Friday, November 18, 2011

Speak Out: For The One Who Cannot.

This is not my story, though I guess in a way it is. I feel guilty telling it, which says a lot about what today is all about...

I had a sister. An infuriating, teasing, short-tempered, volatile, vibrant, funny, caring, strong-minded, red-headed sister. Four and a half years older, she found me irritating for most of our lives. And endearing for some of our lives.

I was not quite fifteen when my sister died. I still recall the day, minute, second I was told. And you know what was so very, very sad at that moment of the phone call? Even though it was an asthma attack that took her life, in the time between me being told she had died and the time I was told how she died you know what my reaction was?

Dear God, he finally has killed her.

My sister could drive a saint to drink. She was demanding, stubborn, outspoken, and could rage like a volcano. Sorta like me, I guess. My mother, Wise Woman, always said I didn't have a temper until the merciless teasing of years and years finally broke my sweetness and I began to bite back. I don't know how accurate that was, maybe my snark was just a little slow in emerging, but by hell, when it did it was equal to anything the flame-haired one could toss my way.

I could tell many tales of my childhood, but beneath it all we were a family. We loved, supported, laughed, fought, cried, and loved some more.

When my sister was not quite 15 she met W. He was a child of the streets, brought up in foster homes, smart, witty, good-looking. He was not the first of her serious boyfriends, my sister had developed a taste for love quite young, and he was not to be the last.

He was the first to beat her. I do not know what part of her thought it was okay. The bruises, broken ribs, black eyes all followed quickly by the lies and excuses. My strong, vibrant, opinionated sister beaten into submission. I listened to my mother's tears and my father's anger. I was sent to my room whilst they argued, demanded, pleaded with my sister to tell them the truth, to let him go, to lay charges. She was FIFTEEN years old!

At Fifteen and Nine Months she moved out of home and in with him. Now she could hide until the wounds healed, she need not let us in.

Do you know the frustration, fear, anger one feels when someone you love is prepared to live like this? I can only imagine how my parents felt, I was only eleven and yet I felt all that. Totally helpless. Authorities could not do anything without her agreement. When the neighbours called them during the worst of the fights, they could take her to hospital to stop the blood streaming but they could not force her to stay away, lay charges, protect HERSELF.

I do not know how she found the strength to finally end this relationship. By then they had moved to Sydney, away from family, away from prying eyes.

Finally, FINALLY, she was free! She was not yet eighteen.

Then came S. Tall, dark, handsome S. S who looked like a cross between the lead singer of Dr Hook and Jesus. We didn't know S well, we only saw him at the times she came home (infrequent) and the rare holiday we spent in Sydney. He was charming, articulate, gentle and affectionate towards my spirited sibling.

We were relieved, finally someone who treated her with respect and love. Someone who would protect her not damage her.

Her boss rang late one day. She was adored at the large family company where she worked as a secretary (they weren't called personal assistants back then), was treated like part of the family. He was worried. He did not like to interfere but felt he had no choice. Bruises, sick leave, broken bones. The nightmare had become reality once more.

She was living with S, who was no longer prince charming but the evil villian. Except this time there were no hysterical phone calls, no tears and raging against him only to reconcile, this time there was silence.

She quit her job when she found out what her wonderful, caring boss had done. He rang us once more to apologise, to express his regrets, for if "he had not spoken out of turn they would still have been able to keep an eye on her and help if necessary." We found out later S had turned up at reception uttering all sorts of threats against this family. He was probably pissed because her well-paid situation had ceased. I dread to think what price my sister paid that day.

Once more we were on this horror ride, with her tied to the front of the rollercoaster like some willing sacrifice.

Two more years followed, two years of keeping up the facade, sweetness and light, all surface conversations. My mother and father were very aware of the control S had over my sister. Tentative questioning led to communication being severed for months. And so they stopped asking.

Once more I do not know what finally gave her the strength to move out, or even if S kicked her out, but move she did. For the final six months of her life she rented a unit of her own. She and S were still together but not living together.

Dear God, he finally has killed her.

My sister was 5 foot nothing tall and a size 6. There was no such thing as a size 6 in Australia back then, so she shopped in the children's department or made her own clothes. She was a talented seamstress, she loved to sew. S was 6 foot.  After her death many spoke out about the recurrent hospital admissions, the attempts to talk to her, the offers of help she refused.

All we could do was tell them, "We know, we know..." and pat their hands and wipe their tears. Asthma took my sister. Her life was cut short, her death was a loss unequalled.

Many years later I glared across my bedroom at my then boyfriend. My cheek throbbed where he just back handed me so hard I had flown across the room, clearing the high antique single bed. The first time. "You were hysterical, I had to calm you down - this is all your own fault!" My sobs stopped, somewhere inside me my sister's voice whispered... Do not do this, do not let it happen to you, do not follow my path.
I kicked him out, calmly, rationally, no further justification for the violence to escalate... I locked the door and never let him back.

My sister taught me that. For whilst she never helped herself, she helped me. And I guess somewhere deep inside I like to believe that one day she would have had the strength to say: "No more!"

Go to Wanderlust, today is "Speak OUT" day: November 18th. Break the silence, break the cycle, break the acceptance of DV in today's society.

Lifeline Phone: 13 11 14


Vicky said...

Sending you light and love

from a fellow traveller. x

Sarah Mac said...

This is your story and it's so heart breaking.

It's incredibly brave of you to share it. I can't imagine how hard that must have been.

I just want to reach out and hug you right now.

Melissa Jane said...

It is such a horrible position to be in where you can see what is happening to a loved one, but feel so helpless. I'm sure she was looking over you in your day of need.

Me said...

How difficult to know what is happening and not be able to do anything about it. My daughter was diagnosed with depression so I can relate on some level about something happening that is outside what I can control - wanting to help but not being able to because she would not accept it.

Love, hugs and positive energy !

Ro said...

(((hugs))) It's so hard on those who are left to look on from the sidelines and just...wait til something happens.

cjtato said...

It is so hard standing by (even at a young age like I did when I saw my mother with a black eye). As I said, even when we are young, we know. It just doesn't sit right.

I know what you mean about feeling like it's not your story too. ;)

a field of dreams said...

Thank you for sharing your story and speaking out. Love and hugs. Here from the Speak Out link.

Leanne said...

You have told me this story face to face. The impact of seeing it in writing is far greater and will spread far wider. I think your sister's story may end up helping so many more. Big hugs my friend.
L x o x o

MaidInAustralia said...

Sending you so much love. xo

Lina@MothersLoveLetters said...

What an incredible story. And what a grand purpose to your sister's life, that she helped you to know your own love and self-worth.

Wanderlust said...

Wow, what a heartbreaking story. Just so sad. I know that feeling of wanting to help someone who doesn't want your help. It's awful. I'm so glad you drew the line when you did and chose a different kind of life. Thank you for speaking out and sharing your story. Much love to you, my friend.