A brilliant essay given by Maria Tumarkin at the University of Melbourne on Wednesday 7 September 2016.
A short version was published in The Conversation on Friday 9 September – reprinted here with permission.
Among other things, Maria asked: “Have we outsourced the witnessing of child sexual abuse in Australia to the Royal Commission?” Some say yes. Others, like Maria, asks: Who is the ‘we’ in the question?
What is the link to Svetlana Alexeviech and Chernobyl? Child sexual abuse, says Maria, is like radiation poisoning, omnipresent and invisible.
It stays in people’s lives like radiation stays in the soil for thousands of years. It stays in families and physical places. It kills people. It makes people sick for generations to come. It is that future that is already here. No colour. No smell. Nothing to tell us it’s here.
She draws on the words of Psychiatrist , Paul Valent, to introduce another startling metaphor:
Some people call child sexual abuse ‘soul murder’. It is a real destruction of a person’s value and dignity … Generationally too … It interferes with love. It is the opposite of loving.
Maria argues that, if ‘we’ are outsourcing the witnessing of child sexual abuse in Australia to the Royal Commission, it will count for nothing in the end ‘if we continue relying on it to do the work of public reckoning with the history of systemic sexual abuse of children in this country’. It’s our work.