This month's blog features an excerpt from Alice Perle's recently released book, Resolve: a story of courage, healthy inquiry and recovery from sibling sexual abuse. (available globally in paperback, Kindle eBook and audiobook, read by the author. From Chapter 10, Uncomfortable Truths.
One exercise was to write a poem about any challenging or life-changing experience. Immediately, this prompt brought to the surface of my mind a visual, an old black-and-white movie that was often playing right behind my eyes. I realised I'd never acknowledged it, nor said anything about it, this film clip that had played on repeat just for me for a very long time.
I sat with that writing prompt and wrote these words that I also had no idea were waiting to be written out from within me, but they came incredibly easily:
Alert, breathing, waiting.
Only she hears the quietest of footsteps.
No one else hears; does no one else have ears?
Why does no one else ever hear?
Heartbeat drumming, tummy churning, mind empty.
Going limp, waiting to be trapped.
Dread as footsteps stop beside her bed.
Then, Dad’s cough from the next room.
Like playing ‘Marco?’ but no one responded ‘Polo!’
Dad’s subconscious screaming, ‘Wake up!’
Ah, uncertainty, now hovering, risk of capture.
She can’t hear him breathe.
It feels like minutes, yet parts of a second.
Slow, slow, slow; tick, tock, clock,
tick, tock, stop; please stop; stay stopped.
Her breath short, pretending to be dead.
Wishing for invisibility, to magic
herself through the bed,
into the dark beneath.
His feet shift on the carpet. Exquisite
awareness, her every sense alert.
Hopeful, is he going to scurry away?
The tiniest movement, the carpet
squeaking under bare feet.
He hesitates, uncertain, unfulfilled.
He’s boiling mad. Will he risk it?
She waits, praying for a sign that tonight she’s safe.
Then, dozing off, and, as if in a
dream, recalls a shadow.
Alert, the shadow looming was gone.
Heart and breath return to an even rhythm.
Body loose, she drifts into childhood
dreams of cloud lands,
of kittens and fairies and troll bridges.
The bogeyman fades from her mind.
Until next time. There’s always a next time.
As I finished writing the words of the poem, I stared at how I had signed it off: 8-year-old Me. My pen paused and then kept going as if it had its own mind or possibly its own soul. Be honest with yourself, the pen challenged as it wriggled in between my fingers. It’s okay now to see what it was.
Stop downplaying it: that was your childhood experience.
That film clip running on repeat behind my eyes wasn’t a fictional scene from a film. It was a memory of childhood nights in my little bedroom at the front of the house, a shared bedroom where I was meant to be safe and soundly asleep.
My pen added four additional lines:
12-year-old Me got my first period.
The first draft of the book I’d done before finding therapy was fairly dry and fact-filled. Finally, this little exercise made me realise that acknowledging abuse was more than just saying, ‘When I was a child, or between the years of eight and eleven, my brother abused me’. This visual I’d been having showed me it was about more than just the nights and days I was actually abused. I was affected in all the moments in between too, as tension, vigilance and feeling unsafe became a part of my daily life.
Alice Perle (pen name) is an author, self-leadership coach, business mentor and 3 Vital Questions certified facilitator. She is a survivor of sibling sexual abuse, a loving wife and mother of three adult daughters. Alice posts a weekly blog via her website, www.aliceperle.com.au, Goodreads and social media, @resolvebyaliceperle on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Resolve: a story of courage, healthy inquiry and recovery from sibling sexual abuse is available globally in paperback, Kindle eBook and audiobook (read by the author).