My abuser always said not to tell..

REVEALING to the police that you have been sexually abused as a child, is one thing. Describing the graphic details in a book for the whole world to read, needs even more courage.

By Tracey Sparling

REVEALING to the police that you have been sexually abused as a child, is one thing. Describing the graphic details in a book for the whole world to read, needs even more courage. But an Ipswich mum is determined to turn her unhappy childhood in to a source of hope. TRACEY SPARLING met her.

FOR a woman who has been through what she has, Clare White is remarkably open.

Yes she was abused throughout her childhood, yes the first of her two husbands was electrocuted - leaving her a 27-year-old widow with two young children living in Zimbabwe - and yes she's now in a gay relationship.

Ask her to expound on any aspect, and she doesn't shy from the truth of a life dogged by twists and turns.

Her new book Diamonds from Coal is a hardhitting novel with graphic details of sexual abuse, based on her own experiences.

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For her it is important to be open. She said: “The book is quite graphic, and very few books that I have read, are that open. Sexual abuse is not talked about, it's still a taboo subject, which is sad, because people who have been through it don't get a lot of validation for their feelings and experiences.

“In the book I wanted to explain what happened, how it started, and it describes three incidents which happened to me.

“My abuser always threatened me not to tell - secrecy was a very big part of the abuse - so to stay silent now would perpetrate that wrong.”

Today as she sits in the living room at the heart of her three-storey home in Cemetery Road, Clare, 45, looks settled and happy.

She is surrounded by the bric-a-brac of family life, with family photos proudly displayed and two cats on the sofa, as her teenage son dashes out the front door to meet his friends.

She admits she has found a sense of peace, which has largely come from putting her feelings down on paper. Scribbling notes became a kind of therapy for her.

She wrote Diamonds From Coal six years ago, while running a social club with her ex husband Paul, which used to exist for Evening Star and East Anglian Daily Times staff in Lower Brook Street.

The family last hit the headlines when they were evacuated during a fire at the club.

She said: “We lived on site and I used to sit for hours in my little office above the club, just writing and writing and writing. It took about six months to write, and a lot longer to edit.

“I didn't really give much thought to publishing it -I maybe sent it off to one or two publishers but didn't think much more about it.”

Today the book has just been published, after her partner sent it to a publisher who loved it and got an Arts Council grant for the project. It's now an ebook on Chipmunka's website, and available at Amazon online, WH Smith and Waterstones. Even Suffolk Libraries has ordered seven copies.

The character's names have been fictionalised for legal reasons, and to protect Clare's three children, but she makes no secret of the fact it is based on her own life.

She said: “When I go the first copy in my hand, I couldn't comprehend it.

“It was like holding my whole life in my hand, in black and white. Somebody had believed in me enough to pursue it.”

Zimbabwe-born Clare recalled how she rebelled as a teenager, after years of abuse between the ages of three and 13. She was expelled from school, and caught stealing.

She added: “Writing a book is quite an achievement for me, who was expelled from school and never sat any exams! And it's happened without me having to push, push, push for publication, so I think it was meant to happen.”

Clare and Paul left Zimbabwe eight years ago when the country's tensions deepened, to start a new life in the UK with their two children.

She said there was little help for victims of sexual abuse at the time, and believes there is still 'a desperate need.' She once tried to set up a drop-in centre in Ipswich, but funding proved impossible.

She said: “Child abuse is happening today -it's happening right now as we talk.

“Two in five women have been sexually abused as a child, so it's an issue which affects probably half the population of England when you consider the effect on their families too. It affects your ability to conduct relationships, ability to parent, and so many different areas of your life.

“My book is really about how I have managed to live a normal life, against all the odds. It's about hope and how when things go wrong, you keep on going, don't give up and stay true to yourself. The main reason I want every word out there, is to help anybody who has been through sexual abuse.”

She has no relations in England, and if she had still been living in Zimbabwe she doubts she would have published the book.

Her abuser was jailed for the crime in 1970, and received psychiatric help. She didn't get any help at the time, but therapy and regression techniques have since helped her 'put things in place' over the years.

The abuse is not the only horror she has faced in her life.

Her first husband Frankie was killed, when he was electrocuted trying to fix a faulty pump at the swimming pool at their house in Zimbabwe.

She recalled the day vividly: We were all in the car ready to go out, when our gardener came and said the pump wasn't working. We knew if we left it, we would have returned to a pool which had turned green.

“Frankie got out of the car and disappeared to fix it. Then he came back and we were about to drive off,

When the gardener came again and said it had failed again. Frankie went, and he leaned over a small wall to reach the pump, meaning his feet were not on the ground. The electricity had nowhere to go, but through him.

“The gardener came running...our telephone wasn't working so I ran to a neighbour's house to calla doctor. I tried to do cpr but I couldn't hear the instructions very well over the phone. A neighbour managed to speak to the doctor who came, and worked on Frankie for an hour. He was taken to hospital but he died. He never regained consciousness. Once he stepped out the car, that was the last we saw of Frankie. I was on my own with two little ones.”

She later married Paul and had a third child, but the marriage feel apart.

She said: “I am in a same sex relationship now. I am with a woman, and we've been together three years. I hate the word 'lesbian' - I fell in love with her as a person.

“Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, and you can be put in prison for it, which I find quite hilarious really. We want to get married and my 13-year-old son wants to be 'best man'. I had to tell him it doesn't work that way in a civil partnership. I feel I have found my little niche in life.”

After leaving school early, she is finally getting an education by studying for a degree in social work at Suffolk College. So was writing a book a challenge for her literary skills?

She said: “People who have read it say it flows well, but don't expect my book to be a genius novel!” she laughed.

“If there's any message I want to get across, it's one of hope. To keep on going, never give up, you never know what's round the corner in life.”

Weblink: www.diamondsfromcoal.com .

www.chipmunkapublishing.com

www.amazon.com

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Clare would welcome calls from anybody to chat about issues she raises, and can be contacted on clare.uk1@ntlworld.com.

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