January 8, 2011 10:40:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Roszalia Ellen knew she had to finally open up about her past. Trying to hide it didn''t make it go away. Pretending it never happened didn''t lesson its impact. In a condensed 84-page book titled "A Crushed Rose: The Life of Roszalia Ellen," she chronicles her memories of a childhood lost to incest and shame.
"I held it inside for years, but it manifested itself in mental, spiritual and physical symptoms. I couldn''t sleep, couldn''t eat," said Roszalia, who was born in Jackson and now lives in Columbus. Her past had tainted her relationships with men and family members. It kept her from "getting closer to God."
"It wasn''t easy as an adult to live what they call ''normal''," she admits.
The roiling anxiety needed an outlet. "One night, I got up at 3 a.m. and started writing," she stated. The resulting newly-released paperback is a forthright, summaried account of some of her life experiences, starting with her earliest years living with a grandmother she loved. A grandmother who took her to church, where the young girl would later play piano for the choir and congregation. But her grandparent''s diagnosis of Parkinson''s disease brought what would be the most contented years of Roszalia''s childhood to an end.
"With my grandma''s failing health, the good times just faded away," she records. "Beginning around the age of 8, I was gradually introduced to a hellish lifestyle. But, oh my goodness, I was not prepared for a reign of terror. My story is an agonizing chronicle about growing up in an incestuous home," she shares. Years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her father would affect everything that came after.
Roszalia says that, as a teen, she did try to talk to others, but for varying reasons, they chose not to understand or intervene. She remembers living with pervasive depression, nervousness and fear.
In her account, she openly writes of an adult life peppered by alcohol abuse, failed marriage, violence and her struggles as an ill-equipped mother of four.
One of those children is Sabrina Butler, who was sentenced to death in 1990 for capital murder, after the death of her child. Roszalia was instrumental in a campaign to get her daughter''s conviction overturned. In 1995, Sabrina was granted a new trial and found not guilty. (Sabrina''s book, "Exonerated: The Sabrina Butler Story," is expected out this year.)
For Roszalia, the overwhelming compulsion to finally put at least part of her own story into words was more than a personal release -- it was to encourage anyone who has suffered abuse to find strength.
"Abuse perpetuated by adults on children should not be kept a secret. ... The crime of incest hides behind the shame that people feel; it is covered by a spirit of darkness," she says.
Road to healing
Writing the book took about a year, but with the assistance of editor/publisher Mary Morris in Chicago, "A Crushed Rose" was brought to fruition.
The road to healing and forgiveness has been long, says Roszalia, who was guided by a rededicated faith, meditation and a holistic approach to health.
"Now, I feel much better mentally. And I''m able to share with other people, and they share with me," she says. She acknowledges that her children suffered during their youth because of her instability. Her book is dedicated to them and thanks them for their care and love.
"Evil can press you down and make you feel hopeless," she writes. "There is always hope. ... I thank God for bringing me out of the darkness."
With the completion of "A Crushed Rose," Roszalia has accepted several speaking engagements and hopes to do more, especially in churches and to women''s groups. She strongly urges any victim of sexual violence to contact the RAINN -- Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network -- hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673), or an agency in your own community.
"Whatever you are faced with, you do not have to go at it alone," she counsels.
Editor''s note: "A Crushed Rose" is available at www.acrushedrose.com, or by contacting the writer at [email protected]
com. For information regarding speaking engagements, contact Leon Hines at 662-574-3705.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.