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. 


sarah toa said...

Hi Elisabeth, thank you for this post.

Firstly ‘To tell of the trauma is to be re-traumatised’ really resonated with me. It's several steps away from autobiography, but I have been writing of a particular child who was kidnapped and used in such a way in the 1820s and part of my problem with writing it was the feeling that I was the 're-abuser' by documenting it. Putting her through it again, no matter that she's been dead for more than a century, has been a difficult job.

Once in New Zealand, my Canadian neighbour talked of a childhood experience where, once the fathers in her small town discovered their local school master's abuse of their daughters, went around and got him drunk on whiskey. They all pretended to drink with him, and when he was smashed, they took him outside and laid him down in the snow on a minus 30 night. Everyone in the town knew what had happened and no one was ever charged with his death.

This story still makes me goosey on several levels. The fathers stepping up for their daughters, the chilling, methodical summary justice, the silence.

sarah toa said...

Wow. Just clicked on Slam and cannot stop crying.

Elisabeth said...

My sister introduced me to this book, Sarah, and she could not stop crying all the way through. And Carrie's poem/performance of Sold is enough to send shivers up anyone's spine. If only it were fiction, but it's not.

Jim Murdoch said...

When I was twenty my best friend’s girlfriend who was staying with my wife and I at the time whilst studying to be an occupational therapist was reading Sybil (which was published in 1973) and she encouraged me to look at the book when she was finished which I did. I’m not sure if I’d seen the 1976 film adaptation with Sally Field at this point but I think I had. I gave up on the book. I don’t give up on many books but I don’t like reading about cruelty. I gave up on Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer for similar reasons about the same time. I’m not stupid. I know that bad things happen but I don’t need to see or read about the specifics in detail. I have an imagination. And maybe what I imagine is not a terrible as what really happened but it’s enough for me to imagine that the worst thing I can imagine happening happened.

I don’t understand cruelty. At school I was in several fights over the years but in every one all I did was defend myself. I stopped the other boy from injuring me but never once did I set out to hurt them. I’ve never punched anyone in my life. This doesn’t mean I’ve never been angry because I have but I’ve never been wound up enough to vent my anger on another person. But I do understand anger. And I understand sexual frustration too and the way it distorts logical thinking: if I only get to do this or see that I will feel better. And I understand too that as soon as people say you shouldn’t do something then you really want to do that thing. This is why we have imaginations and I’ve exercised mine fully over the years.

What I struggle to imagine (although there clearly is nothing imaginary about them) are organised rings. (Maybe because I’m not a very social person. Let’s face it I struggle to find a place in poetry ‘rings’ online.) I don’t get them. I get being bad. I’ve been bad before—I’ve stolen, lied and deceived—but it was never something I was proud of. You did it but you didn’t share the fact. You certainly didn’t meet up with others and celebrate the fact.

I don’t need to read this book. I’m a sensitive soul, a lightweight. Just the concept of cruelty to children is enough for me. It’s like a warning sign—Do Not Enter—and I don’t feel the urge to enter. When I was a kid, yes, that would’ve piqued my curiosity and half my childhood was spent wandering around building sites, junkyards and railway tracks I wasn’t supposed to be playing on. Now it’s all too much effort. I do worry though that all the media hype is making people curious: if so many people are at it then there’s got to be something in it, right? How many people, I wonder, whose sexual excesses extended to doing it with the light on will be ordering handcuffs and gags after reading or watching Fifty Shades of Grey?

PhilipH said...

A sad and shocking post. Listened to SOLD, left a comment but cannot understand how these sick men can do such terrible crimes.

And it goes on and on and on ... even in the 'high' strata of our so-called society. Even strong pointers to such sickness in our government in the UK.

Death to such evil men is all I hope for - but a forlorn hope in most cases I'm sorry to say.

Frances said...

No, I won't read it.
Paedophilia is all the adjectives.
Tragic tho'her story is, it leads people to say,"Oh, but his/her story isn't as bad as Carrie Bailey's".
If you have no imagination, you need this book.
At the worst it leads people to say, "Öh, but Carrie Bailey turned out okay in spite of it."
Read the tragic stories of life's flotsam revealed by the royal commission if you want to know the damage paedophilia causes.

Frances said...

Sorry, Elisabeth: that sounded rude and confronting, when it was only meant to sound vehement.