Now working as an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, Heather says it was important to make a film not about rape, but survival. In sharing her story, she hopes others will see that recovery is possible, and it’s okay to speak out. “It’s about adversity, it’s about those challenges and how you best manage those as an individual.
“There seems to be a general public belief that survivors of sexual abuse are able to put it all behind them and move on. I don’t find this to be true at all. Survivors don’t move on, leaving the abuse in the past. It stays with you as you move forward, but with specialised help and support you learn to live with it in a healthy way where it doesn’t sabotage your future.”
I’ve never liked the term “closure”.
It’s as if people who speak about needing closure – usually not people who have actually endured abuse – don’t want to have to deal with the lasting effect that abuse has on survivors. It’s messy. It’s disruptive. Maybe they feel responsible for not being able to have helped the victim, or they feel guilty because they didn’t notice when it was happening right under their noses.
Survivors are encouraged to forgive, forget, move on, which tends to have the silent definition of “Please stop thinking, talking about the bad stuff that happened to you, because it’s emotionally inconvenient for the rest of us to admit that what happened to you can happen to anyone.”.
People want it to be finished and done with, as if anyone really could forget something that traumatic. They don’t want to admit that sexual and physical abuse can have life-altering consequences, but they do: flashbacks are real. They are sudden. They are horrific. And no survivor should be made to feel guilty for something they can’t control. You never really “get over” it; you learn to get through it.
Staying silent nearly killed me.
Trauma has no expiry date: survivors’ stories deserve to be heard and believed, regardless of whether or not charges are pressed, or how long ago the abuse took place.
“The Monster of Mangatiti” (2015 TV movie) can be seen on Netflix UK. Heather Walsh narrates, and is portrayed by Greta Gregory. William “Bill” Cornelius is portrayed by Mark Mitchinson.