Emeline's story

'My whole life has been ruined, destroyed. I've been in and out of mental hospitals all my life. I've got to get better …'

Emeline is in her late 40s, a survivor of several suicide attempts, a violent marriage, electric shock therapy, many spells in mental hospitals, and drug prescriptions that 'made me a zombie'. She believes the trauma stretches back to early childhood, when she was repeatedly raped by a worker in a Salvation Army children's home.

Mike Bolton was a friend of Emeline's parents, who also worked at the home, and his daughter was a good friend of Emeline’s. When Emeline was four years old, she began having sleepovers with her friend at Bolton’s house.

'Before we'd go to bed he used to give me this milk drink: it just didn't taste right. I'd be like semiconscious, and he'd come into the room and start playing with me. Then he used to take me downstairs, where the children's showers were, and he'd urinate on me, defecate on me, and call me "dirty little whore".

'Then he'd wash me off and put me back into bed – and have sex with me.'

When she complained of vaginal bleeding to her mother, she was told 'It's just a girl thing'. 'She had a friend that was a doctor, and he gave my mother tablets to drug me and take me to his practice so he could fix what had happened. I woke up the next morning in my own bed.'

Her mother was equally blithe when Emeline became disturbed during bath times. 'My mum would try to wash my hair, and pour water over me – and I'd freak. 'Cause I would think it's him urinating on me. But she'd just get out the wooden spoon and start whacking me.'

Emeline begged not to be sent on more sleepovers, ‘but Mum said I had to go, especially when she and Dad were on a trip away’.

So the rapes continued, for four years, until Emeline's family moved to another state. But even then Bolton menaced her. He would call her parents, then ask to speak to Emeline. He threatened her not to talk about the abuse and told her that wherever she went he would find her.

'I wouldn't go outside, I wouldn't go to the shops. I'd be petrified, because he said, "Wherever you are, I'll find you. I'll be there, I'll be just around the corner, just waiting to see you".'

Emeline began acting out – 'I was having sex with older boys when I was in fourth grade' – but her mother missed this red flag as well. 'My mum would get letters from school saying I'd been having sex with boys … She couldn't understand why. I tried to explain it to her, and she said, "Oh, you're just a dirty little girl, you shouldn't do that, that's wrong; I didn't bring you up that way". There were all these signs but she didn't want to believe them.'

And when Emeline finally explained what Bolton had done, the dismissal continued. 'She says, "You don't know what you're talking about, it never happened – you're dreaming". She kept telling me to read the Bible "and it will all go away".'

And these rebuffs persisted. 'My mum used to say, "If you start this, people are going to accuse your father because he was in charge at the home. Your father's going to go to jail, and that's going to be on your head, so don't do it".’

When Emeline was in her late 20s, she told her father – who believed her immediately, 'and he wanted to kill Bolton: he was really angry, he wanted to track him down'.

Since the death of Emeline's father, her mother's rejection has taken a new form.

'Now she says, "If you go to the police, I'll tell them that you're lying and that you're insane. I'll say you're taking all these tablets and you've been in mental asylums, that you're sick in the head and that you've made it all up".'

Today, Emeline is trying to keep her life on an even keel. With the help of a supportive psychiatrist, she has had her medication changed 'so I no longer spend all day trying to remember how to make a cup of coffee'. But she looks back with regret at how the childhood attacks warped her adult relationships.

'If I find a nice guy who treats me right, I'm questioning it all the time. I'm thinking, "Why are you treating me good? I don't get it" But someone who abuses me, well, at least I understand that.'

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