Eleanor Cowan

Our cultural conspiracy of silence about predators and pain finally begins to crack

By Eleanor Cowan

“She broke her neck on her way down,” said a police officer at the scene. Thick yellow spray paint outlined an ovary-shaped form on the grass from which my mother’s body had been removed, wrapped in a zippered tarpaulin. Two screaming witnesses, bathers who’d been enjoying a pleasant afternoon by the building’s outdoor pool on that sunny August day, had happened to glance up to witness my mother’s horrid plummet from her seventh-floor balcony.

“She didn’t feel the final impact,” the investigator added. I noticed a tinged bloodstain on the grass.

“The skull sustained a crack,” said the kindly officer, following my gaze.

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Once I was groomed to be compliant; now I’m reclaiming my own life

By Eleanor Cowan

I picked up my sweet, chubby grandson and cuddled him in my arms. He’d reached up to me and, thrilled to respond, I held him close. But ah, a colorful object on the floor beckoned, and instantly, he wanted down. Wriggling only once and issuing a single sound, he found himself back on the wool carpet crawling towards a plastic lamb-shaped cookie cutter. It claimed his full attention. With no hesitation, he’d signaled his wish and I honored it. Simple as that.

Not so in my childhood.

Responses to me were, “What do you want now?,” “Go away,” “Get lost,” or, “What a pain in the behind.”

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My husband’s entire family knew what he was, but nobody talked about it

By Eleanor Cowan

January 1973 – Quebec

At the college where I worked as a secretary, I smiled up at the chubby cherubs fixed along the ancient oak hallway, their alabaster gazes uplifted in hope. I knocked on the chaplain’s door. We’d arranged to meet during my lunch hour. Anxious to hear about the results of his appointment with my fiancé’s mother, I took the same wooden chair Edna sat in only hours before.

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Healing after the sociopath — a long bridge over painful memories

By Eleanor Cowan

I awaken this first day of 2018 to a winter world of snow. Outside my window, sunshine brightens a yellow bus full of passengers lumbering over a mile-long overpass. Even though layers of heavy slush still cover its roof, it’s plowing along. The bridge, dripping with glistening icicles, allows the access to town that otherwise would require a long overland trip.

Thanks to hard-working night time crews, the road is clear.

It’s been twenty-eight years since I awakened from a freezing burrow of long-term disassociation and managed, with wonderful help, to escape the pedophile I married — a confused, disturbed exploiter who hid behind the respected academic letters stuck to the end of his name.

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My sociopathic husband and isolation in my marriage

During my fourteen years of marriage, even though I could see and hear, I was blind and deaf to the messages coming in all the time, information that slowly, over time, eroded my hope that marriage and children would solve the unresolved grief in my life.

One morning in July 1976, I was nursing Teddy while watching the Montreal Olympics on the TV our landlord had kindly loaned to us. In an instant, the pillows that supported my back against the attic wall felt like stone as I listened to a flash news report. Our newborn was asleep when I whispered to Stan, “A child has been sexually abused by her own grandfather in Guelph. What a horrible, unspeakable thing.”

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My sociopathic husband denied – with outrage and tears – what turned out to be the terrible truth

In our tiny upper flat, I took all the vitamins and folic acid tablets never available to my pregnant foremothers. I ate well, our table a rainbow of green, orange and yellow every day. I drank a concoction called Tiger’s Milk, thrilled to nourish the growth of my child within, a baby I loved with all my heart.

One sunny day, while Stan, my then-husband, subbed for the Toronto School Board, I sat on the carpeted floor near our tiny attic window, a pillow to my back, and gazed at an astonishing Time Life photo of a baby inside a mother’s womb. I had no idea how it had been taken, but it inspired me to draw a woven basket so full of colorful spring flowers they toppled over the sides, a welcome home card for my soon-to-be-born baby. I was lost in art when the phone jangled.

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Overcoming the residual fear from sociopathic abuse — two steps forward, one step back

By Eleanor Cowan

One bitterly cold winter’s morning at the Vendome metro in Montreal, I hopped a bus that would take me to a lecture on “Attentiveness and Developing Awareness” — and got a complete lesson well before I arrived at the class.

The driver of the vehicle, an unsmiling muscled-bound individual, closely examined my transfer for the minute expiry hour stamped upon it. With a curt nod, I was permitted to take my seat. About two minutes later, the driver revved up the ignition for departure, but not before an elderly lady rapped on the glass door, asking for entry. The driver looked down at her, examined his watch for the ten seconds it would have taken to open the door and admit her, adjusted the shift sticks and noisily tore off without her. I saw the aged woman bow her head and quickly step back onto the snowy sidewalk shelter as the bus swept away without her.

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Grooming: How the religious and cultural ideas of my childhood conditioned me to accept pain and abuse

When I said that “god was my first abuser,” at our regular meeting of Parents of Sexually Abused Children, no one sucked in their breath or exhibited shock. A tough group, no one even blinked an eye.

That week’s topic, “Grooming” was assigned by Aidan, our lead Social Worker who, while she listened to us, liked to re-shape lifeless paper clips into unconventional characters that she’d stand up on an enormous art canvas she’d been creating for years and years.

Recovery from the sociopath — learning to count what truly matters

“Was it the sex?” a new member asked me at our weekly meeting of Parents of Sexually Abused Children. “Is that why you stayed with your user for 14 years?”

Three faces swung to me, including the lead social worker of our small assembly, a tall, serious senior woman who encouraged us to ask and answer questions. Aidan didn’t smile a whole lot, but over time, I came to respect her genuine sincerity and tremendous breadth of knowledge.

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Unearthing my repressed memory of being drugged and raped

By Eleanor Cowan

A young woman from my building banged on my door at 3 a.m. “It’s me! Darlene!” Soon on the couch and sipping the hot tea I made for us both, she wept uncontrollably. “I know what happened,” the twenty-four-year-old cried as we waited for the police to arrive.

“I know what happened. He ordered me a night cap at the bar while I was in the washroom. I don’t remember going to his place. I woke up undressed and in pain. Oh! I’m lucky I escaped.”

“Wow, a nightcap knocked you out like that?” I asked, tucking my shawl around her shaking form.

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