(Trigger Warning: This blog post contains upsetting details)
Over the years, I’ve gotten varying degrees of responses from readers concerning the sensitive subject of Kin’s past. More precisely, her rape. Those reader responses have ranged from violent anger to gratitude. Some readers already know this by now, but Kin’s story is a retelling of something my Mum went through before I was born. When she told me about what had happened to her, I became upset enough that years later, I wanted to incorporate her tale into Goblins. With her permission, I went ahead and did it.
Over the years, I’ve sat on comments like “you’re trivializing rape” and “you’re only adding rape to your story because you’re a lazy writer”, etc. I mean, it’s not like a was about to tell the internet about my own Mother’s secrets! About a couple years ago, a rape survivor publicly attacked me for creating a comic that “made light of rape”. I then made the situation much, much worse by ridiculing her on this blog. That was immature and stupid and I apologized. Twice. Recently, it was brought to my attention that she still reads Goblins to this day (she calls it “hate reading”) and still writes in her tumblr about how offensive it is.
When this situation exploded at the time, my Mum called me up and told me to tell everyone what had happened to her and how Kin’s situation was based off of it. I said no. Then we spent the next few months arguing about whether or not to go public with my Mum’s story. Here’s what my Mum said…
“You tell them what happened to me and put my email at the bottom!”
“Mum, you want me to put your email in the blog? Why?!”
“Cause if they want to say something, they can damn well say it to me! Bring ‘em on!”
“I’m not going to unleash the darker parts of the internet onto my own Mother.”
“No, do it! I don’t give a fuck! I’ll tell ‘em how it happened and then they can tell ME how ‘trivial’ they think it is!”
My Mum is… well she’s pretty damn awesome. Still, I refuse to post my Mother’s email and she’s still not very happy about that.
Anyways, here’s an email I received today that I wanted to post because it brings up some points in a very respectful manner. This email doesn’t call me any names, etc and so I felt that this would be a great way to show an intelligent disagreement to this aspect of my comic and then show my response.
To the creators of the most excellent comic known as Goblins:
I discovered webcomics and other free content only several years ago. Goblins was one of the first webcomics I grew utterly addicted to. It was one of the ones that showed me what wonders the world of webcomics truly has to offer. It is one of the ones that, still, I hold all other graphic-&-written media up against as a measure.
All of that is true, and will still be true after I say the following:
Are you nuts?
As a survivor of severe abuse myself, I’ve watched Kin’s story with great interest: how she’s portrayed, the brutal honesty of her experiences without being sugarcoated, other characters’ reactions to her experiences and suffering, her own growth and handling of all that occurred in her life, the progression of her story….etc.
Mostly I’ve been very appreciative. I’ve rarely seen a man handle such a difficult story, and especially an issue that is so central to women, with such respect and a call for compassion and honesty. That kind of thing gives me hope for humanity, and I see little enough of it.
But seriously, are you crazy? Kin’s been with Forgath and Minmax for, what–a number of days, now? And already she’s almost kissing him? It’s ludicrous. Even if she had only been raped once, but it had been the night before they found and rescued her, I would have said it was ridiculous.
One does not overcome or recover from that kind of severe trauma, to the degree she’s displaying, anywhere near so fast. Not enough to even to have sexually responsive thoughts, much less find herself almost falling into a kiss. I’d already found it to be a bit much just that she was so comfortable with touching him already. Plus, anyone who’s been through what she has should be having cripplingly terrifying nightmares. She should be utterly exhausted from them, to the point that it affects her ability to function.
You have to understand: It’s not about whether or not she loves him. We can all see that she does. It’s not about whether or not she’s afraid of him, personally. It’s not about being afraid of whoever you’re with for a partner. It’s about the fact that what you’re doing (or trying to do, or attempting to experience) with that person, is so terrifying that you lose the ability to breathe, think, be aware of your surroundings….etc.
The experience of trying to recover sex as a part of your life, after it’s been sullied into becoming something evil, is a long, and difficult one. I cannot speak for all the rest of the population of victims and survivors on our planet, nor should anyone try to…but I can speak from my own experience, and part of my experience is that I’ve spent over a decade in various chatrooms, forums, and support sites for survivors of severe abuse and/or rape….and not one person in all the online places I’ve been to has ever indicated in any way that even a partial recovery like that, so soon, was possible either for themselves, or for any survivors they knew either.
Trying again is….it’s facing something so terrifying that many choose to simply live without it forever, rather than try. But you have to try, because it’s a part of being human that every person has a right to, and if you don’t, you’ll live the rest of your life with a vital part of yourself missing…but somebody took it away and left so much pain and degradation in its place, that rape itself has earned the nickname ‘soul murder’.
It’s facing that, but…with someone that you trust enough to help you face it, fighting through the horrible images in your head, the vile viscous horror of the past trying to suck you back down into it….and depending on them to keep you safe, to make it better, make it different this time. Because….sometimes the only way to recover part of what was taken….is to have someone else give it back.
And it can’t be done in a few days, or weeks, right after the trauma. I have, on a few rare occasions, met men that I just automatically felt completely safe with. It was entirely instinctual, but always turned out to be on the money. One of them was a dear friend who helped me through some of the worst of it. But even with him, it was really, really hard.
I had known him for a year before could accept and return hugs, or sit next to him on the couch to watch tv. Months more went be before I could handle snuggling. And a further year of moving very, very slowly, and utmost gentleness, before I could complete sex without being badly scared. Understand–we’d completed it already earlier in the year. But managing to complete the act of sex doesn’t mean you’re healed, it just means (hopefully, unless you were pressured into it or pressured yourself too much) that you’re doing better than you were. It still takes time, time and experience, to replace the bad memories with more recent, healing ones, as the most prominent thing in your mind when you contemplate something sexual.
That was my experience, but I’ve never spoken to any woman over the years who could do or feel as Kin is right now (I just read the page where she gets her tail back), so soon after any severe sexual trauma. That she should be behaving this way after years of the most severe abuse possible, thanks to a violent psychopath’s use of healing potions and spells, is….well, yeah, ludicrous is the only word I have that’s fitting.
And most of the women I’ve known….while the personal cost of our experiences tend to defy verbal description, most didn’t go through something as severe as what Kin did. In some ways yes, but that gets complicated.
I’m writing all this, because it seems like portraying Kin’s story realistically is something important to you. And what you’re doing with her–her character, and her story–right now….well, you’re taking the Goblins comic, and making it an entirely different kind of ‘fantasy’. (i don’t mean a sexual fantasy, i just mean this is fantastically improbable)
The thing about recovery is….it’s never really over. Even years later, you still have a bad day with it sometimes, and….well, you can recover, yes. You can grow, attain a different kind of strength (the lucky ones), and…yes, you can move on. But you also have to be allowed alot of latitude to mourn. Because, the person that you were, before it happened? That person is gone.
Forever. It’s like who you used to be died, and now you have to learn how to be somebody else, by healing over a terrible life-shattering injury, or perish right along with your past self. The same thing goes for your previous life, the one you were leading. And yes, the same goes for the life you would have had. Because nothing, Nothing, is ever the same again. They don’t call it soul murder for nothing. Rape is an act of destruction so complete, it also reaches out and wrecks the lives of those close to the primary victim.
Secondary victims are everywhere, many of them unaware of this, because the shame attached to sexual assault leads so many victims to suffer in silence. Adding to this tendency is the fact that it’s such a personal experience, and the privacy of the victim was assaulted in such a severe, and degrading way, that having to give record and be examined by physicians and talk to authorities, can feel like you’re being assaulted all over again. A wound so personal and intense, tends to also cause a person to not want to be near anyone, simply for instinctual reasons: a badly wounded animal doesn’t want anyone or anything near it. It just wants to retreat to its den and lick its wounds and whimper until the pain stops.
So, yes, frankly….while I’ve been impressed with much of how you’ve handled Kin’s story, and how her story has affected some of the others around her….right now, I’m disappointed. Really, really, disappointed. I don’t think you’re a misogynist, like those yackers keep claiming. You’re just making a really huge mistake.
Still a loyal fan,
(Sender info withheld)
Thanks for the email. (Warning: Possible rape triggers in this email)
I completely respect where you’re coming from and have a couple points in response.
What you’re bringing up is all part of Kin’s story. We can see Kin’s alternate self (who’s gone through the same tragedies that our Kin has) pulling her away from Minmax in disgust. Many of the points you’re bringing up with me are about to be brought up in the comic, so you can rest assured that I’m not simply glossing over the serious after-effects of rape.
Furthermore, Kin’s story is a retelling of my Mother’s true story. When she was 16 years old, my Mother was kidnapped and held for 3 days by 4 men. For those 3 days, they raped and tortured her. They held her naked, by her ankles off of a high balcony and laughed while she screamed for her life. Granted, there is a huge difference between 3 days and Kin’s 2 years, but it’s important to me that I tell my Mum’s story through Kin.
What Kin is experiencing with Minmax, is what my Mother experienced after her ordeal was “over”. Kin’s attitude is my Mother’s attitude. Many of the things Kin has said and will later say are things that my Mother has said to me about her ordeal.
It’s true that my Mother was not kissing a guy 2 days afterward, but she did become romantically involved with a great guy fairly quickly. Her stance was that she felt like those men won if she was left traumatised. She felt that if she could beat the emotional pains that followed her around, she could consider herself stronger than her rapists and that felt very, very good to her. However, it wasn’t easy and there was some inner conflict. The conflict that I’m now showing between Kin and her armoured alternate is a symbol of my Mother’s inner conflict.
I’m not trying to say that Kin’s/my Mum’s handling of the situation is the best way and I absolutely am not making a statement about rape survivors who have not had as much success overcoming what they’ve been through. Everyone’s situation is different. However, I’m going to have to disagree with you and others who have told me that I’m portraying the after effects of rape incorrectly, because this is in a sense, a true story.
I really appreciate your honesty in this email.
Once I learned about this event, I found it permeating almost everything that I did. Now my fantasies of having Spiderman’s powers, involved having Spiderman’s powers and finding those 4 guys. My fantasies about being best buddies with Optimus Prime, now involved Optimus and I, finding those 4 guys. That part in Pacman where you get to go after those 4 ghosts and kill them? Yeah. It was often those 4 guys. It was only a matter of time before I wrote about them. So they became Dellyn.
Please know that I’m handling this story arc with the utmost care because to water it down or trivialize it, would be to water down or trivialize what my Mum went through.
I should note that those 4 men that held my Mum captive were all med students. I’m sorry to say, they’re all presently doctors.
I love you, Mum. However, I’m still not posting your email. Deal with it.
As always, thanks for reading.