This is the fifth part which concludes this little mini-series.
Just over a week ago on Friday 24th September 2010 I received a phone call which caused my world to collapse around me.
I was about to walk out my flat when I heard my phone ring. I paused and waited for my answer phone to click on. To my shock and horror I heard the voice of my investigating officer beginning to leave a message. I could not believe what I was hearing. I could not believe she was leaving a message on my answer phone on a Friday afternoon about a decision that would change the course of my life in one of two directions. I could not believe someone could be so thoughtless and unfeeling as to do that knowing the weekend was coming up when my usual support networks would not be available. I listened in total disbelief.
Following my previous phone conversations with her I did not want to speak to her, but also knew I had to pick up and interrupt her because I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with dealing with whatever she told me in the message or with having to phone her back. I hated picking up but I did. She got a shock when she heard my voice as I clicked into the call.
Her voice changed and she spoke to me in a cold hard clinical voice that held no compassion nor gave much permission for discussion. I heard her say “the CPS decided to take no further action against your parents and brother. Their key reason being it’s taken you so many years to come forward and make the allegations, but also because they don’t think there’s enough evidence - there is no evidence of child sexual abuse or child cruelty, it would be too hard to take to court.”
My entire body froze. I heard myself begin to stutter “how can they say there’s no evidence of child sexual abuse or child cruelty? What about this bit of evidence... and that bit of evidence... Oh and what about the person who testified I turned up at her house many times after beatings and she cleaned me up? Is that not strong enough evidence of child cruelty?”
I heard the cold hard voice say “but you were 18, legally an adult when that happened. That is not evidence of child cruelty.”
I cut in “But it is evidence of continuity of abuse, whether or not I was an adult or a child at that time, it’s still evidence of assault. I cannot believe they’re not bringing any charges against them at all.”
She said “well that’s the decision.”
My final words to her were “this stinks!”
I heard that cold hard voice say “tough, it’s the final decision” and heard her put the phone down. The call lasted only 3 or 4 minutes.
I stood with the phone in my hand frozen, my mind jumbled. My whole body went cold and I began to shake. I couldn’t take in what I’d just heard. I scanned the phone, found the number for SARC but only got their answer phone. So I dialled the next number in my head which was my mental health worker. As she answered the call I began to sob down the phone. There was nothing to say, she just sat at the other end and listened for 20 minutes till I was able to tell her what had happened. She said “I need to put a care plan together for you. I’ll phone you back in a few minutes, why don’t you try SARC again in the meantime?” So I did, this time I got a support worker. As soon as I recognised her voice I started to sob again. I was being hit by waves of sobbing and shaking. In between those waves I managed to stutter out what had happened. She was wonderful and stayed on the phone with me for half an hour and calmed me down. I put the phone down to SARC and it instantly rang again. I heard the voice of my mental health worker saying “I’m concerned for your safety, can you get here? Let us help you. I’ve spoken to the Crisis Team, we’re going to put a care plan into place, I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She knew that earlier in the week I’d attempted suicide twice and she wanted me there for my safety.
As I walked out my flat I went to turn the key in the lock and suddenly thought of the rope I’d been thinking of hanging myself with. I had a sudden impulse to go back in, grab the rope, put it in my bag and take it with me so I acted on that impulse and did just that.
I had to walk about 20 minutes from my flat to get to the mental health offices. I was thankful of the reactions lenses in my glasses which hid my swollen bewildered eyes. I put my head down and blindly walked the route without thinking what I was doing, with no awareness of what was going on around me. I was focused on one thing and one thing alone - getting to the offices where I knew I’d be safe. On the way I blindly went to cross a road totally unaware of my surroundings and stepped right into the path of a car. That shook me a bit because it was a close call. If I’d been killed or injured people might have thought I’d stepped out deliberately given what had just occurred in my life, but actually it was purely accidental. The driver managed to brake in time.
I arrived safely and my worker took me into a room. We sat down and she said “you don’t have to speak to me if you don’t want to, this is a safe space, just let it all out”.
I sat there and said “now I’m here I feel like I’ve shut down, I can’t feel anything.” I thought “this is crazy I’ve been shaking and crying for the past hour but now I’m totally numb, what’s happening?”
Something made me get up and walk across the room with my back to her. I leaned against the wall and as I did I felt something break inside of me and I fell to my knees then found myself lying on the floor sobbing and sobbing. I lay on the floor in an undignified sobbing snotty mess for the best part of an hour. I’ve been through a lot but I’ve never been so broken by anything. My worker just sat there and said nothing. She let me cry till the tears came to a natural end, well at least long enough for a discussion of my care needs for the weekend.
I suddenly remembered the rope and said “I’ve bought something for you. I’ve brought the rope I was going to hang myself with. I don’t want to live but I don’t want to die either so here it is. I couldn’t go home and feel safe with it still in my flat.”
She took it from me, said she’d destroy it and went off to make me a coffee. She left me with that coffee for a few minutes while she called the Crisis Team. When she returned she said the person she spoke to at the Crisis Team was astounded at the statement I’d made when I handed over the rope and said “they were hearing my cry for help loud and clear”. She gave me a piece of paper. I looked at it and saw she’d written down a time. It was the time the Crisis Team had arranged with her to phone me at my flat that evening to arrange a home visit to assess me and determine what support I was going to need to make it safely through the weekend. She’d also written down the dates and times of the other appointments I had booked the following week along with a list of emergency phone numbers. I left the offices feeling heard, understood and supported. Somehow I knew I was gonna make it through.
I got home and expressed my anger by changing my Facebook status to “I think the CPS are heartless jerks”. It felt so good to say that knowing I could express my anger, disgust and helplessness without fear of disapproval or reprisals.
The help of the Crisis Team and the support of a good friend at the end of the phone 24/7 got me through the weekend. Friday night through to Monday morning I kept being hit by massive waves of shaking and sobbing. It was like I was in a huge surf and the waves were coming one after another and I couldn’t get my breath in between. I felt like I was drowning in tears. I was a totally shattered broken mess.
On Monday I was able to speak with my mental health support worker again. The care plan was for the Crisis Team to phone me each evening and I could phone them any time in between and I was booked to see my SARC worker on the Wednesday.
Wednesday morning found me with my SARC worker. As she sat down she said to me “I don’t know what to say, I cannot believe the outcome of this case.” That completely undid me and I sat crumpled in my chair for over an hour as the tears poured down my face and I tried to make sense of something that made no sense. She asked me “how have you survived the last few days?” I said “I don’t know, I just have, but then I’m good at surviving, that’s what I do, I survive, I make it through somehow, whatever happens.” I heard myself begin to talk about how I was thinking of changing my name; that a friend had given me some money so I can go and stay with friends for a couple of weeks in October to recover and that of course I have my Christmas holiday booked. My worker stopped me and gently said “you’re talking of the future without realising it, though you feel like your life has ended and you have no future, all these things are going happen in the future, you do have a future.” I looked at her and slowly realised she was right. She helped me see that I will get the other side of this though it doesn’t feel like that at the moment.
The journey I began when I picked up the phone and dialled that number in the paper has been incredibly liberating although arduous and downright agonising at times. It was such a very hard thing to do to go to the authorities and report them because I’d felt so helpless as a child and terrified about what would happen if I tried to speak out because of their threats. By reporting them I took back that control. It took so much guts and strength to do that.
I felt the dropping of the case totally disregarded how hard it had been to report my abusers. Now I found myself at the end of that process with nothing, no justice and no prospect of justice. No nothing! It hadn’t made the papers so they hadn’t been publicly found out.
By reporting my abusers I’d taken a huge risk. I didn’t know if I’d be believed or taken seriously but I had been. I’d gone through so much to speak out. I’d regained my long lost voice. I’d begun to assert myself. I’d been believed by those I told and had heard back that what was done to me was wrong and not my fault. Coming out in to the open had felt so right and so good. It had been TIME to do that and to do it FOR ME.
But then my voice was, in effect, stopped, silenced, by the dropping of the case, or that’s how it felt. My abusers had managed to do the unthinkable, something I hadn’t anticipated, expected or planned for --- by their lies and denials they wrestled back control and silenced my voice one final time. I fully expected that once I took back that power it would never be taken away from me again. But it felt for one last time they had the last word and stuck two fingers up at me just for good measure.
There are no words for how I feel. There are no words that can make any difference to how I feel. There are no words that will make me feel better. There are just no words!
I do not understand how a God of justice who hates injustice could allow such a miscarriage of justice. It’s so hard I cannot get my head round it. I cannot understand why it didn’t happen. I’m having real trouble trying to believe they wouldn’t take the case to court. I’m having a real hard time accepting the decision. I’m having a hard time trying to see God in all of this. But yet I know HE is there in it all.
The hardest thing is having to somehow accept I’ll never be able to get justice for me the adult but also, more importantly, for the little girl inside of me who so DESPERATELY wanted the world to know what they’d done to her and what they were REALLY like. She is inconsolable but I cannot connect with her because I cannot explain it, I don’t understand it, I’m still in shock, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. I cannot tell her everything’s gonna be ok because I don’t feel or believe life will ever be ok again.
But then I’m in the middle of it all and I suppose that when you’re in deep shock it really isn't the time to try to understand. I cannot even accept it. I've been through a lot in my life but I've never been so broken.
One of my favourite quotes is “when life gives you lemons come up with orange juice so everyone will wonder how the heck you did that?” Well, I guess I'm going to have to come up with some amazing orange juice in the weeks, months and years to come and I guess throughout the rest of my life. Somehow!!
Every single person I've had contact with in the Crisis Team has said to me “I see/hear the survivor in you/in your voice but I also hear that wobble”. Each worker has said “given what you've just gone through you're doing amazingly well, you wouldn't be human to not need help and support”. When they say that, I know that they’re seeing the strength of Jesus inside this very shattered, broken human being.
At least now I can begin therapy, which I couldn’t while the court case was pending. I can now begin the long road back to healing.
I hope one day to get the dates 27th Oct, 1st Nov and 14th May out of my memory. They’re the birthdays for my ex father, ex brother and ex mother, in that order. Birthdays were big events in our twisted family. On those days a special trip or event was always planned. We played a game of happy families in public but on these days, during family holidays and other important days in the year such as Easter, Christmas, Mother's Day and Father's Day it was a much bigger game we played. A huge fuss was made about the day, everything had to be just so. We'd do whatever we did as a family, pretend to the world and to each other we were a normal happy family doing normal happy family things. Once the day was over it would be decided I’d not smiled broadly enough or showed enough enthusiasm or so on. The beatings and torture that always ended those days were terrible. I could never do anything right, in their eyes, even on those days when I tried hard with every fibre of my being to do and be all I was required to.
Christmas in particular was very cruel. We'd go to church as a happy family, come back, eat lunch as a happy family then I'd be beaten up and sent out the house to walk the streets. I wandered the streets looking in to lighted happy scenes in other people's houses feeling so left out and alone, wondering why I had to live such a horrible life. What was so bad about me? That’s why I go away at Christmas now and create happy memories for myself of that time of year. That’s also why every January I tend to be poorly or generally low physically as well as mentally and emotionally. My Christmas holidays take a lot out of me because although I have amazing times now it’s still immensely traumatic making it through those days.
I sent my ex mother, ex father and ex brother a final letter on Thursday. They each got a letter personally written to them appealing with them to deal with their evil deeds and repent while they are alive. Not because I want any reconciliation or admission of fault, guilt or even an apology. I do not want any of those things. In fact I never want to see or hear from them ever again. I did it because I had to do it for ME, for CLOSURE, to LET GO of them and to do it in a way that was not vengeful and angry. I had to do it in a way that I could live with. I had to do it in a way that honoured God's heart for them. The letter gave them one final chance to consider their deeds and face the truth. Their eternal destiny is in their own hands. They cannot say they weren’t given the chance. At the end of the day we all have to live with our own consciences. I do not know how they live with their consciences. I’ve let go of them now, they will never hear from me again.
It was a necessary step in my journey which formally closed the door on them. That is why I’m now calling them 'ex'. They never were parents to me and my brother was a merciless bully to me. I’ve also let go of the hope I doggedly held on to that one day they’d apologise, one day they’d admit some guilt. That will never happen now. I have to walk away and start over somehow.
I guess my first step in starting over is changing my name. It is also the final part of breaking ties with that toxic family. I’m doing it for my personal safety because they threatened that if I ever spoke out “they’d hunt me down, they’d find me and kill me.” I know I’ll be looking over my shoulder until the day I legally become “Fi MacLeod”.
I'm also doing it for many really positive reasons.
Why Fi? Well at the moment Fi is the shortened form of my real name Fiona and I want to be legally ‘Fi’. I’ve never liked my first name Helen and want rid of that too.
Why MacLeod? Because my Scottish heritage is massively important to me. It’s always been an important part of my identity. I’m choosing to maintain that through my new name. I’m also maintaining the clan heritage by choosing a clan which is part of the chain of clans which eventually led to the Nicholson clan, but which is also far enough back to not be obvious.
I think “Fi MacLeod” has a lovely ring to it!! I cannot legally become “Fi MacLeod” until January because of Christmas holiday arrangements and the lack of time to get my passport reissued in my new name. But I’ve decided to informally begin using the name to get people used to it before I drop my birth surname of Nicholson for good.
I'm looking forward to becoming “Fi MacLeod” and starting over, re-establishing my life based in truth, living by my rules, choosing the people I want in my life. People I consider to be safe life affirming people. It’s a fresh start with a fresh name that I’ve chosen. With the right help and support I hope one day I’ll be able to live, to really live, without my abuse filling every waking moment and every sleeping moment. It will always be part of my history and will always inform how I relate to the world around me but I hope one day it will be a positive force in life rather than destructive.
There is one thing for sure, I have found my voice and I’m gonna use it and I’ll never be silenced again!
Hey, time to go make some orange juice I think!!
I am a survivor of extremely severe ritualistic childhood abuse and sadistic systematic torture. Without God's intervention in my life I wouldn't be here - NOW is the time for me to tell MY story by speaking the TRUTH about MY life. I will be silenced no more! On this blog I share MY life, MY healing journey; helpful quotes/stuff I come across and MY thoughts along the way. The more I speak out the more liberated I am from the shame and trauma of the abuse. My broken wings are gradually being restored. This blog has helped me begin to get my voice back and documents the journey God is taking me on to heal me from the trauma and damage caused by that most appalling abuse.