Thursday, April 1, 2010

Festival of the Revenge of the Innocents

It’s Easter this weekend. The public holiday when we celebrate Jesus dying for us on the cross to redeem us from our sins. I’m not really a churchgoer, more what you’d call a ‘cultural Christian’- someone who has absorbed the values of a Christian society by going to a little Church of England primary school and reading the beautiful poetry of the Bible, the inspiring stories in it (we’ll not talk about Paul’s intolerance of gays and women or some of the stuff in the Old Testament here, shall we?). My personal experience of the divine though has been in Nature, in the radiance of the Creation, of ‘all things bright and beautiful’ (my favourite hymn), rather than in a church. But still, the friendly figure of Jesus hovers in the background like a gentle brother, always prepared to forgive me, whatever I do.

And yet… …this idea of sacrifice. I don’t really get it, him dying for our sins I mean. I can understand somebody dying for their own sins, but to be sacrificed for somebody else’s? How about: somebody being sacrificed for their own sins and for someone else’s? Now that I can understand. My ideal candidate springs to mind, in fact – Ian Brady, one of the Moors Murderers(i).

As far as I know, he’s still in prison somewhere, writing his memoirs, and still hasn’t told the poor grieving family of one of his victims where the body is buried, on Saddleworth Moor. How about sacrificing him, not only for his own sins but for that whole body of monsters that he represents, and making a public holiday of that? We could call it the ‘Festival of the Revenge of the Innocents’. Perhaps it could encompass as many days as there were victims of the Moors Murderers, those poor little children… …how many of them were there, five? The Muslim festival of Ramadan goes for a month or so, doesn’t it? This would be something similar. Don’t they slaughter sheep for the evening meal, after having fasted during the day? We could slaughter our child abusers. Five of them each year, in symbolic retribution for the Moors Murders and all the others, and read the names out of any new victims of child abuse, every year, up on Saddleworth. Yes, I really mean “slaughter”. Why not? I can imagine slitting Ian Brady’s throat myself quite happily. (You wouldn’t dream of it to look at me that I’d be capable of doing something like that – I’m your average middle-aged, middle-class, middle-of-the-road sort of person.)

You might be asking yourself by now why I’m writing this. Believe it or not, I’m doing it to get over a bout of writer’s block regarding my dissertation for my master’s degree. Despite being of above-average intelligence (passed the Mensa(ii) entrance test a few years ago) and in possession of a wealth of practical experience in the field of the MA and having made more than 30,000 words of notes during my reading for it (only a total of 15,000 words for the dissertation are required)…

… I got a kind of log jam in my head every time I tried to envisage writing down my thoughts and ideas. It was like a tender place in my head, it was like a wound that didn’t want to be touched. And after focusing on this, in a quiet, meditative state, this sentence formed in my mind: “No-one wants to know what I have to say.” And after that sentence, an image to accompany it – me as a little girl going home after having been to a friend’s uncle’s house. We used to babysit his kids. He was drunk, and he wanted to ‘dance’ with me. He pinned my arms to my sides and my friend watched with big wide-open rabbit eyes. I can’t remember all of what happened. I just remember going home under a dark cloud and feeling dirty and in despair. I can’t remember if I tried to tell anyone about it, but knowing my family and the general prevailing atmosphere of the time I think my parents would have been more embarrassed by the thought of confronting their friends about what happened than anything else. Not that I really blame them, that’s simply what people were like then. Afraid to speak out. Don’t upset the boat. I’d even forgotten about it myself, until one holiday in the South of France about 12 years ago, doing a little ballroom dancing in a crowded room with my loved one. It was a tight corner and my partner kept me firmly gripped, dancing in small circles on the spot. I couldn’t move. And I freaked out. I broke away and ran outside in a total panic and that memory surfaced, of him, ‘dancing’ with me, my arms pinned to my sides, and I couldn’t breathe and I sat in the balmy weather under a starlit sky and I wanted to die. I wanted to kill myself.

That was twelve years ago, but it’s only recently that I have ‘joined up the dots’, as it were, to other, previously isolated islands of memory. Like a period during childhood when I couldn’t think without the figures in my thoughts getting tangled in rubber bands, unable to move. I thought I was going mad. I didn’t tell anyone about it. Eventually, it passed. Or the time I tried to kill myself, aged ten? Twelve? I don’t know. That island of memory consisted of me in my bedroom with a flesh-coloured Tupperware beaker of water and 14 aspirins. I took them all. It wasn’t enough. Nobody noticed anything. I didn’t try again.Well, not immediately. I did a few years later - strangely enough, also while trying to write a school essay. I couldn't finish it. I wrote and wrote and wrote...   ...and couldn't finish. Just like with my MA now. And it's only now that I realize that both then and now, the underlying reason must be the same.

…Islands of memory.. …joining up the dots… …’dancing’ with the ‘uncle’, the rubber band psychosis, the suicide attempt. I never realized they were all connected – until now. (What remains separate and ‘un-joined-up’ is the image in my head of another ‘memory’. It’s like a film scene, I’m looking down at myself, as if I was watching a film. I’m in bed at his house, I’m even younger than I was when he ‘danced’ with me, and he’s come into the bedroom, he wants to give me a good night kiss, which I don’t want. That’s all I can ‘remember’. I don’t even know if it’s true. I don’t even know if I ever really did stay overnight at his house. What ‘truth’ do such images have? Can one call them ‘memories’, vague as they are? Isolated islands, floating, with no before or after, no anchoring in a narrative of events. The website given below states that scientific research has proved that only half a percent of all reports by children of abuse are false.)

As you can imagine, I’ve had a hell of a lot of therapy over the past decade, trying to deal with all this stuff. I thought I had been quite successful, actually. I had just started to pat myself (and my current partner, for being able to go through this with me) on the back, and started this master’s degree… …when this writer’s block and flashbacks with suicidal impulses started to reoccur. I went on a ‘shamanic journey’(iii) to find healing for it. (Do you know what that is, a ‘shamanic journey’? It’s a kind of self-induced hypnosis, in which you can tap into your subconscious mind. By means of deep breathing techniques, accompanied by music that promotes a certain type of brain activity (alpha waves), you can enter a state which is similar to dreaming, only you can control the dream while still flowing along with it.)

Here’s the account of that journey from my diary.

“Journey to get rid of the obstacles or whatever it is that’s hindering me from completing my dissertation.

The deep relaxation went OK. I hovered between the entrance to the tunnel going to my ‘safe place’ and the hole beneath the tree going down into the spiral tunnel to the centre of the earth. I chose the latter. There was a grey, slimy stuff on the earthen walls. It looked like slug slime, but not silvery, just grey and thick. Yuck, I thought, I hope I’m not going to meet any giant slugs down there. I felt lonely. I need a companion, I thought. It’s not good to go on these shamanic journeys alone… …and there came a crow! It landed on my shoulder and I gave it my hand so it could come down – I could feel its claws and the weight of it – it was intensely real. I realised that this cheeky, raucous fellow was one of the crows that I had nursed back to health at the animal rescue centre that I’d worked at, stuffing this big beak full of food (they’re often off colour and don’t want to eat when they first get brought in), wrapping him in a towel so I could take him out of the cage and sit on the steps and feed him patiently, prising his beak open for each mouthful. I stayed there a while, with these memories, delighting in them, delighting in him. A smile was on my face as I lay there on the sheepskins, the drum music drumming in the background, and I’m smiling now also as I write this. It made me happy to have him with me. I felt less afraid…

Down at the end of the tunnel was the arched doorway that I’d encountered before on previous 'soul journeys', with its inches-thick, dark oaken door. I feared what might be behind it, and it took a while for me to gather my courage and open it, with crow-boy on my shoulder, hopping and flapping, impatient, curious. It’s hard to describe what met my eyes. A room full of little girls, all roughly the same age (about five years old), all dressed in white pinafore dresses like nightgowns, a dirty grayish white, like that vision I had the last time I tried to journey and couldn’t manage it. They ran around me, clamouring and shouting, one of them came close to me and pulled me into the middle of the room. It was like a scene from a horror movie (a genre I never watch). They weren’t ‘happy’ little children. Far from it. They were all the souls of little girls who had been murdered by paedophiles. “We want blood!” they screamed at me, “We want blood!”. There were the bodies of men there, the men who had killed them. They were huge, these bodies, like the bodies of giants, and these little girls in their grey-white dresses were running over them and hacking at them with axes and knives. The blood of the men poured out over the stone floor into a kind of gully.

The first little girl who had drawn me into the room went to it and filled a huge beaker with blood. There was a wildness, a desperateness about her, about all of them. She came to me with this beaker and poured the blood over my head. All the little girls, who had finished hacking at the men’s bodies, did the same, they poured the blood of the men that had murdered them over their heads. “This is what we want!” they screamed. “We want their blood! We don’t want them to be electrocuted or given painless injections! We want their throats to be cut like swine and the blood of them to be given to those that want it, those who need it, so that they can pour it over themselves and be cleansed. You must write about this. You must demand this. Death! Death! Death to those monsters, death to them! Look what they took from us! Life! Life! Never will we have children or feel the throb of first love in our hearts or smell the flowers in the gardens we could have had! Never. This is what has been taken from us. We want blood. Nothing less will do.”

I understood from what they were saying that I was to write an article about the plight of their souls. I’m going to do it. This is what I have to do if I am to get through my fear, get past the barrier to finishing my MA. It’s about no-one wanting to listen to what I have to say. What the little girl inside of me wanted to say, all those years ago. I know that there’s a part of me that’s just as dead, just as deprived of life as those murdered little girls. I must speak out on their and my own behalf. To avenge them. Blood. They and I want: blood.”

End of diary entry. You know, for years I had fantasies of killing him, that ‘uncle’. The last time I ever saw him was at a Christmas party of the same friend’s family. We would always go to their house on Boxing Day and I remember me and my friend sitting in one corner, that glue of silence still binding our mouths and us like frightened rabbits in the headlamps of a car still, even though we were ‘grown-up’, and him in the other corner laughing and joking, popular fellow he was, everyone in stitches at his jokes.

In later life, remembering this scene, I fantasized that I was no longer paralyzed, that I suddenly got up and grabbed a whiskey bottle from the drinks trolley and smashed it against the side and went to him and thrust the jagged edge of it into his jugular before anyone realized what was happening. But there were children present, so I varied the fantasy, along the lines of a whodunit detective novel. I would wait until he went upstairs to visit the bathroom and I would follow him discreetly, with rubber gloves and a plastic kitchen pinafore so the blood wouldn’t stain my clothes and a knife to slit his throat. I would come back downstairs and take my place again unobtrusively. It would take a while before he was discovered.

Of all the arguments that have been given for the reintroduction of capital punishment(iv), there is one that has not been considered: that if child abusers and murderers were put to death, even if only a symbolic number of them, it would reduce the number of suicides by the survivors, the victims. Because all the anger at their abusers, which finds no expression in our society’s institutions, gets turned inwards and violence is inflicted on the self(v). Or one suffers years of depression and unemployment (this happened to me). Just imagine, though, what might happen if there was some acknowledgment by society of the violence done to the victims and a form of retribution, even if ‘only’ in the shape of a ritual. Think of all the extra productivity released, the energy of those vindicated victims. Before: in the slough of despond. After: fully energized, released, redeemed! What a shot to the veins, what a burst of boisterousness and joy, what a surge in the Gross Domestic Product! The positive economic consequences of the ritual could be quite considerable.

I must admit, though, my little, generally liberal heart does quiver somewhat at the spectre of a possible return to the barbarism of mediaeval times. But on the other hand, who knows? Perhaps a little bit of carefully considered, cathartic blood-letting might do us the world of good. To ensure that we maintain our claim to being a civilised society, however, the decision-making process for the reintroduction of the death penalty (or ritual) must take the most democratic form possible, that of a referendum. The web site has this to say on the matter:

“If the general conclusion is that capital punishment is desirable, then the first step toward restoration is for the Government to present a fully thought out set of proposals that can be put to the people in a referendum stating precisely what offences should carry the death penalty, how it should be carried out, etc., and what effect on crime is expected to follow from reintroduction.

If such a referendum produced a clear yes vote, the Government would have a genuine mandate to proceed upon and could claim the support of the people, thus substantially reducing the influence of the anti-capital punishment lobby. There should be another referendum about 5 years later so that the effects of reintroduction could be reviewed and voted on again. Referenda have the advantage of involving the public in the decision making process and raising awareness through the media of the issues for and against the proposed changes.”

Perhaps, after a long public discussion, we might decide that we don’t want the death penalty as such to be introduced and would settle for a ritual slaughtering (as described at the beginning of this article) of a symbolic number of murderers, the exact ones to be decided upon by means of an online internet poll.

Referring back to the shamanic journey I described earlier - you would never guess, if you met me, that there was such bloodthirstiness in my subconscious. I’m a gentle sort of person, the kind who nurses sick kittens in animal shelters and who rescues tiny flies from drowning in the bathtub and ‘blow dries’ them with her breath and is utterly delighted when they come to life again and fly off.

Hmm, yes, bloodthirstiness, what to do with all that blood? What to do with the blood of the murderer(s) from our proposed ritual throat-slitting festival up on Saddleworth Moor if the victims’ bodies haven’t been found? Shall we give it to the mother of another child who has been murdered, for her to pour as a libation on or next to her child’s grave, saying, “This is for you, dear one, that your soul may find peace. It’s not from the same one who murdered you, but it’s from a similar monster. That you, and all of your innocent brothers and sisters taken so early, too early from us – that your souls may find peace.” Perhaps Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett, who continues to visit Saddleworth Moor where it is believed that the body of her son is buried, may like to pour Ian Brady’s blood there.

An idea has just occurred to me - it would be the ultimate irony, would it not, if this blog article was banned because someone complained about the content as being too ‘graphically bloodthirsty’ or as being an ‘incitement to violence’. That this article, written to comply with the request from my own abused inner child and all her dead companions and in order to overcome my feeling that there’s no-one out there who’s interested in what I have to say… …if this article, written for that reason, should be banned (perhaps due to a complaint made by a child-abuser, who is made to feel uncomfortable by it)… …how utterly ironic that would be.

To conclude: I keep telling myself that I'm a valuable member of society, that what I have to give is worthwhile. My rational mind knows this but it can't compete against my emotional self, that keeps repeating its mantra "not good enough not good enough not good enough not good enough". I am a teacher who cares deeply for the children I teach. I sincerely believe that I (along with all my other dedicated colleagues) am making a difference, helping them on their path in life, because of my concern for them as individuals, not just as a cog in the education machine. I want the memory of him, pinning my arms to my sides, to go away, and the lead weight on my heart that befalls me and the glimpses of myself in the bathtub, that warm bath of release, release from despair, the slitting of my own wrists and the pouring of my blood down the drain, releasing me from his grip, I want these images to go away.

My ‘monster’ is already dead – he died of a heart attack some years ago now. But I’m still not free of him. A part of me still wants his blood to pour down some drain. Not mine. I think some other figure, someone else’s monster, would do. I think it would bring me peace. The anger, the boundless anger that turned inwards on me because no-one wanted to know, no-one wanted to listen to a terrified, paralysed little girl – that anger would be released. That cry for help – which ultimately is what that kind of suicide is about – would have been heard by society. Society would have vindicated its innocents. And I could breathe and move my arms and I would live on.
To love. To teach. To give.
My life or his?
My life, the lives of all the survivors of child abuse that are threatened by suicide, or the lives of the abusers?

What do you think?

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(i) The other Moors Murderer was Myra Hindley.

(ii) Mensa – International organisation for the gifted and talented. To qualify for membership you must pass a standardised IQ test set by a psychologist that verifies your IQ as being in the top 2% of the population. Another good organisation for the gifted is SENG - Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted. A good book on this topic by Michael Stopper is Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted and Talented Children:


(iii) For an introduction to shamanic journeying, see the books of Sandra Ingerman, e.g. Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide, or Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self:

(iv) For a very good explanation of the case for and against capital punishment go to:

(v) For statistics on the effects of child abuse, go to:

For information on the symptoms of child abuse, see:

For UK government action on child abuse, see: