This story is part of World Pulse’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women. These testimonies, along with hundreds of others, were delivered to the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
IRELAND: Meditation for Healing from Sexual Abuse
As a child growing up in Northern Ireland, Aoife faced both the pain of living in a conflict zone and the pain of being sexually abused at the hands of her father. She has found solace and healing in the art of meditation.
Shame is the biggest obstacle to the healing of sexual abuse. When the abuse occurs in the midst of a family structure it affects everyone. The combined shame of those who perpetrate, those who don't stop it, and the victim/s is generally what keeps the enormous family lie in place. This is what has happened in my own family in Northern Ireland.
Until 2009, I was involved in a police investigation into my father and his friends for their pedophilic activity. Unfortunately other victims have yet to come forward so the police have been unable to build a strong enough case to prosecute. Not finding 'justice' after so many years of struggling has not been easy, but I know now that my job was not to find personal justice but to tell my story in order to protect myself and others.
I grew up in my father’s house in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Both the culture in which I was immersed and the tormented mind of my father created a permanently volatile environment. Bombs went off, town centers were blown up, teenagers were shot, and I was raped and tortured by my father and, later, his friends.
I would see my mother from time to time, but she was prone to nervous breakdowns, big highs and lows, and disappearing for sometimes years at a time. We lived with her for the two years around my transitioning into secondary school when my father had a nervous breakdown. After this period she had another breakdown and we went back to living with him. This ping-pong game between two unbalanced people was the ground on which I tried to stand as a girl.
My father started raping and torturing me when I was five years old. It stopped for the two years I lived with my mother, when I was going through puberty.
When I returned to live with him and refused to let him touch me he pushed me down the stairs. He would have left me bleeding there had my brothers not come home and forced him to ring an ambulance. I suffered a broken leg, neck damage, and a lot of bruising. In the hospital he brought me red carnations and threated to kill me if I told anyone. I could see that the nurses knew something was going on but I had become mute with terror. He had been threatening to kill me for years and now I knew he was capable of following through.
After this he resumed raping me periodically until I was in my mid teens, when he then introduced me to other men who I can see now were part of a pedophile ring. I became pregnant at this time and was brought to England for an abortion. After this I became very depressed and unable to walk or talk. My father's cure was to bring his most repulsive friend to 'sort me out'. At the hands of this man I suffered the most horrific and humiliating experiences of my life. After this I became more compliant and my father seemed satisfied that I had been put 'back in my place'.
Depression was no refuge from his tormented mind and sleep wasn't either. When I was between 5 and 10 my father would randomly come into my room at night and either rape me and then push me on to the floor or just tell me to stand up in the middle of the room for the rest of the night. He said if I sat or lay down he would know as he could 'read my mind and see me' from his room. He would then leave my room and go to his own bed. I would stand there as long as I could and wake up in the morning on the floor.
In my late teens I had various medical problems that meant I was in hospital a lot which, although painful, was a wonderful break from home. My father then had a serious girlfriend so spent very little time with us. It was a relief to not be near him but also meant the house rarely had food or heating. Throughout my childhood hunger and cold were very real and present dangers. I also remember being smelly at school and very conscious of other 'clean' girls. Shame was just a part of my identity until I started meditating and it all started to melt away.
The day I found meditation was like seeing sunshine for the first time, breathing clean fresh air, drinking cool clear water, and feeling the love of the earth envelop me.
Although I lived surrounded by the hell of my parents’ minds I was always deeply devoted inside to God and Nature. I loved the stories of saints such as St. Francis at school. In nature I always felt loved and cherished. Sitting surrounded by trees, flowers, and animals I could hear all of life humming, buzzing, reminding me that I belonged, that there was a reason for me to be here. When my father raped me I would 'become' Mary the Mother and be enveloped in blue robes, pure and sweet smelling like roses. I was brought out of the hellish reality to a different realm, one where my physical body endured pain but this part of my heart and mind was intact, impossible to be defiled. . . .