Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Mother's love or daughter's hate


Mama cannot take it
Reading that a mother had taken her daughter to court for libel [1] in relation to her memoirs that stated she was abused as a child was enough to get my interest.
The daughter is a 50-year old successful barrister and part-time judge, her mother who is 73 has asserted that the writings of her daughter are pure fiction.
The judge in the case read the said book which was titled Ugly [2] and it narrated aspects of mental cruelty meted to the daughter and other aspects of abuse done by her step-father.
It is necessary to note that the recollections in book go back to when the lady was just about 5 or 6 and it gives air to the possibility of false memories, fantasies and vague recollections that might appear as reality.
We must not however discount the possibility that a child of 5 can and will recollect events that have become indelibly marked in the psyche of the child who has become an adult.
They had an opinion of me
I cannot say that I was abused by my parents to any extent that I feel seriously impaired, but I do remember that I seemed never to be able to find anything my mother sent me to get from her room and had to try many times before I succeeded – each failure attracted enough verbal scolding to almost feel worthless.
My father said when I was born I could hardly fit in his palm, and somehow as I developed into a child, that thought of my premature birth became a forgotten memory but I always seemed to be too slow at doing things, he coined a phrase for that slowness – die-die (sounds like dee-err spoken in quick succession).
Beyond that, I witnessed events that I cannot seem to forget and much of what happened in our home as the servants took liberties for their satisfaction and none of that ever got out to our parents except once.
Obviously, if one were to talk about those things now, including the sexual abuse at 7 [3], I could very well expect a legal mayhem invading my doorstep. Now my parents did so well to provide us a safe and comfortable environment but the people they trusted and mentored were not necessarily pious eunuchs and virgin Marys.
The lay of probability
But if one were to look at the circumstances depicted by this lady, her mother had married another man who became her step-father and I can say that it takes a level of vicarious adjustment for a man to accept another man’s child as his to love, to cherish, to mentor and to raise.
There are many circumstances where women in trying to keep a roof over their heads and have a modicum of comfort have expected their children from another marriage to bear the cross as they suspended motherly concern and love for the purpose of keeping their man regardless of what he may do to the children.
This is not to say that all the recollections of childhood are true, but it does not make them entirely false either, there is a probability that a good deal might well be true but children are up against a societal notion that suggests that children cannot have long term memories that they can recall in adulthood.
Between facts and opinions
Now, children may not necessarily have opinions but there are facts of what those children might have experienced. The mother might well have the opinion that whatever happened in the home she tried to keep together was all for the good of making her daughter the success she has become, but the mother’s opinion of her motherhood may not necessarily be the overriding fact of the child’s experience.
We should however objectively look at the situation, the circumstances and events, including the cultural settings of these kinds of allegations, the mother who might well be a pillar of society in her outward appearance might not be as angelic as she purports to be.
She doth protest much
I would contend that she doth protest much as she has brought this libel case, but if in the end the jury finds in her favour, I do worry for the case of other adults who have been unable to speak out about childhood abuse and those who would never see justice and the decent objective scrutiny of their allegations because the weight of societal prejudice seems to give the parent the benefit of the doubt and the child the epithet of the evil and ungrateful spawn.
It would be easy to prejudge this case because the facts are difficult to ascertain, but any advocate should work on determining the difference between the opinion of the mother and the facts of the events; somewhere in the cross-examination, the truth can be prised out to give either the child or the mother victory – we know for one, this is no happy family and who would be to blame for that?
Sources


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