Erin lives in the Southern Highlands on a horse farm with her husband and four children. She is a Sociology Professor specialising in Food Security in the Third World. Her passion is her blog Fighting For The Future which is dedicated to those suffering with Complex PTSD and survivors of child abuse. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse in Ireland in the 1960s and 70s and migrated to Australia when she was 19 with the help of The Salvation Army. Her wish is that all abuse survivors receive the healing support the so deserve and learn to live full lives, learning once again to trust.
The world of a four year old is a magical place. It is a place of play, imagination, discovery and learning. A sense of self is awakened, separate from others and at last the feeling of being happy, sad, afraid or angry is known. The tiniest detail of their day is retained and regurgitated. Your world is becoming more imaginative during play – as pretend games with imaginary friends or toys, like having a tea party with toys or a simple stick becomes a flying aeroplane. The tiniest crack in the wall is the living place of a tantalisingly unseen fairy. Different roles and behaviour can be a pretend doctor or a dad or even pretend to be a mother who kisses you goodnight instead of kicking you senseless at the end of the day. At this age, it is common to have imaginary friends. Mine was my beautiful fairy in the wall. She never left me. No matter what is happening, you know you can whisper into that space and tell her what you can tell no one else.
All adults tell me, “this is our secret”. They commit me to a world of silence. A world of secrets never to be shared, ever, or else bad things will happen. The terrible pressure never to tell or divulge to anyone. The burdensome pain of carrying their covert, abstruse, enigmatical stories supposedly for my conspiratorial ears only. The abuse began when I was four. Sometimes one man a night, sometimes two. I was rarely let out of the room but when I was I would roam the streets of the Village or just walk the beach seemingly unnoticed by anyone. The men came from all walks of life. Priest, politicians, farmers, shopkeeps, friends of my parents and guests of the hotel where we lived. The paedophile ring was organised by my Mother and her friend Mick. Mick also brought other children to the room from the local Catholic Industrial School for the men to abuse. I would tell them to look for the fairy in the wallpaper too. They did. I think it helped them.
Some of the children were murdered by being smothered with a pillow and carried out by Mick in a white sheet. I never knew what that meant except it made me feel sad but at least I thought they won’t have to have the men hurt them, any more but I did not understand death. I was abused and kept in that room from the age of four to eighteen until my Mother drove me to Dublin and left me on the streets there. I lived on the streets for six weeks until The Salvation Army took me in. They then organised for me to migrate to Australia where I submerged all memory of my abuse for thirty years.
My Healing Journey
In 2012 my story spilled out and I had a breakdown and received a diagnosis of Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder. With the love and support of my family and two remarkable psychiatrists/psychotherapists using EMDR therapy, I went on a healing journey of discovery.
I had to learn to forgive myself and learn to not blame myself for what happened and realise it was not my fault. I was only a child.
I had access to a Mental Health Clinic which used a tailored program for PTSD which also provided huge support to my family. I went through periods of suicide attempts and self-harm typical for those that blame themselves for the abuse. I fought this shame and child through dogged hard work and love.
It is an ongoing journey and I continue to grow.
“Most of all I want to say to you that you are not to blame. You are not at fault. You have nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty for. You were a helpless innocent child and could do nothing against adults who held all the power.“
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