Intimate Details (Miss America by Day Re-Read-4: Why?)

(The following is the 4th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)

Between Miss America by Day‘s “Introduction” and its first chapter is a very brief, two-paragraph section titled, simply, “Why?”

In the first paragraph, Ms. Van Derbur recounts an anecdote—of an encounter with an acquaintance who, “with obvious disapproval, asked, ‘Why would you choose to disclose the most intimate details of your life?'”

In the second paragraph, Ms. Van Derbur answers this question:

I would rather face hundreds who condemn me than even one child or adult who, when  I say, ‘I’m so very, very sorry for your pain,’ responds, ‘But you never tried to help.’

A desire to help other survivors of child sexual abuse has been central, as well, to my motivation for my writing and publishing Preludes. As I state in the book’s “Prologue”:

Why should child sexual abuse survivors write about their abuse for publication? A number of reasons present themselves, including the validation and support survivors can receive for their efforts at healing from their own abuse experiences through acquainting themselves with those of others; the understanding that people who have never experienced such abuse can gain of the severity of the damage it can inflict, during childhood and beyond; and the vital role essays, memoirs, stories, and other writing by survivors can have in motivating people to work steadfastly towards the realization of whatever improvements might be made in human societies—however gradually, in the years, decades, and centuries ahead—to lessen the occurrence of child sexual abuse and to better assist its victims.

Regarding Ms. Van Derbur’s acquaintance’s question, its implied assertion that no reason could justify a choice to disclose one’s life’s most intimate details is an assertion with which publicly disclosing survivors would readily disagree. Rather, a publicly disclosing survivor may find substantial usefulness in revealing details of gross injustice and atrocity which happen, by their very nature, to be located at the center of the survivor’s sphere of intimacy. That is to say, the core motivation would be to expose the gross injustice and atrocity of the abuse for various worthy purposes such as those cited above, and this motivation would provide ample justification for disclosure.

The acquaintance’s question seems to miss this point entirely and underscores a major challenge facing any child sexual abuse survivor who wishes to, at one and the same time, overcome whatever substantial reluctance they may have to reveal details so painful and intimate about their lives while also dealing with whatever apprehensions they may have concerning the possibility that any worthy motives they possess for disclosure will be discounted or dismissed entirely in favor of suspicions or open accusations that the survivor is peddling the “lurid” details of their abuse in a crass effort to gain some measure, however fleeting, of notoriety.


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