ellensagh

1. Shock

People told me I would write a book about this. I’d laugh and shrug it off. But lately, it’s been showing up in my journals, my dreams, and my collages. Is this the beginning of a book?
 On April 7, l992 memories came back to me of childhood sexual abuse. How melodramatic that sounds! Still, there has hardly been a day since then when I haven’t written down what was happening to me, or what was going on. I now have forty-one journals chronicling the past three and a half years – certainly enough words for a book. Many times I’ve thought the world should know the horrors of coping with the after-effects of sexual abuse. The world should know what it’s like for my kids to suffer because of what I went through, what it’s like to go through the justice system, what it’s like to wonder if you’re going over the edge, what it’s like to feel the pain it was never safe to feel while you were being abused.
 I don’t know how to write a book, but I think starting it must be the hardest part. Ideas have been hopping into my head. Two weeks ago I was walking down the street, and I thought, I’ll start my book like this: If I had died in early l992, my obituary would have read something like this: and then I’d write what my life was like before April l992 and what it’s been like since my memories came back. The next day, I thought, I’ll dedicate this book to my sister, who didn’t make it. Last week I wrote in my journal: “This is a book written out of despair and hopelessness. I don’t have the energy to fight any more. Maybe in writing this book someone will pick up where I left off and fight for those of us who cannot.”
 I’ve summarized my journals. I didn’t know why, but maybe the bigger picture I’m trying to believe in is telling me I do have something worth writing about. I’ve been trying for three and a half years to come to terms with the enormity of what has happened to me. I thought if I could only get it down on paper, I could accept it and get on with my life. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s never over.
Yesterday I decided I would write twenty books if I had to. Nobody has to read them, but if writing each volume helps me come to terms with it, then it will be worth it. This morning I knew I had to start today.
Shock.
 That is what I felt that first day when images of someone touching me, images of me masturbating somebody, started playing in my mind. I paced the kitchen. I stood in my bedroom pushing my hands against the sides of my head, trying to make them stop. I didn’t know what was happening. I wrote on the first page of a yellow book that was to become Journal #l:
Scared to write it down. Want to tell the whole world. Don’t tell anyone. . . . Want to have a bath all the time. I’m dirty. I hate them but I love them. Was it just me or was it my sisters too? I’m going to throw up. Is that why she died; she rebelled? Why me? Why didn’t she do anything? Why can’t I do anything now? Smoke, smoke, smoke. Try to be good. Keep a sheet between us or blankets or anything. Don’t touch me. Totally numb, don’t feel. Lots of friends but no one to tell. Every guy wants the same thing. In the car. In the bed. In the basement. . . . I’m doing just fine. I can control. I’ll gag. I’ll throw up. Where are you, God? Getting sick. Running away. Move. Religion. Quit acting like a child. Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.
The next day’s journal entry read: “Dreamt that I’m lost. Running before an adult finds me. Always as though I’m in the wrong. Don’t want to remember. The car, my bed, top of the bunk bed, the bushes. Need someone to talk to. How old was I? Why me? I’m a blob I’ve lost myself . . . can’t imagine anything.”
 Maybe it’s time for my obituary. If I had died in early l992, before I had any memories of being sexually abused as a child, it would have read something like this:
Sharon Speaks leaves to mourn her loving husband, Alfred, two stepdaughters,a son and a daughter . Also surviving are her close family: parents, Roady and Rita Harvest; three older brothers, Stretch, Calvin and Dennis; five younger sisters, Ann, Marie, Margaret, Mary and Linda and their partners; and many nieces and nephews, extended family, and friends. She was predeceased by her younger sister, Louise, in l984.
 Sharon was raised on the family farm by Smalltown, Saskatchewan, where she completed her schooling and went on to participate in an overseas exchange program the year after graduation. She spent the following year teaching grades seven and eight on a northern Indian Reserve. She was married to Alfred in l977, and by l979 was mother to two stepchildren, her son and daughter.
 Sharon believed in giving to her family, church, and community. In her many moves in her married life; from small towns in Saskatchewan to British Columbia, then to Saskatoon, where she was residing at the time of her death; she exemplified this in her work and volunteer activities. Sharon was a devout Roman Catholic, very involved in the music ministry, organizing and leading folk choirs, playing the organ and guitar, being a reader, a catechism teacher, a cross-bearer, and a sponsor for adults who wished to join the Catholic faith. For sixteen years, as a member of the Catholic Women’s League, she held various convenorships at the parish and diocesan levels.
 Sharon worked as a teacher assistant in the Catholic school system in Saskatchewan and BC. She worked tirelessly for change in policies and practices that discriminated against students who could not stand up for themselves. She also became involved in the Special Olympics, and provided relief care in her home because of her affection for people with disabilities.
 Sharon started her own business in l990 as a skin care consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics. She built a strong customer base, won many awards, and quickly moved to a management position in her business.
 Relocating to Saskatoon in late l99l, she was kept busy with family, church, and business until her untimely death.
That is what would have appeared in the paper, but the reality was somewhat different. My business was not doing well. I was working hard, but couldn’t keep up with the financial demands being made of me. My marriage was in trouble. My husband had been unemployed since we moved to Saskatoon. I was physically sick. The kids were having trouble in school. We were living in an affluent neighbourhood, and the kids were being teased because they were obviously poor. Our rent had just gone up, and April l, l992, we had given notice. We didn’t know where we were going to live.
Six days later the memories of childhood sexual abuse began coming back to me.
In December l993, I delivered the following speech to a gathering in Saskatoon that wanted to end violence against women:
When I am alone, I don’t feel safe. When I don’t feel safe, I have no emotions. I’m not sure how I’m feeling today. If I feel safe and supported as I read this, I may cry. I’m okay with that. I will get through this, even if sometimes you think I won’t.
 Two years ago, if someone had asked me to speak about violence, I couldn’t have done it, not because I didn’t have the self-esteem or self-confidence but because violence had never affected me; or so I thought.
 Two years ago I was thirty-six years old, happily married, although there were a few things I wished we could improve in our relationship. I had a twelve-year-old daughter and a thirteen-year-old son. I had just moved to Saskatoon, and was moving up in my career. It was two years ago this month that I earned the use of a new Pontiac Grand Am as a consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics.
The next few months were busy ones. My husband was unemployed, so I was supporting the four of us. I was a strong Roman Catholic. I had been involved in the church all my life, and I was teaching my kids Confirmation at home that year. It was Lent and I was fighting a depression, but didn’t know why. Physically, I was having trouble breathing. Later, I found out I had pneumonia. Every time a priest appeared on television in a news story involving sexual and physical assault, I’d go to the bathroom and throw up.
 On April 7, l992, a friend called and asked how I was doing. I started sobbing uncontrollably, something I had never done in my life. That afternoon I started having memories; not clear ones, just images, flashes of someone touching me, making me touch him, masturbating somebody. I thought I was going crazy. I felt dirty. Day after day, night after night, it went on. For a month I didn’t know who was doing it to me. . . . By the end of May that year, I knew one brother had made me masturbate him and another had come into my bedroom at night and touched me sexually. But I knew there was something worse, and I didn’t know what it was.
 On Father’s Day weekend that year, I had a memory of being in church as a little girl, practising for my first Communion, and the priest pulling me backwards into the confessional, holding me on his knee, his chin pushing my head down and him pulling me up and down, the blood trickling down my legs. I was in grade one.
 Even though I remembered very little of what my brothers did to me, I confronted them both. One said he did it, but to him it was experimentation. The other one said, “If you say I did it, I guess I did, but I don’t remember it.” I insisted it was their responsibility to tell our mother and father. They did, in my presence, and my Dad said, “It’s human nature. It’s gone on for years,” and my Mom said, “Who are you going to tell?” and, “You have to get back to work and just forget about it.”
I felt that I lost my family that day.
 In July I confronted the priest, who was still in parish work. He said, “Yes, I admit it. I touched your arms, your legs, and your crotch, but I emphatically deny that I had intercourse with you.”
Liar.
 I went to the diocese and insisted that he be removed from parish work until it was proven that he is no longer a threat to children. It took six weeks and many calls to bishops and priests across Saskatchewan, but eventually he was removed. These confrontations empowered me to say, “I will never be a victim again.” But the memories didn’t go away. I was still dealing with the horror.
Our marriage was struggling because for the first time I was saying things like, “I need”, “I want”, “I think,” and that was new. My husband couldn’t handle it. I’d say, “I don’t know if I can handle sex tonight”,and he’d pester until I’d say, “I’ll try,” and then I couldn’t. And he’d ask, “Do you know what a cock-teaser is?”
 I went to a domestic abuse group and knew my marriage was over. He went to Alternatives, a program for ending men’s violence against their partner. At his fifth session he said something about “the wife.” The facilitator asked him if his wife was the dog. He never went back.
 We separated in October one year ago. Then the phone calls started, followed by threats, then flowers. He began stalking me. He stole things out of my yard. He came through the window into my home. He told the kids he’d commit suicide if they wouldn’t live with him, so my son went to live with him. The phone calls and the stalking continued. Then one day he said to me, “The only ending I can see is the John A. Macdonald ending.” I knew a woman on John A. Macdonald Road had been murdered by her partner. I phoned the police. All I remember of the phone call is, “If you can prove it, then you should come down. . . .” I hung up because I had no proof.
 The following April he met a woman, fell in love, and left Saskatoon. The abuse ended then, but my thirteen-year-old daughter is still with him.
 The police have pressed charges against the priest; not rape, but indecent assault. I asked the church for help. They sent a seventy-year-old priest to my house. He told me that maybe some day I could be a waitress or a seamstress.
 I have few memories of my childhood, or of the abuse, whether it occurred in my childhood or in my marriage. In the past few weeks, though, memories have been flashing back at random. I have been driving past the university and a memory will come, and suddenly I’m a little girl and I don’t know where I am. I just know I’m too little to drive and I have nowhere to go.
 When my brothers are coming through Saskatoon and I don’t feel safe, I drive all over the city. I go to libraries and walk between the bookshelves and try to hide because I have nowhere else to go.
My daughter told me last week that my husband said he’s coming to Saskatoon to “kill the bitch,” meaning me, and now I don’t feel safe in my house, and I still have nowhere to go. I could go to Interval House, and I think it’s great that it’s there, but I don’t want to. I want to live my life without fear. I want freedom. I want a place where, when I don’t feel safe or when I’m driving and I know I can’t go on any more, I can drop in till I’ve got it together.
 I think speaking out is essential. I would not have made it this far if not for women, many of whom are here listening to me. I thank them, for they had the courage before me to speak out and are working to put an end to my fear.
As I reread that speech, I wonder how I went, in a year and a half, from what I thought was a happy marriage, a close family, and an unfailing faith in the Catholic Church to the utter dissolution of my belief system as my life fell apart around me.
 From that first day, what I wanted was truth. I still want it, but now I wonder, what is truth and what is my perception of the truth? Was my ex-husband abusive, or was he just trying to show me he loved me, or were both things happening at once? Was it right for me to make police statements against my brothers when they and my family have been as supportive of me as they can be? Do I deserve money from the church? Was the church trying to be helpful, or was it trying to keep everything quiet?
When the doubts come, then everything is open to question again. Why am I writing this book? What should I include? What should I exclude? Should I put things about my kids in it? How can I not? They’ve had to live through this, too. I know I still need understanding. My kids need understanding, and I hear continually from other survivors who need understanding.
 Within a week of my memories returning, I borrowed money from a sister so that my husband and I could go to a counsellor she had seen on TV. He asked us question after question, put our answers into a computer, told me my husband was like a dry drunk, and suggested I attend a twelve-step program. I tried Al-Anon, ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), and CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous), but I felt that I didn’t fit in. I would tell how memories were coming back to me of childhood sexual abuse. Many women told me that it had happened to them, but they never felt it had had any effect on them.
 As soon as I knew that my older brothers Stretch and Calvin had sexually abused me, I told my husband. He wanted to confront Calvin, but I didn’t want him to. He went with me to see a volunteer from the Sexual Assault Centre.
 Those first weeks I was constantly on the phone trying to get into free counselling, or I was talking to crisis-line volunteers. I spent Easter weekend at my parents. Calvin was there, and I spent most of my time in the bedroom. My back was in constant, intense pain, and it scared me when I looked in a mirror at how old I looked.
 The next day, back in Saskatoon, I told one of my sisters about my memories. As soon as I said they were about sexual abuse, she said, “Don’t tell me if it’s Dad.” “No, I said, it was our brothers.” She told me that she had been sexually abused when she was growing up by a man from a nearby town.
That weekend I told another sister. I asked her, “Do you remember Father Allinblack?”
 She replied, “Yes. He always had Louise and me on his knee, and he’d put his hands inside my panties, and I told Mom and she said, ‘Don’t be silly, he’s a priest!’”
Louise was my other sister.
 Day after day I was going to a chiropractor, a masseuse, or to an aqua-size program, trying to get some relief from my back pain. The only good thing about it was that when my parents phoned I had something to talk about. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to tell them about the abuse.
 By the end of April, l992, my husband and I had moved. We were on social assistance for the first time, which to me was humiliating. The week before, I had asked Alfred for a separation, but he had refused. I began counselling at a family services counselling agency funded by the church. They had a sliding fee scale, and told me I did not have to pay while I was on social assistance. I never talked about the abuse, but I felt comfortable talking about what was happening in my marriage. Alfred had read my journal, and was angry at some of the things I had written. He was always asking me why I wouldn’t listen to him.
 In May that year I went to a weekend Victims of Abuse Workshop at a Catholic retreat centre. When the group wasn’t in session, I lay curled up on my bed, convinced I would die from the pain in my back. During the sessions I realized that I remembered hardly anything from my childhood. I took thirteen sheets of paper, one for each year from pre-school to grade twelve. I wrote down everything I could remember from that time. I ended up mostly with blank pages. I’d had an extremely strict teacher in grade four, so I knew her name, but I couldn’t remember grades three or five or any of the others, either at school or at home. I knew what the outside of our farmhouse looked like, but I couldn’t picture the inside of it or remember any of the people who lived there with me. I couldn’t remember my grade twelve graduation. In the end, I had fifteen lines on thirteen pages, and I later realized that none of them were in the right order.
 During May, my husband and I were arguing a lot. He had never been physically abusive, but now I was scared of him. The rougher things were getting in our marriage, the more time I spent with my parents, or my brothers and sisters. In front of them, I would pretend that everything was okay. I had them all at the house for my children’s Confirmation at the end of May. Later, I organized my grandmother’s ninety-fifth birthday celebration. No one guessed anything unusual was happening.
The weekend of Granny’s birthday, my niece told me she was having memories of a babysitter sexually abusing her when she was younger, but in her dreams it was her father who was abusing her. Her father, my brother, had abused me. I didn’t tell her anything, but it made me face reality. I believed her dreams were true.
 The next weekend I decided to go away. I was going to get away from everything familiar, have some time to myself, and finally make the decision as to whether to confront my brothers and my family. I went to a cousin’s home for the weekend. On the Friday night, I baby sat her six-year-old daughter. As I watched her colouring a picture, I kept thinking, “If something happened to her, it wouldn’t be her fault.” Those words kept repeating themselves in my head.
 I was in bed by ll:00 pm. I got up at 5:00 am for a glass of water. When I got back into bed, my legs began vibrating. Then my whole body started to shake. I could see the priest pulling me into the confessional, making me go up and down and up and down. Simultaneously, I felt a knife-like pain in my vaginal area. I pictured the blood trickling down my legs, the pictures on the walls of the church.
 The next day, I sat at my cousin’s kitchen table and told her what I could remember. She was shocked, of course, and I didn’t know if she believed me. The next day, Father’s Day, I drove to my aunt’s house. She’s my godmother as well, and I had looked up to her all my life. I told her about my brothers and about the priest. She was shocked about Stretch and Calvin, but she said she didn’t doubt it about the priest. As I started to cry, she told me I just had to forget it, that it was just my nerves reacting to the memories, that I should go to a doctor and get something, but don’t tell Mom and Dad as it would kill them.
 I went to my parents’ house. As my aunt had advised, I didn’t tell them anything, but I did phone a counsellor I knew. I broke down on the phone, telling her that I didn’t know how to tell my Mom and Dad. She asked me if it was my responsibility or my brothers’. It was like having a load lifted from my shoulders. If I could tell my brothers what they did to me, I decided, they could tell Mom and Dad.
 That didn’t take away the fear, though. I went home to recurring dreams that people were going to kill me or make me sign a paper to say I wouldn’t tell. I went to the library and brought home an educational video about sexual abuse for my kids. I made them watch it, but I told them nothing of what was going on in my own life.
 I knew my brother Calvin was in Oiltown for a week before leaving the province. I thought, “He’s not getting out of here before I talk to him.” My other brother, Stretch, lived an hour or so from Oiltown. I phoned them both and arranged to meet them in Oiltown the following weekend. I’d be meeting Calvin on Friday night, June 25, l992, and Stretch the next morning. Calvin asked me what it was about. I told him nothing.
 For two days before the meetings, I listed the reasons I should confront them and the reasons I shouldn’t. I knew I could still change my mind. I was afraid that I would lose my family, my parents, that everyone would turn against me and I’d have nothing left. My husband had always said that my family was more important to me than he was. In a sense it was true, but not the way he thought. It was as if they had a hold over me that I couldn’t break.
 I wanted to confront my brothers because I was afraid that their children were being abused. I wanted to get what I was going through over with. I wanted to get it out in the open and rid myself of the shame I felt. I was disgusted one minute and scared the next; scared that Calvin would deny it, and scared he wouldn’t care about me any more. When I thought about Stretch, I said to myself, “This will help him,” but then I thought, “What if he denies it, too?” Then I wrote in my journal that I don’t care if they both denied it: “I’m more important.”
 I hoped that my mother would believe me, but I had no confidence in her support. I hoped that Stretch would get help and that Calvin would help me heal. I wanted to confront them in person, so I could see their expressions. I decided the confrontation would occur on neutral ground, a restaurant, where no one would be likely to create a scene and no one would have any particular advantage over anyone else.
 I wrote out what I was going to say: “Why did you abuse me? What, when, and where did this happen? What have you done to get help? What are you going to do to clean up the mess that Mom and Dad are in over this because they’ve been phoning me every second day to see how I am? When am I going to know it’s over?”
 I practised what I had written with some volunteers at the Sexual Assault Centre. They asked me what support I would have, and whether I was being realistic. I told them that two of my sisters were supportive, as well as a business friend who had been abused when she was young. I thought I was being realistic.
 The morning I was going to confront my brothers, I was in such physical pain that I could barely pack. My children went to my sister’s for the weekend. My husband drove me to Oiltown. All the way there, I practised what I was going to say. We met Calvin at a mall, then he and his wife and Alfred and I went to a pizza restaurant. As soon as we had finished ordering, I said, “I want to talk. I want your perspective on my childhood, up till I was eighteen years old. I’m talking about sexual abuse, and you have a few seconds to think about whether you want your wife to hear.”
There was dead silence. Then his wife asked, “What’s going on?”
 Calvin said she could hear whatever was said, but he wanted to go to their motor home to continue the conversation. I said no, but we could go to my car. We changed our order to a take-out, though no one ate anything. In the car, I repeated that I wanted to hear his perspective on what he had done to me. He admitted abusing me, and began telling me what he remembered. When he said, “I put my penis between your legs,” I stopped him and read from my journal: “This is what you did to me: sexually abused me, made me have oral sex, made me touch you, jerk you off, fondled me, told me it was okay, told me everyone does this.”
 I kept reading:
This is how it hurt/affected me: felt used, dirty, no trust in myself, ashamed of myself; felt like a coward; all abuse blocked and no memories of childhood till this three-month horror; could never tell anyone what was wrong; dreams and nightmares; stealing; shoplifting; smoking. Why? No one asked me why. Back pain; muscle pain; repeated vaginal infections; scared all my life but didn’t know of what; scared of my sexuality; can’t get close to anyone; felt responsible for everyone, everything; never felt good enough; turn to religion; ask for God’s forgiveness and never felt forgiven. . . I’m nothing; work, work, work like a demon possessed. Never relax. . . . Don’t know how to have fun. No feelings. Can’t show affection to my kids. My life: Don’t think, Don’t talk, Don’t trust. Everything in my life has had to be controlled all the time. . . . Felt different from the rest of the world. No more faith in God, church or anything. Haven’t worked for two and a half months. Have never felt I could take care of myself. Can’t physically touch someone; not even a hug. Running away or moving away but don’t know why. Never felt safe anywhere. No self-esteem. Don’t deserve to be happy. Feel empty inside. Anger scares me. Can’t let myself go. Can’t say no or set limits.
 This is how I feel about it: rage, disgust, fear, anger . . . sick like I’m going to throw up.
Here’s what I want from you: honesty, listen, break the silence, information about my past, protect my kids, my nieces and nephews, you to be part of the healing process, get help.
I read that to him and then I handed him a file folder I had prepared. In it were copies of what he had done, how it had affected me, and some information about incest.
 To Calvin, the sexual abuse was experimentation. He talked about being abused himself, and about all the abuse that was going on in our community when we were growing up. I told him it wasn’t only him. It was Stretch and the priest, too. I asked him to tell our parents in front of me before he left the province. He agreed, and arranged for Mom and Dad to meet us in North Town the next night.
 Alfred and I stayed in a motel that night. At 9:30 the next morning, I was tense. Stretch was to meet us at the mall at l0:00 am. He didn’t show up till l0:30, when he asked us to join him for breakfast. We watched him eat, then I told him that I wanted to talk to him about him sexually abusing me when we were growing up. We could talk there, I said, or we could go to Calvin’s motor home. He chose the latter. We left without a word. He was white-faced.
 At the motor home, I repeated that I wanted him to talk about what he did to me. He shook his head. “If you say I did, I guess I did,” he said, “but I don’t remember.” He started talking about the things that were coming into his mind. It was around l96l or l963, he said; he was playing doctor with someone, but he talked as if someone was doing something to him.
 “It was in the l970s,” I corrected him, but he just kept shaking his head and repeating that he had no memory of it. When I asked him if he ever touched his daughter, he said he didn’t think he had. As he sat there talking to us, ashen-faced and bewildered, he said that he felt worthless and full of shame. I felt that I had to protect him, as if he were the victim. Nevertheless, I asked him to meet with our parents. He said he couldn’t that night, but he would eventually. As he walked to his car, carrying the file folder I had prepared for him, he looked like an old man.
 I felt better. I had told myself if I accomplished what I set out to do, I would buy myself a new outfit. I had hardly ever bought anything new for myself in my life. That afternoon, I bought a dark jacket with matching shorts. There were a few coloured designs on it, but it was mostly black. I see the significance of black now. There was a lot of mourning ahead for everyone.
 We left later that day for North Town. Calvin had booked three hotel rooms. The six of us met in Mom and Dad’s room. Calvin wept as he told them what he had done to me. Mom asked, “Where were we when this was going on?” I explained to them that I had no memories of it until April, when they all came rushing back; Calvin, Stretch, Father Allinblack. As I talked, Mom and Dad showed little emotion.
 “It’s human nature,” Dad said. “It’s been happening since the beginning of time.”
 Alfred was furious. “Don’t you think that priest should be strung up?”
 “It’s human nature,” my father repeated. “It’s gone on for thousands of years.”
 “Who all knows?” my mother wanted to know. We left soon after she said, “It’s over. You just have to forget about it.”
 Alfred and I returned to our room. Alfred was angry at my parents, but I felt compelled to defend them. I went to their room alone and tried to talk to them. It was no better. Mom talked about one of my uncles sexually abusing his daughters. Dad mentioned a dude ranch nearby and wondered if we could all go to it the next day. I told them I would meet them downstairs later for tea.
 Calvin, Mom, Dad, Alfred, and I met in the coffee shop. We talked about everything but abuse. Back in the room, I phoned Stretch to see how he was. He was in the process of telling his partner, but couldn’t stop crying. He said his daughter had phoned him, but he couldn’t talk to her either. He had tried to call her back, but he just burst into tears again.
 I phoned my parents’ room to say goodnight. I joked with them, trying to make them feel better. But the next morning I awoke in a rage. I had been dreaming that teenage girls were coming to me for help, and I could do nothing for them. I told Alfred about the dream, but when he wondered what was in it that would make me upset, I was even more furious.
 I found Calvin in the coffee shop. We went to his motor home and talked for two hours. I was devastated by Mom and Dad’s reaction. I was trying desperately to understand it. Calvin promised he would help me through this, then his wife appeared and told us that Mom and Dad wanted to get going to the dude ranch. I couldn’t believe it. I told them they could go if they wanted, and they were welcome to stop at my house in Saskatoon on their way back home. I gave them a file folder of information about incest.
 I returned to Saskatoon that day. Mom and Dad showed up for a quick cup of tea, then left. I didn’t ask them about the dude ranch.
 Alfred and I left later that afternoon for Prairietown to pick up our children. On the way there I decided that I wanted to tell my kids, my sisters, and their husbands all at once what had happened. We sat in a circle in my sister’s living room. Everyone had different reactions. Some cried. Some got angry. Some stayed silent, not knowing what to do or say. For myself, I cried like a little girl when I spoke of Father Allinblack, and again when I talked about Mom and Dad, but showed no emotion talking about Stretch and Calvin.
 I decided to stay in Prairietown with my kids for a few days. I thought we could all use the rest. We stayed in my sister’s home. The next afternoon, I went with my father to a senior citizens’ home where I played the piano to my Dad’s fiddle. I was fine while I was there, but as soon as I returned to my parent’s house, I started crying. Mom wanted to know who else I was going to tell. Dad said it had to be forgotten. I tried to tell them what it was like, not knowing what I was going to do next, not being able to work, not knowing what was happening in my marriage, not knowing what I was afraid of all the time. They told me to get to work and quit dwelling on it. “You can’t blame yourself,” they said. That was something, at least. Then Dad asked if I needed money. I said no. I couldn’t tell him we were on welfare.
 While I was in Prairietown, Alfred went to see a family friend and told her the whole story. This friend was close to my parents’ age. She had six children, was Roman Catholic, and had always been a good neighbour when I was growing up. Now she lived in the big city where I lived. She was shocked about Stretch and Calvin, she said, but she did remember that, when her kids were little, my mother had told her that Father Allinblack held children on his knee and touched them. She always warned her kids not to go near him.
 The next day was July l, l992, Canada Day. Calvin had phoned me twice since the weekend. He had discussed the issue with his children, and they assured him that they had never been abused. He spoke of how this being brought into the open had raised new issues for his wife, who had herself been abused as a child.
 I visited the same family friend Alfred had seen. She asked me if what Alfred had told her was true, and when I confirmed it we both began to cry. She had phoned her three daughters, she told me, but none of them had been abused. She had also phoned my godmother, but my godmother claimed she had no idea what she was talking about and I had never told her anything. To me, that was confusing.
 Over the next few days, I phoned two sisters and one brother whom I hadn’t told yet. One sister cried through the whole conversation. The other, who had become a born-again Christian, told me that if I turned my life over to Jesus it would all be gone. She phoned back the next day and apologized, and told me how she and our sister Louise had both been abused by a neighbour when they were small. Another brother, whom I desperately hoped would be able to fill in some of the gaps in my memory, had nothing to say about it at all.

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