ellensagh

6. Going Again

The phone call was brief.
 “Is this Sharon Speaks?”
 “Yes.”
 Are you the mother of … and she named my daughter’s name?”
“ Yes.”
 “This is Legend Hospital. Your daughter was involved in a car accident. She will be transferred shortly to Saskatoon by ambulance, but at this time we are unsure which hospital. If you phone back in ten minutes, we will be able to tell you where.”
 I asked if her injuries were life threatening. She could only tell me she was conscious. I called Alfred. He wasn’t home. I phoned his sister and asked her to find him. I phoned the hospital back. The nurse told me that my daughter had broken bones; they were trying to stabilize her; she would be leaving about 7:00 p.m. for Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. She couldn’t tell me anything more. I hung up and tried to tell my son, my Mom, Dad, and my sister what had happened. I was crying.
 “Don’t start that now,” my mother said. “That’s not going to help anything.”
 Mom said she’d stay at the house in case anyone phoned. The rest of us left for the hospital to wait for the ambulance. At 8:00 o’clock, they told me she would be there shortly. At 8:l5 I was starting to panic. They told me they had no new information. At 8:30 they told me they were having trouble stabilizing her. Five minutes later the ambulance finally arrived. Still, they didn’t bring her in. The doctors stood at the hospital entrance while the paramedics renewed their efforts to stabilize her. They kept telling me to go to a waiting room.
 “But I’m her mother!” I said.
 I hardly recognized her face when they finally brought her in. They told me to keep talking to her, keep listening, keep her conscious. I heard from the medical team about multiple pelvic fractures, possible abdominal bleeding, and bladder, spine, and neck injuries. Through blood transfusions, X-rays, and a CAT-scan, I heard from my daughter that the truck was rolling toward her, that she wasn’t wearing a seat belt, that she was driving, that it was fishtailing, that her friend was screaming, that glass was breaking, and the noise, the noise, always the noise. She could hardly stop talking.
 At l2:l5 a.m., the doctors finally got her stabilized. My daughter had very nearly died. She was a lucky girl, but she wasn’t out of danger yet. Her pelvis was fractured in four places. Her hip was broken; she would be in traction for an indefinite period. There would be a lot of pain. I would be able to see her for ten minutes in every hour. My sister stayed with me. My dad and my son went home around 3:00 a.m. I sat outside her room in the Intensive Care Unit, seeing her for ten minutes at a time. The next afternoon they started allowing me in for longer periods.
 Sunday and Monday were a blur. I went home Monday evening, as I had to attend the preliminary hearing the following morning. My back felt ready to give out. When I was with my daughter, I was fine. When I wasn’t, I wanted to be.
 Tuesday, April 26, l994: I don’t remember much of that day. I know I wore red. I know someone drove me to the town where the inquiry was, but I don’t know who. I know I phoned the hospital several times from the court house.
 All I remember of my time on the stand was the shaking and the crying, sometimes speaking like a frightened child, sometimes like a confident adult. I remember staring at Allinblack as if I were confronting him again. I remembered, word for word, what I had said to him that day. At one point he smiled. It sickened me to look at him, but I kept on.
 I remember all the women who had come from Saskatoon to support me. I remember that one of them was wearing blue, and blue to me meant truth.
 I was on the stand for an hour. The transcript of my examination ran to forty-five pages. I have it before me as I write.
 After I had been placed under oath and stated my name, the prosecutor began questioning me. First, he clarified where I lived, who I was, who my parent’s were, where I had grown up, which of my sisters had already testified, when my birthday was, and what birth order I was among my siblings. I told the court that I had three older brothers, that I was the oldest daughter, and that there were six daughters after me, one deceased. He asked me whether my family practised the Roman Catholic faith, where we practised it, if I recalled attending St. Peaceful’s church, the name of the parish priest at that time, and if I had seen Father Allinblack since I was a girl. I told the court that the first time I had seen Father Allinblack since childhood was the day I confronted him in July 1992. Did I take the sacraments and first communion in the Catholic church? Yes. Did I receive first Communion at St. Peaceful’s church? Yes. What was the practice at that time as to the age of first Communion? Grade one.
More questions followed. Did I remember preparing for first Communion at the church? I could remember one day:
I was in the church, and I was alone with Father Allinblack. Father Allinblack was at the front of the church and he was putting books away and I was in the aisle, and I was practising genuflecting and I was happy, and I was skipping . . . and Father Allinblack started coming down the aisle toward me and he was walking toward me, and when he came up to me he . . . put his right arm on my right arm and was pulling me backwards, down the aisle to the back of the church, and I didn’t know what he wanted. . . . Then he put his other arm on my left arm and he pulled me backwards into the confessional and it was dark and I was saying no, this isn’t funny any more, and I was sitting on his knee and he was holding my arms at my side and he took his right arm off my hand and he was pulling my panties down and they were hurting my legs and . . . and he was. . . . His hand is holding my hand again, and he is pulling me up and down and it hurts and his chin is pushing down on my head and he is pulling me up and down and . . . and it’s like a knife and it hurt so bad . . . and I got up, but I can hardly walk and I’m in the light and there’s blood trickling down my leg and . . . and . . . and . . . and he said, “Don’t tell or you’ll lose your eyes.” And he was smiling. And that’s all I remember.
The prosecutor asked where the bleeding was coming from, where it felt like a knife, and I answered to both, “Inside me, from between my legs.” He asked if I meant my genitalia, my private parts, and I answered “Yes.”
 He asked if anyone else was in the church. He asked me again how old I was, what year that would have been, and if I could remember anything that would clarify what time of year it was.
“God was covered up,” I said, “and by that I mean the crucifix at the front of the church was covered in purple. I know that’s Lent.”
 More questions followed, clarifying for the court that Lent preceded Easter in the Catholic faith, that first Communion traditionally occurred around Easter, and that practice for first Communion generally took place during Lent.
 He asked me if I had any other memories of Father Allinblack abusing me sexually. I hadn’t. He asked if I could remember seeing him sexually touch two of my sisters. According to the transcript, I replied:
 I remember being in my Mom and Dad’s kitchen, in my home, and I am standing by the doorway to go into a bedroom, and Father Allinblack is sitting on a chair . . . and he’s with his back against the wall and he has Ann and Louise on his knee and he . . . he has his hand inside their . . . under their outfit and . . . Ann is on his right knee and Louise is on his left, and Ann has on a little skirt and it was like a – it’s a skirt that has panties attached to the skirt and I know it was real short and his hands are inside the panty part.
More questions followed about that incident, but I couldn’t answer most of them. The prosecutor changed the subject. It was his understanding, he said, that I had taken steps to deal with this issue by speaking directly to Father Allinblack. He asked what steps I had taken and what arrangements had been made. It was explained to the court that I had not told Father Allinblack why I wanted to see him, and that I had contacted the diocese first because I had no idea where Father Allinblack would be. When asked why I wanted to get a hold of Father Allinblack, I replied that I wanted to confront him. I wanted to tell him, “This is what you did to me and this is how it affected me.” I wanted to tell him what I wanted from him.
 Had anyone suggested that I take that course of action? “No.”
 He asked about who had gone with me, and why. Then he returned to the day I had made the appointments, and confirmed that that was the same day I had written out four pages of what I wanted to say to Father Allinblack. Seventeen questions followed about that four-page confrontation. Was the prosecutor holding the originals or photocopies? Who had the originals? Were my notes recording what Father Allinblack had said written on the back of these four pages? Was the gentleman seated to the right of the prosecutor, the defendant in this case, the gentleman I confronted then? Yes
 “How long did the entire meeting last?”
 “Eleven minutes.”
 There followed eight pages of testimony about what happened in those eleven minutes. The prosecutor asked the court to mark the sheets as an exhibit. He asked two questions about my meeting with the diocese, and then inquired if I had had any further contact with the defendant after that meeting. I reiterated that the person who had made the statements to me in the Censor parish office was the defendant, and confirmed that there was no one else at the meeting besides the four of us.
 The defence asked me thirty-nine questions about the four pages the court had marked as an exhibit – when, where, how, who. They were mixed-up and turned-around questions, and they didn’t make much sense. I suppose he was trying to create the impression that I was confused. Then he asked eight questions about whether a different pen had been used to write the four pages of the confrontation and the notes on the back. The next question was about the day I went to see Father Allinblack. Was it correct that that occurred shortly after I remembered all this? “That’s right.”
 I was then examined about discrepancies regarding a couple of dates in my police statement, what had prompted my recollection, how I would describe it, why I had it, and was it not perhaps because I had sought counselling? Indeed, was it not in counselling that these memories just “flooded my mind, had a flashback, things started coming flying back at that stage, if that’s the proper phraseology?”
 “I could remember sexual abuse,” I replied
 Forty-five questions followed about why I had confronted Father Allinblack, why I had taken my sister and another woman with me, what my emotions were at that time, why I was angry, why I called it a confrontation. Then he went back to why I took the women along, and why I was angry. Was it because I needed a witness? To this last question, I repeatedly answered no, I hadn’t needed a witness. I had needed support.
 Was I as emotional at that time as I was today?
 “Actually no, not as emotional. I was not as emotional as I am here.”
“Okay. You were more angry than you are now, is that right? Why – Why would you be less emotional then?”
 “Today, I am exhausted.”
 “Yeah, I understand, you’ve had a couple of tough days here, haven’t you?”
 “Right.”
 Twenty more questions followed about why I had confronted Father Allinblack and whether my memory was correct about what had been said at the confrontation. Then he referred to the colour of pen I had used, and asked me exactly when I had really written the words on the confrontation page. He handed me his own pen and asked me to circle those things which I had prepared and those things which I had written down afterwards – which didn’t make sense to me because it meant I would be circling everything. I asked him to explain it again, and he did so in exactly the same way. Then he changed his mind and asked me just to circle what I had written on my way from Censor to Big City.
“Okay. Thank you. The parts that are stroked out here in a dark pen, were they stroked out on the way back from Big City or had they been stroked out before that or are you not sure?”
 “They were stroked out after . . . the confrontation because I asked him to admit to what he did to me and he did, so I didn’t say that. That’s why they are stroked out. The things I didn’t say are stroked out.”
 I had told him that so often by that point that I was becoming more and more sure of myself. I was speaking clearly and concisely. At that point I knew that it didn’t matter what he asked me. I knew the truth. It didn’t matter how much he tried to turn it around.
 He referred to my age at the time of the incident. Was I really the age I said I was at that time? How did I get to the church? What happened after the abuse? Didn’t I have a mother? Didn’t my mother care? Was my mother a good mother? Wouldn’t she be concerned? Had I told anyone?
He asked if I remembered anything about Father Allinblack visiting my home. Did I remember him at church? Did I continue going to school in that area?
 “Yes.”
 “Was that the separate school that you went to or the Legend school?”
 By “separate school” he meant a small country school that Father Allinblack visited regularly. I had not attended that school, but the one in Smalltown, a small community north-east of Legend.
 “Smalltown,” I said.
 “Smalltown” he repeated, confused. “And Father Allinblack would come to the school once in a while?”
 “No.”
 “I take it that . . . do you know when Father . . . I take it you don’t remember then, either, when Father Legend, or Father Allinblack, would have left Legend?”
 “No.”
 “Basically, you can remember these couple of incidents and nothing else?”
 “About what?
 “About Father Allinblack.”
 “Right.”
 Every time I read those last few questions, I have to laugh. The defence lawyer hadn’t known there was another school in the area. I could see the confusion on his face as I stared at him. He had been trying to confuse me and lead me into making mistakes, but in the end he was the one who was confused.
 I returned to Saskatoon to find my son sitting with his sister in the hospital. Though my daughter was in intense pain, it did me good to see them together. I was proud of my son that he was able to love and support his sister without judging her.
 My father phoned that night. He and Mom had been in the courtroom. Mom was pretty shaken, he said, but he wanted to tell my sister and I to take care of ourselves and know that, in his words, “we did ourselves proud.”
I spent every day at the hospital with my daughter. When my May cheque didn’t arrive, I called Social Assistance, only to be told that they wanted to re-evaluate my case. They sure can pick their moments, I thought. I phoned my counsellor and asked her to look into it. I couldn’t handle another bureaucratic edict just then. She did.
 I was calm and collected at the hospital when I was with my daughter. It was confusing, but it was also a relief. When I got home to my son, though, I was exhausted and invariably crying. Sleep was a battleground: I was being questioned in court, scared I would exaggerate or be caught lying, scared I had done something wrong. Other dreams were about Stretch, Calvin, accidents, my daughter dying, nurses not letting me in to see her.
 People who came to visit my daughter or me would tell me what they had heard or seen at the preliminary inquiry. Someone told me that my eighty-year-old aunt, badgered by the defence as to the reliability of her memory, said, “I remember more than you’ll ever forget, young man.” In the end, the judge had ruled that there was overwhelming evidence that any judge or jury would find the defendant guilty.
 I received a letter from the crown prosecutor, dated May 3, l994 and he addressed me as Dear Ms. Speaks instead of Madam. He reviewed that the preliminary inquiry into the Allinblack indecent assault charge matter was held before a judge in Winning, Saskatchewan on April 25th and 26th, l994. At the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry the accused was committed for trial on seventeen counts of indecent assault upon a female. This represents one count for each of the victims in the case.
 He said the defendant has elected to be tried by a Queen’s Bench Judge alone and such trial dates are selected after the transcript of the preliminary inquiry has been prepared and the matter has been put on the court list in Winning. Unless the court orders otherwise, the trial should take place on all the charges in Winning sometime in the fall of this year. He said he will not know the precise date until later on in the summertime and there is a possibility that the defendant can apply to sever or split up the charges or have the case moved to another judicial centre. He said these applications will be dealt with if and when they are made.
 He noted that further, the defendant can, at any time prior to trial, enter a plea of guilty to some or all of the charges that he currently faces. He let me know the next step in the case will be the preparation of the transcripts of the testimony and the filing of the Indictment with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Winning and that as soon as he hears anything regarding the date of the trial or any possible guilty pleas he’d advise. He wanted me to let him know if I was unavailable at any time during the period September lst through to the end of l994 so he could take them into account when scheduling this trial.
I spent day after day at the hospital. Social workers came and went, as well as youth psychiatrists, wanting to know why a fourteen-year-old girl was driving a vehicle, why she was living alone, why she was living a lifestyle of alcohol abuse. I wanted these issues addressed as well, but because Alfred had custody of our daughter, there was little I could do or say. I wanted her to live with me when she was discharged.
 The doctors had predicted two months of total bed rest as her bones knitted, but she was progressing faster than anyone had expected. Eighteen days after admission she was on crutches. A week later, she was discharged to live with her father and his girlfriend.

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