The IMPACT of abuse is IMMEDIATE. You don’t feel good about your self, you don’t speak up for yourself, you let people walk over you, trample on your feelings, your emotions, your self-esteem. You find it hard to actually look at yourself eye-to-eye in the mirror. You distrust your instincts. You are fearful of the past catching up with your present. You minimise the abuse you suffered. You isolate yourself from the community. You become overprotective of your own family. As a child you haven’t, of course, read all the “Coping Strategies” books and you certainly haven’t attended any seminars on child abuse. You’re only a child, but you’re also a child in captivity so there is no Mum or Dad or Auntie or Uncle you can run to for comfort or help. You are alone as are all the other children you are in captivity with.
I remember once dirtying my knees when I was around 6 or 7  years old while I was under the “tender” dominion of the Sisters of Charity. One of their nuns went ballistic – absolutely ballistic on seeing the dirt on my knees. Now a nun going ballistic near a group of small children can be hilarious but we knew this was just a prelude to something more terrible. I just stood there as she vented her rage – name calling was only the least of it, if people are confused about what a HATE-FILLED RANT is need only ask me or any of us – it’s very obvious, in hindsight, that this particular nun was not happy at all in her job.
The spittle that gather around her mouth was an awesome sight, no matter how often you witnessed it, her eyes were popping and her face was contorted. All well and good of course because it’s just a HATE-FILLED RANT and when she’s finished I’ll get a few wallops and she’ll move on to some other thing that’s annoying her. But this White Garbed-Monster (she was a novice nun and dressed completely in white) was wielding a hurley stick and she swung it better than Christy Ring. Right across my legs. She just kept bashing me on the legs and knees with the hurley until blood started squirting out of my left knee. I ran into the toilets to hide, and sat down on one of the toilets seats and the squirting turned into a flow of blood. I remember feeling quite hot and sweaty, I remember looking at one of the panels on the door, it was like a mirror. I could see this little child, his face was sweating and he had incredibly sad crying eyes. When I think of the abuse visited on ALL of us in those …places I see that little child’s face.
I don’t see the blood gushing from his knee, I don’t feel the physical pain he is feeling, I just see those sad crying eyes. This was the first time I had seen myself. I’m sure there were mirrors in that…place but they would have been too high for little children. So all the other children knew what I looked like except me. I remember a photograph was taken of a group of us once before this and it took the other children to point me out.
I carry the IMPACT of this HATE-FILLED RANTING NUN to this day in the shape of LIVID SCARS on my knee. But the memory of it is ALWAYS those SAD CRYING EYES of a helpless child. Today when I look into a mirror I see it all again. For years I avoided mirrors, but today I am not afraid to look into a mirror and I feel that I am reaching out to that child, and I feel I am no longer helpless….. nor is that child.