Lorri's Story
I hated society most. I hated all the neighbours and the teachers who did nothing

When I was about twelve my mother decided to become a psychiatric nurse. If you are scared you are crazy, you either get yourself locked up in one of those places or you go and work there – to convince yourself that the others are the crazy ones. In some ways my mother was a strong and stroppy woman, and she got quite high up in the mental health field. But another part of her was a terrified child who stayed in violence until my father died – and lived in denial afterwards. There was nothing warm about my mother. My father was the cuddly, gentle, loving one. After our hair was washed, he’d gently dry it and brush it. That was very separate from his abusive behaviour.

Both my parents were emotionally, verbally and physically violent, and they used to have rip roaring fights.

If I did something wrong I’d get a hiding, but I’d also get one if the other children did something wrong because I was the eldest and responsible for them. My mother used to break wooden spoons on us, but she found that it was very hard to break the little wooden brush that went with the dustpan. She lived in a state of suppressed rage, so any excuse was good enough. If she was really angry, she’d beat us up, put one in each corner of the passageway and say “wait till your father gets home”.

My father used the razor strop – on which men sharpened their razors. It was a couple of feet long, with buckles in a couple of places, and it could really rip your skin. He made us drop our pants, so there was always a sexual side to it too. Sometimes when my mother told him to beat us, he would use the belt against himself – but you still had to scream because she would be listening.

My father was also sexually violent. People talk as if domestic violence is about physical violence but all incest is domestic violence and a lot of the sexual abuse by family friends and neighbours is too. Recent research figures from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs have shown that 75% of all sexual violence is domestic violence – because it occurs in the home. My father had a mate from the war. We called him Uncle Alex. I have a clear memory from when I was about five of being up in my parents’ bedroom with my sister. I remember holding on to my father’s leg, thinking “thank God, it’s not me this time”, and also feeling shame that I was thinking this because I was meant to be looking after my little sister, as this man sexually abused her.

I heard my mother come into the house and I thought she’d come and rescue us. By the time she opened the door I was on the bed comforting my sister and both of the men were on the other side of the room. My mother took a step into the room and then I saw the shutters drop, and she just went blank and backed out.

My mother is very dissociated, and I was for a long time too. Dissociative identity disorder is a childhood survival system and part of post traumatic stress syndrome – where people lock away that memory and those feelings into part of themselves that they then disconnect from so that they can cope and keep going. If you have on-going abuse in the first developmental stage, up to about seven, it is a very common survival system.

My two worst beatings were administered by my mother – because I had gone to the ice skating rink as a teenager. She gave us chores to do while she was at work and we’d get hidings because they weren’t done well enough or because we’d broken something. I remember thinking I’d never hit my children just because something was broken – that feelings had to be more important than a cup.

I used to tell my siblings “do this, don’t do that, make sure you’re back by five” and go to the skating club. A couple of times I was caught out by my mother, and she ripped into me with the razor strop. I just lay there on the bed taking it and thinking that for my mother to do this, I must be a terrible person and deserve it. At that stage I hated my father and I thought my mother was the good guy. Both times my father had to drag her off because she’d just totally lost it and could have killed me if he hadn’t intervened.

The last hiding I ever got from my father was one New Year’s Eve. I had gone to a friend’s house and we both came back and said we wanted to go to another friend’s place. My parents were sitting in the garden, and my mother said I couldn’t go. I pleaded, and that made her mad. She said “go to your room, you’re going to get a hiding” – because I’d “ruined” New Year’s Eve.

My father came in with the razor strop and started beating me. But I just stood there. I wouldn’t bend, and I didn’t make a sound. One of the beauties of dissociation is that you can just cut off – though I didn’t understand that then. He got so angry with me because I wasn’t crying or doing any of the things that meant he could stop. He hit me harder and harder, ripping me to shreds. He said “I can keep this up longer than you can”. I didn’t answer him. Finally he broke down and sobbed. He never hit me again.

My childhood set me up to be a walking target. One day when I was about 14, I sneaked off down to the ice rink and some guys offered me a drink. Then we piled into a car to get more booze, and they took me off somewhere and gang raped me. I lost a beautiful watch my mother had given me, and I was really upset about it and everyone was trying to find it and the guys were apologising because they were my mates, and some of them were sorry about what they’d done. But to me what they had done was normal, it was just part of how life was because you have been conditioned to be a victim. It’s as though other people, abusers, knew I was a victim, as if they could smell it, as if there was an energy around me.