WARNING: This post may be distressing for someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse or violence.
By KATE SMITH
Every year as Anzac Day draws near sadness engulfs me, an overwhelming sadness triggered by talking to friends who march for their forefathers, cheer their family on as they march, or simply commemorate and pay tribute to their fallen loved ones.
I can’t do that. I don’t speak about my grandfather who fought for England in the war, and who proudly wore badges of bravery.
The fact is I despise him and I despise the fact he wore bravery badges. My stomach churns to think he was honoured in so many facets of life, while behind closed doors he sexually abused me, tortured me and took away my honour for so many years.
It has been a life time of pain, dotted with anger, violence, drug use, anorexia, abusive relationships and the poorest of self esteems. My parents divorced because of me, they couldn’t explain my dysfunction, and blamed each other. And that’s a guilt I’ll carry forever.
No one suspected him, no one even looked his direction. But why would they? He could do no wrong, and the family had a culture of placing him on a pedestal without questioning him.
Today I am better than good. I’m thriving – not just surviving. I will always refuse to let my grandfather tarnish the honour of those that truly deserve it, but seeing those medals will always cause me pain, and provide a reminder that honour is not drawn from the medal but from the person beneath. The ugly part for me is that medals and honour can be a mask for evil of the very worse kind.
Every year I honour the fallen Australians with such pride and appreciation for the freedoms they gave this great country, but I shy away from talking about it. I avoid conversation – anything to stop the reflection on my own family. Anzac Day is so important to me that I plan to travel to Turkey for the 100th year commemoration, but at the same time it reminds me to beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the need for others to take heed of that message.
When I was 9 and he first abused me, my grandfather was the revered patriarch of our family. No one said a bad word against him, and he was cherished like a god. His obvious faults became almost assets that were joked about, but in essence he could do no wrong. Why? I have never quite worked this out, and perhaps I never will. No one saw the nine year old girl whom on Christmas Eve was raped whilst Christmas lights twinkled. The fear I felt would have been paramount to the fear of those in war, but I was a child, and this wasn’t the enemy.