Wall – ‘Holy Isolation’, published by Kırmızı Kedi Publishing House on the last day of 2021, a narrative focusing on domestic sexual abuse. We spoke with Meliha Ildiz, who started with her own story, her experience, the process of writing the book, and the rest. Yıldız said, “When I realized that the traumatic event I had experienced had affected my daughter as well, I started therapy again. Working with a psychologist who believed in me and confronted her saints gave me the strength to face guilt. Face-to-face encounters such as mother, father, family, state, religion and society make me believe in my innocence.
The story of child Melihar in sacred solitude begins at the age of eight. Remember your younger years? Do you have any old memories of your family or where you live?
In the book, my story begins at the age of eight because my father’s domestic sexual abuse began when I was eight. I don’t remember much about my childhood. This is a common problem that is the victim of domestic sexual abuse. Memory focuses on survival and is divided into two parts. Memories to remember, not to remember.
I was born into a working class family. I spent my childhood in a city in Ankara. In addition to domestic sexual abuse, I grew up in a home where physical, emotional abuse and neglect were intense. My mom and dad were the favorite people in the neighborhood. My father was a respected, honest and generous man in the neighborhood, and my mother; The woman who endures all the hardships of life …
Who did you first share your experience with? How did you react to those you described? Shall we speak for those who have not yet read the book?
I shared it with my mom for the first time. I was eight years old. My father after a second attempt at domestic sexual abuse. I did not tell my mother what my father did. I didn’t think my dad was a bad person. My father was a good man at heart and could rarely do any harm to anyone. And I loved my dad. So I just told Mom, “Daddy is pulling my panties off.” My mother did not believe me. And then she didn’t save me for years of domestic sexual abuse. I don’t know if I hid this abuse that went on year after year or whether people ignored it.
In fact, you answer in your book: “Children cannot speak; Weak and scared. She fears that if she does, she or her relatives will be harmed. The perpetrators often threaten the child. You say in the book that no matter how unreasonable the threat of a criminal may seem to us, children will believe it. Perhaps this is the general plight of the victims. After many years of silence, how did you decide to blame yourself and stop talking?
When a child feels something like that, he does not understand it. When he meant it, he said, “I must have done something bad or wrong that happened to me.” When the victim is an adult, even though his mind tells him how innocent he is, he cannot get rid of his childhood guilt unless he gets emotional professional help. Not easy; It is very difficult to accept that your father may commit a cruel act against you, your mother may turn a blind eye to this atrocity, society and the state will not protect you and will remain silent about it.
When I realized that the traumatic event I was experiencing had affected my daughter as well, I resumed therapy. Working with a psychologist who believed in me and faced his divinity gave me the strength to face guilt. Facing holy people like mother, father, family, state, religion and society has made me believe in my innocence. It wasn’t hard to talk when I let go of the saints who didn’t protect me and the children, and when I was by the side of the child.
For this, I gave a video-interview so that I could explain my experience. I did not hide my name, my face, who I was. I was a child, I was abused, I was left alone, no one listened to me. When I grew up, I stopped sexually abusing my father. I was not there to hide, to be silent.
The feedback you get when a video interview is published is also very interesting. I want you to tell me this.
I think it was a shock that people went through. Some of them tried to talk to me because they felt pushed, but we didn’t know what to say to each other. Or we were having a meeting, but the topic never came up in the interview. When I raised the issue, they said, “We didn’t want to bother you talking about it.” Later I realized that I did not want to upset myself. They still wanted to maintain silence. Others said, “I will not see.” Why are we friends if you can’t take away my pain? Others said, “There was no need to disclose privacy and encourage criminals.” One in every four to five children is sexually abused and ninety percent of perpetrators come from the immediate environment. The criminals are incredibly brave in this country, in the world; The number indicates this. It is certain that we ignore the story of abuse and cannot change these figures from silent.
Facing these reactions bothered me at first. Then, I said, the victims aren’t talking about it. I said it when I was eight or eighteen, but people don’t want to hear it nowadays. “Don’t let the victims be silent!” That is why the slogan has no meaning for me. Victims don’t keep quiet, the problem is people don’t want to hear. While trying to understand these experiences I decided to write a book. The book has made it easier for me to understand and accept human deafness.
Will you reveal the name of your book The Sacred Seclusion? How do you feel isolated from the victim?
Since the interview was published, many women, men and LGBTI + people have contacted me. I think it was their message that gave me the best and strengthened my struggle on this issue. In fact, I have seen in their stories that we are not always silent. We were talking, but the people around us didn’t want to hear it.
I think the most important reason why it is difficult to talk about domestic sexual abuse is because it touches on many sacred things. Mother, father, religion, state, society … our sanctity of these leaves our children and adults alone. For holy preservation, we leave the child, sacrifice the child, and isolate the victims.
Now you are saying and you are not silent when the book is over. You continue to talk to other victims, to be their voice, and to tell their stories on blogs started in your own name. How do they reach you and how do you feel about hearing from others like your own experience? This must be a difficult, tedious process.
Yes, it is difficult, but we try to get to know and heal ourselves through each other’s experiences. The strength I get from the victims inspires me in my work. Most importantly, I do not want any child to experience this again. I want to see how serious we are trying to deal with as victims. I want to see how serious the consequences of sexual abuse and domestic sexual abuse are, and I want our children to be better protected. Victims reach out to me through my blog and social media accounts. Listening to their stories helps me to understand some things that I have noticed intuitively. Unfortunately, there is not much research on this topic in Turkey.
Sometimes it’s not emotionally easy. I can’t sleep for a few days. The desire to save the child who was not protected in time – it seems they live in a room in my house, the room where I interview. I’m trying to protect them in that room. Then, when I see them struggle and become stronger, I try to acknowledge that they have grown up and try to sever ties with them.
‘Art was my refuge’
In the book, we read about Meliha’s experience, on the other hand, we think about the problem of domestic sexual abuse with you and we reach out to movies, games and books. What would you say to a book or a movie based on your own experience?
Art was my refuge, it was my refuge. When I couldn’t look at my own suffering and crying, it seemed that art made it easier for me to cry for myself for the pain of others. Art has always been in my life, also in terms of production. I have participated in writing workshops and script workshops. In this workshop, I dreamed of talking about domestic sexual abuse, albeit fictional. I don’t know what it would be like if someone else told my story. I now see the book as a part of me, I can’t see it from the outside. This book has been a tool for my transformation, to embrace my childhood. My second book, which is not yet finished, bears witness to the same process.
Therapy, your video-interview and writing this book has been a way for you to heal and prevent yourself. We know that what is described in this book continues to be felt somewhere in the world. Your struggle can be a hope for the recovery of other victims. What do you mean?
There is a Japanese ceramic industry: Kintsugi. An art made by combining scattered ceramics with gold dust. In Kintsugi industry, broken ceramics are not considered destruction; Using broken ceramic gold is made more valuable. In Kintsugi, the fractures are not hidden, but highlighted. On a philosophical basis, ceramics are given a second life. Child sexual abuse is an attempt to maintain life as a fragmented ceramic unless it is cured. I say give life another chance, fix yourself. Without hiding our frustrations, emphasizing our values that have never been lost… I say, as a society, let’s break the silence and reach out to the victims and support them so that they can recover.