Patti Miller, my first writing teacher, in a recent interview with Wendy Harmer on 7.02 AM, said that writing a Memoir is like walking nude down the street. This feels very much the case for me. I wonder sometimes if I’ve made a mistake writing about what happened. I seem to have an urgent need to share my story. As we see on television everyday people who experience trauma seem to have a need to speak out.
I’ve kept my story a secret for over 50 years and it’s taken me 10 years to write it.
I’m good at keeping secrets. I learnt to keep them from an early age.
When I was 11 I had a “love affair” with my tennis coach. Who was I to tell? What would have happened if I did tell? Big trouble – there was no doubt about that! I’d already got into big trouble when I was caught playing doctors with my cousin. I was just about to give her a needle in the bottom just like Dr Rosati, our family doctor did, when Mum came in. The doctor set, which I had only just received as a birthday present, was removed, never to be sighted again, and my cousin and I were never allowed to play together again.
Taking the above into consideration, I felt it advisable to remain quiet. I was heartbroken and the aftermath totally changed the trajectory of my life.
I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t kept quiet. All hell would have broken loose no doubt. There were no counselling services in those days. My parents wouldn’t have known what to do. My father may have tried to kill the perpetrator. Even succeeded.
I’ve kept that secret all these years until it started affecting my health. I started looking for answers and discovered there’s a recognized link between Chronic Fatigue and sexual abuse.
When I came back from Spain it was easy to adopt the same strategy of keeping secrets. Australian society was a very different kettle of fish in those days. Australia, in 1973, although Gough Whitlam, the Prime Minister (1972 – 1975) was in the process of pushing through a raft of reforms that radically changed Australia’s economic, legal and cultural landscape over the long run, was very conservative. Change was slow.
Writing has been a cathartic experience. I can now acknowledge that many of my poor decisions and mistakes I made were due the emotional turmoil I suffered as a result of the abuse as well as youth and inexperience.