“Though the last glimpse of Erin with sorrow I see,
Yet wherever thou art shall seem Erin to me;
In exile thy bosom shall still be my home,
And thine eyes make my climate wherever we roam.”
― Thomas Moore
One of the abusers used to recite that verse of poetry to me every time he came to visit me. It has stayed forever etched into my brain. It was one of Moore’s most famous Melodies, written by a lover to his Mistress. It was considered quite scandalous at the time. The rest of the poem goes on in a similar vein entreating the Mistress to love him. I used to be mesmerised by Mr. O’Brien’s rendition to me as a seven-year-old not of course that I understood the words or meaning of the poem but the lilting rhythm of the lines danced on his tongue and held my attention.
What came afterward was excruciating pain and humiliation but the grooming beforehand never failed to work to a child that had been locked in a room all day on her own and was invariably starving for human companionship.
The men carefully established a trusting relationship with me, for example spending time with me and listening to me whereas my parents paid me no attention. They me as ‘special’; giving me presents and compliments. They sometimes used gifts and trickery to manipulate and silence the child into keeping the sexual assault a secret. This treatment kept me isolated from my siblings, friends or any staff in the hotel. They always had access to me alone. My parents gave the total ‘free rein’ to do with me whatever they wished, whenever they wished. They just left money on a wicker table beside the bed which my Mother later collected.
Sexual abusers typically plan their sexual abuse of children with care. They may gradually desensitise the child and violate their boundaries. For example, they may spend a lot of time with the child when he or she is bathing, dressing, or going to bed. They may kiss and hug the child a lot. There may be ‘accidental’ sexual touching or sexual touching as a game. There may be talk about sex and sexual jokes as well as tickling, wrestling, or being rough towards the child as a sign of affection. If the abuse isn’t stopped, the behaviour progresses to increasingly intimate acts. In my case, there was unfettered access permitted to me in my bedroom permitted by my parents where all of the above grooming took place. I was given baths, read stories, given gifts which were always taken away by my Mother.
Keeping the abuse secret
The child is taught – by threats, manipulation, blackmail, bribes and punishments – to keep the abuse a secret. The offender assures the child that what is happening I ‘right’, and convinces them that if they tell about the sexual abuse, something terrible will happen – for example, the family will fall apart, threaten to hurt the child’s family or pets, tell the child that their parents won’t believe them, or that the offender may go to prison. At the same time, the offender gives the child the impression that they have consented and that they are in a ‘relationship’ with the offender, or even that they initiated the relationship. In this way, offenders shift the blame from themselves and onto the child. The child may then feel responsible for the abuse and feel too ashamed or scared to tell anyone. All this happened to me with each man using one or other technique to swear me to secrecy not that I needed to with my parents as they were the organisers of it all. I never told my siblings anything and haven’t to this day. Not a word. I am too ashamed too. That is how effective the grooming techniques are. When even as an adult I know I am not to blame the shame still remains along with the guilt.