Thoughts on proposed abuse legislation
A recently proposed piece of legislation that quickly became abbreviated to the “sex abuse bill” sparked nationwide controversy when it was put forward a few weeks ago. For many of us, the motion must have reawakened the memory of traumatic events suffered either by ourselves or by people close to us. Later news that the bill had been withdrawn and would be submitted to a parliamentary committee for review brought at least some relief. Even so, I think there is benefit in sharing some of my thoughts and memories on this highly sensitive issue.
Have you ever had the experience of being subjected to violence and not been able to fight back because you weren’t strong enough? I have. Let me tell you about it.
One summer, my father rented a summerhouse in Tuzla. If I remember correctly, I was aged eight or nine at the time. My twin brother and I quickly made friends with the other kids at the summerhouse. I vaguely remember there being a sports club nearby as well. We used to go there together every now and then.
It was a weird summer holiday for us. The kids in the neighborhood were nice; we made some good friends. But there was something disagreeable about the house and its position. It was in that house that I saw my first ever bat. Don’t say bats don’t live in houses; believe me, they’d found a home in that luxury villa. Dozens of them, as it happens.
One day, I left the house to go to the sports club. This time my brother, Baran, wasn’t with me. As I was walking along on my own, a motorbike pulled up beside me. The person on the bike, a guy in his late 20s or early 30s, asked where I was going. I replied, ‘To the club.’ And he told me to hop on; he’d give me a ride.
Don’t just dismiss this as the overactive imagination of a young boy. I was aware of a lot of things from an early age. It’s strange, but I immediately grasped some things just like an adult.
I thought for a moment about what the guy had said and did a quick mental calculation: if I carried on walking to the club, it would take me 10 minutes, whereas I’d be there in just two minutes by motorbike. I figured that there wouldn’t be a problem because this was our neighborhood. So I jumped on the back of the bike.
The guy on the bike carried on straight at first, but took the wrong turn at the next junction. I realized right away and yelled from the back that he was going the wrong way. There was no reaction, so I yelled the same thing three more times. In fact, come the third time, I screamed at him to let me off the bike. But the guy was going hell for leather and there was no telling where, so I threw myself off the bike. I rolled over as soon as I hit the ground and got up right away. The guy on the bike pulled up and then started walking towards me. When I raised my hand in protest and said why was he going the wrong way, he grabbed me by the back of the neck and dragged me back to the motorbike. I tried to hit him, but didn’t really stand a chance: I only came up to the guy’s waist and wasn’t strong enough. In the end, he pushed my head down on the back of the bike and snatched the gold chain from around my neck in one fell swoop (the chain was my father’s). After throwing me on the ground again, he jumped on the bike and sped away.
An allergy to jewelry and the “Hulk effect”
I ran straight home. My mother was there to meet me at the door. I remember throwing my arms around her, telling her tearfully that, ‘They took Dad’s chain’ and describing what happened. My mother dismissed the chain, saying we could always get a new one. Understandably she was far more concerned about me and whether I was okay. When I said I’d fallen on the ground twice, but was fine, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Basically I’d say that that incident left me with two obvious psychological scars. First, I can’t wear any form of jewelry. I don’t actually like jewelry as a whole, but even wearing a watch makes me feel uncomfortable.
The second scar is something I refer to as the “Hulk effect”. For anyone unfamiliar with the Hulk, let me explain. The Hulk is a fictional superhero of one of the famous comic book series published by Marvel Comics. Whenever Dr. Bruce Banner, a regular human being, feels his life is in danger or gets excessively steamed up, he turns into a green giant a.k.a. the Hulk (see below).
Needless to say, I’ve never actually morphed into the Hulk myself; but as well as loathing physical fights and doing my best to avoid them, I tend to move into a different dimension whenever I get badly hurt, feel helpless or up against a wall. It’s like being blinded by rage; I lose my self-control. What comes next isn’t so great for whoever I’m up against. By the time it’s all over, my assailant(s) is/are left with serious physical damage and, more often than not, are prostrate on the ground.
Don’t get the wrong idea: I’ve never initiated any of these fights. In one case, for example, I was walking past school when a bunch of Tarabya youths ended up pulling a knife on my friend after an exchange of taunts. On another occasion at high school, a friend nicknamed the “Beast” did a two-footed tackle on me from behind during a soccer game. I should point out that I weighed just 60 kilos at the time, while the beast was 120 kilos (no exaggeration) and at least 20 cm taller than me. When I protested at the foul, he told me to f *** off and pushed me so hard that I banged my head on the ground. So that was it... The guy’s face was a mess by the end. Our physical education teacher later summoned us. I remember he didn’t believe we’d had a fight because of the weight difference between us. When the Beast returned from the sickroom with cotton wool up his nose and Band-Aids all over his face, the teacher pointed to him and asked, ‘Was it you who did this?’ When I nodded, the man started laughing and told us to make up. (To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that kind of reaction from the teacher. But I guess I used up some of my credit for always been well-behaved at school.) And then there was the time when my twin, Baran, and I found ourselves up against it... Check it out on the link below:
What can the vulnerable do?
I’m writing about this for the following reasons. Firstly, I’m sure that the same “Hulk effect” may apply to many a parent who has had things happen to their children or feel there’s a threat of something happening. Secondly, when I get into a fight, I’m truly thrown into a different dimension. I think that subconsciously the sense of helplessness and physical inadequacy I felt at that young age has a lot to do with that.
Fortunately, as an adult I have the kind of physique that can deal with most things that come my way. In other words, I’m now able to defend myself. But what about the millions of women, children, elderly and disabled people living in this country?
I find it horrific that these kinds of people are attacked, beaten up or abused because of their physical weakness. It takes a sick, thieving or wantonly savage mind to do something like that. Personally it makes me crazy to read stories of attacks in the media every day, whether about a girl being kicked on a bus, a disabled girl being sexually abused or whatever else. There is nothing we can do and this sense of helplessness only troubles me all the more.
Life isn’t fair. You can be attacked not only physically, but verbally, too. This is something I encounter frequently: people can criticize me unfairly or judge me in a negative light based on preconceptions, misunderstandings or disinformation. After getting to know me properly, these kinds of people always change their attitude towards me for the positive. It rarely happens, but at conferences where I’ve spoken, I’ve sometimes had people openly attack me with their questions. My policy is always to try to answer as patiently, accurately and clearly as I can. On a few occasions, I’ve also had people come up and apologize afterwards for acting the way they did.
This weekend I’ll be 39. Even at this age people can face traumatic experiences in their professional and personal lives. You can get incredibly upset or find yourself not sleeping for nights on end. In the end, you think “if it was meant to be, it was meant to be”. Life goes on one way or another. You just go with the flow.
Trauma, though, is something else, and this is the real reason for my writing this blog. Unfortunately it isn’t as easy to get over trauma as it is the kind of periodic problems I just mentioned. I’ve already described the scars left by an attack I suffered as a small boy. Even the trauma I experienced is minor compared with others.
Yes, I’m talking about the women and children who are subjected to far worse things. Can you imagine their state of mind? How can they get over their trauma? It’s so hard. Even if they had serious therapy for the rest of their lives, they’d still carry that dark shadow somewhere in the back of their minds. Besides, for most victims it’s impossible to adapt to normal life again; they just exist like lost souls.
The proposed bill and reactions
Regrettably, the issue isn’t been addressed with the necessary action. And worse than that, the kind of legislative measures are being discussed that would simply reinforce and encourage this culture of aggression. I’m referring to the “sex abuse bill”, as it’s popularly known, which parliament tried to introduce last Friday. (You can read the full news story on the following link: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/index/cinsel-istismar.)
To put it at its most diplomatic, nobody was happy with this bill. Every aspect of the motion was terribly wrong and beneath us. Thankfully as I write this, news is coming in to the effect that the bill has been withdrawn. It’s a positive development, of course, but we need to be sure that similar legislation isn’t introduced in the future. If the law had been passed as was, not only would attacks on minors have increased, there would also have been marriage pressures on the victims and their families.
There were thousands of negative commentaries written about the bill to marry off victims to their perpetrators. I don’t want to go into detail here and lower the tone. I just want to make the point that as a Turkish citizen I am categorically opposed to this kind of legislation, that the crime rate in Turkey is rising rapidly, and that we should really be doing something about it. Otherwise, jungle law will remain in force and everyone will have to take care of themselves. The following news story is a case in point: http://mobil.hurriyet.com.tr/kizini-istismar-eden-genci-oldurdu-40284581#yorumlar.
To finish off, I’d just like to say that I, too, have joined the change.org campaign against sexually abused children being forced into marriage. For the record, the number of campaign supporters is now close to the 1 million mark. This and the intensity of public reaction generally give a good idea of the nationwide sentiment towards the proposed legislation. For more on the campaign, see: https://www.change.org/p/cinsel-istismar-ma%C4%9Fduru-tecav%C3%BCzc%C3%BCs%C3%BCyle-evlendirilemez-tecav%C3%BCzme%C5%9Frula%C5%9Ft%C4%B1r%C4%B1lamaz?recruiter=52393118&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=mob-xs-petition_update-no_msg. The entire country would benefit from an increase in measures to take care of real victims and protect the safety of the vulnerable rather than looking after the interests of bullies and criminals.
Take care of yourselves...