A FEW days ago, I cut two sprigs of bamboo from the grove in the garden, and stuck these in a bottle of water. This morning, the buds remain tightly rolled except instead of morning dew clinging to the spray, which now have a yellowish cast, there are three flies.
Strange fruits. The immobile globules drawing sustenance from the bamboo remind me of life coursing, unseen but resisting, in the stems that I will have to throw out in a day or two.
It is the morning I wake from my friend’s recounting of her rape by a fellow writer decades ago. Women’s advocates hail the reporting of rape, harassment, and other forms of sexual violence. More victims are coming out into the open; more are naming the nameless.
Have we finally succeeded in putting the survivors of sexual violence into the scope of visibility so we can no longer ignore and must do something about this crime?
Or are they just an exhibit, of which we, too, are part?
Remembering those drunken flies feasting on the dying bamboo, I wonder if journalism only normalizes sexual violence. The Oct. 24 sacking of the Philippine National Police Academy director over recent allegations of sexual abuse involving students and teachers may be framed as justice.
Is the latest sex scandal one because someone exposed the crime? Or because the crime involved mentors and students in an institution that trains future enforcers of rule and order?
Isn’t it more than a scandal to imagine how they will cope with the rest of their lives, those two plebes punished into performing oral sex on each other while watched by upperclassmen?
What about other lives cut by sexual violence that will never come out on newsprint or as soundbites? What about the certainty that those police trainees were not the only nor the last to be abused?
When a male friend recounted how, to enter college, he and four other young men stripped naked for examination in a common room, his feeling of debasement focused on the tip of the ruler with which he and the others were probed in all orifices.
The sexual orientations of the examiners did not even matter; the power that could normalize the personally abnormal by linking this with the socially desirable—abasement for education—marked him all these years.
Recounting the decades-old history with the male writer who raped her and the female writer who helped him carry this out, my friend said: “(The abuse) never leaves you. It is always there. This sharp memory. I still know his smell, his skin, his penis. I will not unknow it.”
Feeling a trespasser for “waking” these memories, I apologized. Her reply: “They are not memories. Write me well.”
* First published in SunStarCebu’s October 28, 2018 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”