by Dr Gonzo
In my childhood, I was abused by my older brother. It changed my life but I've forgiven.
|From age eight until I was around sixteen, I was subjected to both physical and emotional abuse by my older brother. He is four years older than me, and at least back then, much bigger and stronger than I was. Terribly sadistic and cruel, when all I wanted him to do was love and be proud of me. I looked up to him, and as I didn't have any other siblings (besides my stepbrother and stepsister, who hardly noticed me) he was all I had. The reason he abused me was that he himself was abused by our older half-sister.
My father's first wife died of breast cancer around 1957, leaving him to fend for three young children, in an era of great poverty after the end of the Second World War in England. The youngest was just a baby, and as difficult as that must have been, he had to put her up for adoption. He met my mother not long after her death and they were married one year later. It was a marriage of convenience rather than love and his words to my mother when he asked was..” Can we come to some arrangement.”
My brother was born two years later in 1960 but my father's health was suffering in the English climate, and so plans were made to emigrate to Australia as ten-pound poms (the cost for a family ticket on the ship) in 1963. Then, one year after arriving in their new country I was born. 1964 was a significant year to be born. It is the year of the Dragon on the Chinese calendar and also the last year of the Baby Boomers. As I grew, I would watch Australia play England at cricket for the Ashes, and cheer for Australia when we would beat them, and I was glad that I was born in Australia, an Aussie kid through and through.
Because of the loss of their wife/mother, there was an air to our family...dark, sullen and constantly on edge. Especially my half-sister, who suffered terribly because of the loss of her mother. After his wife had died, my father, for reasons he never spoke of (he never spoke much to anyone really), destroyed anything that could remind them of her, pictures, clothes...everything was gone along with her. I suppose it was too painful for him and he thought the best way for them all to get over it was to forget...but nobody forgot, and this suppressed grief plagued them for years to come.
I think in my step sister's mind along came this new woman, who was not her mother, and she probably saw my mother as a threat rather than someone she could love. She was not his first choice of wife and she was never going to be a replacement for their lost mother. But she could help out, and so she became a glorified housekeeper/servant to them. And this new boy (my brother), who was the spawn of tragedy and sadness became the focus of my half sister's hatred, and she would turn on him if he so much as looked at her wrong. He had no protection...not from a mother who was struggling herself in those earlier years, and not from a father who was compensating his little girl for the loss of her mother. My brother may have copped it worse than I did...definitely psychologically so.
But...I had no idea about any of this. I was young and eager to find my place in the world. It was a good time to grow up, I had lots of friends and we had all the freedom in the world. The days during summer were long, and we took full advantage, swimming in a place we called 'The Sandies'...waterholes that were all that remained of an abandoned local sand mining operation. I was always outside until dark, but when I returned to this place I called home, I began to sense something wasn't right.
I don't really remember when he first started hurting me. I say eight years old but that's only a guess...it could have been younger. There were so many instances of abuse until it just came to be normal...no big deal...and I didn't think about it much from then on. But I remember now...every single rotten thing he did to me.
On our way home after school one day, I said something to him and a girl he was walking with, something cheeky no doubt and when I saw his face turn red, I ran. But he chased me down. That was a beating I won't ever forget, finished off with a spear tackle headfirst into the ground. We were both lucky it didn't break my neck. So many beatings followed and really, they were the easy part to deal with. He liked to belittle, embarrass, taunt and mimic me when I cried and it was his laughter which hurt more than anything. But I loved him and that was just the way it was.
My friend and I found out my brother had bought a brand new pellet gun, and he and his friends were going to the local bush area to fire it. We followed but stayed back far enough so he couldn't catch us if we had to run. He yelled for us to leave but we didn't. It was then he turned and fired. I heard a noise like zzzzz woop...and I was hit in the chest, knocking me off my feet. They all came running, and a large welt/bruise had already formed. He asked me not to tell our mom...so I didn't and lied to her about how it came to be, telling her a Green Ant had bitten me. He was lucky it was me who got hit and not my friend...or it had not hit us in the eye.
He organised a boxing match for me with his friend's little brother. The kid was younger and smaller than I was and my brother told me I would beat him. I wanted to make my brother proud so I stepped in the ring...and got walloped. The kid was a golden gloves boxer, and I was set up, like a lamb to the slaughter. When I cried from the pain and the shame I felt...laughter, always that laughter.
We had a lawnmower that was old and had a ratchet windup start. The spark plug lead was just bare wire to the plug.. He called my name...my brother needed me...here was my chance to show him I was not the goofy and clumsy little kid that he always told me I was.
”Hold that plug for me." I obeyed without question, and he let rip with the starter, sending a bolt of electricity up my arm and I was thrown back through the air, landing meters from where he stood...laughing at my pain.
Then, around the age of fourteen, he became delinquent. Running away, stealing cars and doing drugs. I wanted to be just like him and when he introduced me to pot, I was never going to say no. He was cool and I had no other role model to form my thoughts and opinions on, so of course, I did similarly. Eventually, he gave me my first injection of hard drugs and along with the drugs came a virus that I was not to find out I had for fifteen years.
A routine blood test showed that I had contracted Hepatitis C. My brother was also positive with the exact same strain and given that it was the only time up until the test that I had used a needle, and the fact that he had used the same syringe before me, led me to believe that not only was it him who had given it to me, but he had done it with intent. I have asked him if this is true, but of course, he denies it. My gut feeling is that he was so bitter and twisted from his own diagnosis that he deliberately exposed me, so he would not be alone and for other reasons to do with jealousy and resentment.
Then an incident that scared me...really scared me. And it changed everything, losing him my love and respect forever. One night he and his friend were sitting on the footpath outside of our neighbour's house. They were drunk and had taken LSD. He called me over and I was standing near them, but keeping my distance just in case. My neighbour's kitten had crossed the road and began to rub up against my brother's leg purring loudly. Then, without warning, he grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and strangled it.
I was in shock, not taking in what was happening right in front of me. I wanted to stop him, to help that creature as it fought for its life, but years of abuse from this person had made me a coward. I tried to yell for him to stop but nothing came out. And as it lay dying on the ground his friend came over and stomped on its head with his boots, putting it out of its misery. They threw the body onto the road, so it would look like it had been run over by a car.
I never looked at him the same way again. He had always been my big brother, my role model, but from then on things changed. The respect I used to have for him was gone, and in only a few more years I became too big and strong for him and so the bullying stopped. At least, it did for me, but as I found out recently, my nephew, his eldest son, was also a recipient of his violence.
A few years ago I wrote my brother a letter via email. He lives a long way away, otherwise, I may have done it face to face. In hindsight, I am glad it went that way. I have always expressed my feelings better with the written word. I told him of all the things he did to me, how that made me feel and the effects it had, not only on my childhood but into adulthood. Then, I forgave him.
Weeks went by. I had convinced myself it didn't matter if he acknowledged me or not...but the truth is I wanted to hear what he had to say and then an email from him arrived. He said how sorry he was, blaming alcohol and Bipolar and really...it didn't matter to me anymore, and when I had finished reading... I let it go. We still don't talk and I don't think just because someone is forgiven means you have to be best friends...we never were anyway.
In my late 20's I took up the sport of Muay Thai and I learned fast, winning two ring fights from two, before admitting I was too old to begin a career as a fighter. But I wasn't too old to teach our younger students this sport I loved. I have no doubt the abuse from my brother helped me become a better fighter, if only because I was so used to getting punched as a child,
it wasn't something I feared much.
From every bad thing that happens something good comes. It's a matter of accepting what happened, forgiveness and looking for positives which come out of the experience.
Note; I was so fortunate and three years ago I was treated with Harvoni, which is one of the new antiviral drugs that doesn't suppress the immune system, yet kills the virus, and for me and so many others, a cure came. The drug has no side effects (or none that I noticed) and is taken once a day for twelve weeks but costs over one hundred thousand Australian dollars for the brand name drug (generic brands are available for a tenth of that price). The cost was met by the taxpayers of Australia for which I will always be deeply grateful.
It was a strange feeling when my doctor informed me I was now virus-free. I had expectations that it would change everything in my life. The shame I felt...the fear of telling someone who deserved to know...if they would hate me or not be comfortable...their kids if I was playing games with them, all weighed heavily on me for a long time.
But, other than a virus that could have eventually killed me was no longer in my system and (and the biggest thing for me) I could no longer pass it onto someone else through accidental blood spills or needle stick of front line health workers, everything was the same. I realise they are a lot, but life just went on as normal. Expectations no more and for me one day at a time