Stories of abuse

I see my last post was about two months ago. I fractured a vertebra a couple of weeks after that, and am still in recovery, so everything has slowed down. Perhaps reflecting my need to rest, my editing work has been light. I’m ready for more action now.

I do a lot of academic editing, but my favourite work is editing and appraising creative writing. In the last few months I’ve edited three speculative fiction narratives, each fascinating in its own way. Two are still in process, and one is in process of being published as I speak, by Vivid Press, an Australian publisher who do e-books as well as print.

More recently, I’ve edited a narrative by a woman who survived a horrific childhood of abuse and torture, carried out by both her parents and other members of the family. The leader in crime was her mother, who used her in many cruel ways, including selling her to men and forcing her to watch her own acts of prostitution. Her schooling was patchy and her health was severely damaged. It’s a wonder she survived physically, but even more startling that through it all, and an early adulthood when she was locked into a cruel and loveless marriage, she survived as a good person, not, as so many do, to become an abuser herself, but to eventually find a counsellor who listened and encouraged her, not only to talk about long-suppressed horrors, but to write her story.

She now wants to publish her story, to help other victims of abuse become survivors, claim their lives as their own and learn to love and respect themselves. My good friend, who is a writer herself and an editor and writing mentor, took on the mission of helping this woman publish her story, as a pro bono job. As my friend has been very busy with other urgent work, she asked me to help her progress the job by copy editing the manuscript. I’ve done this, and she can now work with the author, shaping it  ready for publication. Her main aim is to preserve the authentic voice of the author, not to make it a ‘literary’ work.

We both think there is a great need for stories like this to be told, so that other victims can be encouraged to speak out and claim their lives, and so that those who have had more fortunate lives can empathise, and people generally become more aware of the horrors that may be happening within families and behind closed doors. One of the horrors of this story is that so many people turned their heads away when it must have been very obvious that a little girl was being cruelly used and neglected. She ran away from home many times, but because she was too frightened to speak out, the police kept returning her to her family. She was also admitted to hospital several times with serious injuries, but she was discharged back to her family.

Let more of these stories be written, so that we can all live in a more aware, gentler, more humane and respectful society, and not accept the covering up of abuses or turn away if we see something wrong happening.

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7 Comments

Filed under stories of abuse

7 responses to “Stories of abuse

  1. If you have a story to tell, and need an editor, please have a look at my website, http://www.perfectwordsediting.com/

  2. I agree though I have often been criticised for “liking” misery memoirs or misery books. It is important for them to be told. If they are told well, each one, though it might be similar to others is unique and can have nuances that can be critical to our understanding.

    • I think that such criticism is ignorant. Memoirs are not written to entertain or to please. They are written because the author has something memorable to say, and the criteria that I think are relevant are authenticity of voice, and the creation of a life that we can enter, share, and learn from. Of course there are literary criteria too, and some memoirs strive to fulfil these. This memoir does not aspire to that, it aspires to encourage other victims of abuse to claim their voice, and to inform the more fortunate reader, and as you suggest, to create greater understanding.

      • Yes, and I think some people see reading as “purely” entertaining and their definition of entertainment is something that makes them feel good. I don’t ascribe to either of those views.

        For me the memoir has to be well-written (let’s sidestep the word “literary”) – which is hard to describe. An authentic voice would probably do it. What I mean is writing that engages rather than bores, writing that suits the tone, writing that includes reflection.

  3. PS Sorry to hear about your vertebra. Must be a very painful experience.

    • I agree about what makes a well-written memoir. But of course there are degrees of good writing. In this case, the content is raw and the voice is not polished, but I still consider it well written because it engages, is straightforward and doesn’t avoid the hard truth.

  4. Thank you! It was excruciating. I’m recovering well with the help of acupuncture and pilates; it still bothers me, but only a shadow of before.

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