Elaine's Story

Sharing my story with others has been both a humbling and healing process. I hope the book is helpful to others and provides an understanding that in spite of the experience of violence, change is possible, and that sharing our stories about violence is a part of that potential for change.

Elaine

It takes only one person
Elaine's Story - My Career has Definitely Come out of my Childhood Experiences

My career has definitely come out of my childhood experiences

Illustrations by: Ruslan Idrisov

One of my earliest memories is of Dad coming into the house and just going off over something and Mum running down the gravel road – we lived out in the country – and trying to hide in the blackberry bushes.

Needing to run away was one of the things I learnt early in my family. I am definitely a flight person, not a fight person. If I feel it safe to have a conversation, I’ll stay and have it, but if I feel it’s unsafe I’ve got to get out. I believe that came from my early childhood because when Dad blew up like that, you got out of his way.

I now see that my father had unresolved issues – including insecurities about his place in his own family and what he considered to be cruelty from one of his brothers when he was young – and that these fuelled some of his reactive behaviours. Things would accumulate and then he’d explode.

It was particularly dangerous when he had been drinking. Once, when I was about seven, he swerved around a corner in our VW van and we kids came flying out of the sliding door. No seatbelts in those days! I remember the sensation of rolling around on the gravel. I had to have my head shaved, and wear a scarf to school. I know it created some trauma because years later I couldn’t do gym as I couldn’t put my head in certain positions. The gym teacher asked me if I’d ever been in an accident and that’s when I made the connection.

On one occasion, my younger sister and I went into town with Dad to buy stores. He gave us a bit of money to spend and then he went into the club. We waited in the car for hours. Finally we started saying to people “could you tell our father we want to go home?” It got dark and people were rolling out drunk.

Eventually Dad came out. He didn’t say a word, but when we got well out into the backblocks he stopped the car and said “you girls get out and walk home”. Then he drove off. It was pitch dark and we knew there were wild pigs in the bush. We just hung on to each other and started walking. We got round a couple of bends and found Dad kneeling down in the middle of this dirt track of a road. When we got up to him he said “have you learnt your lesson?” We didn’t know what he meant, but we said yes.

Dad was a man of few words, but he had very set ideas about how things should be and how males and females should act. We always behaved ourselves around him. He takes pride in the fact that he never actually hit us, but he didn’t have to because he always had control.

I was very connected to Dad, in spite of his violence. Sometimes I stayed with him when everyone else ran because I felt he was still worthy of having someone there. I felt sorry for him because although he could be ‘a big noter’, I saw that he was a bit of a loner.

He was well known for his drinking, gambling and womanising. But he was also extremely hardworking and a competitive sportsperson. He was someone who could focus on a goal and work to achieve it. He would give the shirt off his back to someone who needed it more than he did. But he carried grudges and got very bitter about people he thought were unjust towards him. Some people respected him but others thought he acted like an animal.