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I mostly lived in fear as a child. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I felt completely safe.
I encountered abuse in many forms, verbal, physical and sexual. Pain comes and goes but psychological scars are much more difficult to heal, the scabs they leave, all too easily scratched open again. I’m lucky, in the sense that the abuse I suffered is not the worst kind you’ll have ever read about and it never came to the point of rape.
My motto has always been that no matter how bad you think you’ve got it right now, there’ll be someone worse off than you.
I’m also fortunate that I have a powerful imagination and often retreated in my own little world. Had I not been able to do that I would not be here today. At the age of 10, I remember thinking how easy it would be to end it all, it didn’t frighten me in the slightest. Somehow I imagined how my life could be, once I would be free to break away and be free.
My parents died when I was a teenager. It was a terrible shock, I saw them getting ill and weaker. My mother, whom had seemed invincible to me grew very fragile, even though she would still have terrible crazed spells and sometimes appeared in my room in the middle of the night screaming and tearing the place down.
I could not imagine her dying. Yet, the morning she died, I knew before I was told.
I lived in a vacuum for the next few months, often having nightmares in which she had not died at all and was pursuing me. In those nightmares she had a wooden leg but still managed to run after me.
My father started to decline then and I did my best to look after him, not easy, he was a very ireful man, used to having his own way.
When he died, I still had to contend with their 2 sons from a previous marriage, both very violent. They were much older than me and often made my life hell as a child. I got held in a terrifying position, in a foreign country and without a passport. That was the turning point, I vowed never to find myself in this predicament again.
I was still terrified that they would get at me but I knew I was stronger than ever and that I could break free.
Jealousy makes people do terrible things. I ‘m quite naive when it comes to that because the notion is completely foreign to me. Anyway, there were still details to sort out regarding my parents’ inheritance. Having no desire of getting embroiled with them or having anything further to do with them, I sacrificed most of my assets for freedom and heck, I can look at myself in the mirror, I have a clear conscience. You cannot put a price on that!
I wasn’t still completely safe though, I had to call the police several times. It has often struck me as odd that the law doesn’t like to intervene too much when it comes to family matters, but isn’t an attacker still an attacker whether you’re related or not! Although the police were very sympathetic, it has to be said, and they did come to my rescue. They also advised me it would probably be best for me to move away.
I had no attachment to the place I was at the time so I went on studying in America and Australia.Eventually I found out they believed I had settled in Australia and started to relax a bit.
The fear though has lived with me for years and it has at times stopped me from doing certain things for fear of being recognised. At times, I’ve had to choose between anonymity and recognition. I also changed my name which I found intensely liberating, I’m known for the person I am and not from what my parents did or were or what was done to me.
With hindsight, I believe my parents did love me in their own way but had huge problems they never learned how to deal with. They often kept me isolated, yet on summer holidays failed to protect me from predators, the kind of men who prey on vulnerable, little girls. They often treated me in appalling ways and never had any time for me. Words cut the most, the hitting just left me feeling worthless and humiliated.
My father attempted to make peace on his deathbed. It helped knowing he felt remorse and actually admitted he hadn’t been a very good father and that he had failed to protect me from their 2 sons. He was a weak man, dominated by my mother and terrified of his own son.
I was left bewildered when he told me he had suspected of at least one of the sexual abuse that took place. Yet, he had done nothing. I did struggle with that knowledge for a while. Unfortunately he was already slipping into unconsciousness by then but at least we had talked properly for the first time and it helped me a great deal.
I was on my way then to recovery and finding myself. Yes, it took me years to shake off the labels, to feel safe, to stop feeling guilty about everything and anything.
I chose to survive and break away. The person I am today is all me. There will always be a frightened little girl deep inside me but that’s ok because I know that little girl was strong and no matter how vulnerable she felt, she grew stronger and stronger.
Life is there to be lived, it’s your choice what you make of it.
Although she is a British author, Elle Amberley likes to dabble in French too and hopes to resume work on her French novel when time allows. She’s a bohemian at heart, the result of having lived in several countries as a child. She also enjoys writing articles on women’s issues and whatever she feels passionate about, as well as poetry and short stories. Lost in your time is scheduled for publication in February 2012. Elle’s books are available on paperback and kindle.
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The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.
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