Jus­tice pre­vails: A mem­oir of child abuse

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes bur­tonj@nfld.net

San­dra Mae Brown is a sur­vivor of child abuse.

Born in Bot­wood, NL, she now re­sides with her part­ner in St. Catharines, Ont. She has three chil­dren and eight grand­chil­dren. She loves spend­ing time with her fam­ily, and likes go­ing on road trips and mak­ing happy mem­o­ries.

This comes de­spite the fact that many of her early-life mem­o­ries are any­thing but happy. As a child, she was beaten, starved and left to die by her par­ents.

She tells this story, in­clud­ing how she bravely stood alone and took her par­ents to court, in her book “Jus­tice Pre­vails.”

“My hope,” she says, “is that, by shar­ing my ex­pe­ri­ences, I can pre­vent sim­i­lar things from hap­pen­ing to other chil­dren, so that they won’t have to go through what I had to en­dure.”

Writ­ing her story has been, she says, “a long and ar­du­ous jour­ney,” con­sum­ing 15 years of her life.

Leav­ing school with only a Grade 3 ed­u­ca­tion, she learned, with the help of friends, chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, co-work­ers and neigh­bours, “to read and write enough to see my dream of shar­ing my story be­come a re­al­ity.” She has achieved her goal of send­ing “a mes­sage to the world” and draw­ing “pub­lic at­ten­tion and ac­tion to the is­sue of child abuse.”

I per­son­ally do not be­lieve for­give­ness means for­get­ting. I asked San­dra Mae about this very ques­tion.

“For­giv­ing is not for­get­ting about the things that were done to me,” she writes in an email in­ter­view with this colum­nist. In­stead, “I think it’s more about let­ting go in or­der to move for­ward with my life.”

Shar­ing her story, as dif­fi­cult as it was, has been, she states, “the key to my free­dom.”

In a trans­parency born of pain, she ad­mits, “I’ve tried drugs, drink­ing and meds from doc­tors. I’ve been in the hos­pi­tal for six weeks at a time.”

How­ever, noth­ing worked for her un­til she, in her words, “started writ­ing and, be­lieve me, that wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I did be­cause to­day I’m so happy with all that I’ve ac­com­plished ... I’m very much at peace with my life now.”

As an abused child, she of­ten prayed, ask­ing God to de­liver her.

“Let me take you back to that dark room,” she says, re­fer­ring to the “dark hole in the wall,” where her par­ents moved her when she was only six. “It’s so cold inside, my fin­ger­tips are sore and bleed­ing as I try hard to break free. The smell of my own body waste makes me sick. I hear voices out­side, but no­body seems to hear me cry­ing for help. Mother’s foot­steps scare me. I’m afraid be­cause, at any mo­ment, she’s go­ing to pull me out, only to beat me again. It’s so dark, I can’t even see my hands in front of my face.

“I pray to God for help, but help doesn’t come. I say to my­self, ‘Maybe God didn’t hear me pray­ing.’

“But now,” she con­tin­ues, “I be­lieve God was there be­side me all the way. I truly be­lieve one must talk through the val­ley in or­der to claim the vic­tory in the end. I also be­lieve life’s hard­ships can be our best teacher.”

San­dra Mae’s mes­sage onates with her read­ers. “I’ve got­ten mes­sages from across Canada from peo­ple telling me how touched they were by read­ing my book … I feel so blessed to have all the support from peo­ple I don’t even know.”

She hopes her book will “go far and wide around the world,” but not for the sake of sell­ing more copies. Rather, she hopes it will “save other chil­dren who are suf­fer­ing from child abuse.”

She has a prac­ti­cal word of ad­vice for her read­ers who may have gone through abuse in their own lives: “Don’t let the abuse de­fine who you are.”

Mean­while, she be­lieves it is “very im­por­tant for peo­ple to open their eyes to child abuse. A home may look pretty on the out­side, but that doesn’t mean it’s clean on the inside.”

San­dra Mae Brown self-pub­lished her book, “Jus­tice Pre­vails,” which is printed by Friesen Press of Vic­to­ria, BC.

“I pray to God for help, but help doesn’t come. I say to my­self, ‘Maybe God didn’t

hear me pray­ing.’”

—San­dra Mae Brown


Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Com­pass

BUCK­ETS OF BUCKS — Jessica O’Keefe and Sara Clarke of Car­bon­ear give a lot of their time and en­ergy to help­ing out char­i­ta­ble causes. On Thurs­day, Oct. 16, the Rangers, from the girl guide or­ga­ni­za­tion, helped col­lect money for the Mayor’s Walk in Mem­ory of the late Claude Gar­land. The Town of Car­bon­ear has been the top town for col­lect­ing in the prov­ince over the past few years. Since 2006, the lo­cal event has raised over $40,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion. As a spe­cial sur­prise, the foun­da­tion has do­nated an AED — au­to­matic ex­ter­nal de­fib­ril­la­tor — to the town. Mayor George Butt said the AED will be in­stalled in the Sheila NaGeira The­atre once it ar­rives. The to­tal raised for 2014 was not known prior to The Com­pass’ pub­li­ca­tion dead­line.

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