My father sexually abused me when I was a toddler and lent me to his friend who raped me – but I only realised when the memories came flooding back during therapy in my 50s
- Helene Pascal-Thomas, 84, who lives in London opened up about ‘vile’ history
- READ MORE: Are YOU showing signs of childhood trauma?
A woman has claimed she discovered childhood sexual abuse by her father and one of his friends when she was just a toddler after repressed memories came back to her during therapy.
Helene Pascal-Thomas, 84, a retired teacher and counsellor who lives in London, has opened up about tackling the ‘vile’ history she has uncovered from her memories; but admits she ‘felt fully complete’ after facing it.
She had ‘always felt that something was wrong’, but it was not until after the writer started unearthing old experiences that she could confront the past.
Helen claims that during therapy in her 50s, she unearthed memories of being sexually abused by her father and raped by his friend when she was only two and a half years old.
An 84-year-old author (pictured) has revealed the ‘horrendous’ trauma of unveiling flashbacks of being sexually abused by her father and raped by his friend when she was only two and a half years old – something she didn’t confront until her 50s, during therapy
Helene first noticed something was wrong when she started having intrusive thoughts about sexual abuse when her daughter was a baby.
‘I was horrified and thought, “What’s going on? This is terrible, this is horrible”, and I blamed myself for having a dirty mind,’ she said.
Another ‘horrendous’ memory was triggered later, which revealed the mental and sexual abuse she said she experienced during her childhood.
‘It was my father’s friend who raped me when I was about two and a half, my father lent me to him,’ Helene said.
‘I know this as my father made a joke to me when I was 11 years old, which I could never forget but I had to put it aside until I was capable of remembering it.
‘He said his friend used to bounce me on his lap when I was little during the war, and he would ask me to give his friend a kiss as they went purple in the face with laughter.
‘It is still a shock to be able to say these words because it is so horrendous. It feels horrible and vile and dirty, but it’s not my dirt.’
Given this was ‘the hidden secret’, even after her father had died, Helene said the sexual abuse was never disclosed.
However, she feels it is important to break the ‘chain of suffering’.
Helene Pascal-Thomas, a retired teacher and counsellor who lives in London , has opened up about tackling the ‘vile’ history she has uncovered. Pictured as a young girl
She did not wish to name her both ‘needy and controlling’ mother and ‘solemn and severe’ father, who had an unhappy marriage. Both pictured
Given this was ‘the hidden secret’, even after her father (pictured) had died, Helene said the sexual abuse was never disclosed
Although it took her decades and her ‘pitiless work on herself’ to embrace the truth, the author’s latest memoir – The Price of Silence – which she started writing after her mother’s death in 2003, has helped her make sense of her life.
Through experiencing and processing her own trauma, she said she knew she had to fight for children and justice, and this led to the idea for her campaign called The Promise.
She feels that for every child born, parents, carers, and guardians should solemnly swear to respect and protect them.
The writer grew up in a small provincial town in post-war France and described her upbringing as ‘conventional’ – admitting her childhood was ‘full of mysteries’ as well as confusing, sad and isolating.
She did not wish to name her both ‘needy and controlling’ mother and ‘solemn and severe’ father, who had an unhappy marriage – but found escapism through reading books, where she learned of adventures, relationships and survival.
The author Jack London had a strong influence on her as ‘a surrogate father’, teaching her that ‘life is harsh but we have to conquer our fears in order to learn and survive’.
The writer grew up in a small provincial town in post-war France and described her upbringing as ‘conventional’. Helene pictured as a young adult
She admitted that her childhood was ‘full of mysteries’ as well as confusing, sad and isolating. Pictured with her mother as a baby
Helene moved schools regularly, never quite finding her place, clashed with her parents and later went to university, taking all opportunities to be away from the family home. Pictured as a baby
What is Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT)?
Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT) is a controversial technique which encourages remembering ‘forgotten or repressed’ experiences, according to the American Psychological Association.
Often the basis of the treatment appears to be that the memory is so painful to relive, the client has suppressed it.
Sometimes, this involves techniques like hypnosis and guided imagery.
However, there have been disputes about the legal and clinical validity of RMT – and some critics have warned that it can encourage the creation of false memories.
In 2007 a woman who falsely accused her father of rape after undergoing ‘recovered memory’ psychotherapy won a £20,000 payout from a local health authority.
Katrina Fairlie claimed a hospital psychiatrist almost ruined her life after he extracted false memories that her father, Jim, a former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, had sexually abused her.
Miss Fairlie, who withdrew the baseless allegations months after making them, revealed during other sessions with consultant Dr Alex Yellowlees that she witnessed her father murder a child and named him and 17 other men, including two politicians, as paedophiles.
In her teenage years, as Helene’s curiosity about sex and relationships grew, she asked her parents ‘what f****** meant’ one day, and she was subsequently sent to a convent school aged 14.
There she found ‘there was something underneath that was boiling up, that (she) did not understand’ – but she did not discover the cause of this until her 50s.
Helene moved schools regularly, never quite finding her place, clashed with her parents and later went to university, taking all opportunities to be away from the family home.
However, after splitting up with her first boyfriend at university, who told her he would like her ‘to stop being so passive’, the writer started to question her past.
‘You try and remember the past and you find that it’s not available. There are years and years that you have no memories of, especially when you’re little,’ she said.
Helene felt ‘odd’ as she recounted finding herself ‘despising’ her father and ‘not being able to bear him coming near her’.
‘We had to kiss each other good night, every night,’ she said. ‘That was the deal, that’s what you do, that’s family life, maybe it is normal, I suppose it is, but it didn’t feel right.’
Helene later experienced ‘profound depression’ and said she felt ’empty’ – as though she did not exist.
After marrying and divorcing an artist, Helene started teaching and later met the man who would become the father of her child, who she does not wish to name.
‘You go from horror, to deeper horror, to deeper horror, until you are capable of saying it to yourself and accepting it,’ she added.
‘It was only when I was 79 that I felt fully complete, that’s how long it took me, working on myself and accepting myself. Eventually you have to accept what has happened to you.’
Conversations with her relatives uncovered a history of abuse within the family, including collusion and betrayals, which brought back haunting memories of the alleged sexual abuse during her childhood.
Conversations with her relatives uncovered a history of abuse within the family. Helene pictured as an adult
Because of the trauma she went trough, Helene is now committed to campaigning for the rights of children.
‘The amount of child abuse and resistance to improvements of the life of children is enormous in this country,’ the writer added.
‘When a child is born, families gather themselves and people wish them and the baby well, when people get married, they make vows to each other, and I thought, why don’t we make a vow to the child when he or she is born? Why don’t we promise to respect and protect him or her?
‘I thought it would be a simple way of making every person, every parent, aware and emotionally conscious of the responsibility and power they have, the power to do good.’
She said her commitment to the campaign is driven by how little control she had over the abuse she unveiled.
‘When you learn about your life, that you’ve had so little to say and such damage has been done, and such vile things have been done, you want to put the world to rights,’ Helene explained.
‘My life story is as it is, in many ways it’s a disaster, but I’m damned if I’m going to let it be just that without trying to fight for children, to plead the cause of the child.
‘I have an idea, which is so simple, and we can all adopt it in our hearts immediately – to make an official and spoken promise to the child to respect and protect it.’
To find out more about Helene, The Price of Silence, and The Promise, visit her website here: helenepascal-thomas.co.uk
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