Junot Diaz’ Story Of Childhood Abuse Moved Me; BUT We Have To Break The Cycle

While considering that a cycle of abuse can happen with victims turning abusers, we have to ask: do we accept it too easily when the perpetrators are men?

While considering that a cycle of abuse can happen with victims turning abusers, we have to ask: do we accept it too easily when the perpetrators are men?

The #MeToo movement has shown us how patriarchy and its offspring, toxic masculinity adversely impact all the genders. While women came out with their stories of sexual abuse, often at the hands of men who were more powerful than them, a lot of men too came to the forefront to talk about the abuses they faced and hid because a culture of toxic masculinity that prevents them from expressing their vulnerabilities.

In this context, the recent narrative in The New Yorker by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Diaz makes an important statement. While Diaz talks about being raped at the age of eight and how that culminated in him plummeting into a self-destructive mode, he also spoke about how he involved himself with numerous women in order to forget the pain but then abandoned them or cheated on them and left them hurt and grieving in the process.

This brings us to an important question.

How do we stop the cycle of abuse?

It is definitely commendable for Diaz to come out and talk so honestly about his pain and suffering and how he emerged into the light after decades of struggle. However, it is difficult to not think about those women who too were abused in some way by the author’s behavior. Here is an important article that talks about how women often become footnotes to men’s journey towards the recovery from their sufferings.

When we are suffering, we often become selfish and blind to the rest of the world. However, at the end of the day, we need to ask some questions:

  • If I inflict the same pain that I’m suffering from on someone else, (that too on someone whose only ‘fault’ is trying to love me) how am I any better than the person who abused me?
  • Any kind of trauma deserves attention and support but as an individual can I really forego my own responsibilities towards other people?

Why does our culture celebrate this ‘suffering male’ prototype?

We are familiar with the image of a male artist or intellectual who is this dark, brooding type, who grabs the bottle of alcohol and has random sex (even when he is within a committed relationship) to forget his pain. He leaves a trail of hurt and abuse in his wake because he simply cannot deal with the pain. However, the right question to ask here now is: how come all the other genders who are more prone to being victims of sexual abuse, generally show less of such abusive tendencies? Is it because we ‘allow’ this kind of behavior, accept it, and justify it when it comes from a cisgender heterosexual male?

Abuse is never okay, but it doesn’t justify the victim’s perpetration of further abuse!

I am absolutely sympathetic towards abuse suffered by ALL genders. Every one deserves their stories to be heard. Everyone deserves love, sympathy and understanding in order to heal themselves. Irrespective of one’s gender, child sexual abuse is heinous and grossly wrong and the lifelong impact it has on an adult can never be undermined.

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As I was talking to a friend the other day, we agreed on the fact that the pain of abuse never goes away – we simply learn how to coexist with the pain. However, at the end of the day, this cycle of abuse is never okay. Just like no one has the right to abuse me, similarly, I don’t have the right to abuse someone else just because I’m suffering. This kind of spiral of destructive behavior should never be okay. Even if it concerns cishet males.

*cis: For those of our readers unfamiliar with this term, the term cisgender or cis is used to refer to people who’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Cishet refers to a cis person who is also heterosexual. 


About the Author

Kasturi Patra

Kasturi’s debut novel, forthcoming in early 2021, had won the novel pitch competition by Half Baked Beans Publishers. She won the Runner Up Position in the Orange Flower Awards 2021 for Short Fiction. Her read more...

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