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Shadowland

My four daughters have all grown up, three with children of their own. Their abusive father long gone. It was his shadow that remained. A shadow that was still able to divide and rule, still able to manipulate our lives, still able to cause such anguish and anger. Years before during sessions in Family Therapy his abuse had surfaced, finally smashing to smithereens my memories of their childhood. 

When he left there was some contact but he was busy with a whole new life so left us alone. Seven years later he wanted my daughters to stay. Only the two youngest would go. By then they were teenagers. One at college and one at school. Social Services said that they must be allowed to go. Why did I listen? Because I thought that they knew best.

All through that long weekend one daughter remained by my side. We were united in our torment. Only we didn’t talk about it. We held our breath, we filled our time and we waited.

The homecoming was muted. They were very quiet. No jokes. No laughter. No noise at all. I should have known. All I did was note it in my diary. Why didn’t I do anything else? Instead I allowed another visit.

And then the terrible truth surfaced. During that first visit, he had abused my youngest daughter. Her sister was a witness. He gave her money to keep her quiet.

It was a harrowing time. Two sisters confessing to sharing a similar life wrecking experience. One sister alienated by the ‘pay off.’ My eldest daughter very distant and living away. Trying to forget? I wanted to go to the police but my children didn’t want that. I couldn’t make them speak. They refused point blank to betray their father. Our family was truly decimated. His power was supreme.

There was the attempted suicide, the drugs, the abusive relationships and most painful of all, the abortions. My beautiful daughters. All through those years my life was on hold, waiting for the next crisis. Perhaps I was trying to make amends because I had failed to protect them.

Life went on, grandchildren arrived but the gaps between us widened. One daughter wrote that his great black shadow stained our lives. She was right.

Recently he came back. Wanting to take up his role as a grandfather. Three daughters refused to allow him into their lives. One welcomed the contact but she has a little girl. How could her mother be so blind?

I contacted the police although I knew that they could do nothing. My children have never made a formal disclosure. Somehow the spell of silence that binds my daughters to the abuser remains unbroken. Are they protecting him, themselves or me?

My life came to a standstill. All the old nightmares returned. The anger, the sorrow, the fear. Why was my daughter ignoring the risk that her father posed? Years before she had accepted a bribe. Perhaps he was bribing her again? It was abhorrent that the sins of the father should be allowed to infect the next generation. Meanwhile I couldn’t stand back and allow my granddaughter to be subjected to that risk without doing something. I went to a solicitor. I had to do something ‘official’ so that if anything happened, my granddaughter would know that I had tried to shield her from a life shattering experience.

The solicitor wrote to my son-in-law as we felt that perhaps my daughter had trivialised our story. My very real concerns were set out and I simply asked that my granddaughter would never be left alone with her grandfather. That is all I could do.

Weeks later my son-in-law e-mailed my solicitor. My daughter had chosen to refute my claims. She also inferred that the experience her sister had lived through had never happened. However I was given the assurance that I wanted. My granddaughter would never be left alone with her grandfather. An admission that she needs protection from him.

The perpetrator of the abuse will never be prosecuted, has never helped my children or me come to terms with the horror of what he has done, has only tried to destroy us. Why therefore would he want access to my granddaughter? Why indeed.

In ‘Strong Mothers’, Anne Peake and Marion Fletcher write that mothers of sexually abused children find that the path is often ‘buffeted by bad weather. . .’ Our path seemed to go through the eye of the storm. The only way however is to walk on carrying ‘your family or what is left of your family.’ That is a truth that has to be endured. Another truth though is ‘that love conquers all.’ My love for my children is powerful enough to finally disperse that shadow, and it has.

Sandra

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