Tricia Cook first wrote her memoir, which begins with stories of childhood sexual abuse, to help her sister, but now the Nanaimo resident hopes her story can reach others as well.
Cook’s book, Too Scared to Tell till Now: A Woman’s Journey to a Fulfilled Life, details a life of hardship, first as a child of a domineering mother and sexually abusive father growing up in England during the Second World War. After marrying a Catholic, which resulted in years of estrangement from her family, Cook moved to Canada, first living in remote northern B.C. and the Interior before settling in the Lower Mainland. The book also covers the breakdown of Cook’s marriage, culminating in a difficult divorce, as well as her struggles with illness and disability.
Cook said she was prompted to write her memoir after learning later in life that her younger sister had also been abused by their father.
“She said to me that her family would not believe her when she got all those years to tell them,” Cook said. “And then she asked me, she said, ‘You like writing and stories and poetry, well I want you to write it [for] all the people in the family.’”
Cook, who was taught from a young age never to speak up, said it was good to finally tell her story. She said she thought her family would never speak to her again after reading her memoir but their response was more supportive than she expected.
“I was delighted when they all wrote and they said that they were shocked but it was good to tell the family…” she said. “And now what family’s left, they’re still talking to us. I felt that I’d done something to help my sister.”
Although she initially wrote the book just for her family, Cook said her publisher encouraged her to “send it out into the world” and she agreed with the hope that she could reach a wider audience.
Cook said having someone to talk to helped her cope with her abuse. She still talks to a lifelong friend she first opened up to when she was a child, and as an adult she met other victims of sexual abuse while taking a counselling course.
“They came out and talked about it … and it gives you that urge: ‘Oh, I can talk about it,’” she said. “And there’s relief that you get by having somebody to talk to who’s been in that situation.”
Cook also credits her resilience to her strict upbringing and experience living through the Second World War. She said her grandmother’s advice was “You put up, you shut up and you get on with it.” Leaving home to get married against her parents’ wishes was also a lesson in independence.
“[My mother] said, ‘That’s the last meal you’ll be having in this house,’ and she said, ‘Make your bed and you’ll lie on it.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want that, mum, but if that’s what it’s got to be I will stand on my own feet.’ And that’s always gone with me…” Cook said. “I still have the attitude that I’ve got to keep going somehow.”
Too Scared to Tell till Now: A Woman’s Journey to a Fulfilled Life is available at Chapters in Nanaimo and online.