THE LEGACY OF THE WALKING DEAD – by Brian Mark Hennessy
I know victims of child sexual abuse who live from day to day an existence that ricochets from the past to the present with a mixture of alarming, mental images that are flashing in wild juxtaposition like a slide show which is being presented by an uncontrollable, whirling carousel. For them past and present are often indistinguishable. Things of beauty, comfort and consolation that they may now have within their grasp are whirled away by the sinister, destructive and incomprehensible legacy of past abuse. In the moments of their torment and when they reach out with a cry for help, we try to remind them to grasp hold of the things that they hold dear. Yet, so very often, the past crushes and blinds them to the warmth and comfort that is all around them. In the depth of their bewilderment they react to no external stimulus. They are unable, so very often, to comprehend nor respond. They have inherited the lifelessness of the walking dead.
These are also perplexing moments for the listener – the one that these prisoners of past nightmares turn to. They hesitate in a struggle to find the words that they can use to soothe the acute distress with which they are confronted – to obliterate the torments and to calm the teller’s incomprehension and anger. So very often, however, words are both worthless and futile. Frequently, they just need to listen and bear witness to the callous, sordid crimes that mature, self-absorbed, reckless and destructive adults have perpetrated against the victim’s innocent uncomprehending, childhood vulnerability.
These victims struggle on with their daily lives bearing a legacy of torments. They strive with the naivety of their childhood gullibility. They cannot reconcile their emotional attachment to the beguiling predator who had comforted and cherished them. With their adult understanding of right and wrong they make false judgements about their childhood acquiescence to their predators’ unconscionable and unscrupulous crimes of self-gratification. They continue to bear the guilt of crimes not committed by them, but against them.
The findings of the United Kingdom Government’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) must struggle to fully understand and reflect the suffering of those countless, victimised children who often have led mute, conflicted and listless lives that were doomed not to reach their birthright potential. Those findings must also fully reflect and counter the callousness of institutions, both religious and secular, that abrogated their moral responsibilities in the past and which seek now to evade public recriminations. Such reckless inhumanity must be confounded now by legally binding obligations. Those institutions that failed in the past must be subjected to a process of critical and rigorous monitoring into the future.
The lessons derived from the victims’ past legacy of pain and confusion must be transformed into an enlightened reality for future generations. The UK Government, IICSA and the multitudinous teams of lawyers and barristers representing victims must subsume their own concerns, agenda and objectives to the voices of the victims that they are representing. They must not seek to impose politically correct, economically viable or expedient solutions on a national populace whose own personal experiences will invariably make them insensitive to the reality of injustices suffered by others. The voices of martyred, childhood lives must now be heard from the mouths of their adult inheritors and it is the victims’ legacy that must shape the future. If Professor Jay, her team at IICSA and lawyers representing victims do not get it right now, then many, many more victims of the past, present and future will remain unseen and will lead lives that are lifeless, damaged, struggling and devoid of hope.