Where was God?
Kaye Wright, Victoria Regional Meeting
Warning: This article contains details of abuse that may disturb some readers.
Julie and I have a friend named Judy (not her real name) who was raped by her older brother nearly every night from the age of about six. Two years later, another, slightly younger brother joined in. She hated this but accepted it as normal. She knew nothing else.
Judy was brought up in the Catholic faith tradition and every Sunday the whole family went to church. Judy also attended church independently most mornings of the week. She cried each time… waiting to be asked what was wrong… No one asked.
Men who are bullies sense when women have been spiritually and psychologically injured (also in other ways) and hone in on them. Judy married Ron when she was seventeen years old.
The cycle of abuse continued. Think of the worse abuse that can conceivably happen to a woman. What happened to Judy was far worse than that. We listened in horror as Judy related her life story.
Judy had two children, both boys. Judy always said that she cared for her children but did not love them. For Judy, love was a dirty word… I remember Judy saying that when the boys were babies, she used to set up their basinets with their milk bottles positioned in a particular way, so that the boys could get milk but she wouldn’t have to hold them. And so, the abuse became generational.
I am not a mother but this made me profoundly sad. I couldn’t express this. I just blinked away my tears…
When Judy was in her late fifties, something shifted within her. She slowly became stronger. She insisted on spending every Wednesday afternoon by herself (not looking after her husband, who was sick by then).
Judy explored her local township. She walked the streets. She never talked to anyone but just walked and looked at the houses.
Then one day she saw a particular house. There was nothing special or conspicuous about it but there was something powerful drawing Judy to it.
After going past this house many times, she decided to walk up the path and knock on the door. She didn’t know why she did this. A woman answered the door and asked Judy what she wanted. The woman was not particularly welcoming. Judy couldn’t talk. Perhaps a softening happened inside the woman because she invited Judy in for a cup of tea. Judy sat down at the kitchen table and burst into tears. And for the first time in fifty-eight years she shared her story.
The house Judy had just walked into was a Women’s Refuge.
This was the moment Judy’s life changed. Judy received support and counselling, and in a year or two she left her husband (who had threatened to kill her). Now the flood gates were opened, Judy shared her story with anyone who cared to listen, including radio programs. Judy also told her story to the Royal Commission into Domestic Violence in Australia.
When Judy was sharing her story with us in my lounge room, I listened carefully and respectfully and asked one question: “Do you think that Spirit led you to that house?”. “No!!” Judy was adamant that Spirit was not involved. To her, God did not exist because of the profound suffering she had experienced. I knew enough not the question this. It was Judy’s story, not mine. But still I wondered…
For me, there is no other explanation that I can think of. Judy had reached the age and maturity when she was ready to reach out for the beginning of her healing journey which would last the rest of her life. Whether it was God within or God without or both, something (good) and powerful enabled and prompted Judy to take that first step.
I guess it doesn’t matter what led Judy to walk up that path. It matters that she did.
After many years of speaking out about domestic violence, Judy’s health failed and she entered an aged care facility at the age of eighty. Judy has dementia now.
And yet she survived! She left her husband. She became a spokesperson for herself and all women who are abused.
If only, some seventy odd years ago, someone in that church had asked Judy why she was crying…
If anything is this article has disturbed you, please ring Lifeline (13 11 14) or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
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