It’s almost a year since the Harvey Weinstein business blew, sparking the #metoo movement in which more and more women spoke out about unwanted sexual attention and rape. So timely to welcome Suzanne Conboy-Hill to this series, along with her novella, Fat Mo. Like When I Hit You, it’s a painful read in places, but an important one. While the reader can find relief in the elegance of the language, there’s little consolation for Mo in a community that colludes with the systematic abuse of women, young and old, until she finds the strength within herself to say no. But let Suzanne tell you more about it …
Fat Mo, a novella.
I retired in 2012 after many years working with adults with intellectual (learning) disabilities, most of them as Consultant and, not at all coincidentally, back in Brighton where I began my art career in 1967. A kind of closure but not a complete one. That came later after hearing over and over again tales and reports of abuse and exploitation our clients had and were still experiencing, the rough deals they got from the courts where judgments could conclude that rape had not taken place because the victim was incapable of consenting. This was little better than the historical evidence from the old institutions where babies were born into the place and never left. But there was also a lot of fun; running groups in which no one knew how to role play but everyone knew how to be a character from EastEnders, helping a man with communication problems propose to his girlfriend without using the F word. Marvellous human times.
I have always written. In the early days it was mostly science fiction and still is from time to time. But there were grittier more contemporary stories to tell too, derived in part from the vast pool of trauma my clients allowed me to hear, and in part from my own direct experience. By the time #MeToo happened and the floodgates opened, I had written Fat Mo and felt right that this clutch of three related stories should join the flood in counter-balance to any impression that people who are groomed can only be groomed for lucrative jobs, that they know what they are getting into, and that abusers are hyper-powerful extraordinary people with money. In this story, Merv is only extraordinary because of where he is, and both Mo and Pauline are everyone’s kind of ordinary, even today.
I have talked about Fat Mo in my blog and in the book’s Preface and Afterword, addressing the fictionalisation of a personal experience. Fat Mo is not entirely true but I have tried to make it truthful by drawing not just on my own situation but on the experiences of the vulnerable people who shared their own accounts with me over the years. I have also drawn on accounts from, for example, the Rotherham and the Rochdale children who so very recently were disregarded and further victimised by people who should have been looking out for them, and again I hope that my training and experience as a psychologist has seeped into the bones of it and informed its structures and actions. If it describes how grooming works, good. If it shows how ignoring works, good. If it sheds a bit of light on this sordid business for equally ordinary people who have never been there, then good. These things have been shameful and private for too long and for too many, and none of us is to blame.
Jamie Hacker Hughes, past president of the BPS, has written the Foreword, perfectly making the link between fiction and the psychological canon. I hope you decide to buy it. It is available from Lulu.com with all proceeds going to Respond.org, a UK charity which supports people with learning disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse.
Editor/contributor, Let Me Tell You a Story – an anthology of poetry and short stories each with its own voice track accessible via QR code. 2014. Available from Lulu and Amazon.
Author, Not Being First Fish – and other diary dramas. 2nd edition, illustrated, 2018. Pen name P Spencer Beck. Available from Lulu and Amazon.