The question was, why was no one talking about this? How many women might be suffering in silent confusion?… Maybe if I described the experience I would find there were others out there like me.
(Colette Dowling) 1
Without my suffering, I would not be able to bear witness to an addictive society and the pain it is causing people.
(John Bradshaw) 2
I’m Oprah Winfrey and like millions of Americans, I’m a survivor of child abuse. I was only 9 years old when I was raped by my 19-year-old cousin. He was the first of three family members to molest me. I kept the abuse a secret over twenty years. Every year in America nearly three million cases of child abuse are reported. Who knows how many go unreported? We are here tonight to face this national epidemic of child abuse and neglect. You’re about to meet six perpetrators…
(From the Oprah Winfrey Show)
In North America up to fifteen million Americans participate in half a million self help/recovery groups. 3 Based loosely on the original success of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in the 1930s, such groups now include meetings for debtors, cocaine users, overeaters, smokers and a host of less well-known problems such as credit abusers, shopaholics and trichotillomaniacs (people who pull their hair too much!). 4 At the forefront of this ‘recovery’ movement are the ‘sexual sufferings’ of the ‘relationship’ and ‘sex’ addicts. It is these latter groups and their stories which are the focus of a third major modernist tale of ‘sexual suffering’: one which hinges around ‘therapy’ and ‘recovery’. These are the stories told by the ‘sex compulsives’, the ‘love/relationship addicts’, the ‘sexually dysfunctional’ and all their ‘co-dependents’. 5 They are told in self help books, on chat shows, in therapy groups and on that curious new phenomenon, tele-advising: Donahue, Oprah and the proliferating talk-lines and chat shows. 6 Such stories can clearly overlap with both gay and rape stories, focusing as they also do on ‘breaking the silence’, on ‘coming out’ and on ‘surviving’. Indeed, these are all staple features of