There's a lawyer in New York called Andrew Vachss. His only clients are
children who have been abused. He calls them 'Children Of The Secret.' A
few years ago, although in my 40's, I finally decided to stop denying that I
too was a child of 'The Secret.' What had started this off was my niece, my
sister's daughter, turning up at my door telling me "Auntie Sue, if I can't
leave home I'm going to kill myself!" Those words were the very words I'd
spoken to my Aunt the day before my 24th birthday. I knew I could not stay
in that house one more night. If I couldn't get away I would kill myself
and I knew it was no cry for help, or for attention, I'd learned long ago
there'd be no help and I certainly did not want any attention - It was only
by not drawing attention to oneself one felt some semblance of safety.
I had to struggle to block out the thoughts that came crashing into my head
long enough to help my niece get sorted out, and be the confident person
she'd always known me to be. I knew if I'd shown any sign of fear she'd not
have trusted my ability to help her and would have gone back home before
she'd been missed. I had always joked that when it came to acting, Liz
Taylor had nothing on me. But those next few weeks I excelled as no Oscar
winner ever could.
I had worked so hard to forget my past to 'put it behind me' or 'get over
it' But now it had been thrown back in my life and it wouldn't go away.
But who could I tell? I tried again to push it all behind me until last
October when I realised I couldn't carry on denying it any longer. I
looked round the internet for information, to try to work out 'why?' But,
with my panic rising, my nightmares returning, feeling more and more
helpless, as I'd done as a child, as I could find nowhere that said
'mothers abuse children', 'women abuse men' It's like I was being again
told I didn't matter, I was unimportant, no one cared, no one would help me
I was lying, or being 'bad' for saying such things about my mother.
My three sisters and I had learned long ago not to trust anyone. The times
we had tried to tell, we'd not been believed and we had been betrayed by the
ones we'd talked to. I'd told the mother of my best friend at school,
she'd asked "Sue, are you sure?" But worse than that - she'd gone to talk
to my abuser. My three sisters had in turn ran away, but were always
brought back. The youngest even ran to the social services one time, but
they rang our abuser to come and collect her. She was then beaten so badly she
couldn't go to school for two weeks.
But that was over 20 years ago.
It's not like that today. There are shelters and counseling, and everyone
knows abuse is a crime, right?
Wrong. I've been shocked to find it only counts if you were a woman and
your abuser was a man. Domestic violence (violence in the home) now only
means violence to women by men. But how can this be allowed to happen?
How can people not tell the truth? How will abuse end if the abusers are
getting away with it - and worse, how can victims be treated to ensure
(like with my niece's mother) they will not grow up and becomes abusers
themselves if no one accepts they were abused?
Our mother is an abuser. She tortured and terrorised us from as far back as
we can remember. She was cruel and vicious, cunning and controlling. I've
read all the stuff about women only abusing out of self defence, but we
were four girls, children, and I have used a wheelchair all my life. What
threat were we? Why will no one believe women can hate and hurt their
children and their husbands and others. Women can do all the things they
say men do. My youngest sister was kicked and beat so hard it burst her
appendix. She almost died because she didn't hang the washing on the line
"correctly." She almost got kicked to death because she hung a sheet the
wrong way round.
At an early age I knew she was calculating - you see, I only got slapped
and had black eyes - she knew that she didn't dare beat me too hard as the
authorities would know I'd not fallen down stairs or been fighting or fell
off a swing - the excuses my other sisters had to make up - so I knew it
wasn't temper or uncontrolled - how, if it was temper, could she know not
to hurt me too much? Also, she'd make us go out all day - didn't care
where, just tell us "Don't come back til 10pm. Granma's coming" or whoever
else it was.. We'd see all this food and we'd get a few shillings and have
to stay out until they'd gone - so we couldn't give away 'The Secret' I
guess. Abusers need us to stay quiet - and later, we remain silent because
we learn not to trust anyone - and also because we feel ashamed - Everyone
wants to be loved, but you kind of believe if they knew how 'bad' you'd been
that your own mother didn't love you, how would other people? Besides, we'd
already learned she was right when she used to beat into us that we were
stupid, ugly, useless and that no one would help us - no one would care
One of my sisters used to hit me - she was so jealous because I'd caught
polio and had to spend lots of time away from home. I was the lucky one.
Why did it have to be me? Why couldn't she have caught it also? I too felt
that way. My catching polio had been the best thing in my life - It had
felt like G-d's way of trying to help me.. Even now folk go on about how
well I've 'adapted' to my disability - But how can one explain that it has
always felt like a blessing for me?
When I was about 11, I had to go into hospital for a major operation on my
spine. I was so excited and happy because they told me I'd be in for up to
two years. Those were the BEST two Christmas' I'd ever had. In fact,
when I was back at school (it was a special school we lived in and it was so
lovvely) it was my 14th birthday and there was something unusual going on
Although it wasn't a Girl Guide night, we were told to get into our Guide
uniforms and go to the school hall. Imagine my utter surprise when I was
lifted onto the stage and presented with 'The Star Of Merit' A medal for
bravery for obeying the 8th Guide Law. A Guide sings and smiles under all
difficulties. I felt such a fraud.. I was being praised for taking the easy
way out. Being in hospital had been no hardship. Everyone saying I'd been
so brave - always cheerful but I couldn't tell them that no operation or
horrid needles was as scary or frightening as being at home..
I remember being terrified at school when I was picked as one of the
children to go to Lourdes, for the holy water to cure me - I hated it
because it was only for Catholics - my best friend wasn't a Catholic so she
couldn't go - I didn't understand why - I knew God loved us all, and I knew
He wouldn't have cured me if it meant I had to leave my best friend or the
school where I was so happy.
I didn't want to live at home. I didn't want to be hungry or always have
to pray that the wind didn't blow my dress up because there was never any
clean knickers (panties) to wear. Only our top clothes looked okay - though
we never had coats or warm clothes. I don't recall having a coat until I
was working and was able to buy my own. But she always put us down for
being dirty and looking like tramps. I didn't want to be scared or have to
watch her beating and kicking my sisters, holding one sister by the hair
while she slammed her head back into the wall. My sister standing there
wetting herself, too scared to move - and her screaming at me: "stop
sniveling or I'll give you something to snivel for"
I've read lots of arguing lately about Dr Richard Gardner and 'Parental
Alienation Syndrome' Well, I'm only an ordinary citizen, and know nothing
of medical things - but I do know Dr Gardner didn't invent such evil
behaviour - it's exactly what our mother did with our Dad.
Our Dad gave us the only few happy memories I have - Like, no matter if I
was away from home ages he always remembered my favourite meal - He knew my
favourite pop singer - and took me to see his new film when I came out of
hospital. Although I couldn't stand, or sit up without holding on to
things, it was my Dad who taught me to balance on a swing - and even to let
the swing be pushed without me being scared of falling.
I remember one time my Dad made her go out and buy us some food - she'd
made them two a full meal, which she always took in to the sitting room for
them, while we had to eat in the kitchen - Our Dad must have wanted
something because the next thing I remember was him standing there crying
and shouting at her to 'get to the shops' We'd been eating our usual bread
with sugar on. She always made us pretend we'd eaten already and not say
what we'd had - but I never knew why. It's not like we were poor, just that
it felt she thought we weren't worth feeding or clothing - like it was a
waste of money - except if it was for her.
Then, a miracle, she left us - took everything - even pots and pans and
lightbulbs from their sockets. It was great. My Dad cried, but we were
very happy. Then she wanted the house - so she got rid of him, she made my
sisters say all the things that happened to us, but say it was our Dad that
did them - My sister told me when I got home from school that 'she' was sat
there, listening, so they didn't dare tell the truth. Why did no one talk to
them alone - why did one one tell them that it was okay to tell the truth
and they'd be protected? It was like our death warrant. She threatened
she'd kill us if we ever contacted or spoke to our 'f***ing bas**rd of a
father again she'd kill us - that's one thing I really hated - her mouth
was like a sewer - she would scream filthy things as she'd hit punctuating
every word with her hand.. We were f***ing evil, f***ing stupid ugly
bas**rds, all the usual things, and then was added 'just like your f***ing
father' Once our Dad was gone we had no protection. At least, before, she'd had to be careful and we had times it was fairly 'safe.' But after he left we knew
we couldn't get any help.
When I was in my 20s the phone rang one Saturday and like always
I was praying, "Please God, don't let it be for me," but it was. She
answered it ad started screaming at me. She told me to ask who did they think she was? She threw the phone at me and stood over me. I found out it was my best friend, (who was by then in tears herself - she knew what my mother
was like). I didn't know what to say, but was too scared to say nothing - so
I asked "my mother wants to know who you think she is" Of course, that was
the wrong thing to say - it must have been because it got me a black eye.
You couldn't win.
When I was working I had to give her almost all my wages. She allowed me
to keep about £10.00 pounds a week (about $16.00 dollars) but out of that I
had to buy everything, even my dinners. I wasn't allowed breakfast and
there was nearly never anything to eat when I got home, so when I couldn't
get anything at work I had to do without. I was only allowed to have a
shower and wash my hair once a week (if I was lucky) because I made too much
washing - laundry - and so every morning I used to have to go to work early
with soaking (dripping) wet hair and dry it on the radiator in my office.
She dictated everything we ate, thought and did. She even told us what to watch on TV and even if she was out we'd dare not turn over in case she
came home unexpectedly or asked about the programme on her return. It was
impossible to make friends because you never knew if she'd allow you to go
out, and you'd never want them to visit the house - it was like you were
ashamed. And they'd not like you anymore. She didn't even like it if
you had penfriends. When I was 19 I had a penpal in San Diego. He was a great pen pal. He used to write every month. But she used to be so cruel I used to half dread the postman coming. She'd say things like, "I don't know what you're looking so pleased about. It won't last long, they only
write because they feel sorry for you. Who'd want an ugly cripple for a
friend?" Of course, she was wrong - most didn't even know I was disabled -
but she just liked to hurt you, I guess.
Anyway, now I am no longer a child of 'The Secret' I hope anyone reading
this does not know what I'm talking about. I hope your life was filled
with love and affection, with smiles and with safety. But if it wasn't,
and you know that you too are a child of 'The Secret' please help us by
letting your 'Secret' be heard. There are too many people trying to say we
are liars - and until we can band together and let our truth be known,
others will suffer as we did.
We have to take the politics and propaganda out of abuse - we have to demand true help from the Courts and social services. We have to make them
understand that abuse hurts - and it doesn't matter if you are big or small,
man woman or child, whatever your colour or creed, your nationality or your
gender - if you're rich or poor - nor does it matter if the one who kicks
and beats you, hurts your body or your soul, is a man or a woman. The
pain is no less, the hurt is no less. There are only three sections of
society; those who are abused, those who are the abusers, and those who,
thankfully, know nothing of this dreadful crime.