Sunday, February 08, 2015

To fly on broken wings

How do you fly on broken wings?  Wings so broken there are times when it’s impossible to get off the ground. 

Flying on Broken Wings is Carrie Bailee’s extraordinary story of survival in the face of horrendous and unspeakable childhood abuse.  Unspeakable because it takes readers places where no one wants to go. 

We enter a world of horror so great we’re left gasping.  And for anyone who has been touched by the trauma of childhood abuse it becomes a shared journey with someone who’s seen and experienced the worst of it. 

Bailee was not only abused by her drunken father who took delight in tormenting the nine year old girl, but she was also sold to the highest bidder in a paedophile ring where a group of men took delight in photographing children in sexual poses and of doing all manner of perverse things onto their innocent bodies. 

These children are most likely dead by now, the degree of depravity visited upon them can only suggest as much.  But Bailee managed to escape from her adoptive maternal home and from then on she no longer needed to visit her father on the dreaded access visits, although she thereafter encountered other horrific experiences, including a rape shortly after her arrival in Australia as a twenty year old. 

Later in Australia with the help of a group of brave and determined women, counsellors, friends, psychiatrists, and refugee advocates Bailee managed to begin to heal from these unspeakable traumas, but not before going through long periods of intense re-traumatisation when the flashbacks of her childhood brought her back through dissociation into being that little girl again, a girl who could not protect herself from her father’s extreme cruelty.

The book is well paced.  These flashbacks come to us in spurts, sometimes long spurts, but they are always interspersed with parts of the journey wherein Bailee is able to see something of the life she had led and to reach out for help. 

It is her capacity to reach out for help, despite her occasional attempts to run away that is most striking. 

Bailee has a website and on it you can see her performance of her slam poem, ‘Sold’, and there you see a most attractive and passionate young woman, today the mother of two small girls, who has managed to survive to tell her story, especially since both her adoptive parents have died.

I mentioned I was reading this book to a number of people while I followed Bailee’s journey and several said they did not want to read about that level of horror.  I can understand this. 

‘To tell of the trauma is to be re-traumatised’. 

 Bailee’s book is not an easy read, not for its inaccessibility but for the extent to which unlike watching the six o’clock news on the television or online where horrific images of torture and brutality play out often, this book takes us into the heart and mind of one of the tortured and she is 'one of us', a white western woman with pale skin and Caucasian features. 

I worried when reading of her good fortune under Phillip Ruddoch’s reign that Bailee is one of the lucky ones.  Senator Brian Harradine had spoken up on her behalf.  But it seems to me it would have been  harder and continues to be harder today to evoke compassion for all refugees who seek asylum in this country, in part because they are not regarded as one of us. 

Coming from Canada, Bailee is only half-foreign, with her different accent but that’s about the end of it.

The book also alerts us to the need for greater intervention in situations of domestic violence and childhood abuse, and the degree to which traumatised and tormented victims become voiceless. 

As Bailee writes: ‘Children are made to feel responsible for what is being done to them.  This is the abuser’s most powerful weapon.  It prevents them from telling.’

Baillee’s experience is not isolated.  For this reason, I urge people to read Flying on Broken Wings. There are paedophile rings throughout the world and proliferating.  They consist of men who are hell bent on the exploitation of small children, for complicated reasons often including there own experiences of abuse.  

 Paedophiles breed in societies where brutality is sometimes condoned, and where disenfranchised men grow up hating those who are most vulnerable, including their own vulnerable selves. 

To read Bailee’s book is to want to stomp this out – now. 
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