By Clare White
Key Themes: child abuse, sexual abuse, depression, Christianity, grief
CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE
Told in the voice of Annie, 'Diamonds from Coal' is the shocking and turbulent journey of a bright-eyed and long-legged little girl, manipulated into womanhood at the age of 3. Her father's abuse starts with seemingly innocent 'fun games' in the bath and secret fishing escapades which continue for a staggering 9 years until he succumbs to his inner monster and eventually rapes her, casting her aside to deal with the rest of her life ahead, alone. Sexual confusion, promiscuity, a war of liberation and more abuse – until she finds the man with whom she believes she will spend the rest of her days; only to have her idyllic life shattered when he is suddenly electrocuted and she is left with their two very young children. She takes refuge in the Christian church.
Whether you’re a survivor yourself, looking for your voice and someone to identify with or just someone who wants to understand childhood sexual abuse this is a no holds barred, not for the faint hearted account of one woman’s heroic survival of childhood sexual abuse by the man she blindly trusted the most – her father. In this brutally honest account of her life, we are allowed to witness a hint of something new – the child’s perspective and a little girl’s coming to terms with her tiny world being splintered and cracked in silence.
Diamonds From Coal is a remarkably brave and honest account that should help others who have suffered childhood sexual abuse realise that they are not on their own.
About the Author
Clare White was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1961. She grew up in Harare where she did her schooling. She left school at the age of 16 with no formal qualifications and worked her way up in the business world eventually running 2 businesses in Harare.
She moved to the UK with her family in 1997 and wrote ‘Diamonds from Coal’ in 2000 after years of therapy and self help. ‘Diamonds from Coal’ is based largely on her life and survival of childhood sexual abuse. It was written mostly as a healing process but also in the hopes of exposing a taboo subject rarely written about in such graphic detail. She also hoped it would bring freedom and a voice to other survivors to speak up and heal. Silence only protects the perpetrator.
Clare now lives in Ipswich with her partner Fiona and 2 of her 3 children. She is currently studying for a degree in Social Care Work at Suffolk University College.
There was nothing special about the day Annie was born. No fan-fare played. Sarah, had just turned seventeen and this was her second child. The gin and hot bath had not worked, Annie was determined from conception. The drive home from the hospital was silent. Sarah’s usually rollered jet-black hair hung limp on her young and slender shoulders. Sarah was lovely, a natural beauty that always made the men take a second look.
Tom drove with an air of irritation. Not being very tall, about five and a half feet, and small of stature Tom always looked as though he sat on top of the steering wheel. He was almost hunched over it, his wavy blonde hair blowing in the wind from the open window. His baby blue eyes intent on the road ahead. Normally they were soft and warm, today they were cold and hard. He refused to talk to Sarah. He was in one of his moods. Tom drove the car expertly, fast as always, being a confident driver he always felt in control at the wheel. Beth sat in the back and peered at her new sister. She was only eighteen months old and the baby meant little to her. Boredom got the better of Beth, and Annie’s introduction to her big sister was Beth’s now removed shoes thrown into the carrycot.
Tom and Sarah were both thinking the same thing - how were they going to cope with another child, both financially and emotionally? The reality had now set in, they were taking her home, there was no going back. They had to accept this new child into their lives. Arriving home from the hospital, Tom had stopped the car but had not switched the engine off. Leaving Sarah to battle with the two children and baggage, he stared vaguely ahead. He blamed her for this new intrusion. Let her do it alone. After Sarah had closed the door Tom drove off without a word. He was heading for the nearest pub, he needed a drink. Sarah simply had to learn to cope.
* * * * * *
They were hard, the early years for Tom and Sarah. Tom was an apprentice, Sarah stayed at home and raised the girls. Sarah learnt the fine art of making a meal from very little, yet she always managed to have beer in the refrigerator for Tom when he came home. She was terrified of his temper and would do anything to avoid incurring his wrath. It was a difficult time for Sarah, yet she juggled the finances and two young children with relative ease, considering her own young age. To say Annie was difficult would be an understatement. She hated sleep. Conformity was not in her makeup. When Annie was two, things began to change. Tom was offered a position in a different town, but that would mean Sarah would be without her mother’s help. After much debate, they made the move and settled down with relative ease. Annie did not notice the change.
It was at the age of three when Annie’s little world became unsafe. Tom would, on most evenings, return home at five thirty on the dot. Annie adored her father and was always waiting for him to come home. She would patiently sit on the kerb outside the gate to their home, kicking her bare feet in the dust, enjoying the feeling of the soft powdery soil between her toes. Time never seemed to matter and she would happily sit for hours waiting for him, knowing her reward would come eventually. When Tom approached the high wrought iron gates that surrounded their property, Annie would bounce up and open them for him. Then she would climb into the car and onto his lap and help drive the car into the garage. Once they were inside the house, her first task was to remove his shoes and socks, then she would raid his lunch box for leftovers.
One night Sarah had survived a trying day and Beth and Annie were not yet bathed. Tom totally out of character, offered to bath the girls. He invented a game that night in the bath called ‘find-the-soap’.
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