Gives a Person the Will to Live? ©
I believe that the will to live is a conscious decision
to deal with past pain through any cathartics necessary, to
feel the pain and do it anyway. I believe the beacon of my
existence has been the unconditional love that others have
extended to me as I struggled.
There came a time when I was two and one-half years
clean and sober when I could no longer hold back the tears
and the rage. I believed I had no place to go with the rage
but turn it back on myself. I finally reached out, letting
others know what was going on inside me.
With the help of an understanding support system, a
therapist, other survivors of sexual abuse, a women's
treatment center in Vancouver, a series of strong women and
a few gentle men I have been able to process my issues.
Part of my process was to go deep inside to the place that
frightened child had cowered, full of fear, agony, horror,
pain. I finally felt the spectrum of emotions.
I went to the police with the information, accusations,
memories, emotions, and waited while the police
investigated. I waited for two years while the Crown
Counsel (D/A) made a decision on whether there were grounds
for laying charges and enough of a case to proceed to
trail. During October 1995, my step-father was brought to
the preliminary hearing on two counts of having sex with a
“female under the age of 14 who was not his wife.”
These proceedings had caused much pain in my family of
origin. One sister believed herself incapable of
testifying. Brenda, my sister, left me a letter of apology
and love. I read the letter and processed the feelings:
abandonment, hurt, sad, empathy and acceptance. I called
her and thanked her for her honesty, reassuring her that I
understood her decision and accepted. My youngest sister,
Dianne, struggled with the ethics of testifying against our
father. Her desire for justice won along with a wish to
support me in my healing journey.
There was a period of approximately three weeks where I
was busy with my life. I realized that I had not heard from
my sister, Brenda, so I called her. My sister was operating
under the false assumption that I was angry at her and
wanted nothing to do with her. I reassured her. My sister
came over within one-half hour and we spent the evening
speaking of our love for one another.
This mission was mine and from the beginning I had been
prepared to face it with only the help of the God of my
understanding. I came to a clear understanding that this
process of speaking my truth was a concept that frightened
me. To speak my truth aloud to a judge, jury and possibly a
courtroom of strangers, terrified me. The thought of
speaking the details of all the agonizing, painful abuse,
On October 27, 1995 I took the stand and testified for
two hours. I spoke aloud of the attacks on my body which
began when I was eight years old. I spoke of the pain, the
blood, the semen, the lubricants, the darkness, the words
he spoke to me, the positions he forced my body into, the
physical reactions to the traumas, the emotional impact, my
need for safety, the reasons I had remained silent for so
long. I spoke of the various ways I had attempted to deal
with this issue during the years since the abuse had ended.
I spoke of my self-abuse through the use of alcohol, drugs,
sex, abusive men, food, exercise, sleeping, not sleeping,
bulimia. I spoke of suicide attempts with pills, an attempt
with a 3006 at the age of twenty-one and ongoing thoughts
of suicide. I spoke of my self-hatred to the point of
self-mutilation with a razor to my face while under the
influence of non-prescription street drugs and three stays
in psychiatric wards. I spoke, was heard and believed. The
judge found that there was enough evidence to take these
charges before a supreme court judge and jury April 15,
I recall many feelings. Elation, as I spontaneously did
one of those "Rocky" victory dances in the hall
of the courthouse. I cried, laughed, kissed my sisters and
felt compassion for my youngest sister. I was full of
gratitude for the love and support of all those I had
encountered during my walk.
The extremely slender child; frail, frightened,
horrified, disgusted, angry, terrified of the retribution
that would surely come for telling anyone of her abuse was
in control. For three days I took refuge in a friends
apartment. I hid, slept uneasily, was coached to eat, held
as I cowered under a blanket. I was reminded to bathe, to
quench a thirst I was unaware of. I cried, rocked my body
to comfort myself and finally moved on with my life. I had
spoken and there had been no retribution.
I was truly amazed at others admiration for my focus, my
ability to remember, to articulate all the memories,
feelings, surroundings and details of my abuse. Others saw
only the mask I had presented in that courtroom. Others
cannot see what I feel.
Along my journey I learned to ask for what I needed,
learned to accept, was mature enough to accept that
sometimes I would not get what I asked for. I was finally
able to appreciate, understand, accept that there was a
strong-willed survivor who was learning to thrive. I began
to comprehend many facets that make me, a strong,
courageous, beautiful, proud, humble, loving,
understanding, accepting, warrior, empathetic, brave,
woman/child as I let go of all the secrets, anger, rage,
hurt, pain and need to control.
During the morning of April 15, 1996 my mother testified
as to the type of relationship she had with my father and
the experience of living with him.
I took the stand at approximately eleven that morning
and testified until the noon break. While I was testifying,
I found that I was trying to stay focused and used my watch
band as a stress reliever which I quickly broke, loosing
concentration. During the break I went to a twelve-step
meeting to center myself. I ate lunch and went back into
that courtroom. I was advised at the end of that day that I
would be taking the stand during the morning.
During the night of April 15, 1996 I found a sense of
peace. I became aware that Brenda was awake and troubled.
On the floor, between the beds of The Green Gables Hotel in
Victoria, Brenda and I sat. We held each others hands. We
hugged one another, spoke softly, wept, laughed, expressed
our fears, love, admiration and acceptance of one another.
I reassured her that we had survived the worst and were
only going to speak of our memories of a time in our lives.
Darkness is now a place of gentle love, acceptance,
laughter, warmth, tears, admiration for another human being
I became aware that I was unable to make eye contact
with any member of the jury after seeing some of the
responses of horror, disgust, revulsion, nausea, disbelief,
abhorrence, repulsion. The reactions of the court workers,
including the judge were similar. The child within me
struggled with the adult. I redoubled my reassurances to
her that the jurors responses were directed at Daddy, not
towards us. Finally we came together and I made eye contact
with several members of the jury as I told my story.
My sisters came forward in support with their stories.
When all of us were finally excused as witnesses the crown
counsel left a message asking us to return to the
courthouse. The defence attorney was going to recall our
mother to refute our testimony. Individually we were asked
if we were willing to stay and each in turn return to the
stand I saw the simile of being a pawn in a chess game and
voiced this thought. Crown Counsel (District Attorney to
American readers) became defensive. I reassured him that I
played chess and did not see this as an image that hurt but
a reinforcement that each of us can have power. A pawn can
be such a powerful block to check or checkmate.
Each of my sisters and I agreed to return to the
courthouse ready to testify if called. When the defence
attorney observed us waiting, he was forced to change his
tactics and my father took the stand and denied every
touching of his daughters "inappropriately". The
jury was instructed the afternoon of the seventeenth and
sequestered for the night.
For me there was a paradox of the verdict was both
important and not important. When Crown Counsel called me
to advice me that my father had been found guilty on both
counts. I thanked him for his efforts and support.
I found myself on the roof of the garage quietly
contemplating the view, feeling the sensation of the cool
air and warm sunshine on my skin. I became aware of a
strange sadness which surprised me. I wept. I bounced a
small ball I found on the roof and have not seen since. I
began to sing soft, gentle lullabies, moved to tunes by
Simon and Garunkel's ("Bridge Over Troubled Water",
"I am a Rock"), Eric Clapton's "Tears in
Heaven", and Bette Midler's "The Rose".
In the beginning of this process, it was very important
for me to put together all the pieces of the puzzle each of
us held and revealed in our testimony. I found that after
all chance of appeal as to the verdict had passed I did not
wish to put anyone through any more pain. The jury had
heard all the testimony and found my father guilty.
Somewhere there was a common thread which made up the warp
and weft of the fabric. I did not need to see the full
design. I knew my own truth. This is enough for me. I have
moved on with my life. Courage is the price exacted to
Update: April 01, 2007 - The convicted sex offender,
Roland Frank Chaput died at Nanaimo Regional Hospital as a
result of Lung Cancer. The last year of his life was spent
in the home of his youngest biological daughter, her
daughter and two grandchildren.