That Perfect Girl Is Gone

On March 12th, the paedophile who made ten years of my childhood miserable died in his home.

I cried tears of relief. Tears I didn’t know I had. I thought the moment would pass by unmarked by me, in silence like so much of the experience of him.

I had planned to stand outside his house before I got the phonecall. Maybe he knew that, sensed it somehow, and so he left.

I didn’t do a lot of standing in his presence. I did do a lot of sitting, paralysed by fear in my own home, and sometimes in his home, while he touched me in ways I didn’t consent to. I was determined to stand up to him in my lifetime.

I didn’t even stand up to him at my Dad’s funeral. He put his hand on my shoulder in a consoling manner, and I may as well have been five years old again for my ability to scream, cry, move away – anything that didn’t involve sitting there and having him touch me.

I did scream once, when I was five, as it didn’t feel right that he was touching me. My mother said “Shut up.” I learned that day that it was okay if I was being abused, as long as I was being quiet about it.

If you’re child ever screams, please ask them why they are doing it. They are screaming for a reason.

My partner at the time of my Dad’s funeral instantly noted a change in my behaviour, and shot daggers at my uncle when I told them who he was. I had my own personal guard dog, quite prepared to kill to protect me.

Apparently my Dad was prepared to kill to protect me, but I only found that out after he died. It would have made a huge difference to my life if he had told me when I was ten that he had my back. It would have saved me from five years of continued abuse, and it would have told me that I mattered.

Please be honest with your children about what you are prepared to do to protect them, so they know that you believe what they say, and that their wellbeing matters.

Please believe your children when they tell you big things, even if you think you fail as a parent to hear the truth. It is soul destroying to be asked, “Are you telling the truth?” when you’ve worked up the courage for five years to tell someone what’s going on.

I learned that day that it didn’t matter what I said, nothing would change. I suppressed my emotions, as it was easier not to feel.

Please also hug your children, so they know the difference between positive, loving touch that respects their body autonomy, and non-consentual touch where they are used and abused. My family stopped hugging me when I’d told them about the abuse, probably because they were scared I’d mistake it for abuse. This meant that I suffered abuse, as that continued, and neglect, as the good touch stopped.

Failure is not finding out your child is being abused. Failure is continuing to bring the paedophile into your home after you’ve found out. Yes, he had mental health problems, but putting someone who can’t control their actions in a place with children is not sensible.

Faiure is not finding out your child is being abused. Failure is not getting your child the help it needs to cope with what’s happened.

Imagine for a moment that my Uncle had pushed me over since I was five, and when I was ten the push broke my leg. It is logical to take me to the hospital to get me x-rayed to see the damage and to put the leg in a cast so it can heal. It is also logical to get a criminal conviction against the pusher, and to keep them away from the family home.

I didn’t get any help for the broken leg in my mind. I have been carrying a broken leg around for 28 years now. The NHS has never looked at it.

A charity has looked at it, when I was 20. I had gone to them for stress over something else, and my childhood abuse slipped out. There and then, they got me to phone the police to report it. The police got me to recall in vivid detail what had happened, and it was enough for a statement. After the police had visited my uncle, they came to me and said, “He knows he has done wrong.” I learned that day that if you have mental health problems, you don’t get a criminal conviction. Ten years of my childhood wasn’t worth a court’s time.

My childhood abuse was worth six weeks of a charity’s time, as their services are in such demand that’s all the time they had. They got me to recount the traumatic events and offered no practical coping skills I could take away to practice on my own to get better.

During these six weeks, my aunt phoned and said I was the spawn of the devil for putting her brother’s recovery back. That was the last thing she ever said to me before she died of ovarian cancer. I am named after her.

Perhaps the less obvious impacts of the abuse are going weak at the knees at the smell of his cigarette brand and the sound of whistling, every day occurences that physically stop me in my tracks.

Thankfully, I have had many people in my life who love me, who give excellent back massage, love my laughter and my smarts, and have helped me heal. There are many free and low cost books for self help, self esteem building, it’s my body and you can fuck off teaching, we’re all victims of victims until someone takes responsibility for our lives educating.

I grew up in a Christian household, and there’s this belief that I have to wait for an external saviour (usually Jesus, but the NHS, etc) to sort out my problems. I got over that in my 20s, when I realised I have the power to sort out my own life. It’s in my interests to sort it out, as I have to live with it.

I forgive my abuser for touching me. I forgive my Dad for bringing his brother to my family home. I forgive my Mom for not believing me. I forgive the police for not seeking justice. I forgive the NHS for not offering treatment. I forgive my aunt for not being willing to listen to the possibility that her brother wasn’t the only one who had things to recover from.

Forgiveness isn’t about what happened. It’s about my ability to heal and move on.

And tears. Lots of very loud tears. And naked dancing to the tune of Frozen’s Let It Go.

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