At Melinda Tankard Reist’s website today there’s a list of tweets from the hapless Brian McFadden, promising to donate money to rape crisis centres, and saying he’s sorry that his lyrics have been misunderstood.
He reiterates that he intended them as an intimate song for fiancee Delta Goodrem, and not as triggers for women who’ve been sexually assaulted while drunk.
I’m inclined to believe the bloke. I don’t think for minute he wrote that song with the intention of glorifying or encouraging the rape of senselessly drunk women.
But his apologies and donations are not enough for Melinda Tankard Reist. Not a truckload of money, she writes, will make up for the damage he has done to women.
Even in a court of law, intention counts when you’re passing sentence. But not in the courts of Christian sexual conservatism.
MTR also holds Delta Goodrem partially responsible. Why didn’t Delta check the lyrics before allowing Brian to record them, she asks. Is Delta so inured to sexual violence that she didn’t even notice what Brian was on about?
This would be unfortunate, MTR implies, as Delta is a spokeswoman for Avon Voices, a group that raises awareness of violence against women.
I guess the sexual conservatives also hold women responsible for what the men they live with do.
Personally, I think that’s a pretty low and unnecessarily malicious swipe.
Then there’s a letter from a victim of sexual assault whilst she was drunk, telling how McFadden’s song has brought it all back and is severely distressing her.
Nina Funnell then writes a long reassuring response to the victim, and I hope the woman follows this up with counselling.
There are triggers that cause memories of sexual assault, and many other traumatic experiences to flood back into consciousness, often without any warning. This is very hard for the survivor to deal with.
Triggers can be almost anything. I once worked with someone whose flashbacks were caused by pieces of green soap with a particular smell. Triggers are impossible to predict, extremely individual, and powerfully connected to the original trauma.
As much as the survivor would like never to have encounter these triggers, it is literally impossible to clear the world of them.
In some instances they may be so particular as to rarely emerge. Sometimes they aren’t known until the moment they strike. In many instances the triggers are all too common, and people have to deal with them on a daily basis.
It would be a foolish therapist indeed who recommended total avoidance of anything likely to act as a trigger. That would be condemning the survivor to a miserable life.
What we can do is teach cognitive behavioural techniques that can be used to manage the distressing flashbacks. This has the added advantage of empowering the survivor, both with the skills to handle bad times, and with the sense that she or he has some control over circumstances that can feel uncontrollable.
Given the proliferation of sexual topics in popular culture, it’s unrealistic to blame any artist for triggering a survivor’s flashbacks. As the triggers are so individual, its impossible to know what they might be.
As stupid as you might think McFadden’s song is, blaming him for activating post traumatic stress disorder is wrong. You might as well blame the manufacturer of green soap, and I believe McFadden, in his intentions, is as undeserving of blame.
The world is not an easy place to live in when you’re suffering post traumatic stress disorder. Many people don’t understand it, and have a low tolerance of sufferers who can seem difficult, withdrawn, moody, angry, weepy, and generally not interested in much. It’s tough, having first to withstand the trauma, and then to spend your time dealing with the aftermath.
The most difficult part is working with people towards an acceptance of their experiences, in the sense that they cannot be changed and must be lived with, as must the aftermath. The survivor has to take responsibility for learning to do this. This is the cornerstone of recovery. It can take many years, and nobody can do it for them.
I don’t think it helps survivors to be encouraged to look for someone to blame in the world around them. Nobody deliberately triggers someone’s flashbacks, unless they are entirely sadistic and know the survivor well enough to be able to do it.
If a creator of any kind must first consider if something in their work will cause distress to someone somewhere, and then abandon it in case it does, then nothing will be created.
I think Tankard Reist’s crusade against McFadden, and now Goodrem as well, is bordering on the vicious. She wants what she wants, which is an abject confession that they’ve caused immeasurable distress to women everywhere by recording the song. If she doesn’t get that, she will hound them, of that I’m certain.
She is displaying all the signs of the outraged self-righteous good Christian woman bent on vengeance, not only on him but on the woman he loves, and that is not a pretty sight.
And let’s remember, he isn’t a rapist. He wrote a song.