelled at her “What do you think you are doing?!”
Sue replied “This “Poo” is making us sick; we need to clean it up.”
The family were horrified and then they yelled at her “You are the one making us stressed by making us remember the “Poo” is there! We have lived with it for years now and it’s been fine!” “So it must be you who is making us sick!”
They asked Sue to leave it alone and never mention it again!
The years went by…
When Sue was an adult and not living at home anymore, she came to visit her family, who she loved even with the “Poo” under the lounge room rug. (She also noticed that the lump had gotten bigger and smellier!)
She couldn’t help herself she had to comment on it as she hadn’t had to put up with this smell for a long time now and had forgotten how horrible it was.
Her family got very angry at her and said “We told you to never speak of it again! How dare you bring that topic up again! “You are the problem not the “Poo”!
Sue decided she had to make a choice, either stay in contact with her family and put up with the terrible smell and watch her family get sicker or say goodbye to her family…
What do you think she should do?
This story may seem ridiculous and it may seem so obvious what Sue should do.
This is the life of many survivors of family abuse. Like Sue they are blamed for speaking the truth about a situation that nobody wants to face.
They are silenced and blamed for the abuse they have had to put up with, some for their whole lives!
Some other members of the family may feel uncomfortable about the “Poo” too but are too scared to speak out as they can’t imagine living differently and that scares them.
Some families think that their religion says that all they have to do is get someone religious to speak some magic words over it like “You are forgiven Poo, so you no longer exist”
A lot of families even know who puts the “Poo” there but they don’t want to acknowledge it because it would mean they have to face the truth about their family member not being the kind of person they seem to be.
This story is true also for anyone who stands up and speaks about the truth because they don’t want others to suffer the same. Like people who stand up against racism, people who stand up for human rights , people who stand up for animal rights, people who stand up for our planet’s health. Currently it is the story of many women in our society who have been abused either at home or outside the home. The way women have been treated for centuries is part of the the “Poo” under the Australian Parliament’s rug too!
In our society here in Australia there are many “Sue’s” ( In fact over a third of the population!) The rest of society have said well that’s not our problem, whilst Poo piles up under many rugs in many homes and nothing is done about it.
So what is the obvious thing to do? To start with, let us acknowledge the “Poo” under our lounge room rugs. Let’s get some cleaners in to get rid of it. Let us learn new ways to deal with “Poo” so everyone is safe.
If someone has a “Poo” truth to tell you, even though it stinks and is not nice to listen to, please listen to them. They have had to live with it even if you haven’t, they deserve to be heard. They have been forced to cover the”Poo” that they did not do and they were forced to be silent about it. They will feel so much better, so much more empowered if you listen and stand by them.
If Sue’s family had got help and dealt with that “Poo” straight way, they would have been a much happier and healthier family.
As we say in Australia “Shit happens” and yes it is true. I think we are all old enough now as a society to learn to get help and clean it up, don’t you?