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My Personal Story

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I am a survivor. I have survived the pain and anguish of betrayal and abandonment. I have survived the raw terror of hunger and homelessness; I have survived total loss of self and a long bout of amnesia for almost fifteen years.

I did not do it on my own. I had the help of two wonderful professionals: Reverend who gave me that all important lifeline--refuge in the basement of his church; Dr. former judge turned psychologist, who patiently listened to me, and nurtured me until I could stand on my very own and truly proclaim that I had survived. And not to forget a wonderful man who married me when I could not remember my past. And stood beside me through the long journey home.

After fifteen years of weekly counseling, I had emerged strong and confident and was able to testify in court against my ex brother-in-law who had raped me. Three times I testified and was cross-examined and each time my testimony held true and strong, and it was then I knew that I had survived.

I have been told that I am a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. This is high praise and I appreciate it because I have had to come a long way, and I am convinced that I can help others make their own journey of survival.

I have endured a lot of pain, starting with severe and continued abuse as a child, both mental and physical. I was repeatedly fondled, violated and raped by a Catholic priest from the east end of Toronto (St. Joseph’s Church) with the collusion of my own mother Margaret who often restrained me while the assault took place. I felt completely deprived of love.

Kept in isolation during the day, often locked in a dark closet or tied to a pole in a cold basement for absolutely no reason that I could think of, I lived in fear of the loss of my father Frank the only beacon in my otherwise miserable life, which alternated between cold-hearted abuse or drudgery of constant housework while my father was out at work. I was threatened that if I told my father anything about the abuse, I would be sent away and never allowed to see him again. Worse still, my mother said that my father would be sent back to Jamaica and that I would never see him again. Rather than lose the only person who showed me love, I kept quiet and said nothing.

I was not allowed to have friends and was never to tell anyone that my father was from Jamaica and therefore considered “black”. Revealing this “secret” caused me to be beaten by my mother with the leather strop my father used in earlier years in Jamaica while being a barber. Before he came to Canada to go to university.

I believe that my father eventually suspected that I was being abused because at some point he sent me to live with his sister my Aunt Winnie and her husband. This period was a brief respite from the abuse. I missed my father dreadfully and returned home despite the warnings from our family doctor. He was a wonderful caring man who between him and my dad tried to guard me against further abuse from my mom.

I wanted to escape and so I decided to get married. I was only eighteen. My father was persuaded to rent an apartment for me prior to the wedding, and while living alone in the apartment, I was attacked by a stranger. Without getting therapy to cope with this trauma, I went ahead with the wedding. And the attack was kept a secret as my father thought it would be too hard to bear.

When the marriage collapsed, I needed the love and support of my father more than ever. However, he suffered a series of heart attacks and died. On his death bed he warned me: “Stay away from your mother, She will hurt you.” These words proved to be prophetic. His body was still warm when my mother accused me of having been the cause of my dear father’s death. “You killed him!” she shouted. My anguish was unbearable. Grief and guilt combined to bring on a severe nervous collapse. Twenty years later I found out from my sister Carol whose husband had raped me, that my father had been severely beaten by our brother James only a few hours before the first heart attack. He was dead within twenty-four hours. She testified to this in court, which only then did I learn that I was not to blame. But instead I was destroyed and punished for it by my mom and family. And lived on the street believing in pain that the one person who truly loved me. I had killed.

With our father gone, I grew closer to my sister who at the time was in the hospital for unrelated reasons. After a visit to her my sister’s husband volunteered to walk me to my car and proceeded to rape me. My mother told me that it was my own fault and that I should “go away and forget it”. She warned me never to tell anyone about it. She said that she had lived through rape herself and that I could too. I did not understand the significance of this statement at the time, but many years later I found out that my mother had a relationship with the same priest she had permitted to rape me, her own daughter. Who later admitted that there was three other girls and it was possible that he could be the father. That she had blocked out the memories of that time in her life. But remembered that she to had been raped at that time.

My mother told me to go away and never return, and so I was banished from the family. With no one to turn to, I literally ran away and ended up on the streets. Homeless for about four years, I somehow managed to exist, and endured fear, hunger, pneumonia, frostbite; I tried to take my own life on several occasions. All I could think about was that I wanted to be with my father. Once I was taken to hospital and my mother was called because I was not expected to live. My mother’s response was that she would be willing to come only to identify the body. Otherwise they were not to bother her again.

At some point during my time on the streets I blocked out the first twenty years of my life, and it took almost fifteen years of intensive psychotherapy to recall some of the horrible past. For about ten years I was unable to recall anything except under hypnosis. At first I could remember my name one day and forget the next.

My therapist (who had also been a lawyer and a judge) and the minister, who had rescued me from the streets, became like a mother and a father to me.

With the aid of my therapist I recalled the rape by my brother-in-law, which I had blocked from my memory. In order to heal myself and become a true survivor, my therapist felt that I had to go through a criminal inquiry where in front of four judges I was able to testify clearly and truthfully, and was declared officially the victim. I was vindicated, but more importantly, I felt like a survivor. I had reclaimed my own life at last.

As a survivor, I have come to terms with the cruelty of my birth mother. I accept who she is and what she has done without anger or hate. I feel strong and I am grateful for all the people who have helped me and enabled me to reach this point. Now I am eager and ready to help other victims of abuse acquire the confidence to become true survivors.

I know that I was able to survive in spite of many, many difficulties and setbacks. With the support of some very good people I managed to find the strength and courage to face my demons and go through three separate court procedures: Criminal Court, Civil Court, and the Criminal Inquiry Board. Each time I won! I did it, and I feel that I deserve now to have a second chance in life with happiness and To Live Again.

Even though in my heart I have managed to forgive my sister. I do find it extremely hard even today to understand why she didn’t help me? I know as individuals we are naturally all different. But she knew I was living somewhere on the streets. She also knew what my brother had done to my father because she was there. But she kept quiet and allowed me to carry the cross of believing that I had killed my father. Secondly, I know me and firmly believe that if my husband had raped my sister or anyone else. That by no means would I have continued to remain married to him. Living with anyone who had violated a woman or child to that horrid is unthinkable. My sister has now remarried after her ex-husband had banished with someone else for a number of months. So she to has had a second chance in life and also has managed to start a new career.

By explaining what I went through with my sister and our relationship is to show you that you can forgive. Forgiveness is not easy but it is the first step to healing. To heal gives you back your self-respect and identity to move on. In other words let go of all your demons. Where God guides, He provides.

I live each day to its full capacity and to fulfill each task with all the strength and endurance within me. And to remember each day I move forward. Is a day closer to my future that God has planned for me? I don’t have to get up every day trying to be perfect! I just need to get up every day, determined to press on.

This story is my past. The future is still to be seen. Like so many others we do deserve the future. And I believe that

Grieving is normal
But living with a
Spirit of grief is not
BECAUSE
When you live in the past
It costs you the future

My Story
Tears To Heaven
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Special Thanks
Letters To Share
Links

YOUR PRAYERS ARE HEARD


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