This is a letter to a town that ignores a major problem and the issues it has left a considerable amount of women who live in it. The after effects of sexual abuse, the lingering trauma and worst of all the treatment of those abused by many of the towns other residents.
In this town there was a doctor, a highly respected member of the community. But this doctor was also a predator. Under the cover of necessary medical examinations, he started to abuse a certain number of his female patients. Once he found a victim, he did it to them again and again, sometimes for years. No-one has a true number of this man’s victims but when he went on trial and was convicted dozens of victims had come forward. So many other women have stayed silent.
That’s part of the problem. There are dozens of silent victims in this town, dealing with the reality of surviving repeated attacks by this man. He has been gone from this towns list of doctors for over fifteen years, but his victims are still here. They are your mothers and sisters, daughters and nieces- and so many of you don’t know it because they stay silent.
And one of the main reasons they stay silent is because of your words. Your words at the time of his first arrest, when the rumours first went round the town. The talk when he was arrested and charged. The bile you spouted during the trial when so-called upstanding citizens were called as his character witnesses. And even after his conviction, even years later when you still kept talking as if you knew something about it.
Because you said he was such a lovely man. He’d never done anything to you. Those women who came forward had mental problems. It was all for attention. A pack of lies. They’re looking for compensation. We all know what sort of people those women were. Everyone knew they made things up. You’ll never make me believe it.
You said it outside the shops, on the buses, at your churches, at your dinner tables. To friends, co-workers, acquaintances. You spoke loudly so passersby heard your words. And so many heard you.
I heard you. I listened and I learned. Learned what people think of those who speak up. Learned that the truth did not matter in this town. Learned to keep silent about what happened so you would not be saying your spiteful lies about me.
But the abuse still happened. No matter how much I tried to forget I still felt those crawling hands on my skin, taking away a part of my innocence and what felt like my mind at times.
If I was listening I can’t have been the only one who heard and stayed silent. But the poison has still been administered and it drips through our psyche. We end up sometimes with a bottle in our hand, of pills or booze, trying to get through the day or night.
If we’re lucky we spend time in a room, with a kind person trained to help us make better methods of getting through the flashbacks and the nightmares. But the only way we can get there is to be able to tell someone. Tell them who the bogeyman is, why the nightmares and the panic attacks come. Why when you have to go to hospital you cry because you’ll be surrounded by people who all want to examine you to make you well. But the thought of one of them touching you brings all the darkness back. Why the joy of finding out you’re pregnant means your husband has to hold you while you weep at all the trauma you will have to deal with on every examination.
So stopping us from speaking even now, decades later, is still damaging the lives of women in this town. There needs to be healing and recovery and that can’t happen for all his victims until you stop vocally denying his crimes and demonising his victims.