It was the eve of International Women’s Day, and I was ploughing through a long list of chores. I caught the headline news, and dropped the pen I was holding. The healthcare centre I had been visiting with my foot was featured in a story about a doctor arrested for sexual abuse and assault. He was subsequently charged. Nausea overtook me, horrified that I had taken my child to this practice, a place where evil had quietly resided. We always went into the room together, and I was quietly relieved that it wasn’t our doctor; it couldn’t be. His manner had been a little strange… He had looked at us intently and for too long. There was an air of arrogance about him, but nothing that screamed danger. I had it confirmed that it was indeed the doctor we had been seeing, and I ran to the bathroom to throw up. All the horror of the past came hurtling back. I bid my daughter goodnight, and bundled myself into my room, armed with gin and a bottle of tonic. It took four glasses until I was adequately settled.
I didn’t know what to do with the anger, confusion and terror I was feeling. I had felt less afraid in the past few years, more confident and assured that both my daughter and I were safe. I had tried so hard to keep her safe, always aware of where she was and with whom; scanning her social media daily. Now I found that she had been in the room of a predator, when accompanying me to appointments.
I had a few women contact me, sharing that they had been abused by this creature. In all cases, they froze when he insisted on thorough examinations; it had felt wrong, and yet they didn’t quite know why. Surely a doctor insisting on you undressing can’t be amiss? I knew exactly what they had gone through; where their minds had wandered to. They had disassociated , a device of the brain to protect us from threat. It were as though they weren’t there, and this couldn’t be happening. Numbness had been conscripted, and it was only later that the full horror of the betrayal hit them. They talked of the pain they felt, by having taken their children to this particular doctor. They had trusted him. The world felt a bit less safe as a result.
I am going to escort one lady to the police station to give a statement. It has now been 24 hours since the news hit, and I still can’t eat. I keep replaying the consults I had with this man over the last month, replaying everything he said and how he had looked. There was nothing to give him away; nothing you could put your finger on. My instincts felt he was rather peculiar, but nothing overt. Thank God I had seen him about my foot, and only my foot.
I am furious that he was able to go from practice to practice. Who knows how long it had been going on, and if the authorities knew? More victims have come forward since his arrest, and I applaud all these brave patients. On International Women’s Day, my heart is with all those whom he hurt. My thoughts are with all those whom he deceived and re-traumatized. My thoughts are with all the parents who thought their children were safe in his care. It isn’t the celebration of International Women’s Day that I had hoped for, but as I reflect on the women I know and love, and the girls I have had the privilege of seeing grow throughout the years, I am humbled. The old guard is dying, and an egalitarian spirit is not only being summoned, but demanding to come forth. The sexism, abuse and horror of the past shall not be tolerated. It never should have been.
A week or so ago, I boarded a bus with my daughter. We sat at the front of the crowded people-mover. My daughter was listening to music on her headphones, and I caught the eye of the lady across the aisle. She was in her sixties with cinnamon-brown eyes and blonde hair, cut into a bob. She appeared to be on her way to work, judging by her green uniform. A male voice up the back of the bus cut through our greetings, and seemed to become louder and more agitated as the moments passed. The bus stopped, and the driver alighted, a new driver coming on shift. After the bus started again, the man’s voice became louder, his speech laced with profanities and threats to all around him. The driver was busy negotiating his way around road works on the highway, and the lady and I exchanged worried looks. We both knew that we were prepared if he started anything. My daughter was oblivious, in her own world, listening to pop songs. If she had heard, she may well have told him to pull his head in. I was glad she hadn’t heard, as she knows no fear. In her world, if someone is being a bully, a nuisance or menacing, you simply demand that they stop. I had a feeling that the woman opposite had seen this man’s behaviour before, as had I. We knew the unspoken rules, of making no eye contact with the offender, remaining silent so as not to provoke him. If and when he did go on his threatened rampage, I was ready with my walking stick! No way was he going to get near the lady opposite, nor my daughter. Twenty pained minutes passed before he alighted-still ranting- and we breathed a sigh of relief. I escorted the lady to the train station, and she said that he had abused the elderly women waiting for another bus, before we came aboard.
This lady was shaking, and I helped her up the steps. Yes, she had seen it before, and it had indeed brought back memories. I sat with her, comforting her as she debriefed from the stressful situation. She had been ready to tackle him, as had I. Anything can happen in our modern world. You can be attacked for doing nothing, and staying mute. As long as there are ladies with walking sticks and people with righteous indignantion burning in their bellies, we will all stay safe. When I left her, she was past the disorientated stage; past the fear. She was angered, and rightly so. She was just trying to get to work, and I was just trying to get my daughter to her classes. Nobody had the right to interfere with our day in that manner. He was ticked off with life, dumping the toxic waste all over strangers on a bus. He probably felt a sight better afterward, whilst we were left shaken. It has taught me that I must teach my daughter when to stay silent, and when to fight. I pray she never needs to put it into practice.
This is a great picture, taken many years ago at The Grounds at Alexandria. Rich in symbols, such as the door handles and the bucket waiting to be filled. The mirror is beautiful; it is whole. Not a scratch nor crack. I thought it was perfect, until I realized how beautiful broken could be. Shards of mirror and glass shatter to the ground, and as you try to scoop them up, you are pierced and you bleed. It hurts to clean up what was broken. Even with a dustpan and broom, you are likely to step on minuscule fragments underfoot.
It seems to be a waste of something that started whole, and yet if repaired with gold leaf, and lovingly reassembled, it can become not just beautiful, but astounding.
It is the same for us. I have friends who are refugees; who have been through wars and endured the unimaginable. I have friends who have been broken and abandoned. There is always enough remaining on the ground to work with. There is always a little left of which to rebuild. Rather than a perfect round mirror, the broken human has the potential to become a sparkling temple. You will be pierced and there may be blood. It will bring you to your knees, but the spectacular reassembling is worth the time and toil. I once lay on the ground, a discarded girl, ground into the earth. My bones were broken and I was bleeding. A dyslexic, I took on board what my teachers had said, and wondered if I was in fact, stupid.
Over the years, the shattered parts were rebuilt and strengthened. I had a child. I uncovered the reservoir of wisdom that had been filled with muck inside my soul. I learnt I could write, and I learnt I was smart. If not for the fall I would never have been shattered. If not for the fall, I would never have had the chance to rebuild.
It was as much my daughter’s day as it was mine. A day of remembrance. To contemplate what was taken and what has in turn been bestowed. She has had her life altered as a result of that July 25th long ago. This term, I can’t commit to taking her to drama classes in the city, as I have to attend to this chronic pain once and for all, and have viable pain management strategies in place. She doesn’t complain when I can’t take her out, nor does she wonder why I fall silent on the way home after a long day. She comforts me when she sees the mask fall and views the agony in my face. I haven’t been able to do all that I want with my daughter as money has gone on maintaining my health. I can’t run like other mothers, nor skate or ride horses with her. Her life has been shaped in so many ways by what happened to me. I didn’t tell her the date’s relevance, yet she knew it was a big, important date.
Being a ham, she had to strut into a bank through its turning doors, pretending to be a banker. To the mirth of the employees, she shouted, “this isn’t my jam!” and ran out. She then discovered this chess set, and was annoyed that a King was overtaking the others. She sought to rectify things.
We spent the afternoon hanging out, having fun. I have learnt that it does no good to not acknowledge the memories, nor try to have an ordinary day on the anniversary. What I needed was to see beauty; to be pulled out of my own mind. It helped!
As we left home at noon, I was flooded by intense gratitude. All those years ago, I would have given anything for what I was able to do this particular morning. Wake in a comfy bed in a secure home, then shower and dress. Have a nutritious breakfast and a pitcher of water. To look forward to the day. All the things you take for granted… As dusk fell over the city, winter began to bite, and I felt the cells in my body grow anxious. Dusk was when the final torment began. We walked to the Lyric Theatre, and stood enjoying the celebrities walk the red carpet, my daughter eating a croissant. I lovingly brushed the pastry flakes from her hair, and tried to avoid embarrassing her by crying out of sheer and giddy joy.
The award show surpassed all expectation. It was thrilling to see Matilda receive thirteen awards. The Australian Theatre for Young People won an award for the sublime Sugarland. Supporting the Arts is incredibly important. It takes us out of the everyday, into a world of unequal splendor. It is no coincidence that musicals hit the height of their popularity during the Great Depression and wartime. We need to transcend the drudgery once in a while. We need the Arts to give us different perspectives and to provide commentary on the times we live in. Griffin Theatre’s The Bleeding Tree won Best Play, and when accepting the award, it was hoped that the piece about domestic violence would be viewed in the future with a shaking of the head, and the utterance of “this is how it was back then.”
When Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director, Stephen Page was honoured the JC Williamson Award, his speech left us spellbound. There were magical performances from musicians, musicals and dance companies. Water escaped my eyes and I gave thanks that I got to see this night of celebration, and as I slumbered that evening, July 26th rolled around without fan fair. I also got to see the dawn. The evening reinforced that we must tell our stories, not only for our own sake, but for everyone’s. I look forward to somebody in the future stumbling across my work and saying ‘things were different back then! Thank goodness we live in better times.’ Times when perfect storms in a young person’s life are abated, before they are consumed by a wave. We are on our way. No more secrets, nor hiding of abuse.
If you have a painful anniversary coming up, I would advise you to acknowledge it. Write about it, or create art around it. Plan a special day with loved ones who get it. If that’s not possible, then go out by yourself. Eat and drink delicious things. View beautiful things. Talk to strangers. Whatever you do, don’t curl up alone with the memories. In my view, such a day has to be tempered by art; it’s potency diluted by loveliness.
They certainly did not know that we were seeds! Seeds containing the most fragrant, vibrant flowers. This life, it can get so ugly. I have had my body smashed up, bloodied and ground into the dirt. I have been saved by garden mulch. When I am out, and find it has stuck to my shoes and clothes, I am not in the least irritated. Rather, I am grateful for being reminded of the time it saved my life. If I had landed on concrete, I would be gone. The mulch softened my fall, allowing me the opportunity to live.
The battle was far from over. There I’d be- lovingly attending my budding garden- when a slug would come along and eat the shoots. Pesticide was poured over the dirt, and it seemed that everything had died. Over and over again. Little did they know that there were slumbering seeds buried way underneath the mulch. They couldn’t destroy what would flourish underground! As a grown woman, I have tools to keep the pests at bay. I have a little fence (not white picket in nature), and those seeds are about to rupture. No matter what they do, they can’t access those seeds. I think it’s time for us all to bloom. I will scoop up a handful of mulch, and give thanks.
It is with dismay and disbelief that the following came up on my news feed yesterday.
Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, providing early intervention services to 12-25 year old’s. The centres are located in major cities, as well as regional and rural areas of Australia. They don’t look like a mental health facility, and therein lies their beauty. The service is free or has a low cost attached. There is an online and phone service. They also have a program that works with school communities. I could go on…
I know a young man who accessed their services after a near-fatal suicide attempt at seventeen. He was a sensitive, whose family had been through a great degree of trauma. He now works with Headspace, giving talks. The team are accessible to young people; they are not clinicians in a drab setting, who seem out of touch. Headspace work with those who suffer eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, bullying, schooling issues, depression and other mental illness.
This is extremely personal for me. I was a youth before Headspace was created. I had attempted suicide for the first time just after my thirteenth birthday. It was so serious that I was in Intensive Care for a while. More attempts followed, and I was diagnosed as having reactive depression; a response to deep trauma and strife in my personal life. I would oscillate between pure joy through to deep sadness on a weekly basis. Kids like me only had the hospital psychiatrist to chat to, and mine were all elderly males. The rooms were grey and dark, and they managed to get limited information out of the young, as the vibe was so grim and threatening. Twenty plus years ago, you saw the staff doctor after a suicide attempt, and then were dismissed- in my case- with Valium. There wasn’t a centre to call nor drop into. There wasn’t a service to confide abuse or bullying to. Certainly, schools were under no obligation to recommend a centre nor assist a struggling youth.
I was put in a private clinic at fourteen (long story), and I was the youngest person there. DOCS had wanted me to go to a centre for adolescents so I could attend school and start my healing from having lived a dark dream. Instead, I was sent to a place brimming with adults. There were drug dealers and perverts; dangerous individuals, whom I had to fend off on a daily basis. There were even those there by arrangement of their lawyers, in order to beat criminal charges. I had people sneaking into my room at night. I developed a raging eating disorder after patients twice my age schooled me in the dark art of weight control. Suicides occurred, and I learnt more about the evil this world holds than a child should know. I was raped and eventually, almost had my life taken. I live with the ramifications of this year on a daily basis.
You bet I am angry. I have been extremely vocal over the years on this subject. Youth should never be in places designed for adults. Two decades ago, this clinic cost $500 a day, just to secure a bed. Free services were non-existent or scant throughout Australia. The young are made to grow up quicker, and the pressure brought to bear is harsher than ever now. We need to roll out more services, rather than tear them apart! Please stand with me in being vocal regarding the need for more funding for youth mental health in Australia.
I look back on my hellish adolescence and shudder. I survived and am now a contented mum and woman. I want this generation to be able to access support designated for their age group. They deserve to reach adulthood with adequate support.
I won’t go into the details of the crime, other than to say that the offender was sentenced to a paltry six months in prison, though looks set to serve only three. When I read how his father sprang to his defense, and attempted to minimize his actions, I couldn’t believe it. Here is the victim’s stunning Impact Statement.
The sense of entitlement regarding the offender, both before and after his insipid crime brought back memories. You see, I was this girl, and he and his family remind me of another one I encountered… The offender in my case had a long history of violence, and menacing behavior, starting when he was still in primary school. He set fire to the family home after an argument, and his parents covered for him. Using a compensation payout, he repaired the damage, and all was forgiven. The occasions of violence -which they knew of and either overlooked or helped him escape the consequences of -are many. Then, he met me…
The night of my fall, his parents stayed with him, as he was under police guard in the ER. I was placed next to him at first, a curtain separating us. There was meant to be a bedside hearing in the morning, to charge him with attempted murder. He called out to me all night as I lay broken and bloodied. His parents soothed him, promising that it would all be okay. I was fifteen, and he was 26 years of age. They arranged for him to be transferred to a comfortable clinic the next day, of where he stayed for the next year. They attended court with him when I turned sixteen, and again, never left his side. I was by myself when I had a conference with the Prosecutor and detective on the case in a side room. They hired a cruel lawyer to attempt to discredit me. Despite being assured that he was set to plead guilty on all charges, he changed his mind at the last minute. I watched him walk from the court a free man, his family smiling and congratulating him whilst I stood there broken.
I am tormented by the thought that he may have been aided and abetted after he left that courthouse in terrorizing other girls. I tried to put him away and protect others… The outcry and rage shown to this offender (and regarding the justice system and his father’s response), have comforted me. Times are changing, and I am so very glad that I am here to witness it. When this happened to me, we had no internet. I was effectively silenced. There were letters to the Ombudsman and relevant authorities, but there was no public forum in which to share what had occurred.
Parents can no longer aid and abet these offenders without public scrutiny. Their outcries of unfair sentences and ruined opportunities for their boys will no longer be tolerated. At last, at last!
We had seen a video on how to make fairy lanterns, and went to a discount store to find the jars, tissue paper and glitter required for our project. I had felt the need to apply a mixture of turquoise, blue and purple to my hair. Now, when you front up amongst a crowd in a quirky manner, certain people gravitate to you. The artists, the poets, the dreamers…They see in you a kindred spirit. I stood in front of an aisle of craft supplies, discombobulated at the wide array, uncertain of which to choose. I noted a lady facing the same conundrum, next to my daughter and I, and smiled at her sympathetically. She was tall, with bohemian clothing and a funky short hairdo. “Excuse me,” she said, “could you help me?” She had a bag of marbles in one hand and a jar in the other. “Do you thinkthese will fit in this jar?” “Afraid not, especially the bigger marbles,” I replied. She explained that somebody very dear to her was facing a deluge of sorrow, and was hanging on by a spindle. They had expressed that they were afraid they were losing their marbles. “I want to present them with their marbles,” the woman stated. “I need them to know that I care; that what is taken can be replaced.” I squeezed her hand. “You are a good person.”
I guess my fairy lanterns are also thematic. Here are these little fairies, highlighted with a background light, illuminating the way. When I was in the clinic as a teenager, I was privy to many stories. I recall that the term PTSD was rarely used back then. It was called ‘the horrors’ instead. I was fourteen, and quite naïve. I became friends with a gentle fellow called Denis. He was kind and funny, and also severely traumatized. He quietly told me that he had been a vet. “How wonderful! I love animals,” I smiled. “Bless you, kid,” he laughed. I learnt over time what he actually meant as I heard him scream throughout the night; witnessed him slip into catatonia for days on end. I was told I had a strong mind, which bounced back like an elastic band, no matter what I was enduring. I wasn’t even clinically depressed, according to the experts. Rather, I railed against cruelty and abuse, to the extent that I would prefer to leave this world than remain in suspended animation. As my own PTSD began, I thought about Denis often, how despite our generation gap, we had this horrendous condition in common.
My mind takes me to dark places and I regularly fall into deep depression. None is more surprised than I. I am a genuinely happy soul, who can seemingly bounce back from anything life hurls at me. I call myself a smiling, laughing depressive. I have been around long enough to understand what my triggers are, and try my best to avoid them. I have a delayed reaction to triggers. I may explode a day or two later. I need time alone to process what has transpired. Alcohol is a no-go zone at such times, as it leads to dreadful melancholy when I already feel low. I have to get out in the fresh air and walk. I have to turn off the phone and not have too much stimulation. Now is the time to get out my first aid kit. It contains ambient music, books, exercise, essential oils, candles, soup, a fruit platter, gardening, art, writing, playing with my daughter, the theatre and retreat. I am a happy woman with a tortured soul. It is quite the dichotomy. I have had to save my life many times over. There have been mountains that have seemed unconquerable; events too awful at first glance to be survivable. I have had to make that choice.
There is hope beckoning to me outside the bramble where I lay. There always has been. I cut through the brackets to reach my friends, and my life. Life as a smiling, laughing depressive can be confusing. It is concealed from other people, and felt behind the scenes. “You are always smiling and appear happy darling,” an elderly friend once said, “but I see the sadness in your eyes when you think nobody is looking.” I told her she was far too perceptive. I think my spirit animal is the phoenix. Ignited by passion and a love of life, and consumed by the same. Perishing and emerging in an endless cycle. You can be the most positive, joyous person around, and still be pursued by depression and anxiety. The two states eye each other off warily. As long as you have a jar of marbles, you will never lose your own. My fairy lanterns are visible proof of an illumination inside my mind which can never be extinguished, despite the odds.
We are stronger than we believe we are, and can survive what we thought we couldn’t. We are also fragile, and deserving of kindness. If you have been through trauma, your brain has been left battered and bruised. It needs love and time set aside in its quest for reparation. I can’t help being an extroverted introvert. It’s who I am. I love people, and socializing and I also adore being alone. The same is true for being a smiling depressive. I love this life, and have had to reconcile the fact I was almost destroyed by it. My path isn’t paved, and nor is it straight. At least I have my lantern to light my way.
I can’t tell you how much the response meant to me after I posted Til it Happens to you. The support was incredible! I was too overcome to respond for a while. People have asked how I got through it all. I suffered status epilepticus at 13, meaning I had continual seizures which couldn’t be controlled. I stopped breathing and was in a coma. It took a long time to recover from this event (it was predicted I wouldn’t). The next year, I met a monster, and was abused. The finale was being thrown off a building at fifteen. My healing has taken over twenty years. There are some things that have helped.
1. I can’t handle violence of any kind. I can’t discuss literature, nor movies, let alone view them, if they are violent. At first, I didn’t want people to think I was fragile. I didn’t want them to see the distress that talking about violence (parcelled as entertainment to the masses), conjured. I would pretend that it wasn’t hurting me. Nowadays, I don’t pretend. I gracefully bow out of conversations and invitations which would bring me into this sphere.
2. I couldn’t leave the house by myself, even to go to the letterbox. It has taken many years and many small trips to gather the strength to go farther afield. I plan ahead, and the apps I have on my phone make my preparations easier. If you are agoraphobic, be kind to yourself. Every little step is a triumph. My major incentive was that I had to get to the IVF clinic early in the morning, and simply had to do it. It made me braver than I actually felt! Now I take my daughter everywhere, and the freedom is liberating!
3. I have had to confront my deepest fears. The ones I was frightened of encountering, as I would surely fall apart. My fears included rejection, loneliness, being left alone and finding out that people weren’t as they appeared. Confronting these fears has been terrifying, and it has hurt. I have uncovered that people I looked up to were abusive behind closed doors. I have been let down and let go, but I have survived. I learnt not to leave myself behind in the process. Comforting myself became of premium importance.
4. People see a smiling, functional adult when you are out and about. They don’t recollect the child kept alive in Intensive Care on a respirator. They came into my life during a different chapter. I know what it took to get to here. The hundreds of hours of physiotherapy, the scores of surgeries… I have to remind myself of my achievements and give myself a quiet pat on the back.
5. Boundaries are a big one for a survivor. I felt as vulnerable as a newborn when I started to make a life for myself. I believed anything anyone said, and believed everyone was a friend. It has taken trial and many errors to come up with boundaries, and to trust my judgement above all else. It was a revelation, to give myself the space to honour my instincts. If a person or situation doesn’t sit right, and makes me uncomfortable, I walk away. It is imperative to do so, as I have a little girl watching me. I need to display good boundaries so she knows that its okay to be in touch with her own. It has sometimes taken me being struck mute in the company of somebody who is toxic, for me to comprehend that my body is trying to protect me by producing physical symptoms. I am free, and thus I get to decide who stays in my life. It may not be anything that anyone is doing. Rather, they remind me of someone from the past. I still have to honour my discomfort.
6. Things will trigger me on a daily basis, and much of it is out of my control. It could be a song coming on in the supermarket, an aftershave I detect in passing. It might be a conversation, or visiting a friend in a hospital where I had prior surgery. Deep breaths are required, and sometimes a visit to the lady’s restroom to compose myself. I tell myself that my anxiety is a natural reaction, and I am doing fine. If I am with close friends, I will tell them that a memory has come up. If I am not, I will breath deeply, find a focal spot to concentrate on, and reassure myself quietly.
7. I will not drink to excess, nor take tablets to blot out a bad day. Sometimes, the memories hit hard, and along with the massive amount of pain I suffer, it becomes overwhelming. Alcohol is a depressant, and thus, is disastrous as an antidote. I will only have alcohol when in the company of friends at dinner, or as a toast of celebration. It only compounds the depression which inevitably comes after overworked adrenals have crashed. Instead, I go for a walk, swim or am otherwise active. It helps tremendously.
8. I will space out at times. When you hardly sleep, and are in pain, it happens naturally. When you put flashbacks or a panic attack into the mix, let’s say I am sometimes away with the fairies! Writing (and preparing for a writing task), also lends itself to spacing out. If you holler at me on the street and I don’t respond, that’s why! I am escaping into my inner world, which is expansive and magical. I nearly jump out of my skin when I am walking along and a car beeps me. I remain jittery for the rest of the day. I am hyper vigilant; always scanning a crowd for danger, even when in my own world. It’s quite a combination!
9. You are allowed to say “no” to a request. You are allowed to rest. I keep going until I can’t, and at that point, I retreat for a bit. I have to. It is a revelation, when you learn that you can keep free spaces in the calendar. Even thirty minutes to sip tea and daydream is heavenly. I need time alone to restore and reboot. Time is precious, and I try to use it wisely.
10. My survival has been an odyssey of epic proportions. I tried to run from the memories. I attempted to smother them, as one instinctively does a fire. The smoke streams from underneath the cloth, and then the flames explode forth in a cacophony of rage. It is like burning off disease, only to have damaging adhesions form underneath. Running doesn’t work, and it certainly doesn’t help. Over many years, I have visited my places of trauma. I have wept and I have released at each site. I only did so when I was ready. You have to be ready. My natural instinct is still to run when triggered, but now I have tools. They come in the form of a laptop, a paintbrush, a pastel. They come to me as bird song, my walking shoes, my friends and my music.
When I was a child, I had big dreams. I had a determined spirit and an acute awareness that what was being done to me was not only wrong, but evil. I felt as though a cannon had ripped through my psyche, smattering me into pieces. Over time, I have laid out all the pieces, and put them into place. I am glued, sewn, fused and grafted together. I was once a china doll. Now I am reinforced and can never be broken again. It takes time to heal. You will want to give up. You will consider yourself beyond repair. You will want to run and you will try to escape your own mind. You will want to give up. Please don’t. The joy of finally accessing the tools to help you cope are worth the fight.
I had my hair done yesterday by a professional. I can’t tell you how decadent it felt to have someone wash and style it. I had previously painted my hair in turquoise and aqua tones with fudge, and cut it myself, much to the amusement of the real hairdresser. She was a beautiful young woman, and confessed that she wants to write. I hope I convinced her that she could; that she had many untold stories begging to be shared. She watched my daughter dancing to the music over the salon’s speakers, and quietly wondered what her children would be like. “It is a delicious surprise,” I smiled. “They will bring more joy than you ever anticipated.” After my hair was done, I bid this angel farewell. I had Lady GaGa’s song, Til it Happens to you in my head. I had watched in awe as she performed this extraordinary song at The Oscars. For over twenty years, I have tried to articulate my experience, and damn, this song said it all. I was rendered speechless after hearing it.
I boarded the bus home, and a news bulletin came on the radio. Cardinal Pell had been speaking in Rome, and essentially proclaimed that children weren’t believed back in ‘those days.’ He wasn’t even sure that he knew it was a crime. He took no responsibility. A lady seated near me called out to the bus driver that she was infuriated by his response. The driver grimly nodded and I stroked my little girl’s hair, silent. I wondered how many on that bus had been abused as children.
I recall the dread I felt when I needed to go to the toilet after being repeatedly raped. I would cry and shriek in pain, my kidneys infected and my ureter bleeding. Still, nobody helped. Everybody knew and the good people that were trying to make it stop, were syphoned far away from me. I was urged to drink more water. Day after day after day of being abused. Death seemed a more attractive option than living at the time.
I was in the clinic with a decorated photographer. She shot for Vogue amongst other publications, and her mother had a title, by order of the Queen. She handed me a beautiful green journal, and urged me to write. “Song lyrics, words and sources of inspiration,” she advised. “One day you will open it, and see how far you have come.”
Oh yes, I have come a long way. I don’t quite know how I pulled it off. I was pounced on like I was game and he was the hunter. When I was bloodied and damaged, I was discarded. There will be one indelible image seared into my mind when I recall the Royal Commission of 2015-2016. It will be a spouse’s retort to a columnist who had defended Pell. This is Clare Linane’s eloquent response.
It is always there, waiting to be triggered. I tiptoe through life, roaming the vast, wild coastline, visiting Sydney’s Islands and watching theatre. Perennially searching for beauty. It helps. Everyone who has been alone with the horror of abuse as a child can take comfort at the outrage today. They are being held accountable. At last! At last! It doesn’t take away the pain and anger stemming from the years of silence. I hope that in your search for peace, you stumble upon things of beauty too. We shall never be silenced again.