January 25, 2022

Who Would I Be If This Hadn’t Happened to Me?

Abigail Osborne

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CollageWho Would I Be If This Hadn’t Happened to Me?, 2021297 * 297 mm

My collage is a self-portrait. I was about six years old. It is a detail from a photograph taken by my mother, of myself, my sister and another girl, tied to chairs with a gag in my mouth. Through the gag I am attempting to smile … my mother thought she was photographing a fun game we were all playing with her friend’s teenage son. This boy sexually abused me, alone, when I was in that house. My work communicates that I was smiling through the gag, appealing for my mother to help me.

I was smiling to say I was having fun, as I knew my mother was more interested in the appearance of having fun as opposed to the reality of being scared and unhappy. I was not happy and wanted to be anywhere but where that boy was. My life was blighted by sexual abuse, and I was raised to believe I was not worthy of having my own boundaries and saying no to games I did not want to play. Like many victims of sexual abuse, I wonder who would I be, if this hadn’t happened to me?