Monday, November 28

Alejandro Palomas talks about life after abuse: “Sex becomes hell”

When you have suffered a childhood of sexual abuse and violence, the most you aspire to is not happiness, but relief, says Alejandro Palomas. This is the stage to which the famous novelist has managed to reach, after publicly denouncing in early 2022 that he was raped at a school in La Salle, in the province of Barcelona. Breaking the silence allowed many other victims of Brother Jesús Linares to appear, as investigated, and gave Palomas the opportunity to express his thoughts and experiences about the after of abuse: the absolute lack of trust in the other, sex without pleasure, the relationship with the family, with literature, with animals…

The priest who raped Palomas continued with the abuse in another school: “He grabbed my breasts hard and I couldn’t react”

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He talks about all of this in the book. this is not said (Destiny), and also of a memory that remained buried and that was unlocked at that time. His father, who had always “despised” him for being a mannered child, also committed what today would be considered sexual abuse with him. During a few days when his mother, who was Chilean, was on a trip, the man groped himself and even masturbated in front of him, although without saying a word, as if the child were not there. Some scenes that only leave Palomas with unanswered questions.

“My father is a cloud of questions. He never allowed an approach, he didn’t know how to communicate”, he explains. The publication of the book also coincides with the death of brother Linares, which closes the judicial path that could have been opened against him. The writer received the news when he was about to start a talk in Santa Coloma de Gramenet. “I went to the bathroom and threw up. I needed it”, he describes days later.

Your book delves into what the maturity of someone who was abused in childhood is like, but before talking about it, you suffered more violence in your childhood than the one Linares exerted on you. On the one hand, the bullying and beatings of his classmates.

Yes, that was after the abuse, which was even more vicious. After experiencing a violation, you think you are safe, but then these episodes come, longer in time and for which you are not prepared. So you learn that relativity exists, you learn it through suffering. I don’t think they knew about my abuse, but I thought they did at the time. He lived in silence and surrounded by ghosts and monsters. I thought that they did know that it had been a toy of that man.

Were you harassed for being homosexual?

Yes, it was about all that. It was my mannerism, that I was a delicate child, who did not dedicate myself to soccer but to reading. He had high capacities, he was a nerd… And that didn’t help me much.

The other great trauma of his childhood is the relationship with his father. She reveals that she masturbated in front of you being home alone. This is also sexual abuse.

It is, it is. I had it totally blocked and it has come out as a result of all this. He went out one night while he was shooting a documentary about me. It’s funny because I received some criticism that reproached me for only sticking up for abused children in the Church, leaving aside domestic violence. But I have also been a victim of this violence, although the other one marked me much more.

I perceived it [los abusos del padre] as an extension of what he had lived with Linares. He was so confused that I thought something was wrong with me, that I was causing it.

How was your relationship with your father?

He treated me very badly. He was a model son he hadn’t wanted and he let me know. He was a very punishing man, I think because his father had been to him. He didn’t know how to express love with anyone and he saw in me the things he didn’t like about him, his insecurities, and he unleashed his fury on me. I ask my sisters how they remember my relationship with my father and they tell me that he hated me.

For a week, your father undressed in front of you, while reading the newspaper in the living room, and touched his genitals and even masturbated. What went through your mind during those scenes?

He perceived it as an extension of what he had experienced with Linares. She didn’t know what to do, how to interpret it. He thinks he did this after I told him about Linares. I don’t know if he was a punishment… he was so confused that I thought something was wrong with me, that I provoked him. And I knew I couldn’t tell my mother this because she was killing her. I came to think that what I had to do to win over my father was the same as what he did to Brother de la Salle. But in any case, I don’t remember that as the worst thing he did to me, but one more piece in the loom of abuse.

What was the worst?

The constant signs that he didn’t love me.

How does someone who has suffered these abuses overcome adolescence and enter adulthood?

First of all, very lonely. You have the feeling that everything human, everything you touch, you spoil, with what you prefer to encapsulate. The abused learns very quickly that he is not only an abused child, but that he cannot speak and will have to deal with it alone. And in my case, I have lived with a thin glass around me in all my relationships. I don’t know how to link. I don’t have that ability. The only way that allows me is literature, through telling my experiences to the world. But on a real level I can’t, I don’t trust anyone, I don’t know how to do it directly.

Do you think there is a lot of talk about abuse and very little about what happens afterwards?

I was afraid that what happened in January [su denuncia pública] remain in something current, in something anecdotal. The only way it doesn’t prescribe is to put it black on white. Because we are not talking about child abuse as something that is born and dies in childhood. There are hundreds of thousands of children in this country who continue to feel abused, even though they are now in their 40s or 50s. The world has to understand that it is not something that we simply happens.

There are hundreds of thousands of children in this country who continue to feel abused, even though they are now in their 40s or 50s. The world needs to understand that it is not something that just ‘happens’.

“There are men and women with childhoods so broken that the measure of happiness we aspire to is relief.” Have you reached it?

Yes. And I have been aware that the threshold of my happiness is that. Being at peace. Being able to have a dialogue with myself. That helps me stay alive.

You acknowledge that throughout your life you have had suicidal thoughts.

I have lived times of my life thinking about ways to die. But I have never even tried to carry them out, because I have always had a lot of help and I felt accompanied by my therapists. The problem is that many people who go through this do not have access to this same help. And they fall by the wayside.

Another mark left by the abuses and that lasts is the one that concerns sex. Have you never been able to enjoy sex?

Never. I’ve always been the vigilant in the relationship. When you start from the sexual learning that I experienced, being the object of someone who blames you for giving him pleasure, sex becomes hell. You relate to the other through disgust. When I have had partners, always men, I have never been over there present during sex. There is an Alejandro who is there and another who unfolds and is looking up, waiting for the monster to appear. I have never stopped fearing it.

This makes me automatically lie to be the person the other wants me to be. So you don’t find out. But when you don’t enjoy relationships, you end up not wanting to, and finally justifying that the partner looks for what they can’t find in you.

Can it be said that literature saved you?

It is verbatim. Without reading and writing I would not be here. Seeing how literature transported me to a place where I could exist, connecting with the other, with non-dangerous characters, gave me life. And then it was time to feel the need to be the creator of those links.

Without reading and writing I would not be here. Seeing how literature transported me to a place where I could exist, connecting with the other, with non-dangerous characters, gave me life.

His other great lifesaver, he explains, not counting his mother of course, have been the animals. And especially their dogs.

They are my other way of bonding. Dogs do not make prejudgments. They teach you that someone can look at you without judging you. No expectations. No pressure. I realized that they awakened in me the need to express affection physically, to caress, touch, care… A very physical and non-dangerous relationship. I really believe that one of the ways to heal and treat the abused is with the company of an animal.

After denouncing her abuse, she became one of the familiar faces of activism against child abuse. He even met with President Pedro Sánchez. What is your opinion of the Administration’s response to this problem?

Well, the same thing happens that has happened to me in life: they are unable to bond. They don’t understand its dimension and they know that cutting it off, pulling up rugs and dealing with it pulls too many strings. It is a tree with immense roots. And it requires an investment, work and will that do not exist today.

Jesús Linares died last week. What did you think when you heard the news?

I was about to go into a talk I had to give. I went to the bathroom and vomited. I needed it. And then at night I had nightmares. But beyond that, there is a part of me that feels like an orphan. It leaves me an orphan of reality. Only I am left with the memory and my experience.