New book details local author's journey from abuse victim to survivor

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Claudette Pilon shows off a copy of her autobiography, and the painting that hangs in her kitchen.

There's a painting that hangs in Claudette Pilon's Cornwall kitchen that tells the story of her journey from being a sex abuse victim to present day - but it's missing a key component.

In the painting she completed a couple of years ago, a chain-link stand is depicted, holding aloft candle. At one end of the stand, one of the links in the chain is open.

"That represents the part of my life I kept hidden," she said.

Until now. Pilon has penned an autobiography that details sexual abuse she suffered at just eight years of age, and how that abuse helped shape nearly every facet of her life until now.

"That (open chain link) contains all the feelings of guilt, shame and lack of confidence," she told Seaway News in an interview.

Pilon, a Francophone who penned her autobiography in French, called the book Quête de Liberté (or Quest for Freedom) and she said putting her thoughts into words was nearly as therapeutic as going to a therapist.

"I am who I am because of the events that happened in my life, and it made me search for freedom," she said. "At one point I said that I have finally found my soul. I have found out who I am deep inside and what I have valued alll these years."

The horror of her abuse, and her attempts to conceal it and process the attack led her to a life of spirituality. From age 17 until 50 she was a sister with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She left the order in 1992 and got married four years later.

While a member of the order the stigma of sex abuse reared its ugly head again. Pilon was a member of the diocesan committee which dealt with the sex abuse allegations against Father Gilles Deslaurier in the mid 1980s. She testified at the Cornwall Public Inquiry for two days in July, 2008.

"It was tough for me," she said of her testimony, adding that the pressure of trying to give complete answers, in English, about events that happened many years in the past proved trying.

It also left her feeling like she had some unanswered questions herself.

"When you reach a certain age, it's good to go over your past to orient your future," Pilon said. "And it's good to investigate alll the parts of your life. It's not easy, but it's something important to do, because it allows you to be 'at home' as a person. And you can't necessarily do that when you're young."

She began writing the book in November, 2008 and it remained completed for two years before she decided to publish it on her own.

The book will be launched Sunday at Centre Culturel de Cornwall at 2 p.m.

There has also been some interest shown by an Ottawa publishing firm about completing a second edition of the book for wider circulation.

"I really want to send a message to society that whatever happens to us in our childhood, you can always rise above it and be creative later."

To inquire about a copy of the book, contact Pilon at 613-938-2394.

Organizations: Cornwall Public Inquiry 22

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