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Winner, IP Rolling Picks 2013, Best Creative Non-Fiction!

Sexual abuse of children is all too common in society today. Media reports focus on the crime and its consequences without offering constructive advice on how victims can come to terms with their past and transcend it.

Here, Deborah Kay teams up with award-winning social issues journalist Barry Levy to provide a courageous and compassionate account of what happened to her, and how she avoided being warped by her experiences, allowing, as she puts it, pockets of sunlight to shine through her.

This is a book not only to read and reflect on but also to share.


Other books by Barry Levy:

As If! (novel)

Shades of Exodus (novel)

The Terrorist (novel)


Deborah Kay

Deborah Kay has three adult children and three grandchildren, and has made it a lifelong goal to be vigilant over their safety. Although she grew up in a quiet rural setting in Central Queensland, she has travelled widely through Australia and overseas, including living in Malaysia for three years, which has broadened her appreciation of different cultures.

Currently Deborah works with children as a teacher aide in Ipswich. Having now told her story in print, Deborah is keen to talk publicly on child sex abuse and do what she can to impact positively and highlight the issue.

As she puts it: "I am no longer silent ... I now have the freedom to speak out for the sanctity of childhood."

Co-author Barry Levy
Levy has been a winner of the Australian Human Rights Award for Journalism, for multiple series of stories on child sex abuse, domestic violence and homelessness; a winner of the Anning Barton Memorial Award for Outstanding Journalism (Central Queensland), for a series of stories on child sex abuse (incest-rape); and a Walkley Awards Queensland State finalist, for his series on homelessness.






ISBN 9781922120373 (PB, 268pp) – release date 15 July 2013
140mm x 216mm

AU$33 US$25 NZ$36 GB £17 EUR €20
ISBN 9781922120380 (eBk) AU$17 US$13 NZ$18 GB £9 EUR €10

"I have never read an account of childhood abuse that so perfectly renders the child's emotional confusion and the ingenious psychic manoeuvres required to remain sane. Here is a narrative that resists the impulse to simplify complexity, choosing instead to depict both tragedy and triumph in heartbreaking detail.
I admire the life; I admire the book. I am deeply moved."
– Richard Hoffman, author of Half the House: A Memoir

"This brave and honest book allows us to see inside the mind of a child who had to work out the realities of life for herself, without the guidance and support of loving parents. Worse than no love, she endured a warped love that no-one should have to endure. Her raw and honest account is remarkable. I can't find the words to describe how brave I believe the author is, nor how amazed I am that she has turned her experience into a life lesson for all of us. Her strength of spirit is truly inspirational. ... A mind blowing insight into sexual abuse through the eyes of a child. This is a book that every parent and young adult should read."
- Megan Scott

"Compelling story. Beautifully written. Well done!"
- Anthony Shrock

"This book is an excellent read - such a tough and terrible subject told with such optimism and hope. It helped me to understand how a young child normalises this situation. Deborah Kay is an amazing woman and so brave to tell her story. Her own children should be very proud of her. Well done!"
- Judy White

"I found this story riveting (I nearly missed my station this morning). It is engrossing... By the end, I was so glad that she continued her story, right up to the present."
- Angelique Oltvolgyi

"It was a beautiful, sad and inspiring book ... well done. I have a lump in my throat, tears and so much pride for you."
- Nat

"With all that has happened to you, you are still so positive. I hope I can recognize the light within all the darkness of my mind. You bring me hope.
I finished your book and it was a wonderful read. I couldn't put it down, and then I had to force myself to put it down for a few days. Really had my emotions going crazy! You really made me want more.
Thank you for being so brave to share your story. You are an inspiration; I hope to be as content with myself as you are."
- Tracey

"This book is an essential read for all counsellors, psychologists and other professionals working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It provides a detailed and confronting account of the lived experience of relentless sexual abuse and the complex myriad of emotions, thoughts, perceptions and relationships that unfold through this violation. It sharply captures the challenges this poses to development and the triumph of resilience."
– Ian Shochet, Professor of Clinical Psychology
Queensland University of Technology

"It’s a courageous memoir on such an important, yet taboo issue as Child Sexual Abuse. I went to the launch on Saturday and read the book, cover to cover the next day.
Even when some pages made my stomach turn and had tears running down my face, I couldn’t put it down.
Please support Deborah in her quest to raise awareness about the issue, and the fact that perpetrators are sometimes much closer than we think possible, by reading her story and sharing it with others."
- Irina Morrison, Writer

"What a fantastic read – I struggled to put it down! I was shocked, horrified, astounded and at times deeply saddened at what my dear friend Deb had to endure from such a young age by the very people that were supposed to love and protect her unconditionally, from an already cruel world.
What a fighter, what a survivor she is! Typifies Deb’s amazingly positive attitude towards life and love.
I loved the book – it was extremely readable."
- Candy Coombes

"I was on an incredible roller coaster of emotions. How someone can go through so much and survive is one thing, but to be the incredible person they are is even more incredible. This book took me through some dark places but there was always light. I genuinely could not put it down and I am no big reader. I for one know this story will affect different people in different ways and it will also help those that have been is similar situations."
- Sharon

"You are truly amazing for what you have been through and how you have come out of that black hole. I'm sure this book will help so many people in so many different ways. I can't comprehend or understand what you went through and how you survived and how you kept in contact with your family. You have been through something that is possibly worse than hell. I would not have known that you endured anything at all as you are always so bright, bubbly, warm, caring and super happy. I hope that writing this book has helped you heal in some ways. You are amazing, Deb!"
- Mel



Read the Ipswich Advertiser feature

Ipswich launch presented and supported by Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale and Cr David Pahlke



from Chapter 1

We were the ones in the dilapidated house everyone wondered about, the family on the Bruce Highway, just outside Gladstone. The ones the passing world, adults and children, wondered what those people did for a livelihood, if they had money, how they could bear living there. While all these people raced by on their way to enjoy school holidays, to clinch deals on business trips, or whizzed by on their way back home from relatives and friends, they probably imagined a scruffy, scraggy family, Mum, Dad, kids, definitely too many kids, struggling to make ends meet. I often wondered, the dirt blowing into my windswept, tiny girl eyes, what it was they thought, those cars whooshing by our dusty property.

On the best of days, sometimes even the worst, as a child I thought Dad was a good bloke. At six foot and three inches he towered over everyone, and with his square-jawed Ricky Nelson looks and remnant Elvis Presley hairstyle, the larrikin in his sparkly hazel eyes would tell us stories about his youth, how he used to run amuck and get up to all kinds of mischief.

But also he would tell us how in the end he always did the right thing, how he helped out on his own mother and stepfather’s property that was in the Anondale district, near Lake Perenjora, not that far from where we lived.
Without boasting, he would tell us children how he was the young lad who carried the Olympic flame as it was heralded through the district for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. He is even mentioned in a book for it and had a large medal the size of my palm back then in acknowledgement of the feat. I still have that book and my little brother Sam is the proud owner of Dad’s medal these days.

But the thing is, through his stories, through his gregarious and charming ways, he made us feel connected, and together with him, or by ourselves, we would pick watermelons off the vine on hot summer days, especially at Christmas time, and the pink juice would pour from our mouths and drizzle through our fingers back to the thirsty soil from which the fruit sipped its nourishment.

On the surface of it, it could be easily gleaned from the highway, we may have been scruffy and scraggy, even scrawny and wanting, but we were children in love with life. On the best of days, sometimes even the worst, I loved Dad. I couldn’t help it. He had that sort of “connectedness” about him.

Always phenomenally dark-skinned from his work outside, a tan that continued even through the cold months, on crisp winter mornings he would look out from the back door and seeing the property covered in a layer of white flakiness that looked like someone’s sugar-frosted flakes had spilled over the earth, he would tell us Jack Frost had been around and left his tidings.

For us it was a huge mystery, and Jack Frost, although he never gave us anything but a scene of vast ice cold, was no less a figure in our imaginations than Father Christmas.

On those icy winter days, in the early morning cold, all of us kids would sit on the backstairs eating hot white toast covered in thick yellow honey. As the orange sun slowly rose on our expectant faces and over our bodies, the warm honey would slide down our hands and shine golden through our fingers. The image of frosty mornings with warm toast and melting honey shining through little fingers is one that will never leave me.

Inside the house, Mum, forever busy, would always be preparing something, usually meals, but also at times there was the sweet smell of things being baked in the oven. Usually it was biscuits made from no more than flour and sugar, but always hungry, we knew that smell meant there was a treat in store.

Her special treat for us on the odd occasion was a dessert called Roly Poly, which naturally we whooped and carried on about as though it was the best thing since Tim Tams, but in actual fact, personally, I didn’t really like Roly Polies. I think it was because of the mixed dried fruit she flavoured it with – it was hard on a kid lacking a sweet tooth. But then again I did look forward to the delicious warm custard that was inevitably served with it. Tim Tams we never had.

Mum had seductive curls of dark brown-red hair and I am told that’s where I received my own thick helmet of bushy, rust-brown hair that made my head look like a dramatically curly version of an echidna. In later years Mum would dye her hair black, giving her an Italian look that was apparently very appealing to men.

But she stood a mere five-foot tall and was, so to speak, half Dad’s size. She was also never “half” the match for him, either verbally or physically. She worked tirelessly in the kitchen and outside too. All day long, as Dad cut the timber, she would be the one snigging the cut logs with a tractor.

How hard could life have been for them? It’s hard to imagine even from my modest home in suburban Ipswich. Everything seemed dry and stoic in those days, everything a tough physical chore. Everything taking a mental toll. While the Beatles may have been starting out on rock and roll’s most lucrative career, and most people were beginning to really relish the post-war comforts that flooded into Australia’s cities through the fifties and sixties, we may as well have been struggling to survive on Mars.

The first two houses I remember were never our own, the one rented on the right side of the highway as we faced Gladstone, our biggest nearby city, and the other, which we moved into before I was three, on the left-hand side of the highway. Yes, between 1962 and 1965 we moved from one side of the highway to the other, and either way, the terrain was always hot and flat and dusty and people looked into our lives and made aspersions about us from their safe glass windows as they whipped by on the highway.

Dad always told us kids in those days life would have been different if his own father had not been killed in Singapore. In the War. It happened before Dad even had a chance to recognise the word Dad. With gargantuan courage and tears streaming in his eyes, he one day gathered us kids around his knees and told us his story: how his father was shot and killed defending the Commonwealth.

He even showed us a picture in an old magazine of Australian World War Two soldiers boarding a boat for Singapore. He pointed with a badly rasped working man’s finger at a tiny blurred head with a slouch hat and duffle bag whose face we could not see, and told us that was his dad.

He was very proud to have in his possession his dad’s War medals and carefully unfolded and then refolded the frail, yellowed telegram that his mother had received telling her that her husband, Bennett Gallagher, had died a hero, killed in action.

Also with tears in his eyes, he would tell us kids of his pet kangaroo and its cruel, eventual end, with its guts spilling out. He would sometimes drive us out to his first house, which was a shed with a corrugated tin roof that had no more than hessian bags for walls. It had a dirt floor. If we thought we had it bad, he had it worse.

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