Behind Closed Doors

c79d4cb79764ba1fd04138a7602faeee43909b45

Behind Closed Doors contains the following stories:

Wasted offers a tantalising glimpse into the derelict life a father attempts to keep secret from his wife and children.

He grabbed the bag of pills and made his way to the crumbling bathroom. Leaning over a mouldy sink he cupped his hands to capture some of the rust streaked water. Raising them to his cracked lips, he gulped the water down, pushed two of the pills into his mouth and gulped some more. He stood there, holding tightly to the rim of the sink as his teeth chattered – Wasted.

Please Stay highlights Ebony’s confusion when she awakes to find her long-term partner, Ryan, has disappeared in the dead of the night without explanation.

I open the cupboard beneath the sink; his shaving cream, his razors, his sleeping pills and cologne are all gone.  I race back into the bedroom, flinging open his wardrobe door. It’s empty. I search the whole apartment; living room, kitchen, the spare bedroom. He isn’t here and nothing of his remains, not even his musty old trainers that lived, untouched and forgotten, at the bottom of the shoe stand – Please Stay.

The Good Cop, the longest of all seven stories, follows the struggles of three characters whose lives are not what they seem, as observed by the main protagonist.

This girl is leaning against the wall, expertly inserting a needle into her vein. She injects and as the drug flows through her she throws her head back and moans. She has the look of a homeless person; unwashed skin, grimy, lank hair and muddied mini-dress. I know, even before two men approach her down the dark alley, that she is a prostitute. In this black and white image, I see one man hand her money as his buddy stands guard at the mouth of the alley. Once he is done they swap positions and his friend moves to the girl – The Good Cop.

Breakfast Time dives into the mind of a ten year old girl as she tries to make sense of the adults around her.

“Use your initiative,” she yells. Using my initiative means knowing what she wants and doing it before she has to shout, “or else!” Or else! Is a belt on the leg, cool leather marking my skin, or a slap across the face, the sting of a palm on my cheek. This morning something manages to pull me from my own head. It’s a box of flying cereal. It lands in the kitchen, spilling sugary puffs of grain across the floor. Dad had already stormed out, leaving his empty bowl on the table. There is only my little brothers and I. And mum, standing in the pantry, mumbling to herself. I look from her to the cereal. Am I going to be in trouble? – Breakfast Time.

In Followed you stalk a young university student, innocently slipping into her life to wait for a chance…

I am careful to make sure I saunter down to the same carriage as her. The train is practically empty at this time of day so it is easy to choose a seat directly across from her. I pull out my phone and pretend to be absorbed in it whilst flicking my gaze to her at every chance. Should I take a photo? I feel my pulse quicken and my cheeks burn – Followed.

In Dreamer Evelyn visits her family’s favourite picnic spot where she makes a life changing decision.

Reaching into her pocket she pulls out a small camera, moving carefully she raises it to her eyes, recalling how her mother had held it so delicately poised before her, and snaps a picture of the tree, the soft click of the lens echoing in the silence. Smiling, Evelyn slides the camera back into her pocket. Tomorrow she will bring some rope for the tree – Dreamer.

Too Much to Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

Check out both of my free e-books on Smashwords. You can also follow the Black Ink Quill Facebook page or friend me on Goodreads to read more brief books reviews.

Advertisements

Harsh New Laws Punish Victims of Violence

Image

Children need to be protected from violent perpetrators and so do their mothers. Mothers who are the victims of domestic violence risk losing their children upon reporting the abuse under new zero-tolerance child protection laws, such as those outlined in the 2013 Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill (Child Protection Amendment Bill (No 33) 2014). With an estimated 80% of all domestic abuse cases going unreported (Vic Health, 2012) such laws will make the direct victims of domestic abuse less inclined to seek help for fear of forced separation from their children. Removing a child from an abused but otherwise loving and capable parent is not in the child’s best interest, nor is it in the best interest of the victim to have them too intimidated and shamed to speak out.

Domestic violence has overtaken paternal mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction as the leading cause of child protection intervention (Butler 2014). The Family Rights Group (2014) states that cuts to domestic abuse and family support services, including strict means-tested welfare reforms, results in further isolation of victims. The inability of a victim to seek sufficient support, in the forms of stable housing and financial aid, increases their dependency on their abuser. Cathy Ashley, the chief executive of the Family Rights Group, states that women who report the crimes committed against them are told by social workers to leave immediately with their children or they (the children) will be taken into care (Butler 2014).

In order to understand the disempowering and dehumanizing demands of such practices, you first must understand the complex issues faced by victims of domestic violence. The zero tolerance laws indicate that even those who experience such cases daily are failing to understand that victims cannot simply pack up and leave. Not only are victims psychologically manipulated by their abusers, and usually dependent upon them through strategic isolation, they are also most at risk of extreme violence once they have left their abuser.

Clementine Ford, journalist for Daily Life, writes:

In June 2013, WA woman Angela Furullo was murdered by her ex-partner, James Bill Payet, at the hairdressing salon where she worked. Her pregnant daughter was injured in the attack. In April 2013, Kara Doyle’s boyfriend shot her in the groin. Doyle had been planning to leave him. She was dumped at a nearby Caltex Station with severe injuries and died in hospital five days later. Her killer, Mehmet Torun, was recently sentenced to eight years in prison with a non-parole period of five years. In February 2014, Victorian woman Kelly Thompson was murdered by her long term partner. Just 19 days before, Thompson had applied for an AVO against Wayne Wood. After murdering Kelly Thompson, Wood killed himself.

These are just a handful of the devastating acts of violence enacted against women and children every week in Australia. Every single one of these women were either in the process of leaving their partners or had already left them. If women are supposed to ‘just leave’ in order to end the cycle of violence, what is it that these women did wrong? The answer is nothing. They did nothing wrong (Ford 2014).

When a social worker tells a victim of family violence to leave immediately with her children, without time to source adequate housing, financial aid or support for safety, they are putting the mother and child/s life in profound danger. Threatening to remove the mother’s children will only add to the psychological trauma of the victim and make her far less likely to report future acts of violence. This advice condemns victims whilst doing nothing to address the real issue.

Domestic violence does impact on children, who, on average, witness 44% of all violence (Vic Health, 2013). Children are often the victims of revenge killings wherein the perpetrator murders his partner’s children to make her suffer further. As discussed above, such incidents usually occur directly after a woman has left her abuser. This illustrates a definite need for intervention but not the intervention that has been proposed.

We ought to be asking ourselves, as domestic violence is as much a crime as assaulting someone in the street (for example, the now famed ‘coward punches’), if child protection services have sufficient evidence and reports to remove children from the home then why can there not be a new legislation introduced where the perpetrator is court ordered to attend men’s behavioural change sessions? Or, why is the perpetrator not formally charged and facing jail time? Why is more not being done to prevent the violence? Why are there cuts to essential support services? Why is more money not being put into women’s refuges? Why have there been such harsh cuts to welfare payments for single parents?

Seventy-eight percent of people in Australia who are homeless due to domestic violence are women (Ford 2014) and it isn’t hard to see why. There seems only three, bleak options available to women experiencing domestic violence; stay with their abuser and not report the crimes against them in order to avoid having their children removed; stay with their abuser and lose their children; or leave, putting their own and their child’s life at risk, and face a life of poverty and, potentially, homelessness.

In a written interview, on the 10th of June 2013, Susan* illustrates what many women must endure when they make the choice to leave.

It got to the point where I had to seriously consider getting an intervention order against him. His behaviour was erratic and irrational. One moment he would be begging for my forgiveness for what he had done, saying he would love me forever, and at the next he would be calling me a ‘dumb slut’ and saying everything was my fault. I was scared of him, for myself and for my daughter. I had been too afraid to go to court for a formal custody agreement, fearing what he might do if I pushed it that far, so we had our own agreement where he would have her 3 nights a week. Every abused woman with children knows the horror stories that are both real and common. We all fear for our children (Susan* 2013, pers.comm., 10 June)

Continue reading

Brief Book Review: ‘I Am No One You Know’ by Joyce Carol Oates

303607

These stories have impact- when reading I suggest you wear your seat belt.

The only other short story collections I have enjoyed as much as this are those by Edgar Allen Poe and Kim Edwards’ Secrets Of A Fire King. That said, this collection by Joyce Carol Oates is a stand out winner.

The stories are told with an unnerving conviction. Oates effectively writes the muddled memory and confusion surrounding trauma.

 I Am No One You Know contains nineteen startling stories that bear witness to the remarkably varied lives of Americans of our time. In “Fire,” a troubled young wife discovers a rare, radiant happiness in an adulterous relationship. In “Curly Red,” a girl makes a decision to reveal a family secret, and changes her life irrevocably. In “The Girl with the Blackened Eye,” selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2001, a girl pushed to an even greater extreme of courage and desperation manages to survive her abduction by a serial killer. And in “Three Girls,” two adventuresome NYU undergraduates seal their secret love by following, and protecting, Marilyn Monroe in disguise at Strand Used Books on a snowy evening in 1956.

These vividly rendered portraits of women, men, and children testify to Oates’s compassion for the mysterious and luminous resources of the human spirit.

Oates’ is masterful in building suspense and at leaving her readers yearning for more.  At the end of each story I found myself wanting to yell: “don’t leave me hanging like this!”

The primary theme is “othering”. In all the stories there is some “other, unknowable” person. There is the mentally unstable mother, the sexually threatening uncle, the serial killer, and the borderline man from death row. All these stories are narrated from the POV of a rather bland, normal character and focus on another character that is, in some way or another, taboo.

Recommendation: Everyone must read.

If you haven’t already, you can friend me on Goodreads here and follow the link here to like the Black Ink Quill Facebook page.

Studying With Children

playing at the park.

playing at the park.

One of my assignments for this semester at uni, for my Writing Life, Self & Other class, is to write a blog post.

Well, that’s okay… I can do that. I’ve been doing that.

“Choose an area of expertise,” the lecturer instructs us when we ask for more details about the assignment, “and write a post on it.”

Damn. An area of expertise… What am I an expert on?

Nothing? I ask myself kindly. Ok, well let’s narrow it down then. What things do you do? What are you good at?
(Yes, I do really have internal conversations with myself. Well, arguments usually…)

Feeding and bathing and bedtime story telling in under an hour on busy nights. I’m always ridiculously proud of this. Although, I usually end up soaked to the bone from energetic splashing during the bathing part.

I have a four year old daughter and am in my fourth and final year of studying.

I have totally reached the level of Expert Student-Parent.

Two Weeks Ago:

I am sitting at my desk in my office (papers strewn everywhere, books spilling from the shelves, books stacked in shaky towers on the floor, leaky pens scattered around.) and Olivia is playing behind me, singing passionately about fairies turning blue, and setting up a tea party for her toys. I get to work designing the cover for ‘Behind Closed Doors’. After a while I make the mistake of turning around.

Bombsite.

Toys are everywhere, bits of lego looking gleefully up at me, just waiting for a chance to puncture an unsuspecting foot. Focus, I remind myself. I finish the cover and begin an editing project. A few pages in, the computer screen goes blank.

What? I stare at the screen for a moment. Olivia has migrated to sitting beneath the desk, having just switched the computer off at the power point, she looks up and smiles at me.

 Back In The Present:

Maybe I’d better hold off on awarding myself the title of Expert Student-Parent.

Now, what’s my area of expertise…?