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Lucy’s brave world

Monday, 12th January, 2015

Physiotherapist Lucy Netherwood says exercise got her through her darkest moments in a personal battle she believes stems from being sexually abused as child. Physiotherapist Lucy Netherwood says exercise got her through her darkest moments in a personal battle she believes stems from being sexually abused as child.

By Erica Visser

To the outside world Lucy Netherwood is a young woman with the world at her feet.

A chronic overachiever, teenaged Lucy was both a swimming star and an academic student who was later named dux at Willyama High School.

She went on to study physiotherapy at Newcastle and spent a three-year stint working back in Broken Hill before last year moving on to the picturesque Noosa, where the 27-year-old has started a physiotherapy and personal training business. 

But for most of her life Lucy has been fighting her own private battle against a myriad of issues that continued to crop up into adulthood - an eating disorder, anxiety and traits that fit with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

It wasn’t until Lucy discovered the unsettling truth about her past, the missing piece of her jigsaw puzzle as she calls it, that everything began to make sense.

Eighteen months ago, Lucy uncovered memories of being sexually assaulted as a child over a two year period.

She released her e-book “The Weatherboard Shed” late last year in a bid to help other adult survivors of child sexual assault. 

“I always had a feeling something may have happened but I never had any clear memories so it was more just feelings and anxieties,” Lucy told the BDT.

“I think I began to remember what happened because I was home and in a supportive environment. Before that I was living alone and travelling. 

“It has been hard on my family. Especially for my mum, feeling guilty not knowing that something was going on when I was that age.”

Lucy doesn’t name the perpetrator within her book, but does state that he was not a family member.

“The acts were invasive and despicable; it was planned and pre-meditated,” the book reads.

“I know this because the perpetrator used tactics like grooming, guilt, manipulation and games to ensure his crime went undetected.”

Lucy says she made the brave decision to speak out about the issue to break the silence on a topic which is still very much stigmatised.    

“It’s a bit of a taboo issue to speak about. People kind of don’t want to hear about it and that creates guilt and silence and only makes survivors’ feelings of guilt and shame worse.

“It’s a huge issue in society and I think it’s something we need to openly discuss. I wanted to write the book because if I could help other survivors it would mean all my battles weren’t futile.”

When asked whether she wished the traumatic memories had never been uncovered, Lucy had mixed feelings.

Prior to the realisation, she had no recollection of her childhood prior to age six. 

The body’s “fight or flight” response, the book explains, leads to the release of hormones that repress stressful memories.

When Lucy began to remember through the help of counselling, it wasn’t just the bad but the good memories from that time period that came back.

She recalled a lost love of fairies, spaghetti bolognaise and Billy Ray Cyrus’ song “Achey Breaky Heart.”

“In a way I think maybe it would have been easier and less stressful and traumatic if I hadn’t uncovered the memories but at the same time I had a lot of issues in my life and by understanding the neurobiology behind that I’ve been able to understand why.”

Lucy still has frequent flashbacks and nightmares, takes anxiety medication and goes to regular psychotherapy sessions.

But she says things are headed in the right direction, with thanks to an overwhelming influx of support from family and friends.

“It’s something that’s a lifelong battle but they are definitely things that I’m now able to address,” she said.

“The response to my book has been overwhelming. I’ve had just so many beautiful messages of support.

The book has also been a success with a wider audience; it’s now available and 51 countries and a Melbourne publisher is looking at printing hard copies.

You can buy an electronic copy of The Weatherboard Shed for $4.99 at www.smashwords.com, or via Apple iTunes.

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