Lorri's Story
I still didn't get that I was the one who had to learn how to protect me

We’d been together for years and I was pregnant with our son when the new no-fault divorce law came in. We were first on the list. I was nine months and one week pregnant when he got a divorce, and we married the same afternoon.

I was now the wife of a policeman, but I was still deeply troubled and unhappy and drank too much. I would disappear for days at a time and then turn up and not know where I’d been. Rod wasn’t physically violent in a day-to-day sense but in our ten years together there were six times when he just lost it and tried to kill me – with his hands. It was as if I tipped him right over the edge. He was also very controlling, including financially, and emotionally and verbally abusive. He was a gambler and I lived in denial about that for most of our life together. But I really cared about him. He was the best thing that had ever happened to me. He gave me security and stability, and because we moved a lot I also got change and didn’t feel stuck.

When he got his own police station, he was the boss and I was the boss’s wife, and that’s a certain role with expectations in a little country town. I was way out of my depth with that sort of expectation, and my reaction to it was to get sick. I now lost my second ovary. Then my womb was removed, and at one point my breasts started shrinking. I now see that this was around hating being female and wanting to get rid of the evidence – because then I might feel safe. I didn’t understand it at the time, but even when I worked in a bar, I hated serving women. I only wanted to work in the public bar where the men were. I wanted to identify with men and be tough like them. I understand now that when you internalize oppression, first you learn to hate yourself, then you learn to hate others like you, and lastly you learn to hate everybody else.

I met a lovely woman, Jill, at the kindergarten. One day in front of me she gave her accountant a lecture about women’s oppression. I’d never heard that term before, but I wanted to know about it. Through her I got into peer group counselling, and a women’s book group. She chose My Mother, Myself by Nancy Friday. When I read it, I fell apart. I hadn’t cried from the time my father had beaten me when I was 15, and now I was 26. I turned up on the doorstep of the woman who was teaching co-counselling, and I couldn’t stop crying.

Reading that book was the beginning of my healing. It made me realise that I was never going to get what I needed from my mother. She was never going to put me first or protect me and look after me. I also remembered the rape that happened when I was pregnant. Up till then I had had no conscious memory of any sexual abuse, but now that part came back.

The first sexual abuse counselling centre in Western Australia had just opened and I booked to attend. The woman in charge worked with me every day, but I would leave feeling frustrated. Finally I wrote her a letter saying, “When I come into your room, I stop being me. It’s as if I am five years old and I can’t tell you what I want to tell you.” So I wrote out what I needed her to know.

I was gradually remembering details about the rape, but I couldn’t remember the man’s face. When I finally could see it, my father’s face was there as well. It was flashing – the rapist’s face, my father’s face, the rapist, my father. I was terrified, and so was the counsellor. Incest was never talked about then – only stranger rape.

Before I left the centre, I asked the counsellor what to do with the rage I felt about the rape and the way the police had treated me. She said to use the passion of my anger for change. I decided we needed a centre in our town – a women’s refuge and domestic violence and sexual abuse centre, all in one. So that’s where my passion went – into building a centre called Warratah. It has now been going for more than 20 years, and I go back regularly.

At the end of that year, 1979, I had a bad car accident. The car was smashed up like a piano accordion – and I was trapped in it. The ambulance officers were trying to cut me out when my husband arrived, and he saved my life because he knew the car, and how to get me out quickly.

I was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital because I’d lost so much blood. I could feel myself going towards the light. I didn’t see anybody, but I could hear voices – and they were saying that I should go back to life. I was thinking, “I don’t want to go back. I’ve spent my whole life shattered on the inside, and now I’m shattered on the outside.”

I thought that by staying dead, I’d be free of the pain, but these voices gave me the message that the pain would come with me and that it would also come back through my children – that you can’t kill energy, you can only transform it, and that pain is dark energy that needs to be healed back to light.

I spent a year in hospital. It turned out that all my injuries were external. The framework that held me together was shattered, but no organs were affected. I couldn’t move for the first six months, but I actively started my healing journey.

I realised that because of the unhealed abuse, I had set up my children for it. My daughter had been abused by my father – when I had left her with my father and gone shopping with my mother. The same thing had happened to my sister’s children.