"An obligation to do more..."
Louise Loraine Conrad is a retired registered nurse and procurement expert. In her spare time, Conrad reads and writes extensively. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband. She recently approached Restore Hope to author a piece for "Champions of Change."
As L.L. Conrad, I write contemporary romance novels that focus on less than popular themes of our time. Mental health issues are featured if not predominantly, then to some degree, as is childhood exploitation. The reasoning as to why it is so important for me to get the word out has to do with my own history of being subjected to neglect and abuse.
On one hand, I can identify with those who were exposed to things that no child should have to face. While on the other, it is not enough to simply relate to them. There is an obligation to do more.
At the age of twelve, putting my experiences on paper was cathartic. Emotions released in words that might never be read by another still brought perspective. And although I owe much of my writing career to its therapeutic benefits, another purpose has emerged—to raise a greater awareness.
Before I learned to challenge my fears and regain trust through creative expression, there were bleak times of failed attempts to run away and suicide to end it all. Grasping for anything that might make it all go away often led people to consider my actions as attention seeking…when in fact it was a sign of wanting help. I always knew that my home environment was abnormal. That the norm was not having a family unit where the adults assaulted their children. Writing and reading my own words made it manageable somehow. At least long enough to grow older.
I understood in a very fundamental way that freedom would not be easily achieved unless I could learn to be stronger and find a way to cope. If I could survive until I could be of age to support myself, then everything would be okay. Faith in myself is what sustained me. By fifteen, the last time anyone touched me against my will, I moved out. Packing everything I owned, transported by taxi to a lodging house, I worked two jobs and completed high school.
Even today, the subject is almost abhorrent to people and I myself still have difficulty sharing my past easily. For years that grew into decades, it was my secret. It was not until I reached forty that the topic came up in a conversation with my sister, whom I had always tried to shelter and believed that she had escaped a similar existence. Even then we did not go into any detail, yet it made me realize two things:
I stopped blaming our relatives and neighbors for not noticing something amiss and seemingly turning a blind eye, when I myself had not known how my own sibling was being treated by our father.
That the sharing of this sensitive subject takes more courage than anyone can possibly comprehend. Had I been stronger to request help or alert my teacher or someone trusted, that perhaps my youth would have been different. Despite the guilt and this sense of hopelessness, I should have been able to raise the alarm. So, why didn’t I?
Those who know me now, see a very self-assured and strong person. Perhaps I am, however I owe that to my past and what it took to overcome what many never do. Do not think that just because I am grown and have had children of my own that my childhood no longer affects me. I know firsthand the realities of abuse that come in various forms and how it can affect the human spirit the whole of one’s life. This is why the tales that I weave incorporate the realities in an attempt to educate those who might otherwise remain oblivious and to offer hope to those who have been touched by similar traumas.
There is no such thing as having too much awareness of the reality of childhood abuse, sexual or otherwise. How to recognize it. How to offer support. How to be less ignorant.
Writing fiction then allows me to bring up all types of subjects with those who wish to engage in exploring segments of my work. When interviewed, effort is once again placed on drawing attention to the plight of many that is so difficult to spot, let alone do anything about.
Engaging others is one method of making headway. By addressing any controversial topic with sensitivity and compassion requires the ability to begin the discussion and keep it going.
Helping to create awareness of how the vulnerable individual in your midst could be a victim, makes it relevant. If my stories, beyond simply entertaining, do anything else, it is to bring to light how one’s youth shapes adulthood.
My novels show the delicate balance between surviving anything, even something as gruesome as physical assault or dealing with events in the past, then ultimately prospering. It is critical from the aspect of providing acknowledgment and encouragement to any reader who might be able to relate to the strong characters who started with nothing more than hope.