Saturday, October 15, 2005

Still about in-laws, but this time on a deadly serious note:

"The Picture of Daddy

- Thelma´s Story"

This is the title of a just published book that has shocked and horrified the public in Iceland. It´s the true story of the girl Thelma and her four sisters, who throughout their entire childhood, during the seventies and eighties, were violated, sexually abused and prostituted by their alcoholic and mentally disturbed father and his "friends", to whom he "lent" his daughters to have sex with them, in exchange for booze and drugs and sometimes, Thelma suspects, even money.

The publication has especially shaken the community of the small town Hafnarfjörður, in the vicinity of Reykjavík, where the family lived, as well as everybody else in the country. People are asking all sorts of questions, as to how this could persist in such a close community, where everybody more or less knows each other and what is going on. It seems there were persistent, ugly rumours and that lots of people knew that there was something amiss in "the little yellow house". There seem to have been some inquiries and attempts to intervene on behalf of the girls´ school (where they are all noted as having been excellent, friendly and well behaved students, neatly dressed and smiling, despite of coming from a "problem" home) and the local authorities, but that nobody really took any serious action or initiative to find out what was wrong, to get to the bottom of what exactly was happening or take precautions to stop whatever it was.

It didn´t help matters much of course that the girls´mother, justly afraid of her husbands rage, when asked (as accounted for by an at-the-time school nurse, social worker and police) denied that the family was having any problems, insisting that "we are fine". But then, is it reasonable to expect a different answer from her, with a crazy husband listening in another room? In an interview on a television news program about the book and the story it tells, the former school nurse even muttered at the end that she was herself "dead-scared of the guy"! It has also been pointed out that the mother may have had some fear of the authorities, dreading the prospect of possibly having her children taken away from her if the truth came out.

As Thelma herself so pathetically puts it, all these years later, on behalf of the little girls that suffered their lot in silence and fear of their psychopatic monster of a father, whose punishment for disobedience could for example consist of beating them or killing one of their many and dear pets while he forced them to look on: "Nobody asked us. Nobody saved us!"

The woman Thelma is Óskar´s ex-sister-in law, she was the wife of his brother Helgi for some years. They had been married for about two years and she had given birth to their only son when she opened up to him and told him what went on in her childhood´s home. He had already had some suspictions, ever since he got to know her, but even so it was a great shock to learn the ugly truth. He was the one who encouraged her to seek help and go to "Stígamót", the center for victims of sexual abuse and violence, where she went and stayed for a whole year.

They later got divorced, but are still fond of each other and keep in good contact. Thelma has ever since that time been actively involved in the work of "Stígamót", giving council and helping other women that have had similar horrible experiences to her own.

And now she has with great courage, in this new book* authored by
Gerður Kristný, a well known Icelandic writer, unfolded to the public the story of the five sisters and the truth about their gruesome childhood.

Because, as Thelma says: "The shame is not ours! - If anybody in a similar situation can be helped by me revealing all and telling this story, my goal with this book is achieved."

She is a real hero!

A post on the same subject from "The Iceland Weather Report"


Soumyadip said...

Similar stories of some Indian Thelmas crop up in the inside pages of Indian newspapers occasionally and the television channels juice them up in their regular 'crime shows.' And nothing happens. A lot many more Thelmas struggle for their daily existence in anonymity. The taboo factor is often too strong in a culture like ours to empower people to speak out. And when they do, it's only momentary; everyone loses interest after a while. The conviction rates in cases of sexual assault and rapes here is abysmally low. In the cases that come up for hearing, the offender in most often than not is someone known to the victim.

Doug Bagley said...

That is so sad. When I hear of stories like this my heart aches for the victoms and my anger rises againt the person or persons that committ such horrible, horrible atrocities.

Lys Blog said...

I just read the book and must say I was as much angry as to how it could go on like this as I wept. What "soumyadip" should know is that our country is such a small country and the village the girls were living in is really small.

Greta said...

lys, I think he knows, he has been reading my blog long enough for that; he is just narrating to us the Indian situation in these matters, the way those things are in his large country, where they must be so much more difficult to handle, just because of the size and the multitude of people.

Mia said...

Would you mind helping me out anyone?I would love to read this book but I can't find it anywhere.I live in the US and I've looked in most places.Please help me.
You can email me if you have any say.