The dangers of memory: Doris Sheppard's story

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Doris Sheppard, 77, was rejected last year by her elder daughter (who is now 55). She claimed that, through therapy, she had uncovered a long history of childhood sexual abuse from her stepfather. Doris does not know what form the therapy took.

The last time I spoke to my elder daughter was on 17 November at half past three in the afternoon. She phoned up, started the call quite normally - 'Hello, mummy, how are you?' My neighbour was here, putting in a lightbulb for me.

Suddenly she shouted that she was a deprived child, she'd had no love, and that as a child she had been sexually abused by my husband from the age of seven until she got married - and that I knew all about it and did nothing. I said 'But you didn't get married until you were 29]' I mean, why did she come back and live with us, if this was going on?

When she put the phone down on me, I phoned my younger daughter and said 'Did your father ever sexually abuse you?' She said, 'No. I don't want to talk about it.' I said 'You've been talking to your sister haven't you?' and she said 'I don't want to talk about it' and put the phone down on me.

I rang my elder daughter's husband and said this was all wrong; he said 'Whatever she says, goes.' I phoned her father-in-law and said 'Has she been having some kind of therapy?' He didn't want to talk to me either, but he said she had. She has a house in Florida, and had therapy while she was out there - all the rich ladies out there have their own therapists. I don't know what therapy it was - she just came out with all this.

My son in New Zealand said 'What rubbish. Where was I while all this was going on?' I said 'You must have been asleep, like I was]'

My husband has been dead for 13 years and can't defend himself - I'm not dead and I'll defend myself and him. I want an apology and I want her to tell her sister it's not true.

My husband was a very, very nice person. He would never have done anything like that. And he didn't come back from the Sudan after the war until she was nine - it must have been very long-distance abuse.

There was just no chance - he worked six days a week, he was out of here at nine, back at 10 three nights a week, and I was always here - I never went out to work until my younger daughter was 17.

For three weeks, I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't walk along the street without crying. I would have jumped off my balcony except for the disgrace it would have brought to my children. One of my neighbours said 'If she'd died in a car accident you'd be able to get over it' - I just have to think of her as if she were dead. I don't think I'll ever see her again.

I'm so worried about my younger daughter. She was a lovely girl, we were so close. She sent me a note on the 13th of December saying 'Don't get worked up, I'll ring in a couple of days' - but she didn't. I'm very much alone now. I don't know what to do next. Does this really happen to other families?

(Photograph omitted)