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General : Columns : Celia Last Updated: 2, Apr 2018 - 10:02

Stand with me, stand by me
By Celia Anderson
3, Jun 2006 - 12:52

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As I can not speak about the emotions and feelings of others, I can only say it from my point of view. When I heard about the march organized in Castlebar on Friday the 2nd June 2006, I cried. The news of Mr. A and others slipping through the gap left wide open by the overturned law knocked me back many years. I cried about the long simmering anger at the injustice of it all. I cried for the victims who had hoped to regain some of their life and soul. I cried for myself.

Little Celia aged 8

For the first time in 39 years I came out of the closet. My family, closest friends and counsellor knew my dark secret, but no one else. I had fooled myself into believing that I had conquered it. That the guilt I was feeling was overcome by the knowledge that I had done nothing wrong. I did not ask for this. I was eight years old, playing in the park with my friends when the incident happened. So let someone judge my actions. I was playing in a sand pit at the time…was that provocative? I was wearing shorts as it was the middle of summer….was that a come on for him? I had always been polite and friendly with everyone as my Mom had taught me to respect the elders….. was that taken as flirting? At 8 years old I was unaware that a man’s private part was for anything else but to urinate. Was that the fault of my Mother who had been too old-fashioned to inform me about the facts of life? How can anyone else carry the blame than the 30 year old man who lusted after an 8 year old girl playing in a sand pit. For many guilt and fear destroyed my existence. Flash backs, set off by sound, smell or just something I noticed wrecked my life. I would suddenly feel panic rise, followed by uncontrollable sobbing. It took years to discover that I was not guilty of anything, although he said I was.

Many years later, I told my Dad. He was stunned, asked me why I did not come to him, he was lost for words. I heard his voice tremble as he informed me that the same person had tried to rape a close friend of mine that who had been 2 years younger than myself … and had been caught. Her father had lost his head and tried to take the law into his own hands, but was persuaded by my dad to let the system take care of the offender. Had my Dad known earlier, the outcome might have been different. That time the system worked and he was jailed. His lawyers pleaded insanity, but after undergoing psychiatric evaluation….they locked him up. This helped me in more ways than you can imagine. Part of my guilt grew from thinking of other victims he might have hurt after me. I felt guilty for not coming forward to save them. I am not ready to go into the details but other victims and people who have witnessed the destruction will understand.

Yesterday, I walked with the people who supported others like myself, some of them, with the same past, some just trying to prevent it. At 46 you would think I could keep my personal emotions under control and stand strong. Oh yes, I walked - arms linked with one of my best friends who knew what it meant to be one of them. At first I was angry, furious to be more correct. I tried to avoid my feelings by focusing on the wrong that has been done due to the offence itself as well as the system. My anger dampened my personal feelings of utter helplessness. Yesterday was the worst as well as the best day. I was no longer hiding; I was standing up for what is right… I am not the guilty party…. I am one of the victims. For the first time in 39 years I was proud to walk for and with others. Showing my face on camera and to the world. The cameras unsettled me at first. Conflicting thoughts rushed through my mind. Guilt, anger, helplessness and pride were only some of the emotions souring through my system. I noticed my friend was going through the same and I don’t know who supported whom at the time, but through standing up together and walking arm in arm, we supported each other.

The words of Ruth and the others from the Rape Crisis Centre brought back deep emotions. It felt like she was speaking to me as well. I felt understood and most of all, I felt reborn in a way. The "Little Girl" faded slightly and the Victim who was standing up for herself and others like her was coming alive. I have never been to counselling about my secret except for a few hours about 3 years ago, but now I know I can speak to people. People who will understand me and not judge the little 8-year-old who lost her soul due to another’s bad deed and not due to her own fault. I thank all the people who joined the demonstration in Castlebar. They came for their own reason, they did not know who I was, and they did not come for me intentionally. By coming and joining in they unconsciously gave me back my dignity and gave me the strength to stand proud again. Thank you!!

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