Everyone has a story, everyone has a secret. As a writer, this both intrigues and inspires me, yet the one story I never know if I’ll have the courage to tell in full is my own. Maybe one day. I tried writing down one single memory, a moment in time that had a profound effect on me, yet that one single memory is enough to leave me shaken. One day maybe I will because more people need to speak up. Someone needs to open all the closets and expose the secrets that are often all around us. I’m passionate about women’s rights and unburdening victims of domestic violence and child abuse and a zero tolerance for bullying. Not just because I believe in those causes, but because I’ve lived through them. 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. I have three children and those statistics terrify me. And it’ll be over my dead body that history ever repeats itself. The past is there to be learnt from, not run from. I hope that I have learnt enough so that my children can have the one thing I longed for – a childhood – safe, secure and free. Nobody knew. I never told. This is me… almost telling.
Taking Back The Night
I can still hear my heart pounding, thumping so loudly in my chest, I was sure he’d know I was awake. Willing my eyes to close, I lay there, completely unable to move, my body feeling like a lead weight as I pushed myself down deeper and deeper silently praying he wouldn’t see me.
One slow breath. Then another. Quietly, softly, so as not to disturb him. The seconds ticked past slowly despite the thoughts in my head racing, replaying the image I had just seen.
Was this real? Had the closet actually just opened a few metres from my bed a shadow slipped out? Steadying my breath, my chest tightening from my attempts to control every sound. This was no nightmare.
There was a man in my room and he was less than a metre from me leaning next to my mother, her breathing still even, still slow and relaxed. Fast asleep. He had not yet woken her.
He began to rifle through the bags next to our bed, which had all been neatly laid out, all packed ready for our flight home only hours away. Rustling through the papers, taking care not to wake her, he began to put items into his pockets.
WAKE UP, PLEASE SOMEONE WAKE UP! I can’t move. Frozen to my bed, I will her with every breath, every beat of my heart to wake and yet at the same time, terrified that she will.
DAD! He’ll hear me… I begin to tap gently on the wall next to me as he lay in the other room. My eyes wide and unblinking as I keep them fixed on the shadow next to my bed. Tap, tap, tap. God –please wake up! Tap, tap….
The shadow jumped. My mother’s eyes sprang open and taking just a split second to realize that a man stood between her and I she leapt up, instinct taking over every rational thought.
“Who are you, what are you doing here! Are you taking my things? Empty your pockets now. You give that back to me!” The man took a step back, uncertain of his next move.
The seconds ticketed by slowly as she made her demands again, anger clearly evident in her voice. I began to tap again – tap, tap… Dad! Please!
He began to do as she asked, following her lead, seemingly unsure and taken off guard at this unexpected turn of events.
“Empty your other pocket – go on!” She gestured at his other side and he continued to obey, pulling out a small brown wallet. “Give it to me!”
No, he shook his head. Not speaking, yet somehow understanding and obeying, he took another step backwards and at that moment, he took his chance and fled.
“HENRY – THERE’S A MAN IN MY ROOM, HENRY, THERE’S A MAN IN MY ROOM!!!”
“DAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed, the sounds that had felt stuck in my throat only seconds earlier, formed quickly and let loose in a panicked wail. “DADDY!”
I can hear people starting to run towards us from all around. People waking and realizing that there was an intruder in our midst.
Commotion breaks out next door, my father, realizing the danger we were in and adrenaline flooding his body, springs into action, giving chase behind my mother, who, in her pink flannelette pyjamas has already taken off after our intruder.
I stood there alone, but not for long as people began to flood the hall, trying to understand what was going on. The running and yelling is halted suddenly by a loud crashing sound as the heavy boundary security gates swing shut behind the man who disappears into the darkness of the night, into the safety of the jungle at the very top of a mountain in Hong Kong with his accomplice.
They were gone and it was over. I was safe. Or so I thought. At only ten years old, I’d received a sudden awakening from the innocence of my childhood.
An awakening which had only just begun.