The Deepest Betrayal
THE DEEPEST BETRAYAL (1954)
I believe it started when I was 11.
On Sunday nights, we children would have our baths and put on
our pyjamas. Afterwards, my sister and I would brush our long hair.
Our Mum always made us brush it with 100 strokes every night. I had
no problem with that, but my sister says her hair was so fine it knotted.
After we finished, we would all jump around on Mom and Dad’s
bed, like kids do, while our parents watched.
On this particular night, I was wearing “shorty” pyjamas. Years
later, my father would tell me that he saw me have a little climax while
jumping on the bed, and that this was what awakened him to my sexual
body. I didn’t notice anything like that at all, of course. I only knew
that, after that night, he started paying more attention to me. I didn’t
connect this to the fact that I was coming into puberty. I just knew how
happy I finally felt to sometimes be in his good graces.
Then one night, as it came time for Mum and him to go to bed,
Mum was in the process of sending us kids away when he protested.
“No,” he said, “let her stay.”
I don’t know if Mum understood what was about to happen, but I
remember she tried fervently to discourage me from staying. I’m sure
I didn’t know—after all, I was just a kid—but something electric was
in the air, something that felt almost like a promise of love. And after
all the years of abuse, I was so starved for his affection that I could not
listen to Mum. So, I stubbornly insisted upon staying until, at last, she
gave up and left the room. Then I got under the blankets with him.
That’s when he began to fondle me. There, in their bed.
That is how it started. And it continued for five years.
I had been so cut off from any healthy source of love and affection,
that I was deeply, tragically vulnerable. At the start, he was almost
tender. I think that must have felt incredibly comforting, like he was
trying to make up for all the wrongs he had done to me.
Looking back, I can see that after that night, everything in the
family shifted. At last, after being the scapegoat for years, I was now his
pet and could do no wrong. Mum, of course, turned away from me. But
in the beginning, part of me did not care about Mum – maybe there
was even some female rivalry deep down.
I did not understand it then, but I see now that a lot of brainwashing
was done. He tried to convince me that he was teaching me how to love
with what he was doing, and I was so desperate for my father’s positive
attention, that I actually believed him. But I was also a good little
Catholic girl, and that part of me knew that this was a sin. Soon, every
night we were together, I would beg him to stop, saying it was wrong,
and he would ignore me. Then he would manipulate my body until I
experienced pleasure. In this way, he used my own body to break my
will. Afterwards, I would feel horribly guilty. A part of me knew that
he was manipulating me, using my vulnerabilities against me, but the
thing was, he was bloody good at it.
It wasn’t long before the tenderness he had once shown morphed
into a need to control me. After Dawn’s birth, when the number of
children exceeded the capacity of the house, he had rented a portable
room and set it up in our backyard. He then made certain that was my
room. It not only afforded privacy, but it also further isolated me from
the others. Soon, he began watching me constantly; I could feel his eyes
on me all the time.
As time went by, the family frayed even more. I saw how clearly
Mum preferred my younger sister, teaching her things she refused to
teach me. It filled me with shame and pain.
I became desperate to make it stop. I wanted to tell someone, anyone
who might be able to help me, but there was no one. Mum and my
siblings had turned against me. We had no relatives nearby and there
were no neighbors I could trust or confide in. I felt totally alone, so
I turned to God. Every weekday, for approximately a year, I would get
up early and walk 20 minutes each way to go to 7 AM Mass. In fact,
there was a time, I went to Church five times a day: before school, at
recess, at lunch, at afternoon recess and after school, in the hopes that
my prayers would be answered, or to at least to show my father how
hard I was praying for him to stop. I kept praying, but it didn’t help.
Around this time, I began to have a recurring dream. I was up
above, looking down at myself, lost in a green maze. I could never find
my way out, no matter how hard I tried. I would dream this same dream
over and over again all through those five years.
All my tangled emotions began spilling out. I was unfriendly to
everyone. I told everyone I knew I did not want to grow up because
adults were cruel. They got drunk and hurt each other. I had saw
Bronte’s father get drunk and pull a knife on her mother, and I heard
that one of my father’s friends had pulled a gun on his wife. But these
things weren’t the real reason for my anguish. That horrid, dark secret
got pushed down deep inside. I hated myself.
I acted out at school, and the nuns were completely befuddled by
me. One day, I went up behind one of the sisters and pulled on her veil
so hard that it came off entirely, revealing her shaved head. The incident
made me famous. To this day, every child who witnessed it remembers
this with great amusement.
My friendship with Bronte began to deteriorate. She was an only
child and she had lots of things, especially dolls. One of her dolls was
black, and I remember wanting that doll more than anything. In 1950s
Australia, I saw in that doll an outcast like me, and I was certain that no
one, absolutely no one, could ever love that doll like I could. One day,
Bronte and I had a fight over whose turn it was to play on the swing in
her Dad’s garage.