ellensagh

4. Keep Going

It blew me away. I’d been thinking maybe $5,000 to help me through one more year of this. I still didn’t know how it was to be negotiated, though, or with whom.
 I called her. I mentioned the need for counselling for the kids, relationship counselling, re-education, gas money, and various other things. I was hearing the same from other Allinblack survivors. Everyone’s lives had been affected. I saw it as a direct result of the abuse. I brought up church reform, too; that was the most important thing to me.
 A survivor phoned to tell me that twelve people had now made police statements , and they were expecting more.
 I finished two university classes. With two more to take over the summer, I went to visit my sister in Oiltown for a break at the end of June. The first night I slept through the night from 11:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. — the first time in months. I did nothing for a week. I hardly went for walks because it rained every day. I didn’t care. I slept.
 Back in Saskatoon, the RCMP informed me that charges would be laid. They wanted the women who went with me when I confronted Father Allinblack to come in and make a statement. I reacted with physical pain. I wondered if I would still have to testify if he pleaded guilty. I cried all through my turn at the New Hope survivors’group that night.
 As suddenly as I had come out of it, I was back in a downward spiral. People phoned. I wondered why they bothered. I couldn’t make conversation except to say that I was feeling rotten. It seemed as if I was going backwards. I couldn’t concentrate.
 “I’m scared of dying,” I wrote at 3:30 one morning:
Pain pain pain — in my arms, left leg, toes, groin, chest, unbearable. Touch my body and think it will feel rough and ugly but it feels soft. Laying here wanting a cigarette. Know my lungs can’t take it. It’s like fire in there. I’m burning up. Why can’t I stop? Is this body memories? Maybe I can get a massage. This is crazy. My body is telling me something. Everything is so sore. Realization yesterday that big bathrooms are scary for me. I can’t handle being in one anymore if I can’t reach the door from the toilet. What the hell is that about? Just like realizing every time I go into a room I have to size it up and only sit where I can see the door.
I got a massage the next day and it helped. Later on, my son and I went to visit a friend. While we were there we met a man whom I know had sexually abused his daughter. I could see the similarities between him, my brother Stretch, and Father Allinblack. I didn’t bring it into the conversation, but all the time I was wondering what it would be like for a social worker to work with a sex offender.
 My son-in-law phoned that night with the news that my stepdaughter had just had a baby girl. I didn’t know if it was the excitement of that or whether my bout of grief was over, but my son and I suddenly had energy again. Between twice-daily visits to the hospital to see my step-granddaughter and stepdaughter, we cleaned the house, built a rabbit cage, and organized and accomplished a number of other things. My family sent flowers to my stepdaughter, and I thought how lucky I was that they had supported me through this.
 Then I was down again. Early on the morning of July 17, I wrote:
Saturday morning and memories, memories, memories. Just about make me sick. Calvin ejaculating in my mouth. Always making me fondle it, kiss it, hold it, masturbate it, in car, in basement, down Dewey’s road, in the convertible, in bushes, parked the car, my throat hurts so much. I keep clearing my throat, trying to cough, get it all out. No wonder I smoked so I couldn’t feel it. I’ve been doing that again for weeks now. He had to have been sixteen so I was thirteen. I wonder why I couldn’t stop it, why I would go, what was going on in my head? I know he told me everyone does it, but that’s no reason for me doing it.
I tried to go back to sleep but had a terrifying dream. I got up and started reading a library book. Jason Barry was the author and it was called Lead Us Not Into Temptation. It seemed to be about how the Catholic church had handled sexual abuse cases in the past. I read all day. My left arm was killing me, but I kept reading, as if I were obsessed. I even made notes of my interpretation of what I was reading:
-therapy, compensation for damages, settlement does not restrict use of funds.
-priest abused girl and gave holy communion to her parents.
-treatment centre — like a country club.
-too much concern about what it’ll cost the church financially. This has to do with lives, and alleviating pain, and the moral therapy that’s needed for families that have been affected.
-chancery records are subject to subpoena in civil litigation.
-medical intervention is imperative even if priest denies charges.
-psychological help and other assistance should be offered to victims and their families. Mental health professionals trained in this area should be called on to provide help and support as soon as is feasible. This is also a healthy preventative measure with respect to civil litigation, since most families are eager to help their children and themselves in these embarrassing and complex psychosocial problems.
-a regressive paedophile will have sexual encounters with an average of 265 youngsters in a lifetime.
-on Church’s not speaking out: the first step in halting abuse is to “tell the secret.” The impression you have conveyed is that you want to “keep it in the family.” It is exactly this motive that binds the incestuous family together and perpetuates the system. You failed to give your people permission to break the silence, to act independently, to terminate the abuse.
-concealment assaults the truth; silence perpetuates the pain and degradation of victims.
-do not fall back on the advice of lawyers; this is a moral issue that cries out for moral and pastoral answers; not talking about cash settlements, but about justice in the church. Bishops may be seen to be condoning immorality in order to protect the institution.
I wrote in my journal that I would start writing my daughter once a week, even though I didn’t know where she was living. I knew she and Alfred were leaving Saskatoon, but didn’t know where they were going. I would tell her what was going on in my son’s life and mine, how I felt about things. I was hoping the letters would help me start a new relationship with her.
 Calvin phoned two mornings later. He wanted my son to go on a four-week trip to the North West Territories with him. I told him about the memories I’d been having, and asked him if they were true. He couldn’t really remember, he said, and changed the subject.
 “I don’t know about him going,” I wrote in my journal. “He wants to. Think I should discuss it with Alfred. Wonder how to find him.” The entry continued:
 Feeling kind of confused about not feeling overly guilty or responsible for not doing correspondence classes or working on my business. Don’t know what I want out of life or what I might like instead of helping others. Feel like I’d want to be part of our church’s changing. Do something to restore people’s faith. Quit smoking so I can enjoy life. As soon as I realized yesterday Father Allinblack pulled me backwards into the confessional with my left arm, my left arm quit hurting. How I enjoyed holding my stepdaughter’s baby for two hours. Could have done it all day long. That’s such a change. Have to get in touch with the little girl inside me.
The next morning at Mass the visiting priest gave a sermon. Eighty percent of it was on himself, twenty percent on good and evil. I wondered if I was just being critical or if it was a horrible sermon. He said that we had to accept that there is evil in the world, and then he spoke about his stories, his new TV series, and his new book. “Is this corruption?” I wondered. He announced during Mass that he would be selling his book at the back of the church, so I joined the line-up. I thought I’d pick up a pamphlet or something; maybe it would change my opinion. Everyone else was buying the book. An older man in front of me handed the priest twenty dollars and told him to keep the change. When the priest extended his hand to take my money, I told him I’d like to see a pamphlet. He smiled and said he’d autograph it for me. He signed his name across the picture of himself and blessed me as he handed it over. I left church with a sick feeling in my stomach.
 My son and I went out to visit my parents for the afternoon. My aunt had died that morning and my grandmother had been taken to the hospital during the night. I went to visit her, then five sisters and I met at a summer cabin for a few hours. We talked about family, abuse, religion, relationships, abuse, future plans, abuse, growing up, life, abuse. It was a fairly intense afternoon for me.
 My son wanted to go on the trip with Calvin, even though his Dad didn’t want him to. He was excited about going. I wasn’t scared that he would be abused because he and I had talked about it. I was leery about him being gone that long. I didn’t know if he realized how long it would be. Still, it was a chance for him to travel, take some risks, and make some money.
 A cousin told me about being abused by a grandfather, and when she told her mother, her mother’s first reaction was, “What did you do?” My cousin was afraid for her children. If abusers haven’t been confronted, she wondered, do they continue abusing? Does confrontation change anything? I told her I didn’t know.
 So my son left on his trip with Calvin, and I began my two correspondence courses with a vengeance. My church lawyer informed me that she would be contacting the committee for victims. If there was no response, she would contact the church’s lawyers. If there was still no response, she would file a civil suit.
 I tried laser therapy for quitting smoking. It didn’t work.
 I had a dream that I was in a house full of garbage. Every room was overflowing. I was desperately trying to clean it, but I was trying to do too much at once. I was starting one thing and then going on to another without finishing the first. In some rooms there was not only garbage, but some tools as well, and a couple of new things. In one room I found new screws on the carpet. I tried to pick them up and put them beside the stairs where they would be found later, but they kept falling down and getting lost, and I realized it was my fault, everyone would blame me.
 The dream was fairly transparent: I knew I had to keep working on the garbage in my life, but it scared me how much there was, and it seemed that there would always be more. I went to a drama therapy workshop, which was something I had never experienced before. We dressed in costumes to represent the major issues in our life that we wanted to work on. At one point the facilitator compared the human psyche to an ocean: the sand is clean one day, but the next day something surfaces. She confirmed my belief that my dreams were working on the garbage for me. After that, it was easier to understand why most of my dreams were filled with fear, self-loathing, and abuse.
 The next night I had a dream about a little girl at an optometrist’s. She was sitting in the waiting room, telling anyone who will listen what happened to her. My parents did take me to an eye specialist after I was abused by Father Allinblack, but all I could tell him was that my eyes hurt. “I know the dream is about the little girl who went with her Mom to the eye specialist in the big city,” I wrote in my journal, “but I couldn’t say what was really wrong, what I had lost, what Father Allinblack had taken from me. Now the big me wants to — has to — tell everyone what happened to me.”
 A woman contacted me from British Columbia. She had been abused by Father Allinblack. She wanted to give a statement. Her memories had come back the year before when she was in an alcohol treatment centre. She wanted counselling. She had no money. There was nothing I could do, but after the phone call I had a sudden memory of not wanting to go to catechism because I knew Father Allinblack would be there. My mother made me go with a neighbour. The memory, though relatively innocuous, was devastating in its effect. I felt as if my head was going to blow off.
 The RCMP sent me a letter the end of July, l993 saying they had a number of complaints, which had been forwarded to the prosecutor’s office. They were now awaiting the prosecutor’s decision in respect to charges.
 While my son was away with Calvin, I spent two weeks at my parents’ visiting family and friends. I felt like a lost soul. I hated the bitterness I heard in my voice when I spoke of my broken marriage. I talked to another mother who had lost custody of a child because of a separation. I could certainly relate to the helpless guilt and the sense of rejection she spoke about. Every time anyone told me they had seen my daughter — and I hadn’t seen or talked to her in a month — I felt as if I had been punched in the gut.
 As if in answer to a prayer, my daughter phoned at midnight, August 8, while I was still at my parents’. She was getting my weekly letters, and seemed happy that I was writing them. We talked for an hour. I was beside myself, I was so grateful and happy to hear from her. I was shaking when I got off the phone.
 I went back to Saskatoon with a new optimism. I spent some energy sorting out rooms and going through old papers. I found Alred’s first love letter to me, postmarked August l975. It cost only 8¢ to mail a letter then. I threw it away with fond memories.
 My counsellor showed me an exercise which ended in something of a breakthrough for me. I started by making circles on a page. I was in the middle. The circles represented my support system. There were nine people I could visit, but not become too intimate with. I called them my social support. Eight other women comprised my emotional support — all of them survivors of sexual abuse except for my counsellor. I didn’t know if she was or not, but I didn’t think so. There were seven people I could call on in a crisis — sisters, parents, counsellors, and my masseuse friend. In the circle labelled “self-esteem and recognition” were three different women I found stimulating, plus my father. I had six organizations in the circle labelled “information about resources,” including my doctor, my lawyer, a career counselling agency, and three counselling services. I had two friends plus my son and daughter in the circle I called “play,” and them, my stepdaughters, and two counsellors in the circle labelled “gives me a sense of purpose and direction.”
 So, there were some thirty-seven people in my support system, plus about twenty other women who were always phoning me but didn’t fit in the circles. They only called me when things weren’t going well. I suddenly realized that a lot were like that out of the first thirty seven, too. I was getting beyond all this — not that I no longer needed or appreciated their support, but I also needed to be myself, by myself. I needed time not to answer to anyone. I needed to enjoy just being me.
 I had been listening to some tapes I had been given on clarifying values — part of a self-help program that included a comprehensive workbook — and decided it was time to work on my values and goals. I made a list of values that were important to me, wrote each on a slip of paper, then sat on the carpet arranging and rearranging them until I arrived at the following order of priority:
1) uniqueness
2) spiritual well-being
3) parenthood
4) independence
5) emotional well-being
6) education
7) physical well-being
8) integrity
9) love
10) openness and honesty
11) pleasure/joy
12) beauty in surroundings
13) financial security
14) family and heritage
15) career/work
16) sports/hobbies
17) sexuality
18) loyalty
19) recognition
20) acceptance
21) success and achievement
22) quality relationship
Two other values mentioned in the workbook — authority and prestige — were of no importance to me. Indeed, I couldn’t help but feel that some perversion of the need for authority and prestige was what had led Father Allinblack to abuse innocent children in the first place. I completed fifty-five exercises from the workbook on what my short- and long-term goals were, and an action plan to move on them
 I stayed with my grandmother for a few days. While I was there I talked on the phone to my son, who was still in the Northwest Territories. He was no longer enjoying his trip with Calvin. I was sure it was doing him no harm, but I felt sick for letting him go.
 I now had sixteen journals, all written since my memories came back. I summarized them biweekly, or sometimes monthly, partly because I was afraid I might somehow lose them, and partly because it gave me a different perspective on my life. When so much was happening in such a short time, it was helpful to be able to keep track of it. When I was feeling down and reread the past few weeks, I could usually see what was bothering me, or I’d see how a series of events had caught up with me.
 I kept my journals in a brown leather briefcase. If I was going to be gone from the house overnight, they came along in the trunk of my car. Aside from my children, they were the most important thing in my life. That summer of 1993 I decided to write less about what was happening and more on my feelings, emotions, thoughts, and dreams.
 Also that summer, my counsellor left the Catholic service agency and went into private practice. She told me I could keep coming to see her, but I knew it was $60 an hour and I didn’t know how I would ever repay her.
 My son came home and swore he never wanted to go on another trip. I realized, that while he was gone, I had not stayed home. I was always out somewhere, alone or with people. I wrote essays in restaurants. I spent time with my parents and sisters in the places I grew up. If I was in control of my emotions, everyone was comfortable. If I wasn’t, everyone scattered. I renewed acquaintance with several women I had gone to school with, and they gave me a different picture of myself. They described me as “pretty,” “involved,” “intelligent,” “popular,” “a leader.” Being with them made me realize that I remembered virtually nothing about growing up. I decided to try something I had been thinking about for a year.
 I drove out to the old family farm. I had a theory that, if I could face my fears, it would all be over. The house was locked up, but I was able to look in the windows. I felt nothing. That gave me confidence. I drove two miles to the site of the church where Father Allinblack had raped me. All that was left was the graveyard. Again, I felt nothing.
 I stepped out of the car to walk around, and suddenly I was doubled up in aching, excruciating pain. I barely made it back to my parents’ house in Prairietown. It lasted three days. Every bone in my body hurt. I could hardly walk. When I tried, I could hardly navigate. My body was stiff. I felt old, ancient. When I slept, the dreams recurred, playing their themes of fear and dread like an endless loop in a computer game. I had hardly any bowel control, and that added to my fear. I wondered if these were body memories, and, if they were, would more visual memories follow, and then more emotion? I didn’t know if I could make it through this.
 Even after three days, I was still sore. I went back to Saskatoon, went for massages, and cried and cried with people who didn’t mind my crying. Saskatoon was a refuge for me now. My parents and family, the places of my childhood, could no longer fill that role. But I couldn’t stop myself from going there.
School resumed for my son and me in the fall. My daughter was living in Prairietown with her father. My body pain disappeared instantaneously when my son told me that my daughter a was talking about suicide. I was on instant alert. I spoke to her immediately, but the only response I got was, “Who cares? It doesn’t matter.”
 I phoned her school principal in Prairietown, and followed that up with a detailed letter outlining the issues my daughter had been struggling with. I asked the principal to share the letter with whatever counsellor was available in the school. The most stable part of her life would be school, I thought, and I was scared for her.
 Dealing with my daughter spurred me into action in other areas of my life. I wrote letters to Maintenance Enforcement to find out why I hadn’t received any child support when it had been ordered by the court. I wrote to the provincial Minister of Justice on the same issue, then to my church lawyer, telling her I was re-evaluating my plans in regard to Father Allinblack. I asked her to summarize what had transpired so far and where she saw the case going.
 I was cleaning and sorting all the rooms in the house: closets, clothes, cupboards, the top of the fridge. I couldn’t seem to stop. I surprised myself with how much I got done. I couldn’t take a break. In fact, the cleaning spree spilled over into finishing my essays, preparing for final exams, catching up in my correspondence courses, and getting organized for the fall semester.
 I began phoning my daughter once a week in addition to writing her. On the phone she was mostly angry and abusive. Hardly a conversation ended without tears. I did realize, though, that the people I spent time with and the people the kids were hanging out with were like mirrors for our lives. They reflected us, and we could see ourselves in them if we had the courage to look.
 A woman from New Hope asked me to represent the group on a steering committee of the Interagency Council of Survivor Services (ICSS). The Council comprised people from some thirty agencies that provided services to adult survivors of sexual abuse. They were thinking of hiring a researcher to prepare a report on the needs of adult survivors in the Saskatoon District. They knew there were long waiting lists for necessary services, a general lack of coordination across agencies, some inappropriate counselling, and a chronic shortage of material goods, including money.
As a survivor, I would be the consumer on the steering committee who would hire the researcher. My job would be to make sure our voices were heard. With the agreement of the other survivors in New Hope, I said yes — partly in a spirit of service, but partly, too, because I was still angry, and I thought it would help my healing if I saw even the tiniest bit of progress in ending society’s denial of sexual abuse.
 Back at school full time, life was not what it could have been. Night after night I was dreaming about death. During the day, I had neither energy nor ambition. I couldn’t get excited about anything. Paradoxically, I was more comfortable at university that year than I had been previously. I used never to be able to speak up in class, but now I could. I was glad to be getting a larger view of the world, though I didn’t have a clue about what I’d do for a career if I ever finished my classes.
 I knew I hadn’t yet plumbed the full depths of my anger, but I figured that would happen when I — or it — was ready. In the meantime, if someone asked me how often I got to see my daughter, I wouldn’t be able to talk. Many times I’d find myself crying hopelessly, convinced that nothing was ever going to change, and then stalking the streets two hours later as if I was looking for someone to beat up. The word fuck kept going through my mind, and the refrain I’m so fucking angry. I never could stand that word, and now it seemed the only appropriate one to use. I’m so fucking angry. I dreamed about being held down or tied up, giving blow jobs to nameless men. “Call this survival?” I wrote in my journal. “This is hell!”
I received a letter from my church lawyer, dated September l6, l993. She always addressed me as “Madam”: She let me know she did not talk to the committees but attempted discussions with the diocesan law firm that represents the diocese as she said they’d need to be included if we claim civil action against priest, parish, and diocese. She said the priest’s assets would be too limited to satisfy all that would be against him. She didn’t hear from them, until she sent a copy of the letter to the commmittee; then the diocesan lawyers let her know they would be in touch after the bishop came back from Rome in September. They also wanted to know how we would inpute liability to the parish and diocese. She wanted to meet to go over all information to determine dates as to when church knew or should have known what she called Father Allinblack’s misconduct.
She also had contacted solicitor’s from the Newfoundland Mount Cashel Orphanage compensation claims case who also said our claim depends on our ability to prove responsibility in the parish and diocese. She mentioned there is no precedent for a compensation award against any church in Saskatchewan.
She had hoped there would be a criminal prosecution proceeding prior to proceeding with a civil action so that our position was firmly established and said process seems to be quite slow and doesn’t want time loss in issuing a Statement of Claim saying we are already dealing with a matter that happened many years ago. Again she said she wants a meeting so can proceed if the response after the bishop is back in the country is not satisfactory.
She did say she wanted to know if it was not my intention to proceed with litigation citing the cost and time as she also has intention to meet with a group of solicitors in October for an exchange of ideas regarding the most successful methods of securing substantial compensation awards in sexual assault cases saying would be reluctant to persue all if I’m uncertain of instructions for her office.
She wanted a definite answer, and I didn’t blame her. I only wished I had one. The civil suit didn’t sound like an option. Healing was the most important thing. And what was Father Allinblack prepared to do?
 I went through my journals, trying to figure out what I should do. Other people I had spoken with all believed that the church knew and did nothing. Look at the statistics they’d say: based on how many had come forward since I had, it was inconceivable that no one had gone to the diocese before.
 I went to a meeting with my church lawyer. She wanted recollections, dates, dates of recollections, all written down. She thought the prosecutor would be laying charges within a few weeks. At the end of October we would file a statement of claim, followed by a statement of defence filed by the archdiocese. Then there would be an examination for discovery. My hope was to get the truth out, but mostly I just wanted to get through it.
 I needed specific dates. I started at my parents’ house, in the black family Bible that was inscribed, “Presented by Fr. Allinblack.” Often there are listed the dates of births, marriages, baptisms, first communions, and confirmations in a family Bible, but this one was no help.
 The next day I recovered ten memories of before I was five years old — before I was abused by Fr. Allinblack. I walked around all day as if my head was not attached to my body. There were two people in there: an adult who wanted to work, and a child who couldn’t do a thing. Emotion and memory were gurgling beneath the surface of consciousness. I wondered if I would ever have a clear picture of my youth. A woman I grew up with assured me I had been on volleyball teams with her, at parties and school events. I remembered none of it.
 My counsellor, although she reinforced all the healthy coping mechanisms I had developed, nonetheless saw me as dissociated from the abused parts of myself. I still didn’t know who that person was. Until I accepted that part of myself, she told me, my memories would not come back. My job in therapy was to find that lost part of me, accept it, perhaps forgive it, and integrate it into that part of myself that I knew and was comfortable with.
 She also told me that the Catholic service agency had billed the committee for victims for my counselling fees. I had been told that there was a sliding fee scale, and, because I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t have to pay. I wasn’t sure what to make of that.
 I went home to find another letter from my church lawyer, dated September 2l, l993. She let me know she spoke to an officer from the Legend RCMP detachment to see what was the status of the proposed prosecution against Father Allinblack and was advised by him that it had been forwarded, some time ago, to a crown prosecutor of the Department of Justice in Saskatoon for recommendations with respect to prosecution. She then spoke to the crown prosecutor on September l7, and he advised that as two further complainants have surfaced since the last material was submitted to him, he has requested that some additional investigations be conducted by the RCMP and that this information had recently been received by him. He has been occupied with other matters but anticipates that he will complete the final review of the material during the next week at which time a decision will be made respecting prosecution.
 She requested his unofficial position with respect to whether prosecution would proceed, and he gave his opinion. He did advise, however, that this comment was not for publication in any manner as the final decision had not officially been made so didn’t let me know it. 
 She had asked him if we could anticipate some significant delay because of the fact that Father Allinblack was still in the United States, but he advised that he anticipated no such problem in this regard and that Father Allinblack has a lawyer in Big City to whom he was providing instructions to deal with this matter.
I received a letter from the Minister of Justice saying that Maintenance Enforcement was doing all they could but were unable to collect any money owing.
 My buddy from woman-to-woman peer counselling told me she was moving out of the province.
 I received another letter from my church lawyer, dated September 29, l993 where she enclosed a copy of a letter received from the committee of victims in response to her inquiry as to what services and assistance the committee for victims and survivors of abuse might be prepared to offer.
 She said as she had suspected all along, there is little concrete assistance that they appear to be willing to offer, and she did not like to provide them with much detail regarding the claim as she cannot control where that information is being passed on to. She said she’d continue dealing with the solicitors for the bishop, and would propose that, unless the church comes forward with some concrete proposal for compensation, we will be issuing statements of claim against Father Allinblack and the church sometime in October.
 She said would be in further touch with me as soon as has the additional information about the progress on the criminal trials. She had spoke with an RCMP officer from the Legend detachment who advises that on September 28 the information would be sworn which would allow for Father Allinblack to be formally charged. She said they expect this information should be made public very shortly and the RCMP officer also expected that there would be full cooperation from Father Allinblack in allowing these charges to be dealt with. She anticipated the RCMP would be in touch with me directly to advise what involvement I wiould be required to have in the trial process.
She enclosed the letter from the Committee for Victims which said it was a reply to her letter in September of l993 in which she requested a negotiated financial settlement for Sharon Speaks with respect to the alleged sexual abuse of her, as a child, by Father Allinblack It stated the committee for victims and survivors of abuse has neither the mandate nor the authority to negotiate financial settlement and if she wishes to pursue this matter, to contact the diocese. They let her know they had forwarded her correspondence and this reply to His Grace, the bishop.
Two days later I withdrew from university and applied for welfare. When I went for my appointment, I found myself twenty-second in a line-up of thirty. I got an application and another appointment two weeks hence. I needed a doctor’s certificate, I was told. When my family and friends found out I had withdrawn from classes, they all phoned to see how I was. One sister told me only Jesus would save me. I had my doubts.
 Two days later I started having more memories:
As if I’m four years old. Can see the kitchen when I was little: tile on the floor, white cupboards, black trim, silver handles, red countertop, stove in the corner, green tile on walls, black strip, two benches and table. Dad by stove. I’m behind the table with the boys. Melting snow, big dishpans, doing dishes on the table. Little girl walking to the barn with her Dad. Dad milking, me holding a pan for milk for the kitties. Walking with Dad to the dugout. Chopping hole in the ice. Kneeling in living room, hardly reaching couch with my arms, praying the rosary. . . . At St. Peaceful church, doing the Stations of the Cross: up and down, up and down. Father Allinblack driving into our yard. Father Allinblack– my arm and shoulder hurt so bad, can only cry and cry. Sadness. Can’t say no. It’s not fair.
A Protestant minister phoned me. He told me that Satan was planting these new memories. I tried to tell him they were my memories, and I had to go through the feelings associated with them. He offered to pay if I would go to Christian Counselling. After our conversation, I understood better the need for education. A week later he sent me $50 so I could go home for Thanksgiving. That week I kept having memories, not of abuse but of our yard when I was growing up, and our neighbours.
 My sister invited me for Thanksgiving, but I knew Calvin would be there and I couldn’t face him just then. I went to my parents’ instead. I took my turn sitting at the hospital with Granny. She could no longer eat on her own or make herself understood. When she fought against it, my father calmed her down, stroking her hands and telling her to breathe slowly. It was a gentle side of him I had always believed in but rarely seen. When she finally slept, he said it reminded him of trying to settle us when we were babies. I had six younger sisters, but I couldn’t remember any of them being little.
A survivor phoned to tell me that Father Allinblack’s court date had been set for the second week in November at Legend.
 I went with my stepdaughter to her trial for attempted robbery. She was given a three-year sentence. Our justice system at work.
 My church lawyer phoned. She had had some discussions with the archdiocesan lawyers. They were sympathetic, but saw no legal responsibility on the part of the diocese. The church’s insurance company had apparently instructed them not to admit liability or their insurance would be invalidated. My lawyer also said the church did not consider itself financially responsible for my pain and suffering, the loss of my career, employment, or cost of living, but would consider my counselling fees if we engaged a psychologist or psychiatrist who was mutually acceptable. My lawyer asked me to get her the names of any I knew. She confirmed that Father Allinblack’s criminal court appearance would be November l0 in Legend, and that they might be looking at a plea bargain. She told me she was meeting with another lawyer who was representing a male client who had been abused by a priest. They were adamant the church was responsible for pain and suffering.
 I phoned around and got the names of four psychologists and two psychiatrists who had worked with adult survivors and were familiar with court proceedings. I gave the list to my lawyer.
 I went to a public address by Sandra Butler, author of Conspiracy of Silence, a book about incest. She confirmed my belief that I had to take care of myself. I was the expert on what I needed, not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. She also spoke about the difference between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the chronic condition suffered by many survivors of sexual abuse.
 Many people — doctors, counsellors, even my church lawyer — had referred to me as suffering from PTSD, the same condition experienced by soldiers returning from war. The difference was that adult men knew they were going into battle, they knew they were in a war, whereas a little girl is alone. She has no buddies to share her experience, and no language to describe it. An abused child exists in an undeclared war zone. A soldier comes home when the war is over, but for a woman the violence is chronic. It’s the everyday experience of being female.
 Sandra Butler’s talk was sponsored by Tamara’s House: Services for Sexual Abuse Survivors, Inc., as a fundraising event for a safe home. That excited me, but as I left the hall, all I could think about was whether or not I could do my own assessment for my lawyer by rereading my journals and making a list. To that point I had always tried to focus on my positive coping skills, and minimizing the negative.
 On October l8, l993, I signed the final divorce papers. It was around then, too, that I went to Prairietown to see my daughter and to sit in the hospital with Granny, who was deteriorating rapidly. I hadn’t been able to go to church for the past five Sundays. I wondered if I would ever be able to stop thinking about abuse ninety percent of the time.
 I received a letter from my church lawyer, dated October l5, l993 letting me know she had spoken to an RCMP officer of the Legend Detachment who confirmed that Father Allinblack will face l2 charges of sexual touching by l2 individual complainants on Wednesday, November l0, l993 at Legend Provincial Court.
 Father Allinblack is to be charged with sexual touching because that is the applicable charge which existed at the time that these offences occurred.
 She said she would attend the Provincial Court on the l0th and obtain more details respecting the charges at that time.
 She understood from the RCMP officer that there would be no publicity regarding the charges until November l0, l993 but the matter would, of course, become public knowledge on November l0. She cautioned me against granting interviews to the press which might interfere with my civil action saying if I felt strongly that I wish to make a statement to the press, she would recommend that it be a prepared statement which I would simply read and one which we have reviewed prior to that time.
It upset me that they were calling it sexual touching, not rape. I wanted to make a statement, to make the invisible visible. I wondered if my sister could see what was happening. She had been sexually abused by Father Allinblack as a pre-schooler and was a victim for the rest of her life, dying tragically at twenty-four years old.
 I could imagine the rage I would feel if the crown agreed to a plea bargain and dropped some or all of the charges. I tried to meditate, but a voice was screaming in my head, screaming in agony and horror, “Get out of here!” over and over. I had no feelings about it. I could just hear it. I knew it was happening.
 My church lawyer called, laughing so hard she could barely speak. She had been asked by a member of the committee for victims of sexual abuse to be on their committee because she was a lawyer and a woman. She discreetly asked what the diocese was doing in the area of sexual abuse, and had been told that the committee was there to educate, to which my lawyer responded that victims don’t need education. With that, she had been asked to become a member. The committee was going to pay for her to attend a conference. She realized that she would probably get booted off after she appeared at the courthouse on November l0.
 I went to a weekend workshop called “New Beginnings.” I was hoping it would bring some kind of closure to my feelings about my marriage, but, as always, I couldn’t get abuse out of my mind. I arrived still angry about the euphemism “sexual touching,” and I kept picturing the blood trickling down my legs as the workshop started.
 Something that surprised me that weekend was that I could give and receive hugs from group members. It really ripped me off that I no longer had faith in the God they were all talking about, and that I was so cynical about the prayers and quotes from the Bible. While there, I did a lot of journal writing. One of the first entries — October 23 — spoke of the confusion:
Hopelessness that anything will change, that I’ll ever quit smoking, fear of abandonment, feeling rejected and angry because Alfred has a girlfriend and didn’t even give me a year — the masks I wore all my life, trying to be the perfect wife and resenting every minute of it — tried to save our marriage 500 times. My kids used to notice I’d be yelling at them and then say “Hello” so nice on the phone to someone else. I don’t do that any more. I’m more real. I never thought I deserved nice clothes. I always thought I could handle anything. I was the perfect Catholic growing up and in my marriage. I can be so exhausted and can’t say no to someone asking me for something. I don’t know what to keep to myself and what to tell the world. Am I being poor me or was I superwoman, going from crisis to crisis throughout my life? I wonder if my pain shows through like everyone else’s at the workshop. Why did I come? To get some rest? See new awarenesses? See how I felt about God? I’m sure I’m angry at God. What did You ever do for me? Where were You through all the shit when Father Allinblack had me in the church, when my brothers were abusing me, when my marriage was the shits, when I was trying so hard? Here they say You are constant regardless of how I’m feeling, and I don’t know if I can believe that. It’s what everyone wants me to believe and it’s what was preached to me over and over and over.
Later that same day:
All my life, built a bigger and bigger perfect Sharon. My daughter calls me Mother Theresa. I looked good on the outside — dressed just so, very conservative . . . didn’t own casual clothes, didn’t do anything wrong except smoke, was a really good mother except I could never give a hug, was totally non-feeling, except deep inside, shame. I never felt it because I kept myself so busy fixing everyone else, being there for everyone else. I was like a workaholic. Shame — all my life. I must have done something wrong. I’m bad. It’s all me. What is the matter with me? I could never trust myself so was too trusting of others. Now I trust on the surface but deep down I don’t. I could shrivel up.
On the last morning of the retreat, we were asked to write a goodbye letter to our ex-partners. I was sobbing as I wrote to Alfed:
You were there for me more often than not. Many times you tried everything to make it better and you couldn’t but you didn’t cause it. I have to say goodbye to the marriage because there isn’t a marriage any longer. The marriage was dead the day my memories of childhood sexual abuse started to come back and I wasn’t the same Sharon you married. Sometimes I wish I had the old Sharon back and I could live in my made-up world that I thought was real and we had a good marriage and I can pretend now that none of this ever happened to me and we are still planning things together, talking about the kids, dreaming about our future and enjoying what we had and have, but it did happen and I’m not the same person. I don’t want to go back to who I was because there was always so much inner tension and me trying to control everything around me and I didn’t know why.
 Goodbye to trying to change you. I always thought I knew best. I’m glad you often stood up to me and were real — something I wasn’t. I see that trait of yours in our wonderful daughter. Cut through the bullshit and say it like it is. Our son has your sensitive side. He hurts and tries so hard to be tough. Since our separation, he’s let a lot of hurt out and he’s really grown. You’ll be very proud of him.
Goodbye to the bad in our marriage. I know it was all the hurts we brought into it that kept the hurt going. Goodbye to the bitterness at the end over who would get what. Goodbye to your telling me what was best for me and the horrible things you said about me and my family.
 Goodbye to your never being around. Goodbye to your disinterest in the kids. Goodbye to your me-first syndrome. Goodbye to never knowing where you were or what to expect next, even though I know I became a master at living from crisis to crisis and did a lot of growing because of it.
Why does it have to be so hard? Goodbye to your family and the holiday days. I’m not sure what will happen this Christmas.
 Goodbye to all the places we lived in together, and to your share in the house I’m still in. Goodbye to the barbecue and the lawn mower and the half of the stuff you took. There’s things about you I’m going to miss forever. There’s some things I’m not ready to say goodbye to yet: my anger at why you couldn’t do things my way, separate for one year till I had a chance to deal with the abuse. I can say goodbye to the way you coped, harassing and stalking me. I question, did you ever love me?
 I know you did and I know that part of you still loves me just as a big part of me still loves you, but I know that nothing has changed and I have to accept that the love is there and I have to say goodbye to the pain. No — feel the pain, and then say goodbye.
 It makes me mad. I could see such potential in both of us and for a wonderful marriage. Why weren’t there systems in place to help us? I believe in marriage. I took the vows seriously — till death do us part — but I am ready to say goodbye to the fifteen years we had, both good and bad. I’m a different person now.
 Goodbye,
 From the new Sharon.
I left that workshop with the affirmations people had given me. One woman called me a gutsy lady. Another said she liked that I balanced pain with humour. One saw me as real, authentic, and completely honest. Still, a part of me, deep inside, felt I was dishonest in everything I said and did.
A week of exhaustion followed. I was trying to complete the last essay of my correspondence course and study for the final exam. My daughter was talking of suicide again, but nothing I said seemed to get through to her. I spent two sessions sitting with my grandmother. My divorce judgement came through. Someone told me that feeling down was gaining power. I hoped so.
October 29, l993. The headline in the local paper read, Priest faces sex charges. The article went on to say, among other things, that Father Allinblack had been charged with twelve counts of indecent assault, and that a tentative date of November l0 had been set for his first appearance in Legend provincial court.
 My welfare cheque came that day. The rent cheque was made out to the landlord. I phoned my assistance worker and asked that it be changed to my name. It was humiliating, I told her, as if they were assuming I wouldn’t pay my rent. The worker told me I should have told the first worker I talked to if I wanted it in my own name, and when I got off the phone I felt as if it was my fault. Then I remembered how emotional I was the day I applied. Surely, if it was anybody’s job, the worker should have asked me then. All my life I had felt that everything was my fault. I didn’t think this was.
 That night my grandmother died. My emotions shut down. I felt like the old Sharon: making meals, picking out the readings for the funeral, cleaning her house, playing the organ at prayers. The only thing different was, I couldn’t read at the funeral. I didn’t know if I believed the Bible passages I had picked out.
 Before I left to go back to Saskatoon, my church lawyer informed me that Father Allinblack might plead not guilty, and thus force a preliminary hearing. That meant the police or the crown would have to turn all evidence over to him and his defence. She thought the diocesan lawyers might appeal to the court to put a stay on civil proceedings until the criminal case was concluded. At some point my journals might be subpoenaed, and we might have to make some decisions about them.
The idea that my most intimate and private thoughts might be subjected to public scrutiny, might even be used against me in defence of the man who had destroyed my childhood, gave me pause. In fact, it terrified me.
 I returned to Saskatoon and wrote the final exam for my correspondence course. That same day I received a letter from my church lawyer, dated November 2, l993 letting me know about the conference and a series of meetings she attended on October 29, l993 with a view to joining forces with some of the other solicitors in the Province who are pursuing civil actions for damages as a result of sexual assault by clergy.
 She told me that same date, the Press announced the charges which are pending against Father Allinblack which will be compelling him to appear in Legend Provincial Court on November l0, l993.She said much of what occurs in the criminal proceedings will dictate how we proceed with the civil action. She said would appreciate an opportunity to discuss these matters with you in Legend following Father Allinblack’s court appearance. She would meet me at the courthouse if that was convenient saying, however if I had not expected to attend Provincial Court on November l0, l993 or has plans immediately following the court appearance, we’d make other arrangements.
A survivor of Father Allinblack phoned to report that a church official had told her that Father Allinblack would appear in court but would probably not enter a plea. She had also been told by a committee for victim’s member that she was the first one to have come forward. But when she first went to the diocese three years before, she had been told that she was not alone; nine others had already come forward. Now she didn’t know who to believe. Further, when she told the committee for victims that a support group was critical to her healing, she was given the name of another woman who had come forward. “So much for confidentiality,” I thought.
 The days before court were stressful. I bit my fingernails till they bled. When people phoned, I cried. Calvin phoned. He told me to do or say whatever I had to. I believed he was sincere. My family phoned. My father tried to ask me what he should do without actually talking about it. It would have been funny if it hadn’t made me so angry.
 I dreamed about a little girl who was being trampled by a black horse in a trailer. She couldn’t get out. Awake, I walked around feeling that I wasn’t doing enough, I was in the wrong, I should have been able to get over this, I should have been doing something productive. Then my sister dropped by two days before the court date to tell me that our mother had been hospitalized because of high blood pressure. My mood changed instantly. It’s not that I was glad my mother was ill; it was the realization that she was safe where she was. I didn’t have to protect her. I felt as if a load had been lifted from my shoulders.
 The day before Father Allinblack was to appear in court, I wrote:
I am picturing Father Allinblack in black with a collar, and me saying, “And he’s still a priest! He’s supposed to represent God, I’ve always been told, and if he pleads not guilty — I don’t believe it. The church supplies him with a lawyer, I’m sure, and they’re a party to it. A person can look just fine on the outside but no one knows the horror they’re experiencing inside. No one knows how a little girl screams in agony inside my head, or the pictures I see of blood running down the inside of my legs. In the courtroom, they’ll call it sexual touching, indecent assault. It was rape of a little girl, and I live with it every day!”
I was sitting in a restaurant as I wrote this. I wondered if they would take me away if I sat there and screamed and screamed. I was shaking so badly, I had to leave my car in the parking lot and walk for an hour before I felt competent to drive. When I got home, I went straight back to my journal:
If I’m shaking now, what will it be like in the courtroom tomorrow? Calvin is right when he says it’s up to our generation to stop it. I don’t think our parents can ever get through their denial to change anything, but I think we can. If there is a God, I can only see Him through the people who have supported me through this hell. I only wish the Catholic church could have been one of them.
I was chain smoking, pacing the house, moving furniture, vacuuming, dusting. I even washed the walls. A dozen people phoned to wish me luck.
 I was up at 4:30 a.m. after a sleepless night. My buddy from woman-to-woman peer counselling and a friend from Saskatoon left with me at 8:l5 to drive the 110 kilometres to the Legend Town Hall, where provincial court was held. I smoked and walked a few blocks before I went in. Shaky. Shaky. I met the one other survivor who was going to be there. She informed me that she had been told the church had had to borrow money to send Father Allinblack to the treatment centre in the United States, and it would be better if she didn’t attend his court appearance. She came anyway. Her parents were with her. As I walked up to the steps, my father drove up. A television camera recorded our arrival. Three of my sisters, a friend, and a couple from the parish I grew up in were there. The Protestant minister and his wife were there. It was nice to feel supported.
 We had to set up our own chairs in the hall. The only time I felt any emotion was when the local parish priest walked in with Father Allinblack and brought him right to the empty chair beside one of his victims. She started crying. I asked her to sit with me in the row behind. “How ignorant,” I thought. The priest knew very well who she was and why she was there. This man was supposed to be my liaison with the committee for victims, and here he was walking in with the accused.
 The court proceedings were low-key. I could hardly hear what was happening. Everyone spoke in quiet voices. It was over in a matter of minutes. My lawyer later explained what had happened, but when she finished I wasn’t sure I was any further ahead. The media asked for a comment. We declined and walked by.
 Afterwards, in a local cafe, my lawyer explained that Father Allinblack had not entered a plea, and a new court date had been set for December 8. In the meantime, an exchange of information would occur between the crown prosecutor and the defence lawyer, probably resulting in a plea bargain. Someone, apparently, was concerned about publicity.
 We stopped for lunch on the way home. I was alternately exhausted and exhilarated. I was impressed that my father had come, and that my sisters and friends had been with me.
 The minister’s wife made a statement which was later printed in the Legend paper. According to the article, “her reason for attending was not as a spectator but in support of the victims. She said she felt some of the trauma and devastation. Her desire for the victims was that they will be able to work through the healing process and become productive in society.” She believed a lot of talent was buried because of our experience. She felt that further postponement of the matter added more tension to our lives and that we needed acceptance, love, and support — in fact, the basic need of every individual. Her responsibility was to lend support to those in her community who had suffered sexual abuse instead of ignoring it, which, she said, unfortunately was how many people deal with a traumatic event.
I tried to decide if I should photocopy my journals in case they were subpoenaed. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I should be rereading them, figuring out dates of abuse for my lawyer. When was Lent of l962? Did I go other places with Father Allinblack? Other survivors said I did. Why couldn’t I remember?
 I saw both Stretch and Calvin while I was visiting my sister in Oiltown after Father Allinblack’s first court appearance. We talked about the court process, and about growing up. Calvin was talking of chartering a bus for me to take a lot of women supporters to the December 8 court appearance.
 Back in Saskatoon, a lot of people phoned to offer opinions and advice. Many interpreted the priest’s sitting by the survivor in the courtroom as a deliberate act of intimidation. No one believed that any of the charges should be dropped in a plea bargain. A woman I had grown up with told me that someone we both knew in the diocesan office had seen a letter he wasn’t supposed to see, and inadvertently learned that forty people had come forward. I wondered if I should make a statement to the press. I just wished that everything was out in the open, so that everyone’s time and energy could be spent on arranging help for those in need.
 Most days now I was feeling stronger, empowered. I wanted to get to the bottom of things. I phoned thirty-four women from the groups I had been to and arranged for those who wanted to, to meet with the ICSS researcher for the report on the needs of adult survivors. I reread all my journals. I phoned the library to get the dates for Lent in l962. I found it interesting that my first flashbacks had occurred exactly thirty years later, in Lent 1992. I was learning from my dreams. They were a reflection of what was going on around me and inside me. When I was stressed or depressed, there were dreams I could not get out of my head until I wrote them down.
 I handed over my journals to my church lawyer to be photocopied and kept in her vault. That done, I went down into the feeling hole again:
You’re just on welfare. What are you going to do with your life? Are you going to use this sexual abuse to do nothing? How are you going to explain to anyone what you’re doing?
My buddy left the province. That was hard. I talked with other survivors about what to do to get out of the feeling hole. I tried dance therapy. I sorted every photograph I could find of myself when I was growing up. I wrote in my journal. I walked endlessly. I charted the relative ages of my nine brothers and sisters and me, and wrote down anything I could remember about any particular year. Nothing new came.
 One survivor taught me about energy balancing. I didn’t understand it, but I tried it anyway. She and I devised a visualization exercise to help me integrate the little girl with the adult me:
Relax. Visualize yourself in a safe place. You are walking. Hear the sounds. See the beauty around you. Smell. You can see your little girl walking toward you. She is happy to see you. She runs to be picked up. You give her a big hug. You talk together and get to know each other. You give her a gift you know she needs; a gift that will help her; one she wants. It makes her happy. You show her your special place, and you enjoy it together. You walk hand in hand and you realize what she did for you, how she protected you and adapted so you could survive. You tell her that you will always be there for her, and you are sitting quietly in your safe room in your house until you have to get up and get back to the everyday things. You tell her she can come with you or stay where she is; that you will still take care of her. You tell her you have to get up and go to work.
I put it on tape and listened to it over and over.
Women told me that, if they used their non-dominant hand to write and draw, it helped to release the pain. I was willing to try anything. I’d write a question with a pen in my right hand, then with a crayon in my left hand I would see if the girl inside would answer:
How’s my little girl? Sad.
Why? Because no one is there.
Where are they? Not here.
Where’s mommy? At home.
Why are you here? To learn about God.
Are you okay? No.
What’s the matter? I hurt.
Do you want to cry? I can’t. I’m scared.
I will take care of you. I’m scared.
What are you scared of? The big man. He hurt me.
That scared me. I quit. But a few hours later I was back at the table. I took water colours and, with the brush in my left hand, laid down some brown horizontally on the paper. I am not a painter, though, and after dabbing a bit of red on the brown I quit that, too. I left the table. When I walked by a few minutes later, I saw that I had painted a little girl’s body with blood gathered in her vagina and dripping down her legs.
 That night I dreamed about different ways of committing suicide. During the day, I was scared. I was scared for my daughter. I had heard she was drinking a lot, and was going out with a twenty-eight-year-old man. She told me her Dad had asked her if she’d fucked him yet. She was fourteen years old.
 My church lawyer told me that, at Father Allinblack’s next court appearance, which was five days away, the crown would ask for an adjournment. The defence had proposed that Father Allinblack plead guilty to three of the twelve charges. My rape was not one of them. Apparently Father Allinblack had no recollection of it. My lawyer gave me the prosecutor’s phone number. He confirmed what she had said: Father Allinblack would be in the courtroom on December 8, l993, and the crown would ask for an adjournment to give them time to respond to the defence’s proposal. He asked if I was the spokesperson for the women. I said no, I just didn’t want the charges involving me dropped. I asked him about Father Allinblack’s statement of admission to me in front of witnesses. He said he was not aware of it. He gave me the names of all the women who had made statements to the police. I asked him if he had a problem with me speaking to the press. He said it was okay as long as I wasn’t specific about details that would come out in the trial.
 That night I heard from the woman in British Columbia who had been trying to swear out a statement against Father Allinblack since July. She was shocked to hear that court was the following Wednesday. She said she was driving out immediately. I told her I’d arrange for her to make her statement in Saskatchewan.
 The next day, Saturday, I phoned every woman I knew on the list and gave them the crown prosecutor’s phone number. It was up to them, I said, to let him know how they felt about the plea bargaining and charges possibly being dropped.
 On Sunday, I delivered a speech to a Speak Out Against Violence gathering in Saskatoon. A woman came up afterward and offered to go to Big City with me to parade in front of the Justice Department with signs reading , “Don’t plea bargain with women’s lives.” Another woman came up sobbing. I didn’t know her, but she was one of the growing sisterhood of women who were coming forward after having been abused by Father Allinblack.
 I phoned the crown prosecutor on Monday morning. I told him that two more women would likely be making statements to the police, and that the survivors I had spoken to did not want any deals made. My sister and the friend who had accompanied me when I confronted Father Allinblack called the prosecutor and told him they didn’t want any charges dropped.
 Tuesday night, my son and I drove to Legend to meet the woman from BC who was making her statement that evening. I waited for her outside the RCMP detachment, talked to her afterwards, then drove the 110 kilometres back to Saskatoon. I didn’t sleep a lot. I left again at 8:00 the next morning for Father Allinblack’s second court appearance.
 Twenty-six people, mostly women, were at the court house. This time there were five survivors of Father Allinblack there, including me, of the twelve who had made statements to the police. The judge was surprised at the number of people in the hall, many of them crying. As we had expected, the case was adjourned until January l0, l994. But the judge was adamant that, at that time, a plea and election had to be made.
 My lawyer and I had worked out a statement for the media:
I don’t think anyone has any idea of the magnitude of what’s happened, or any idea of the hell women are going through because of this. I wish every woman or man who was ever touched inappropriately would walk into their nearest RCMP barracks with their experience already written down and hand it over to them and say, this has been my experience. It would benefit every person in society, especially our children, if the truth would come out.
None of the media showed up as they had the last time, however, so I just gave it to the local press. They published it.
 The survivors seemed to be looking to me for direction and support. They wanted me to organize them, answer their questions, explain the difference between a civil suit and a criminal proceeding, and define the specialized terms the judge and lawyers had been using in the court room. Then later that day, and in the days following, they called me, one by one, to tell me they were scared — scared of what they had done, scared from simply seeing him, scared because they had liked him and promised not to tell. I wondered how I had suddenly become the strong one for them all.
 I was scared myself, and when I crashed I drove to Oiltown for the weekend. There, when I wasn’t laughing hysterically, weeping despondently, or dreaming disturbingly, I recast my thoughts on why I thought a civil suit was necessary. Aside from the necessity of openness and honesty, I wrote:
As Catholics we have to take a stand, re-evaluate what exactly we believe in, what we expect of our priests, so that everyone, especially children, can be safe to speak out about the past and present fear and abuse in their lives and have a chance to heal, and so that no one has to commit suicide or think about it all day or stay in an abusive marriage because someone robbed them of their personal power and took control of their lives.
When I returned to Saskatoon, there were fourteen messages on my answering machine, mostly from survivors of Father Allinblack. I offered them the use of my house if they wanted to get together. Ten days before Christmas, five women arrived, some from as far as l00 kilometres away. Everyone’s main concern was not feeling supported, not knowing how they would get through Christmas with families who didn’t want to hear about it. One woman’s mother had offered her house for another meeting — this one for survivors and their families — for an evening three days before Christmas. We were all looking forward to it, and started preparing immediately.
 After the meeting at my house, I sat down and wrote eleven pages on what I wanted my parents to hear. For example:
When I had gone to court the first time, it felt like a funeral. The second court appearance, it really helped me having more people there to support me. People saying to me, “Are you ever taking this well,” or “You really have it all together,” or “You’re so strong,” but I want them to know that it is costing me. I’m doing what I’ve done all my life — acting as if nothing’s the matter while I am screaming inside. It’s like I have a mask on. No one knows the real me. I need support until I am okay with myself again, until I know who I really am and what I believe in. All I want out of this court thing is truth, but a day in court doesn’t change anything. I need the support of others on a long-term, ongoing basis. I need, and the other women need, someone to listen and respect our truth. Many women know they were sexually abused and say it didn’t affect them. That’s fine. That’s how their lives are being lived out, and that’s okay. The ones that need support are the ones recognizing the hurt they felt when they were being abused, who are re-experiencing the hurt over and over right now and want to get it out and know that it was not their fault and get rid of the shame and feelings of abandonment they’ve carried all their lives. For the next few years many women and men in our communities who were abused by Father Allinblack or by their brothers or in their families will be looking at their lives. By speaking out about our abuse, we have broken the silence that our families and society have imposed on us, and it will be safe for them to say it happened to them, too. The minute it’s said, the healing begins. It’s up to each of us to decide if we will hear them or pretend it isn’t happening. It’s hard. I’ve worked harder on this than I’ve worked on anything in my life, but I’m finding a little girl inside me who is spontaneous, creative, wants to have fun, and wants to hug and be hugged. I know I need to learn to balance — to take time to heal — to stay in touch with that little girl inside me and accept the broken parts, the scars of the abuse and help the part of her to grow up that is still crying and mad inside.
I was excited about the upcoming meeting. I believed we could support each other and listen and heal, and we wouldn’t be silenced any more. The secrecy would end. We could tell all. To me, saying what I wanted to say would be better than Christmas.
 Over the next few days, I typed up a handout, summarizing what the other survivors and I had discussed at my house. I was going to give it to everyone who came to support us at the meeting.
To Support a Survivor
The nicest words some of us have heard are:
“I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
“Do whatever you have to do”
“Tell whoever you want to”
“We support you”
“We believe you”
“We believe in you”
“We care about you. We love you.”
Ask us about the abuse, about how we feel about God, the church, the abuser, our parents, our communities, and how the abuse has affected our life choices, our relationships, our children.
Ask us about our feelings each time you see us. Some of us can’t talk about it yet and we’ll say, “I can’t talk about this now,” but it’s nice to know someone cares enough to ask.
Help us get to our feelings by repeating a phrase something like this over and over, “That must be scary, rough, sad, or horrifying,” or whatever word is appropriate and whatever we say, repeat the same phrase. That’s all. Just listen.
We don’t want you to try and change how we’re feeling or fix it for us. We know no one can fix it but ourselves.
If we ask for confidentiality, please respect that.
Let us cry, show anger, our despair. When we’re able to express it, it goes away and we feel better. If we don’t, we get sad, suicidal, get sick, depressed, bitchy or hostile and take it out on someone else.
Court days are hard but, for some, not the hardest. Knowing someone supports you, wherever you are at, on a daily basis, is the best.
Show us your feelings about it. Be angry, be hurt, cry. We love it when you do. We need it.
We hope you will find support from others who will listen to your rage, frustration and hurt, so we don’t feel like we have to protect you or take care of you.
THINGS THAT DON’T HELP
Saying:
“You just have to forget about it!”
“Don’t tell anyone.”
“You can’t just keep dwelling on it!”
“You can’t worry about that!”
“If you’d get a job, go to work, volunteer, go to church, talk to God, pray, think about other people worse off than you, you’d be better off!”
“You shouldn’t feel that way!”
SOME OF US JUST CAN’T RIGHT NOW
A survivor called to tell me that someone had told her we shouldn’t be meeting or we might jeopardize the court case. I phoned my lawyer. She said that meeting with each other and describing our own experiences wasn’t a problem as far as she was concerned, but she would check with the crown prosecutor. I waited all day for her to call back. Eventually, I phoned the prosecutor myself. He said he didn’t think Allinbalck would enter a plea in January, but would elect to be tried by Court of Queen’s Bench with a Superior Court Judge. The crown had not yet heard whether he would elect to be tried by a judge or by a judge and jury. As far as the upcoming support meeting was concerned, none of us should be discussing anything that was in our statements with each other.
 I was shocked. Why had no one told us that? I phoned my father and told him what the prosecutor had said. He jumped right on it. It gave him a reason not to go to the support meeting. He kept saying I shouldn’t be getting involved, let the court handle it. I tried to tell him, “But I’m living it every day. I need support. I need someone to listen.” But he thought I should just leave it. I hung up the phone crying. I phoned my sister. She told me maybe it was best. I kept crying.
 I cried off and on for the next two days, but I didn’t cancel the support night. Instead, I asked a worker from a rehabilitation centre to be there as a witness to the fact that none of us talked about anything in our police statements. She came. My mother and one of my sisters came. My father didn’t. Quite a few survivors and their parents were there. Two women I had asked from the community came as well.
 Both my lawyer and the prosecutor had said that our wellness and support for one another was the most important thing, so we focussed on things we could talk about: our feelings; how we’d been affected by the abuse, by being silenced; our families; our faith in God and the church; how the abuse affected our children, our relationships; what we needed in order to heal; what we’d tried to do in order to heal; what had worked and what hadn’t; how we could not talk to each other about the horror in the police statements but how we knew we needed to talk about it before the preliminary hearing in March or April and whether we could find someone who could listen to us if our parents couldn’t.
 I gave the handout to everyone. Many tears were shed, most of them by the supporters. Very few of the survivors cried.
I spent nine days with my parents over Christmas. I was feeling rotten — aching joints, bronchitis, stuffed-up sinuses. I had wanted to visit friends but couldn’t seem to leave my parents’ house. No one brought up anything remotely controversial. The day before Christmas, I asked my brother Calvin if I could give him the paper “To Support A Survivor,” and he said, “Could we leave it till after Christmas?” He never did read it.
 I saw one friend for an hour. We talked about setting up a survivor information centre, or a self-help centre. I knew it was a good idea, but I also knew I had no energy to do anything about it.
I saw my daughter a lot. She didn’t want to visit me in Saskatoon, she said, because she felt she didn’t fit in any more. When she told me what her life was like with her Dad, it was as if she had taken my place in the relationship. That made me deeply uneasy.
 The prosecutor phoned four days before the January l2 court date. He told me a plea would not be entered, but a preliminary hearing would be requested by the defence, to be held at another town in Saskatchewan, tentatively April 25 to 30, l994. He asked if I could check with the survivors to see if they had a problem with the dates or the place. I said I’d check with the five I knew and let him know.
 About twenty-five people, including my parents and my brother Stretch came to Allinblack’s third court appearance to support me. It was nerve-wracking, even though I knew what was going to happen. When Father Allinblack’s name was called, I nearly stood up. He didn’t. His lawyer asked for a preliminary hearing for the dates in April the prosecutor had mentioned to me. Then it was over. The survivors and supporters went to a local restaurant for coffee. I was freaking out inside, but knew it didn’t have anything to do with Father Allinblack. It was because my brother Streth was there. I could picture the wallpaper in my bedroom when I had been abused by him.
 I talked to my lawyer about the civil suit. She said it would be filed in late January — in a small town to avoid publicity — and wanted to know if I would be available in the next while for psychological assessments. I said, “I have nothing else in my friggin’ life.”
 Five of us Allinblack survivors got together for the afternoon with an outside observer sitting in to make sure we were not collaborating or compromising evidence.
 Over the next few days, many people phoned to offer support. I had to be selective in what I shared, and with whom. One person told me that Father Allinblack had put a curse on me, and when I was having bad days it was really Satan working on my mind. Someone sent me $50 anonymously, which helped, because I’d had only $70 till the end of January. One sent an article on the difficulties of being married to a survivor because of the flashbacks, memories, and other crises in the survivor’s life. Right away I thought that, if some kind of help had been available, I would still have a marriage. Then I thought, no — I found places to heal, to grow, to change. He could have, too. Then I wondered if he would have, and realized I would never know.

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