Portia's Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Story
Portia tells of her life over 50 years of child abuse and domestic violence, battling the legal system and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to be free from the abusive marriage and be able to keep her children to prevent the same cycle of violence and abuse continuing with that generation.This is the story of one women and her experience of life in Ireland from the fifties to the present day:
Most of the story centres around Portia's attempt to break free from abusive relationships during those years.
Portia was born in Ireland in 1954. Her father was a farmer and her mother took care of the house and helped on the farm. The pregnancy like most pregnancies in Ireland at the time was not planned and Portia learned early on that she was a "mistake". For 50 years she carried the thought around inside.
She learned to look after herself from an early age. She walked, talked, and threw away nappies all in one day. However this was not seen in a positive light at all.
Portia was thought to be a witch because she was so advanced for her age. Around the time of her fourth birthday her mother called in the services of the Catholic church and dressed in black hoods and clothes they carried out their so called work of God. an exorcism.Portia was thought to be a witch because she was so advanced for her age. Around the time of her fourth birthday her mother called in the services of the Catholic church and dressed in black hoods and clothes they carried out their so called work of God. an exorcism. She had nightmares for years of the terrible pain and vivid memories of her mother checking if she was still alive by placing a finger under her nose. Portia clearly remembers the white coffin ready for her. How they kept beating her spine and saying not to leave any marks. Her father came home and took her in his arms.
Portia's mother was unable to cope with the children four children under five years of age. So, her mother became an abuser, mostly emotional. This was devestating to Portia who was such a bright child. She went to school at five and flourished in this environment. However each evening she was working on the farm in the cold. Sometimes alone for hours outside in the dark loading turnips onto the donkey and cart. No, she was never afraid of the dark, only the cold. Her happiest times were spent at school where she excelled in her work and was praised accordingly. She loved praise and was eager to please, but no matter how well she did her mother always said that she ought to have done better and that she should not ever expect to be praised as it was bad for her in the sense that she would become big headed.
When she was about eleven years old, the sexual abuse began and continued on and off for a few years. Portia had no knowledge of the birds and the bees as they used to say back then. She just knew that it felt wrong. She tried many times to tell her mother but could not.When she was about eleven years old, the sexual abuse began and continued on and off for a few years. Portia had no knowledge of the birds and the bees as they used to say back then. She just knew that it felt wrong. She tried many times to tell her mother but could not. Her mother preached constantly about girls who got themselves into trouble. How, if Portia got into any trouble she was not to come home to the house EVER. . One day, on her way to school she recollects perfectly being so cold that she hid behind a wall. This wall, she had been warned never to go near as it belonged to a Protestant family and so Portia was scared. In the end she blanked out and remembers thinking that if she did not force hersel the rest of the way to school, she would die. She got up and made it to school, where her teacher placed her in front of the fire. Every day the children collected sticks for the fire for the following day.
About this time also, Portia was in trouble a lot with her mother. She was always saying who was going to visit and what was going to happen. Now, her mother was having none of this witch stuff in her house. So, finally it came to a head and Portia was warned for the last ime to either stop it or be sent to a reform school ,similar to the Magdalene Sisters Institute. Portia recalls quite vividly as she looks to the sky again. . that beautiful sunny day when she sent that part of herself home to the stars, as she puts it. She cried for days at the feeling of loss. It was like someone she loved dearly had died.
Life was not made any easier by the presence of her brother, who was a year older. He was extremely jealous of her ability at school and being physically able to outrun him all the time. Then one day, totally out of the blue, she recalls how he got an axe and chased her and threw it and hit her on the back of the head. Now, in those days, she was forbidden to mention this incident to anyone,in case Social Services took him away. Worse still would be the shame to the family name. She survived and generally kept her distance.
Some time later she got better grades than him at school and he attempted to smother her with a pillow. Again it was never mentioned, but Portia remembers well being asleep in bed with her arms under the covers and not being able to breathe. Suddenly she realized what was happening and tried to get up. But he was much stronger and she was pinned under the clothes unable to use her arms. She did feel she was slipping away and was powerless to do anything. Then suddenly from deep inside came a presence of mind and a strength to survive. She managed to hook her foot to the edge of the bed and pull herself onto the floor and escape. From that day to this she always sleeps with her arms over the covers and her left leg outside the covers.
She also recalls the Christmas that the priest came to the house for his Christmas box. Now, this box was more like a full hamper. The Catholic priest collected one from each house as he went along. Of course the best china was taken out. Well, before this priest went on his merry way he asked that Portia wash and shine his shoes as he was too fat to bend down. She looked at her mother thinking that she would say no. Unfortunately this was the power of the Church then. So, Portia knelt down and proceeded to wash the pig dung from his shoes and shine them. Even today she can recall the disgust and the humiliation of this episode. She explains that she expected her mother to stand up for her child, but she didn't. In those days the Catholic Church had this unseen control over people. You had to stay on their good side to get anywhere. A reference was always required from your lacal parish priest. She never understood why another priest who was known to abuse boys was never arrested. No, all that happened was that the children were warned not to go to get a mass signed if Father X was on duty. Of course, in later years she understands perfectly. There is always a safe haven provided for them. Sometimes there is a chance that they are brought before the courts.
Then to make more work Portia's mother had two more children. As her father was now very ill, Portia was given the babies to rear -mostly single handed. This she did. She sems to have been very adaptable indeed. She was the equivelent of a little mother to all the family and explains that she did what was necessary at the time. She was gifted at sewing and made most of the clothes for everyone and also curtains etc. In fact, sewing was her escape from the world. She was called home from school many times as doctors felt her father was on the point of death. She said good bye to him many times, but he lived on for many years, constantly in and out of hospital as doctors failed to diagnose him for years.
She went onto secondary education as this was the beginning of free education in Ireland.
She was very small for her age, but managed well. Her first school did not have the subjects Portia wanted so after two years she decided to do something about it. Her parents had no knowledge as they had not gone to secondary school. She discovered the telephone for the first time. Portia remembers that day so well. As she cycled to the end of the road she saw that there was a signpost for Dublin. She realised that there were other places out there. The reason she remembers it is because her mother never allowed the children to have friends or go anywhere except school. Her face lights up as she recollects that day. Like a realization that there was somewhere else to go to. So Portia was more determined than ever to telephone a member of Parliment to arrange for her to transfer schools. Her new school was everything she dreamed of and the teachers did everything possible to help her to do three years work in one.
Then, one evening in the house of a relative Portia discovers that she was now a woman. She was hysterical in fear. Her cousin explained a little saying that her mother would tell her later. Actually Portia remembers her mother walking out of the room in disgust and never ever mentions anything again. Unfortunately she went into a deep state of emotional turmoil that no one ever knew about. This new knowledge and the memory of the past abuse haunted her daily. She blamed herself. She thought she was dirty and that no one would ever love her in the future. She was scared of all men.
Portia discovered later that she had never bonded with her mother. Her mother shunned her at birth and the feeling was always there inside that she was a mistake. So, she worked really hard at school for herself and in the hope that her mother would be proud of her. Unfortunately,no matter how well she did it was never good enough.
At seventeen Portia was lucky to get a scholarship to University. She recalls that she had no idea what University education or life was about until she got there. She signed up for the course that one teacher recommended, as she had no idea that there were other choices.
She explains that she appeared to drift along. Perhaps it was the fact that she had lost parts of herself along the way and did not know this until recent years.She explains that she appeared to drift along. Perhaps it was the fact that she had lost parts of herself along the way and did not know this until recent years. She was among the first women to attend an all mens seminary college. She felt a little lost there for a while. Portia was really only interested in getting her degree. For her life was total bliss. She had a place to herself, all alone, away from demanding members of her family.
At week ends she worked at a market stall with her father to provide money for the rest of the family. These times were the happiest that she can recall. She was completely at home there mixing with all kinds of different people. She was often extremely cold as it was six am in the depths of winter. She then gathered up some remaining vegetables and took them back to college. She always hitch hiked back to Dublin first and then on to her college. There was no danger in doing this in the seventies, or if there was Portia had no choice anyway. She also hitch hicked hundreds of miles to a place wher only Irish language was spoken. She simply adored all this new experience.
After her first year and very much against her mother's wishes she went to work in America for the Summer holidays. She borrowed the fare for the flight from the bank. She had a little money of her own. Luckily her father gave her some money at the airport behind her mother's back which meant that she had a room for three night and the bus fare to Cape Cod. She had no job arranged, but was very lucky to meet a man who was looking for staff for the Summer.Again, she was really happy there. She worked as a waitress, chambermaid, cook and babysitter.
After three years she graduated and went on do a higher diploma in education. There was much resistance at her position in a Protestant school for a year. Later she moved to work in another school close to home. She points out that it was difficult to get a full time position then in the seventees. Later on, she wished that she had got a position far away from home. But, as her father was constantly ill, she liked to be close.
Then she met a man, who seemed to care for her a lot. She fell for his charm and married 2 years later. Portia admits that looking back, it is easy to see that she really wanted to get away from her mother, who by now was talking about the fact that Portia could look after her in later life. She heard the little voice inside her head saying "no, this guy is too sweet to be wholesome. " Well, of course the little voice is always right. But Portia made the mistake of convincing herself that she would change him for the better.
Well,as she explains now, it is all part of learning and there is no point in beating herself up anymore about it. She was not the first and will not be the last to do this in life. She feels that as long as she has learned, then it was worth it.
She worked extremely hard as usual to build a new house and bring the farm back from death. In fact, she was more than happy working up to 20 hours a day sometimes. Sadly, she explains her husband was lazy beyond words. The more she worked, the more he left it to her. On a very personal note, she explains that her first experience of sex was horrific. Of course, now in later life, she has learned that sex and making love are completely different experiences. Growing up, Portia learned that sex was dirty, and above all not to be enjoyed. And, shudder the thought that she might derive pleasure from it. So, she denied all of it until she learned differently in 2006. But, she firmly believes that it is better late than never.
She did want to have children and became pregnant after a year. She was ill all the time,but never complained. Well, in those days in Ireland women did not dare complain. She explains the thinking was that women were supposed to suffer in childbirth and just put up with it. The Catholic hospital was notorious for making the birth more difficult than it needed to be. Its policy was and is to allow the mother to die and save the child in the event of any problem.
Anyway, Portia develloped pre-eclampsia and was admitted into hospital to be induced. Except, she explains that on the day her husband kept delaying as a cow was about to give birth. To speed things up, she went out, delivered the calf and then they went to the hospital. Yes, she says she was very stressed indeed. She spent the night scared, alone with red lights flashing in her eyes. She was given an epidural which slowed everything down for hours. It was late and then suddenly the panic began as the baby was in distress with the cord tightening around his neck. The lack of reassurance was very noticeable indeed. After an episiotomy the baby was delivered safe and well.
Because Portia was so afraid of disturbing anyone, she continued to suffer for 3 weeks after going home,being unable to stand up with the pain in her spine. She carried her son in a shawl and crept on her hands and knees all over the house. Her husband was oblivious to it all.
Baby Robert was doing well until three months when he was given the three in one vaccine. Overnight he turned into a crying unsettled baby, which resulted in almost no sleep for three years. Portia finally found an allergy specialist who explained that baby Robert had had a traumatic birth and was allergic to every food except brown rice, pears, vegetables, and soya milk. He was always ill before this. He had 15 antibiotics in 12 months and his immunity was very poor. Portia explains that she does not know how she kept going, fitting in baby Robert, teaching, house and farm.
At this time many calves died one after the other and imagine Portia's reaction at discovering that her ex was just throwing the dead bodies into the river. She was now unable to do all the work and often she explains how she cried at the sight of cattle all day stuck in up to two feet of dung. On one occasion, she just ran down and let them all out onto the fields in the middle of winter.
Every day felt worse and worse. Mostly her ex took his anger out on the animals, kicking them for simply no reason at all. Not the example Portia wished for her children. Deep down Portia was a very gentle peace loving being who just wanted to get on with life and provide a safe haven for her children to grow and mature in. She knew what she wanted as she herself had not had that feeling of safety ever herself. In fact, she explains how she was fifty one years of age before she felt safe on this planet.
Then finally, one day out of the blue she collapsed in class. She was taken home and the doctor offered morphine and hospital for three days. She refused. She was not allowed back to work and diagnosed with post traumatic stress. By now Portia was totally isolated. She phoned her mother to come but she refused in case it was contageous.
But, Portia had a friend who phoned to see how she was. That day, Portia was so low and passing through the white light and did not want to return to Earth ... as she put it. She was too tired to stay. But, she did, only for the sake of Robert. Portia's husband seemed to not notice or care. He just ambled off to his mother to be fed and watered. Portia's friend came to visit on and off and help out as much as possible. Being a male, it was not viewed in a positive light at all. Worse still, was the fact that he was Buddhist.
Portia continued on as best she could. She had to be helped to walk again. She was diagnosed with ME.
She says she spent many times under her suicide tree,wishing she could do something to get her strength back. By now, her husband had become more lazy. In her heart, she knew she had made a big mistake in marrying this man.
She was told by doctors that if she wanted any more children she better have one last one before they perform a hysterectonomy. She decided to have another child. Her daughter Amanda was born, without any drugs. Portia did not go for the hysterectonomy ever. She has since learned that the doctors involved had carried out many unecessary operations on women like this. Of course the surgeons make big money out of it. That was 22 years ago and Portia has had no need of this operation ever since.
Then, Portia's relationship with her mother and husband got much worse. Her mother was angry that Portia did not appoint the godparents that she choose. So, on the day of the christening Portia's entire family shunned this new baby. They refused to hold her. They refused to eat or drink anything. Naturally, Portia was shocked and deeply hurt.
Portia's husband announced one fine day that he did not want baby Amanda anyway and the fact that Amanda was a girl meant she was useless for the farm. Portia's face and heart drop visably as she recalls that day.
In those days the idea of seperation was almost unheard of. Women were supposed to stick it out no matter what and this left Portia with the feeling of being trapped. Totally trapped. She had given up work,so was now dependant on money from the farm. Her original intention on building the new house was to leave teaching after Robert was born and establish the guest house business that the house was specially designed for.
However, Portia noticed that her husband was blocking her every move. He acted like the perfect father when visitors came by. It is very easy to see the real truth when she looks back now,but at the time and in turmoil,she was somewhat blind, confused, tired and in denial. Portia was not a person to make mistakes!!!. She was ashamed too,because at that time a marriage break up was always looked upon as the fault of the woman. In fact, women in Ireland were blamed for almost everything. That was theCatholic teaching then. Women were looked upon as possessions upon marriage.
There was no divorce either until 1996 and even that is carefully calculated that most women in their forties and upwards cannot leave due to financial reasons. So, however things look on paper, the real truth is that it is almost impossible to divorce unless the woman has her own money to be able to live apart for four years.
Things went from bad to worse and Portia and the children vere all unhappy there. Her husband was becoming more aggressive also towards her,because she left teaching and he had now to actually do something. He cleared out her bank account without a word. This was an account that Portia had set up for the children's education. It was, as if one thing after another was bringing her down daily. Then, one day she saw her husband kick Amanda in the lower spine and knocked her to the ground. Another day she arrived home from shopping to find Robert almost frozen solid in the field pulling vegetables while her husband was drinking tea, warm , inside.
Women were brought up in those days to put everyone else before themselves,or else they were called selfish and reminded by others of their place in the Patriarchial system. Men first, children second, women last.Bells were finally beginning to ring louder in her head now, and she knew that she had to get out before it was too late for her and the children. While people say that the children must come first, Portia now believes this to be a false belief. The mother must come first, be in good condition, mentally, physically and emotionally and then the entire family benefits. But, in general this is not the way people think. Women were brought up in those days to put everyone else before themselves,or else they were called selfish and reminded by others of their place in the Patriarchial system. Men first, children second, women last.
Portia's friend pointed out to both of them that things would have to change and that her husband would have to make an effort to bond with the children. He did not see it that way at all. He felt that it was the mother's role to do all that plus everything else because his mother had.
Then one day in front of visitors, he came into the kitchen and the dinner was not on the table at six as usual. He went out and came back in with his brother who had a loaded shotgun in his hand and pointed it at Robert. Robert ran up the hall terrified out of his mind. A friend asked them to get out and take the gun with them. This incident has affected Robert ever since. The one positive thing is that Robert is completely opposed to guns since.
There was another incident where Portia found her husband in a comprimising position with their daughter. She just could not speak for three days. She said nothing to anyone. But one day a friend noted the energy mark on Amanda's body and asked Portia if she was aware of what was happening and said it out loud. Oh, she was aware, but this was the confirmation she needed. From that day to this Amanda was never alone with her biological father.
Portia's ex then began hiding money in jars and burying them in the fields. She jokes now and thinks that one day she will go back and start digging!!! She explains that it is this crazy kind of humour that kept her from going over the edge totally. As Portia had no where to go if she left, she stayed there, in an almost frozen state of shock, she recalls.
Then one day a friend suggested that she go to the Womens Refuge and seek advice. The lady did not think that a refuge was the best place for the children unless there was no where else to go. Her friend, who had a big house said thay the children and herself could stay there until the seperation came through and she had a house of her own. Portia assumed that the court would decide to give her the house at home that she paid most of the mortgage on and that her husband could return to the home house as there were two houses on the farm. However as time went on, Portia discovered that legally the house was part of the farm,and she would be depriving him of his business if she moved back there.
Portia was quite happy in the other house anyway as it was really used by her friend for business meetings etc. Her friend travelled a lot, so it was mainly house sitting. The children attended the local school which was very small and friendly. Both her children loved the house, the school, the community atmosphere and having friends close by.
Portia was advised by her lawyer not to move out of her own home fully.
So, she went back daily to do all the necessary jobs. Her ex was becoming more annoyed by the minute and Portia was beginning to get really scared. He was now banging his knife and fork on the table while waiting for food. Of course if all of this was happening now, Portia explains that she would be fine and see it as good ammunition and record it. However, she was not that strong then and her worry was always the children. Her other concern was that they were witnessing all this and would learn the same behaviour from this example and carry the violence to the next generation or even towards her. Robert was beginning to demand dinner too. So, she went by her gut feeling and did not return to her home ever again.
With the children now safely settled in school and free time to herself, Portia decided to go for full legal advice. Then one day, out of the blue some very angry woman phoned the school announcing her involvement in some cult. The only cult that she was in was the Catholic church, and that was only because she had to be involved for the children's sake at school. The Catholic schools rarely if ever take children of other religions, but Protestant schools take Catholic children. Of course, that is the Republic of Ireland and not the North which is governed from Britain.
Just before Christmas of 1994, she went to the Womens Refuge again and a social worker suggested that she seek a barring order and a maintainance order. She went to court, but the social worker had not entered the paperwork at all. She spoke with the Judge and he recommended a judicial seperation. Her social worker failed to turn up for the next appointment.
So, her next step was to go to a lawyer and get things moving before Christmas. The lawyer turned up two hours late, which meant that the consultation was short. Then the day of the court case came and Portia was pretty confident that it would all be simple. She had placed her trust in her female lawyer. The strange thing was that all the male lawyers started laughing at her, because she turned up late and looked scatter brained. This lawyer then dashed off across the room to Portia's ex's lawyer, only to return moments later to announce that everything is taken care off, and that she had done a deal for Portia. This wheeling and dealing was very common as it was an easy way for the lawyers not to have to argue their case in front of the Judge. Well, Portia became very annoyed by this dealing method. She was curious as to why, when her lawyer explained that she was very nervous of this particular sarcastic Judge.
When it was time for the court case to be heard, Portia saw how scared this lawyer was. Portia explained that the children did not wish to have any contact with their father at all. But in those days, no matter what the father had access. Her lawyer had forgotten to enter the maintainance summons, so that part of the case could not proceed. Her ex was granted access. Portia knew that she had to ask the children to go. They refused and Robert became really distressed. Portia went to the meeting place alone, with two friends close by, just in case. Her ex explained that he himself did not want access, but his lawyer told him to ask for it to make him look good in front of the Judge. He explained that he would not have a clue what to do with the children anyway, and that she would have to help him. Needless to say, Portia was thinking,how she was going to ever be free. Then came the famous last words. . "See, you can never escape me the law is always on my side. "
Then a welfare officer advised Portia to take out a maintainance summons herself. He also pointed out how her lawyer was afraid of the Judge. Portia was not afraid as she had done nothing wrong or illegal. Then her lawyer called her to say that her ex was saying that he could not afford any maintainance at all. Eventually he agreed to a small amount. But Portia had to return to her home house each week to collect it. The house was like a pig sty and the shotgun was in full view as she entered the door.
After Christmas she had another meeting with a social worker in the Refuge, who agreed that there should be no access to the children on the grounds that their father had no parental interest, was total negligent and totally irresponsible. Of course this was all new to Portia and she explains how difficult it was to look after the children and try to sort out the legal end of things, especially as everyone was so incompetent.
Later on the Welfare officer suggested that she get a house of her own as the court system is not capable of seeing beyond the fact that a male friend with a penis as having an affair. Even if he was twice her age amd a priest. He passed away in 1997. Portia laughs at how naive she was then compared to now. That kind of thinking is male thinking. She decided to go for her own house, but the Judge had to grant a maintainance order to make sure there was proof for a new landlord. In her heart Portia thought that she would be getting her own home back that she paid for it anyway. Then the probation officer kindly offered to guide her through the entire process. This turned out to be the worst thing that could have happened, but then everything is crystal clear in hindsight.
A week or so later, Portia went to court and was asked to take the children as the Judge wished to speak to them in his chambers. All went very well and the children were not scared at all. The Judge remarked that the children were extremely articulate and well mannered. However, this probation officer thought they were unnaturally so. Well, if he met them today, he would be more surprised. So then the case was refered to the Probation services for reports, which this probation officer insisted on somehow. This was quite common then, despite the fact that these people were not trained in this kind of work, the Judge accepted their word as gospel and made orders based on their findings. It may still be the case in some areas.
The lawyer was so afraid of the probation officer that it all seemed unnatural to Portia. Again, she was very naive, believing that this is a court that delivers justice to all people. How wrong she was. !!Of course, she has since discovered that there are thousands of people like her. But the idea of being told that this Judge just accepts the word of a probation officer was very unreal to her at the time . Apparently it still goes on according to reports.
It was as if the Judges are too lazy to be bothered or just do not care. This particular Judge did say to Portia later on that he did not care if she walked the streets, she was getting no maintainance and that was that.
Well, she was considered a bold girl for not going home and obeying her abusive husband. That is what was expected of women then. In fact many women feel that they cannot get out, because they do not have finances of their own and that it is primarily their fault.Well, she was considered a bold girl for not going home and obeying her abusive husband. That is what was expected of women then. In fact many women feel that they cannot get out, because they do not have finances of their own and that it is primarily their fault. Portia says that this was the Catholic teaching for so long and it was passed down from mother to daughter.
But, Portia has now taught her daughter that this is no longer true and that there is no need to marry anyone.
Then later on Portia was lucky to meet with a recently qualified female police officer, specially trained for the domestic violence unit. As Portia was alone in the house, several nights a car would drive up and one night a shot was fired over the house. But the police officer explained that this was normal if an ex-husband knew that she lived alone. She also explained that most violent husbands make every step a nightmare. They were even helped by their lawyers.
Finally, the day of the first assessment came and Portia felt very confident as this was her chance to let the truth be known. As usual there was a mix-up with times and appointment cards being sent to the wrong address. Luckily Portia phoned to double check as the appointment had been changed. From the moment Portia entered the room, it was obvious that this probation officer had already made up his mind. He was a moody git. He had interviewed her ex just beforehand. In fact, she remembers very well that he was always interviewed first and she was told, "it is OK, we have the whole story from your husband". So, while he got an hour, Portia got about 10 to 15 minutes.She even remarked to this officer as to why he made no notes from her side of the story. No, he had all the information for the court.
Portia was suddenly a member of a cult,a paediphile ring and a Mafia member. It is laughable now, of course. If she was a member of any of these organisations, she would have been taken care of and so would others!!! She was also an alcoholic spending 400 pounds of her ex's money every week on alcohol. That was laughable as he only gave 60 pounds per week. But it was documented that way. This officer had written pages on what her ex had to say, but three lines from Portia. When she complained the officer became very aggressive towards her, shouting:"Come back when you have two black eyes! Do you realise that this is holy Catholic Ireland, and this Department does not approve of seperation. Go home, my girl and obey your husband. "
Then becoming red with rage, he terminated the interview, saying that he was fed up.
Portia went home devastated and wrote a formal letter of complaint to the officer at this so-called Department of Justice.
Portia had to explain to the children that there were going to be more assessments and that they had to go and say how they felt and that it would all be fine as she would protect them. Robert began fretting and sweating profusely at the thought of his father being there in the same room too. At this interview the officer complained to her that she had told the women at the refuge what he had said about obeying her husband. She was asked and simply told the truth. Robert refused to see his father calling him a "selfish, smelly pig. "
Then her ex was brought into the room and Portia calmly asked him to explain his accusations of her being a Mafia member, a cult member and a paedophile member, when he knew that was all lies. He just made his hands in the shape of a gun and pointed them at her. Luckily the officer saw him and cautioned him. Then the officer agreed that her ex should have no acccess yet. Also, that he would not be able to tell the difference between his own children and two black children. Portia did think that a bit racist. But Irish people tend to be very racist as they are only used to white Catholics there.
It was arranged that the next day this officer would call to the house and see where the children lived and speak with them in their own environment. Being children, they were excited to show off the cakes they had made etc. However, the officer never turned up. His excuse was that he got lost and would call the following day. But the following day came and went too. Portia also invited the Judge to come to the house and see for himself.
Portia recalls Robert saying how typical of men that was … breaking promises all the time.
Then the crazy thing was that this officer delivered a written report to the court on the childrens welfare and the state of the house, even though he had never visited at all. The Judge felt that Portia's male friend had too much influence over the children and suddenly he was the cult leader. At the time it was not funny at all. Now it seems totally ridiculous how their minds worked. The Judge refused to grant her any maintainance as her friend would spend it. He shouted at her to "walk the streets for all he cared. "And above all, she was not to tell anyone what he just said or she would get three months "inside"for contempt of court.
Portia was totally devestated at this being a court of Justice, where the truth is spoken, supposedly!!!! No, this was and still is the secret family law court system. Not even the minister for Justice is allowed to know what goes on there in his name and in the name of Justice. Her friend was actually paying for all their needs and Portia calculated that her friend had contributed £18,000 pounds towards their welfare over the years.
Next on the list were psychiatric reports. The next day Portia was speaking with the community welfare oficer and he wised her up to the fact that this Judge does this every day in the hope of breaking the woman's spirit. If he was successful then the women would go back home to their husbands rather than lose the children. This Judge likes the idea of playing Happy Families. Also it saves court time and keeps the number of seperations down for the benefit of the Catholic church. So, then the system wins.
Portia now turned her mind to renting a house of her own, but as the Judge denied any maintainance, no landlord would rent to her.
The psychiatric assessments were arranged and again Portia was last in and kept waiting 2 hours, then to be told that the psychiatrist was over time. It was the same story anyway. The psychiatrist had heard it all from her ex. But, Portia well remembers this man puffing cigarette smoke in her face for thirty minutes. She decided inside not to get angry at all. In her diary for that that day she asks … if these people are real professionals at all?? She thought she really ought to see their qualifications on paper.
The pressure of it all was getting to Robert and so Portia thought it would be wise to take him to the doctor. Not a good idea at all. Her GP had heard a story and he too did not approve of seperations. Well, he used to read at mass and was well in with the church too. Portia never got to understand the so called power of the Church until recently, when she had time to think and try to work it all out in her head and try to make some kind of sense of the whole process. Her GP announced "let Robert have a nervous breakdown and get it over with". Such a caring doctor. !!!This was the only time that Portia cried bittter tears during the process.
It was now four months into this process and still the system was doing everything it could to get her and the children back home and "under control". She was just out of her box and must be forced back in somehow.
At the next court appearance, Portia's lawyer said she could not face the Judge that day. So, another lawyer from the firm was sent instead. Well, it was not long before the Judge was off shouting again. Shouting about a cult involving business people, physiotherapists, teachers, bloody Europeans and bloody Japaneese. and Alien Barbarian Buddhists. Portia had brought a number of people as witnesses. Also many of her friends were extremely angry at being labelled cult members, and just wished to put the Judge straight on his accusations. However, they were not allowed in at all. Her friend from the Italian embasssy was not amused. The Judge described them as thugs and low-lives. Then he began roaring out at Mrs Harris. Portia has no idea to this day who she is. But, the Judge was "losing it".
There were people from various embassies, teachers, business people, muscians just waiting to be called in to give evidence.
Mostly, they wanted this Judge to withdraw his false accusations against them. Portia recalls how one of these friends was best friends with a circuit court Judge. So, he was actually labelling this other Judge a cult member too. To Portia it just all seemed like a comedy on television, but it was really happening. She does not know how she did not crack under the pressure of it all and just go back. But, she had to protect the children no matter what. There were lots of other women there at the courthouse too. Most came over crying their eyes out and saying how unfair it all was and describing the Judge as a "nutcase". That day all Portia's witnesses went to their lawyers to get affadavits drawn up stating that they were not cult members. They also made statements saying how Portia was an excellent mother and how her ex was so two faced.
To this day, the affadavits were never allowed into court. Then it was agreed that Portia would move to a house of her own for a month. Her friends came up with the money. This was to let the court see that she was not under any influence from anyone. There was a slight problem,as this house was forty miles away and Portia had to drive the children every morning and evening. She herself had to stay near the school, otherwise it would mean driving 160 miles per day for school.
Portia got the lawyer who represented her that day in court to write on paper what the Judge had said. "Keep away from the cult and have nothing to do with the Barbarian Buddhists. "
A week later came the infamous case conference. This was all new to Portia. But, she kept going, hoping to clear her reputataion that was being smeared by the moment. The psychiatrist was adamant that the incident with the shotgun had never happened. Despite the fact that there were two witnesses and that Portia's brother in law came some days later to apologise.
This was a room full of people all on the one side, of course. Her ex said nothing on legal advice. A health visitor complained that Amanda did not have her jabs. Of course Portia was advised by the specialist in Dublin not to give any of her children any jabs because of the family history. When Portia asked them to phone the specialist to double check, they refused. Now, Portia was labelled negligent. When she called the specialist, he had passed away two weeks previously. Somehow, she never thought to go and get their medical file back then.
The children's teacher was very annoyed with both departments for running a smear campaign and said this at the conference. On her way out, the probation officer screamed at her, with his eyes bulging in rage, to "go home and obey your husband"
With no break, the psychological asssessment was the following day. Most of the discussion was based on the previous day's conference. The senior social worker was asking questions like" did she go around the house naked"? And if Amanda knew the facts of life and did she point out to the child that her breasts were bigger than Amanda's.
Of course Portia was confident as she had absolutely nothing to hide at all. However, this social worker reprimanded her for being,"too confident, too strong for a woman and too sure of herself"
Then he followed with the threat that he had big grey buildings with bars on the windows for children like Robert and Amanda. " Naturally Portia wondered why children like Robert and Amanda???. He pointed at her and said "Remember, I have the power to do anything I like with you. " Portia thinks her interview was recorded as was the interview with Robert and Amanda. She remarked that the Judge had the power, but he disagreed and announced that his Department tells the Judge what to do and he does it. During her research, Portia has found this to be true in most cases. The court will take the children rather than make a mistake.
Some days later, Robert went for his assessment. Portia has a perfectly kept diary with dates and times for everything. Little did she know then how important that is. Robert came out screaming and crying, saying how they kept calling him a liar over and over again.Hopefully the video will be available to all to see one day. He just wanted to go home and never have to see any of them again. Even the psychologist was a bully and trying to ask trick questions. That Night was to show how badly affected Robert was. He could not sleep. His only question was "why did they not believe me Mum"? Later on he blanked it all out and refuses to speak about it now.
Amanda was only four and again, they were asking questions about sex. Portia felt they were obsessed with the three letter word. She seemed fine,and just drew her pictures. But 12 years later she still remembers how the social worker kept telling her what to draw and she refused and drew what she wanted. So, he failed to bully her. After this experience Robert's trust in people died a quick death. The following day in school he was shaking all over and his teacher explained to Portia that he was very distraught during the day, because he was accused of telling lies.
Portia's friend was also asked to attend for a report. Naturally, he was very annoyed at the way everyone was being treated by their condescending attitude.
Then Portia was suddenly accused by the psychologist of being drunk. She was very angry and asked that the police be called to check her blood alcohol level. Of course they couldn't do that. But thet could put it on paper for the Judge and get away with it. Portia did not touch drink.
At this point Portia decided to get a better lawyer in the city. He explained that probation officers are not qualified to say whether someone is brainwashed or not. This lawyer met Robert and agreed that he was extremely eloquent on every subject but not in any way brainwashed at all. He pointed out that "The Social Services does not give a dam about children". They are just bread and butter for the System. " In the end, he suggested that Portia have her friend's house totally to herself for a month to show that there was no cult or brainwashing involved. A private psychological assessment was also agreed upon. Then social services wanted to grant her ex supervised access to the children, but would not take responsibility for the emotional disturbance that this would cause. By this time Portia had paid out £3,000 pounds. "It is all a money game", she believes now.
Further meetings with this social worker and psychologist followed. They just could not grasp the idea that they were upsetting the children and intimidating Portia. The idea was to break their spirits, all of them. Then the social worker announced how he had checked out her friend's character and insurance number etc. His latest suggestion was for Portia to only mention her ex's good qualities to the children. So, she asked him to mention these qualities, but he couldn't think of any either. In fact Portia never mentioned her ex at all at home. He had never featured in their lives even before this.
This social worker was obsessed with reminding her over and over about how he had the Power. He was relentless in this. He then became angry with Portia as he felt that she knew too much and was reading too many family law books. She was studying as much as she could, because there did not seem to be a lawyer to compete with the social worker. He had even got in touch with the private psychologist for reasons unknown to Portia. It did seem that they were ahead of her in everything. But, she was not giving up.
It was then arranged that a group of social workers would call to the house a few days later. However the senior social worker wanted to be left alone in the house for 30 minutes. Portia refused and he promptly announced. "I will remember that in court. You are supposed to jump when I click my fingers. " Later, Portia phoned the police to check with them regarding a social worker asking to be left alone in any house. She had heard stories where they go to the toilet and plant drugs, so she was very careful. Then, for whatever reason, he wanted to go with her in the car to the school. Naturally, she refused and he snarled at her like a dog. The police said that social workers know better than to ask.
The police felt that Portia was being threatened and intimidated by this social worker. The other care workers arrived also. It was not the best of days. Amanda refused to play with the care worker as she smelled really bad. She had obviouslt slept in her clothes and had faesces on her shirt, which was not very inviting to a child. She complained that Amanda would not play with her. Portia felt like saying "have a shower" but decided against it. The senior social worker puffed and puffed smoke in Portia's face for the entire time. Then, he began clicking his fingers and saying" repeat after me" Portia refused to say "you have the power". Then he said that he would get his hands on the children one way or another, even if it meant making her homeless. He would make sure they got Electric Shock Treatment to normalise the little brats who refused to obey him. He explained that there were no grounds to take them really, so he would have to see to it that she was made homeless.
Portia remained very composed despite everything and said very coldly and calmly "it will be a cold day in Hell before you see me homeless". Then he became extremely irate and announced that he would bring charges of emotional abuse against her, unless she made up good qualities about her ex and made the children believe them. She explained that his name was never mentioned on orders of the court anyway.
Later that week, Portia met a lady who confirmed that her social worker proposed that if she had sex with him in her car, he would let her keep the children. Portia notes how lucky she was back then. These are supposed to be professional people and they know that they are untouchable, so they abuse their power in any way they feel like. It still goes on today.
In May 1995 Portia saw her mother for the last time. Her mother believed the social worker that she was having an affair, and could not understand how Portia could leave her beautiful home and husband. She believes that they will never meet again ever.
Portia went to Dublin to meet her lawyer, who announced how these social workers could make her life Hell and that even the law would be powerless against them. The police phoned to suggest that Portia press charges against the social workers for intimidation and threats. They also wondered why there were British social workers (??) considering the cultures differ enormously.
Yet, another day in court, where the social worker said that while her friend was not there, he "felt" him. Then came the best offer of all. Portia was to be allowed to use her own home from 8 pm to 8 am each day, basically to sleep in with the children. This same social worker announced pompously that he now had her "boxed in", and that she had no choice but to return home and obey her husband. Portia was almost deaf, hearing go home and obey from all these so called professionals. He did like to hear himself talk. Next was his elation at having isolated Portia and the children from everyone. He thought that her friend would demand his home back and because she had no money, then there was no choice but to go home. "You are now dependent on me and you WILL do everything I say. "These were typical of his words and threats. By now, Portia was immune to his shouting and ranting on and on like a broken record.
The idea that these people were getting away with it was ridiculous. That same week a young mother committed suicide after coming out from Social Services meeting.
Portia then took Amanda to a doctor to check for abuse. The doctor noted how happy and healthy she was. Portia's lawyer spoke with Robert for half an hour and was adamant that he was in no way brainwashed. He noted that "if Robert and Amanda were taken into care, that it would be the biggest injustice Ireland had ever seen".
Some days later another female social worker phoned to say that she had to drag the children by the scruff of the neck to the social services offices, so that her ex had access. Also, that the Judge does not care how she got them there as long as her ex had access. Of course there was the usual threat of prison for non-compliance. Portia was in a Dilemma. If she dragged them by the neck, she would be guilty of physical abuse. It all seemed so crazy, as her ex had stated quite clearly that he did not want access at all. He was obviously being forced into being a parent for the first time. All this was fine, but it was at the expense of the children.
Some days later Portia was in court again, and while she was out, the house was broken into and various papers and documents gone through. Then things got worse for Robert as he saw his father driving up and down outside the school and ran in terrified. His teacher was amazing and reassured him that he was safe inside the walls of the school.
Then, another day in the drab and dreary courtroom. Portia's lawyer had explained to her that he had been in contact with her ex's lawyer and were going to ask for an adjournment because the private psychological assessment had not taken place. However,her ex's lawyer went in to see the Judge before the case and suddenly the Judge now wanted the case to proceed. Just wonderful, Portia thought and the cold reality hit home that her lawyer had not prepared anything in the belief that the case would be adjourned. He stood up there like a fish out of water, unable to even compose one thought for a while. The social worker had informed the court that Portia and the children had no permenant place to live and so were proceeding to take the children into care.
Portia soon realized that everything had been carefully planned in advance here. Everyone knew the plan except Portia and her lawyer. The probation officer sneered at her and remarked how stupid her "hot shot city lawyer" was.
Then she was forced to agree to family therapy where social workers were going to re-shape this family according to the book. In other words according to the system. The Judge agreed that social services would be responsible for the children and any traumas created. Now, of course Portia was getting wise at this point and calmly asked for this to be put in writing. No matter how many times she asked, the social worker refused to put the agreement in writing.
Of course Portia's lawyer apologised and remarked that this part of Ireland was like a "police state". He had never been double crossed by one of his own before. But the country lawyers would cut your throat and not even blink.
Now, the senior social worker believed that he had Portia in his grip finally and left a note saying how traumatic the previous day must have been and that she was bound to be depressed. Portia thought to herself "depressed". No, she did not have time to be depressed just then and even if she was, she would not give that dictator the satisfaction of admitting to it. Portia then had to go to the clerk of the court to get a copy of the recommendations made by social services.
By this time Portia was learning more and becoming stronger. On her next visit she told the senior social worker that she was not going to sit in any room with him alone on the advice of the police. Then his anger turned to rage. The idea that Portia had gone to the police and had learned her rights made him into a roaring bull. Then he could not resist sneering at her, and telling her that behind her back her ex had got a court order making sure that she did not leave the country with them. Even Portia's lawyer knew nothing about it. This social worker then announced that it would take about three years of family therapy to sort things out. This was a big change, considering that he told the Judge it would take about four or five months. At this point and the obvious lack of professionalism present, Portia asked to see his qualifications. He refused point blank. Then he resumed his scare tactics by asking"what will happen to the children in my care home?" Portia thought carefully for a while, and told him "they will die. Robert will run away and Amanda will refuse to eat or drink" At this point Portia knew that things were serious. That it was really just about power. This social worker was never going to admit that he had made a mistake and back down. The children were just pawns in a game of chess for him. If he could succeed in frightening Portia so much that she would agree to everything he said, then he had won. Portia was and still is one who believes in truth and justice.
Some days later she brought the children for family therapy. Robert was asked to go into a room and refused saying to this senior social worker. "I do not trust you anymore. You never believed me when I told you the truth. I am going no where with you" Robert's voice began to rise with each word. So, the social worker said. "Oh, do not say that in public Robert". Then with a very red face, he advised us all to go home.
Portia's friends in Holland wanted to take her and the children for a holiday there for two weeks away from the stress. Without even going to court, she knew the outcome would be no. But, she went anyway to ask. The answer was no on the grounds that everyone over there were members of the cult. There was so much talk about a cult that still baffles Portia to this day. Even the Catholic church is a cult and no one says anything about that.
Portia was asked to phone this social worker again and she did. Of course he denied it. Luckily Portia had proof from the phone bill. She said nothing, just kept all her evidence safe for the next big day in court.
Then, she sent a letter to her ex, stating that they were ready to begin therapy, but stating that telling lies, like he had been doing was very bad example for the children. She also sent a letter to her mother, who was also apparently going to be dragged into the family therapy. In it she asked her mother to honour her father's will. She decided it was best to send copies to the Judge himself.
At the next and final court appearance, Portia decided to represent herself. She told the Judge that she intended that this time she could and would speak herself and then he would know the truth. Of course he asked why she was not complying with therapy by not contacting the social worker. This time she had her evidence and put it in front of the Judges nose. He asked the social woker to explain. But, the lawyer for the social workers jumped up and said "no comment". Portia had never done anything like this before. But she was determined for the whole truth to reach the Judges ears once and for all. She told him that she was not a memeber of any cult, and if she was no one had ever put a name on it or where it operated from or even produced one single fact of proof. She then pointed out that according to the social worker, even he- the Judge did not have the power.
That the social workers tell him what to do also. Well, that took the grin off everyone's face as the room fell into an eerie silence. Portia continued how this social worker was going to lock the children up and arrange Electric Shock Treatment for them. Then, suddenly everyone was awake again. The Judge looked totally baffled. So, Portia continued to tell him, now that she finally had his attention, that the police had advised her to issue proceedings against the social worker over threatening and intimidating behaviour.
The Judge was very confused now, as he had no idea what was happening and asked for the whole truth. However he pointed out that the letters to her ex and her mother were not concilliatory enough. Portia was so focused, but for the moment she did not understand the word conciliatory and she asked for an exact explanation. Being the Judge that he was he started laughing at her lack of vocabulary. Well, Portia explained that English was not her first language and she wanted to be sure of his interpretation of this word. Of course she knew what it meant, but she just was not able to put another word on it. She is still surprised at herself that she got through it perfectly and said what needed to be said for months. Then the social services' lawyer asked that Portia hand the children over to her mother until the next court appearance.
At the very thought of the idea, Portia began to panic. She was thinking of the childhood she had there and would not dare to even consider the prospect of it at all. After that she just wanted to go home and cry with relief. Outside the court, the lawyer for the social services began bullying her to hand the children over to her mother, who would get money every week to look after them. For Portia, she might as well have sent them to Hell.
Portia looks back now, and realizes that the entire case had nothing to do with the interests of the children or herself. It was all to do with the father and the patriarchial system having control. That night in 1995 Portia knew that she had to take the children somewhere safe. She would educate them herself. She would make sure the cycle of violence was broken in her family at least. She would not abuse her children physically, emotionally and psychologically as her mother had done to her. A policeman explained that social services would never stop hounding her until they broke her spirit. If they did take the children, their lives would be ruined and it would be unlikely that she would get them back for at least five years. By which time their spirits would also be broken too.
The entire system was aimed against her from the start, but she was a fool then, starting out on a long journey. This journey however led her to find her true self in the end. It is almost Christmas 2006 and Portia is still out there. No, she is not homeless. In fact she is not bitter at all. She would like to thank all of these people for helping to make her into a much stronger person. Much, much stronger indeed. !!!!
Portia left without even a toothbrush one very cold night. She was driven to taking this drastic action in order to keep her children safe from these predators. She is extremely proud of her children and herself too. She explains that she always knew that they as a family would make it.
The last 11 years have had its ups and downs too. The entire story is more like what you see in a movie. Well, it is just a living movie with all the experiences being and feeling real. Portia has moved house 128 times now, but the children are old enough, safe and free from violence. All of this was without a penny from the System too.
Portia lost the battle but won the war.
In This Section:
Domestic Violence Stories
Many people suffer verbal and emotional abuse in secret for years, not really understanding what is happening or why they feel so rotten. Nor do they realize how easily such seemingly mild forms of abuse can be the precursor to physical violence. This book by Patricia Evans helps the victim understand how to recognize abuse, validates the victim's perception of what is happening and offers solid suggestions as to what to do to control abuse and to protect oneself :
To order in the US: The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond
To order in the UK: The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition
According to therapist Engel "even the most loving person" is capable of emotional abuse-that is, "any non-physical behavior designed to control, intimidate, subjugate, demean, punish, or isolate." In a reasoned, sensible tone, she encourages readers to become responsible for their behavior and for changing it. Identified are ten "patterns of abuse" (verbal assault, character assassination, etc.), different kinds of abusive relationships, action steps for cessation, and suggestions for recovery. Engel clearly shows how this type of abuse, either intentional or unconscious leads to low self-esteem and misery for one or both partners. Engel also looks at the difficult relationships where one partner suffers from Personality Disorder. A difficult and draining yet important read for those who suspect that their relationship has entered abusive territory, this book is highly recommended.
To order in the US: The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing (Paperback or Kindle version avaialble - and well worth buying the kindle to be able to start reading immediately!)
Hear the voices of other women who have lived through and escaped from domestic abuse. This collection of personal survival stories help us understand the struggles, the pain and ultimately, the courage of victims who are determined to be survivors.
To order in the US: Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free
To order in the UK: Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free
Lundy Bancroft has written what is probably the most comprehensive and readable book on domestic violence, the beliefs of the abuser and the dynamics of abuse. This truly is a MUST READ for anyone seriously trying to understand domestic abuse and how to cope with an abusive relationship:
To order in the US: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
To order in the UK: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Living with the Dominator by Pat Craven is the book to accompany the Freedom Programme in the UK. This book should be compulsory in schools - the information is so clear and so obvious and such an eye-opener! After studying domestic violence issues for years, this is the one book which finally enabled me to click it all into place and answer all my whys. Just read it:
To order in the US: Living With the Dominator (Kindle version only - and well worth buying a Kindle just to get this book!)
To order in the UK: Living with the Dominator: A Book About the Freedom Programme: 1
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