So many people contributed to the writing of Safe Places, Safe Hands, that I cannot name them all.
Principally I thank my wife, Pauline, for her patience, encouragement and continual reading and rereading of the text.
Helpful advice was given especially by Christabel Charmarette (who is producing a book which will give much more information about research into abuse within families and her positive treatment for such families), but also by Phil Sparrow, Gordon Smith, Penny Webb, Genevieve Milne, and others.
Research references are not included in this book as much of the information was obtained by discussions with professionals in the field and from working with victims and perpetrators.
This book could not have been written without the brave people, victims and perpetrators of abuse, who dared to share their story and their journey with me. Chief among them is Owenie herself, a rough diamond of the highest quality, with a fearful, lovable personality. I am so glad that just before she died she gave a printout of an early version of the manuscript to her daughter. I would love to make contact with Owenie’s son and daughter. Owenie gave me not only permission to record and publish her story, but encouragement too.
Fred Stone, Perth, Western Australia, June 2015
The main text is my editing of the tape-recorded
interviews of Owenie made over a couple of years.
The sections in italics are my comments detailing how I responded to working with perpetrators and victims of child abuse over 30 years and what I learnt from them.
READ A SAMPLE:
The first time I didn’t know what was going on. He must have spoken to me, but I can’t remember what he said. He showed me what I had to do. He used to make me fondle him and he did oral sex on me. That was what was so awful. He didn’t touch me with his hands, and mainly used his mouth. On one or two occasions I noticed a few spots of blood when he had finished and that not only scared me but also made me feel guilty. It was all my fault. I believed I was a very wicked girl. He was one of Nana’s boarders – I’ll call him Jack but that is not his real name. He had a room that backed on to mine. An air vent at the top of our adjoining wall enabled me to hear him moving about and obviously he could hear me and know when I was in my room. As soon as he set foot in the passage by my door I could tell whether he was going to go straight down the stairs or come in. He always wore brown. He had a brown suit, a brown hat and a brown Gladstone bag.
Owenie made her entrance into my office calmly enough. I invited her to sit down. We each sat in an easy chair and I drew breath to ask her what I could do for her.
Owenie launched into
a blistering attack
Owenie launched into a blistering attack
I had just become the manager of counselling for Lifeline Perth, a welfare organisation that runs a 24-hour telephone counselling service. Owenie was one of the volunteer telephone counsellors who did a regular night shift.
Bewildered by the encounter, I sat wondering how she could be consumed by anger one moment and relaxed and casual the next. What made this woman tick? Where did the intensity of her anger come from? Why was she so committed to the eight-hour night shift which necessitated listening to many people who were sleepless, depressed, anxious, fearful, abused or suicidal? And why did she also work several hours a week as a volunteer assessing individuals and families who were looking for food and financial support?
Owenie intrigued me. I recognised a blunt integrity about her. I decided to get to know her better. Soon I began to learn about her sad, traumatic childhood. I asked her to tell her story of abuse to the new group of people who were training to be telephone counsellors. As her story unfolded a focused silence filled the room. Afterwards two young women spoke to her about their being abused and that now they recognised the need to do something about it. In every subsequent training group I invited Owenie to tell her story. She readily agreed as she had come to terms with her trauma and wanted others to benefit from her experience. It was valuable training for people who on phone duty would listen frequently to abused women and men. It also stirred trainee counsellors who were survivors of abuse to speak up about their experience and to get help in handling the consequences.
One day I casually mentioned to Owenie that we should write her story. Some weeks later Owenie handed me an envelope containing six typed pages. It was an unorganised maelstrom record of her abuse, which was odd because she is a methodical person. When we began recording her story I planned to sort out the chronology of her life, but to no avail. As she talked she jumped from situation to situation randomly and erratically. This reflects the first 20 chaotic years of her life. Owenie simply does not know how many times she moved home and often she cannot recall events chronologically. So don’t try to sort out all the places, events and people in her life. Chaos? Yes. But her story is one of Hope. I know now what made her tick. And I am understanding more of what makes people become abusers.
All Prices in Australian Dollars CURRENCY CONVERTER
(c)2015 Zeus Publications All rights reserved.