Joy Jennings is the author of “I am Not Your Baby.” The book deals with some highly sensitive subjects, such as rape, assault, and abuse. The author’s memoir describes in detail all that she suffered while living in Gold Coast, Australia, but if you read the excerpt that is shared here, then you’ll know this happens everywhere, and yet we feel powerless to counter it. It is horrifying – but neither are more laws being brought into place to assure the safety of women, nor any to punish the criminals. This seems to be true the world over – this pathetic treatment meted out to those who have not only suffered a great deal (and that’s understating it), but have somehow summoned the courage to speak about it. This is made worse by those trying to establish the fact that stats (of reported assaults and rapes) are fabricated – if the world is left to them, they would simply deny the existence of rape and assault altogether. But we know the truth, no matter how ugly it might be. Joy Jennings states her book is about humanizing the victims. Read on to know more about her, her book, and its message.
Q: Tell us a bit about your childhood, about your education, and where you grew up.
A: I come from a middle-class suburban neighbourhood in Melbourne, Australia where I attended public school and had a fairly normal upbringing. Our household was a constant hub of activity, filled with kids, visitors, music, pets and noise. Perhaps a little too much for me at times, but overall it was a happy household.
Q: Is “I am Not Your ‘Baby’” your first book, or have you published anything prior to it? Do you have any other books planned?
A: I’m Not Your “Baby” is probably going to be a one-and-only, although I could probably write more because I didn’t include all of my stories for the sake of book length. At this stage, I don’t have any plans to write another book, but I have only just began stage two of my life so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Q: What made you decide to pen down your experiences? It is a highly sensitive topic. Was it difficult or traumatic to write it all down?
A: Sometimes more than I could handle, which I suspected it would be, so the decision to write the book was an extremely difficult one and by far the hardest thing I’ll ever do in my life. It brought forth all my demons from the depths and my partner has suffered many sleepless nights because of my night terrors which re-surfaced as a result. It was far too important to do it though. I have too many people to help.
Q: Do you think abuse (verbal and/or physical) is a problem faced by women alone? Do you think men are sometimes on the receiving end as well?
A: Oh, I know women are not the only victims in that regard. There are plenty of men who suffer abuse, but society teaches males to man up and take it, which is completely wrong in my opinion. Why should anyone just have to take it? It’s the abusers who have to stop what they are doing. It is simply unacceptable.
Q: It is extremely brave that you spoke up about the issues outlined in the book, such as harassment and rape. However, the ugly reality is, whenever a woman talks about these issues, the society reacts with more violence than support. What do you think women should do under such circumstances? What do you think will encourage women to speak up instead of suffering in silence?
A: In my opinion, we currently live in a cruel, hateful, victim-blaming society, and the fear of receiving a negative response does keep us from speaking up. I want to encourage anyone who has had crimes committed against them to not make the same mistakes I did. Don’t let those guilty parties get away scot-free. If you don’t speak up, then the perpetrators are only going to continue to hurt others. Screw them! Don’t let anyone make you afraid and don’t let them get away with it. Do not hesitate and report them immediately. Show them, and the world, you will not be messed with!
Q: There are many men (and even women) who believe that simply because they do not treat women badly, rape and assault does not exist. Have you come across such people, who seem to live in denial and believe that ignoring the problem (or pretending it doesn’t exist) will cause the problem to go away? What do you have to say to them?
A: There is no easy answer for this. All we can do is continue to speak up and get the message out there so eventually people will take notice. It is a shame that those who do treat women well, also choose to be ignorant. If you put your head in the sand, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t predators walking around on the surface. It really isn’t until somebody knows what it is like to be harrassed and assaulted who truly understand.
Q: There is a line in the passage from your book where you’ve mentioned your sisters asked you to take all those lewd comments as compliments. Do you think, as a society, we find ways to normalize abuse? To accept it? How do you think we can counter that?
A: Education. We need to teach our young people that this kind of behaviour is simply not acceptable in society. Parents and teachers need to teach young boys (and many young women) how to maintain civility and manners and how to conduct themselves in a respectable way. I believe this needs to be taught in schools. We need to have our society focus more on positive role modelling instead of who our youth are being influenced by nowadays. All these lewd and vile images and behaviors that come from the music scene, TV and movies have a lot to answer for in my opinion, and is definitely a large contributor in normalizing vulgarity.
Q: The victim of abuse is almost always the one who is blamed, not the perpetrator. Has this ever happened to you?
A: The couple of times I did decide to speak up, I was either shot down or had the matter shrugged off or trivialized. I was dealt with inappropriately and made to feel insignificant and blamed for interrupting someone’s day. The responses I recieved was the reason why I retreated and decided to remain silent after that. That was a big mistake. Instead of going quiet, I should have shouted louder!
Q: From what you have seen, do you think such incidents of violence against women are reducing in number? Do you think there are any positive changes happening around you?
A: I wish I could say yes, but in Australia these behaviours only seem to be getting worse. I believe the over-use and abuse of steroids these days are a contributor and seems to be out of control. The young men nowadays, especially on the Gold Coast, look more like over-sized, muscled-up body builders who cover themselves in ink, appearing and acting much more aggressively. They certainly are a very different kind of young men from those in my day. Women being too intimidated and scared to speak up, unfortunately doesn’t help. They absolutely need to be reported. There are also more reports of crimes against women and more often. I do not understand this at all and it frightens and sickens me.
Q: What is the message that your book is giving its readers?
A: Hopefully first of all, to let the world know the truth about what goes on in Australia and that it is no longer acceptable. Those who are guilty, anywhere in the world, need to understand how it can effect a person’s life and hopefully my story will encourage them to modify their attitudes and behaviour. Secondly, hopefully to encourage women to speak up about their own sexual harassment and assault and not to remain silent. My memoir is a book about mistakes and written for the purpose of educating women, especially young women so they can benefit from them. It is also for men to take a good, long, hard look at themselves and pull their heads in as we say down under.
Q: As a parting word, what would you like to say to those (both men and women) reading this interview?
A: It is extremely difficult to re-live every red-hot angry moment and to have it re-traumatize you, but even if one person benefits from my experiences, then it was all worth it. I sincerely hope that this subject continues to be talked about and am hoping it will change attitudes and behaviours. I just wished that there was a book like this around when I was younger to help guide me on how to deal with these situations. I am just trying to do my part and hope that I have helped. Thank you.
To know more about Joy Jennings, please visit her website.