my journey by Christine


My story covers a lifetime, but I shall write about the last twenty years. I had been sexually abused by a trusted family member when I was a child. He died after a car accident when I was ten.
When I was approximately forty years old, I had a near fatal car accident. Although not physically hurt, the memories and circumstances of the abuse came flooding back. I sought help through a local mental health centre in the town in which I was living.
I saw a good psychologist for approximately six sessions. I could not see him for any more sessions because of the funding arrangements at that time.
Soon after, because of the disclosure to my parents and my own family, I became very depressed. There were two psychologists in the town in which I lived — a husband and wife, who operated out of a Christian bookshop. I had been brought up in a very Catholic family, and my father’s family were Protestants, as was my husband. I thought I would not have any problems seeing ‘professionals’ who came from a Christian background.
I was very vulnerable and distressed when I went to see the female psychologist. She listened to my life story, and when I had finished she said something along the lines of, ‘I see so many people who have been sexually abused. You know why you are in such distress — it is because you have turned away from God, and allowed the devil into your family. There is no hope for you or your family. You will end up in a mental hospital. I cannot help you unless you turn yourself over to Jesus Christ to save your family and yourself. The devil will do his work, and you will perish!’
Unfortunately in my vulnerable state this sounded all too believable. I had lost my ability to think rationally.
On the next visit (the sessions cost me $60 per visit), she performed a quasi religious incantation, putting Jesus Christ into my life and banishing the devil who now seemed to me to be in control of my life.
My home life became even more chaotic. I was now a religious fanatic and put signs up around my house saying ‘Repent!’ and ‘Jesus loves you.’
My children ran around the house pulling them down and ripping them up. They had lost their mother.
On my next visit I complained that this was going on in my family but this was rationalised by the psychologist as proof that the devil was indeed in our family. I went along with this explanation as I was incapable of thinking rationally.
On the next visit I said I was going to see a hypnotist in another town. She was aghast as she said she could hypnotise me. I allowed her to do this. The same sort of incantation was performed at a deeper level of my psyche so I became even more enmeshed in her bizarre world.
Over the next seven years, despite many complications and problems, I remained in this bizarre world. I now saw this woman in a group setting (a Bible group) where I was kept in line with religious fundamentalism. The group watched with horror as the Waco disaster unfolded, and something began to click in my brain — I was in a similar situation! The people I interacted with were really just as fanatical — not with guns and explosives but in their rigid beliefs. The penny dropped and I seemed to wake up. I began to see what I was involved in, and very tentatively, I began to express my opinion.
This was not welcome and I became very afraid. How was I to go about a reversal of all that had happened over my whole life? I felt really stuck. In the town a Centre for Victims of Sexual Assault had just started. I went there and related the events of previous years, and so began the long painful journey of reclaiming myself.
I moved to Melbourne in 1996. I saw counsellors and lawyers to prepare me for a crimes compensation case. I had to fund the case myself, but if I won, the costs would be refunded. It was a very difficult and arduous process. I was successful and convicted a man who had been dead for forty years. It was only the second case of its kind to be successful.
My story about the Christian fundamentalist psychologist was also heard. I complained to the Psychology Board of Victoria about the fundamentalist psychologists. A second complaint was also lodged when she breached my confidentiality.
Nothing came of the complaints — the Psychology Board was ‘sorry my feelings had been upset.’ I sought legal action against the psychologist but was advised legally not to proceed as I would probably lose, and would also have horrendous legal bills. As I had already spent $6,000 in legal fees, I very reluctantly agreed not to proceed.
Now many years later, I am able to talk about these events. I have been able to reconnect with myself and my family. I have seen good, ethical people in the helping professions. My physical health is not so good, as the stress and strain has taken its toll.
Understandably, I now have depression and PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). After much trial and error, I now take an anti-depressant and will do so for the rest of my life as it seems to take the edge off the gloom.
This was my journey — in my experience, all you can do is stay on the journey, day to day, enjoying the sunshine when it breaks through.
The fundamentalist psychologists are still practising, and to my knowledge have had no restrictions placed on their practice.


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