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Hi. My name is Donald

© 2001 by Donald D'Haene


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Don D'Haene

Don when he was young

For more information on Donald D'Haene's book, Father's Touch: A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Faith, go to

"Father's Touch is an extraordinary book. I have read many impressive memoirs by survivors of sexual child abuse; many features set this one above the pack. In addition to his fearless self examination, Donald D'Haene presents excerpts from his father's writings that offer a chilling first person portrait of an abuser's denial, distortions, justifications and rationalizations of his crimes. D'Haene details the response (ranging from ignoring the problem through outright resistence to re-victimization) by many segments of the community - religious, educational, police, and the legal system. That Donald D'Haene persisted in his quest for understanding and justice in the face of these obstacles, is testimony to his strength, courage and resilience. This is a book that will stay with you long after you close its covers.
    - Mike Lew, author of Victims No longer and Leaping upon the Mountains

Hi. My name is Donald. Last February I turned 40.

Hey, I didnít mind. Life has never been better. Personally, I live with a loving and caring partner and my life is rich with family and friends. Professionally, I am in my second season of my column, DISHing With Donald, which appears in an arts magazine and which is also filmed as a regular segment for a local television station here in London, Ontario, Canada. Even more important, when it came time to find a publisher for my memoir, a literary agent wanted to represent me but I found a publisher flying solo.

You get the picture: Iím a healthy, happy adult whoís not experiencing a midlife crisis.

But life hasnít always been pretty. I survived something our society calls the last taboo, sexual abuse. That is the subject of my memoir.

So if Iím so happy, if I have such a great future to look forward to, and someone to share it with, why bother telling my story? Because too many victims remain silent, unable to find their way out of their darkness. Because our numbers are legion. Because education and awareness empowers victims and weakens predators. Because if just one reader, one victim sees himself in me, realizes he is not alone, not to blame, has nothing to be ashamed of, and can live a successful, productive and happy life, my disclosure will have been worthwhile.

Imagine that. A victim who thinks heís normal. That is me.

I understand that each experience of abuse is as unique as the victimís way of surviving. While individual history is important, pain is pain so detailing the specifics of my experience is not as important as what I did to survive it. Besides, Iíve told my story to a series of excellent therapists. Even their couch was not the last stop in my story, for surviving is a lifelong journey, not a destination.

Survival has been defined as a continuation of a life beyond that of another. In my case, I survived a horrific childhood and became a healthy adult.

Thatís right. People who meet the adult Donald I am today do not see a victim Ė they meet a survivor. Yes, it takes a strong person to survive years of abuse. It takes even more fortitude to buck the system, to go against your culture, your societal dictates of right and wrong.

But forging your own way is something survivors discover is necessary, for no two victims experience abuse the same way. No two recoveries are identical.

Throughout my life, I have done what I had to do, even if that meant creating other selves in order to survive. I did not have Multiple Personality Disorder as is exemplified by the conditionís most famous example "Sybil". I was completely aware of the personalities I had created. I chose each ĎDonaldí to meet the needs of individual situations.

Call me, "Sybil by Choice".

My personae were in part orchestrated by a carefully constructed blueprint of my own design.

People have at times perceived me as extraverted, friendly, witty, entertaining, intelligent and talented. While others have witnessed the polar opposite: The Donald who is introverted, vulnerable, disconnected, shy, and cautious.

Although my escape from my past was in many ways absolute, the irony is that most of my choices were directly connected to, and as a result of that past. The turmoil I experienced existed within my own mind. The emotional Donald was trapped inside an adult body that the outside world defined me by. The outer and inner selves never met.

The fact that I did not abuse my body lead people to assume my recovery was complete, or even more pointedly, that I never had anything to recover from. Having chosen that route, I controlled how and what people perceived me to be. For example, ten years ago a man told me, "I donít think youíve ever went through anything!" It was not posed as a question or criticism; it was merely a statement of fact. That was his reality as far as I was concerned. His comment told me the Donald I had displayed to him had deceived him completely. So that characterization was a success.

It saddened be to know that people were buying my impersonations, stopping at superficial observations, but who doesnít? Canít fault people for believing what they "know" to be true. Especially since that is precisely what I was trying to accomplish at the time.

My acting provided a safe place from the real world, from my past, and from myself. After all, if no one else is there to save us, we must do whatever it takes so that we can survive.

Nevertheless, sometimes I felt trapped inside a body that the outside world defined me by. The outer and inner selves were rarely intertwined. When the aging process kicked in, everything was out of whack. Because my physical, mental, and emotional selves all progressed at different rates, in any single day, I felt at turns ancient, childlike, and adolescent.

But even those contradictions, I worked to my advantage. In fact, I sold my imperfections on the public stage. I believe that this pseudo-honesty made my public persona more attractive. I used to hide the good, the bad and the ugly. That was a less successful presentation.

I not only wanted to control my immediate situation, I strove for control of people's perceptions of me. Like a mini-series that never ends, I was attracted to the drama, tragedy, and comedy of situations which I sometimes created. The Donald Show was a roller coaster ride that never ended. The supporting players were uniquely tied together in some way by introductions arranged by the central character. The reason the series was renewed every year is that I constantly reinvented myself. The show was noted for turbulent brilliance. When I was on, I was ON. When I wasnít, I disappeared into the surroundings.

Give me an audience and I could leave myself and grasp a fleeting moment of escape. I transplanted myself into a place that doesn't exist, because that is the only place that was home to me. I created a reality from that place that fooled the viewer into accepting the current characterization. The character and Donald became one. Did the real Donald ever show himself?

The truth is that that chosen path is the reason that I am alive today. I found my way of surviving. I want to continue my journey of self-discovery but there is no graduation class, no point where the past means nothing. My experiences and choices have molded and shaped a character that is truly unique. I believe that if every human were to experience the awakening I have, he would find the world is not such a bad place to inhabit. I have an awareness, a sixth sense that cannot be bought, taught, or taken away from me.

In 2001, my quest for inner-peace continues. Me, myself, and I have found relative success. I am more childlike than I ever was as a boy. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of the innocent sparkle I possessed as a toddler. Other times, I feel the innocence I never had during the rest of my childhood. If it is because of God and my parents that I came into existence, it is also due to a multitude of facades that I have survived and exist today.

The bad days are few, the good days are many.

For more information on Donald D'Haene's book, Father's Touch: A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Faith, go to

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