Mark Tedeschi QC

Cathy and husband Dan speaking with Mark Tedeschi at launch

This book is not just another memoir by another victim of child sexual abuse. It is much more than that. It is more than anything a vivid and emotionally poignant portrayal in the first person of the intricate psychological and emotional contortions that a child will go through in an attempt to ensure the child’s psychic survival during a time of abject terror. It is also a dramatic and detailed description of the psychological proceses involved in an adult striving for the state of health that comes from exhuming those memories of child sexula abuse that were deeply buried so many years previously.

This book is a roadmap for other victims of child sexual assault who are facing the trauma of dealing with events that happened many years earlier. It is a strong message of hope for those staring death in the face, those who cannot see a way forward into a life of health, those who face rejection of their memories from family and friends, those who daily revisit the terror and abject cruelty they experienced as children, and those who fear that they are lsoing their minds and descending into madness.

This is a message of hope in a bottle and a roadmap towards heatlh for those who feel isolated, lost and terrified.

Sue Gervay speaks about launch of Innocence Revisited

 

‘Dr Cathy Kezelman has turned trauma to hope in her personal account of child abuse in her book’, said Senior Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC. Tedeschi’s moving speech revealed that he has met child abusers in his court and they are capable of everything Cathy experienced.  Cathy ‘conquered the demons to find her family and herself.  

GleeBooks was filled to capacity as Cathy spoke about  her life – the abuse, the silence, the final crash when all the memories came back in frightening memories – and the twelve turbulent hard years she and her family travelled to find Cathy and heal. Cathy’s 4 children moved the audience to tears as they expressed their love of their mother, and their father who stood beside them during these years of self discovery.  They felt that their mother had given them the gift of truth and the strength to strive for survival and find freedom. It was beautiful. They especially expressed their gratitude and love to artist Sue Meyer-Szekely who had supported Cathy and the family throughout the years.

I was privileged to read the manuscript and endorse this special book.

Professor Freda Briggs AO Emeritus Professor of Child Development says – ‘I hope Cathy’s story will encourage oothers to create a safer and more caring world for children.

http://www.sgervay.com/blog/

Cathy speaks at her launch

Cathy's children speak their truth

Daunted but empowered

 

A new experience for a first time author

We all have a story to tell and this book is mine. It’s the story of a past that I’d rather not have had and of a journey I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet it is my past and it is my journey and as such it can’t be changed. And besides all of my experiences have brought me to the point at which I find myself today… and I’m pleased to say that it’s a point of acceptance, hope and celebration.

And so I’d like to thank you all for joining me here in what is truly a celebration, a celebration for me and for my family. Being able to celebrate however does mean acknowledging that past and that journey.

The book in part seeks to encapsulate the nightmare that I and those dear to me have endured over this last decade or so. For many years I was so subsumed by the trauma of my childhood that I could barely engage in my life in the present.  In fact there were many occasions on which feelings of desperation completely overwhelmed me as this small passage from the book attests.

“One desolate Wednesday evening at dusk I strode to my spot, resolute. Trembling, with my knees pressed hard against the rusty wire of the white painted fence, images of my family paraded before my eye. I reached inside my handbag and rummaged through tissues, biros and the clink of keys for my wallet. Sequestered behind a flimsy plastic flap inside my wallet was a set of pint-sized photos; one of each of the children I had cared for, including one of my niece, Angie taken a year before she had died. I slid Angie’s photo out first and remembered.

I had seen Angie lying in the bottom of her rosewood coffin on the night before she was cremated. I bent forward to kiss her; I always kissed Angie’s when I saw her, but this time as soon as my lips touched her cheek I shuddered and recoiled. The icy chill of death had crept in and snatched my Angie away when I wasn’t watching.

Standing on my spot I envisaged my body laid out in a dank wooden box as my children bent forward for their farewell kiss. “Stop, don’t touch me!” I screamed as a seagull screeched in the buffeting sky above, swooped down, then back up and away.”

At times my struggle became a living hell for my family. I very much wish that it could have been different. Sadly however trying to deny the realities we don’t like does not make them magically disappear and heaven knows I’ve tried! Whatever we do has an effect on those close to us and each and every member of my family has been caught up in the fall-out of my struggle. Yet as I’ve worked through my issues and learned to be more nurturing and available so too our family has grown stronger and more connected.

To my life partner, my darling husband Dan thank you for your unconditional support, for standing by me even when I pushed you away, through times when I was forlorn and desperate and had lost all hope.  To my four wonderful children, Mars, Juj, Sar and Gin and yes they do have whole names as well and to my extra big boy, Adam, despite everything you’ve had to contend with, each and every one of you has a inner strength and resilience which I greatly admire. And together you have a camaraderie which has not only sustained you but also fed my resolve to survive.

Yet the book is about a lot more than my struggle. It’s about a future made possible because the noxious effects of the past have been put to rest, and it’s about a present which can now be lived to the full. Through the horror and the pain and the tears and now the launch of this book, our family has broken many of the insidious patterns of prior generations. As we continue to move forward with our lives both individually and collectively we will do so with greater awareness, openness and authenticity. There will undoubtedly be more hurdles but hopefully there will also be many more of the precious and incredible times we have shared.

My journey while unique also embodies a more universal struggle and that is to move past mere survival and learn how to live well. In so doing one must negotiate a path within a society which would rather keep the lid on truths which are untoward, and preserve traditional beliefs without questioning them. Despite all of the stats and the stories we hear and read about child abuse, the taboo and stigma live on and that is no more marked than in relation to abuse within the home and family.

As the German philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer so eloquently pointed out: All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Secondly it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident. As my truth was questioned and I grappled to accept and integrate the diverse and often abhorrent parts of my tale, I was blessed to have a therapist who could sit by and patiently bear witness to my trauma, no matter how disturbing. She was not only insightful and skilled, but compassionate and giving. For, she walked alongside me every step of the way, guiding me from confusion and terror, through chaos, onto stability and understanding. Without her and my family, there would have been no book and no launch. My story would never have been told.

As I reflect on the insanity of what was done to me and for that matter what was not done, I stand in awe of the capacity of the mind to protect itself, of the creative and ingenious defences which allow a young and innocent child to withstand unspeakable trauma. I hope that my book will in some part serve to demystify some of those processes and so help erode the fear and judgement which foster disbelief and so readily block the empathy and understanding all human beings need and deserve. While some readers may find the mental processes of my journey difficult to comprehend I was blessed that a number of friends were equal to the task.

To those friends who were able to be with me on my journey thank you so very much. There were times I’m sure when you wondered what on earth you’d signed up for. There is one friend I’d like to publicly acknowledge because she has been an unerring source of support for me and my whole family. Sue, you have hung on in there through thick and thin and through times when I was an absolute pain. Yet somehow you knew on some level that eventually I would emerge afresh. I cannot adequately express my gratitude to you for being there…always.

At this point I’d also like to thank Prof Freda Briggs. Sadly Freda could not make it here from Adelaide today. For all of you who don’t know Freda, she is an irrepressibly outspoken warrior in the child protection field and her poignant words of support for my book are very much appreciated. To Suzanne Gervay, thank you for your generosity of spirit and for your most affirming words. Your standing in both the literary world, and in the area of child development, add enormous credibility to my book as well. Thank you again.

I have spoken a little of the process of therapy but have not as yet referred to the process of writing. Some of you may be aware that I always dreamed of writing. Some 7 or 8 years ago I became part of a writers group. That writers’ group met religiously for several years and no doubt helped foster my skills. Susie, a published author is currently living in Argentina but I’m thrilled to have Lorraine, an incredibly talented yet to be discovered author here today. Thank you Lorraine.

Not having written a large number of books before, in fact none at all…the process of publishing was new to me and hence rather daunting. I would like to thank the team from Jo Jo’s for helping me through it – to Barry and Jo for believing in this book, Riima and Charlotte for their editorial advice, and Liz for her efforts in promoting the book against a steady current of resistance and taboo. Jo Jo’s motto is to publish books which make a difference. I sincerely hope that mine achieves precisely that.

What began as a good old-fashioned purge evolved over the years into an integrated personal narrative of ever-increasing clarity. I could of course have chosen to keep the book to myself. Heaven knows it would have been considerably more comfortable. But survivors don’t give up so easily and so I stand here, feeling utterly exposed and yet emboldened. If reading my story helps even one survivor to make sense of their own history, to reach out and seek help then my psychic nakedness will have been worth it. And if reading my story means that one extra person in our community will be able to sit alongside a survivor, and listen empathically then I will have achieved my goal.

For too long victims in our community have been ignored, ostracised, and silenced. It is high time that we, a so-called civilised society, acknowledge the reality of abuse and its impacts, shatter the secrecy, erode the shame and support those whose childhoods betrayed them.

Innocence Revisited: A Story in Parts

Praise for a child abuse victim’s remarkable journey – beyond survival to support for others

Adults Surviving Child Abuse congratulates Dr Cathy Kezelman on her memoir ‘Innocence Revisited: a tale in parts’

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23 February 2010: Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) today congratulated ASCA Chairperson Dr Cathy Kezelman on the release of her memoir – hailing her courage and a decade of leadership in breaking the silence around child abuse.

ASCA is the key organisation advancing the needs of more than two million Australian adults who have experienced child abuse. Author, Dr Cathy Kezelman, is the Chairperson of ASCA, an adult survivor and a prominent campaigner for the rights of adult survivors of child abuse in Australia. Her memoir, Innocence Revisited, will be launched on Saturday 27th February at Gleebooks in Sydney at 4pm.

ASCA’s Executive Officer Susan Leith-Miller says “Cathy is one of Australia’s most courageous advocates for child abuse survivors. She has spoken out fearlessly about this culturally taboo subject for many years – working tirelessly to see the needs of millions of Australian adult survivors acknowledged and addressed.

“Innocence Revisited is an extraordinary story of survival which recounts Cathy’s intensely personal journey of recovery from a childhood of severe trauma through chaos and confusion and onto a healthy and productive life.

“To allow the process of healing to begin, it is important for survivors to name their crime, tell their story, and for that story to be heard empathically and without judgment. Having lived with traumatising secrets for so long, this validation, coupled with professional and community support, and understanding, can help a survivor overcome their feelings of shame and self-blame and work towards a brighter future.

“ASCA commends Cathy for her honesty, courage and determination to create a shift in societal attitudes where greater community awareness and understanding and the right programs can help other adult survivors of child abuse work through the impacts of their own abuse,” she said.

Leith-Miller said society pays the price of child abuse on many levels. In 2008-9, there were 54,500 substantiated reports of child abuse in Australia. True figures are estimated to be at least 5 times official figures. Children who have been mistreated are at risk of a range of mental health problems including: depression, post-traumatic stress, dissociation, low self-esteem, social problems, suicidal behaviour, and substance abuse. Social, behavioural, mental and physical health issues continue into adulthood and often into old age.

“No child should suffer in this way, but so many do. Cathy’s determination to reclaim her life and tell her story of recovery is testament to the courage and strength many adult survivors muster on a daily basis to live normal lives. The problems of child abuse remain a challenge for our society, but with advocates like Cathy, we can start to heal old wounds,” Leith-Miller concluded.

ends

Read an extract from the address given by Mark Tedeschi QC, Senior Crown Prosecutor, NSW on launching Innocence Revisited in our Survivors’ Stories section by clicking here.

To order your copy of Innocence Revisited go to Jo Jo Publishing  www.jojopublishing.com.au