Author: Phyllis Hain
Publisher: Bancroft Press
ISBN: 978-1-61088-100-5

Who you are born to and who you marry are inherently linked. Strike it lucky in the birth department; grow up in a family where you are valued and loved and your chance of choosing a partner who also values and loves you improves markedly.

This didn’t happen to Phyllis Hain, the writer of a remarkably honest memoir, Diamond in the Dark, leaving the shadow of abuse. 

Phyllis, the youngest of three children was born with an undiagnosed (then or now) illness, similar to epilepsy, which caused breathlessness and fainting fits. Her father, a marine who had been invalided out of WWII with acute brain trauma, could only find employment in lowly paid positions, as a result the family finances bordered on poverty; Phyllis’ illness was an additional burden for her mother.

The brain injury suffered by her father caused him to become a violent alcoholic bully who regularly meted out beatings to his wife and children. Perhaps today, his brain injury would have been controlled by drugs – difficult to predict. What is apparent from this memoir of a family where the father either fuelled by alcohol or religious zeal terrorized and abused his family is that the children suffered dreadfully; their home, a place of hellish conflict and beatings. 

A pretty blond girl, away from home Phyllis was a well liked, outgoing, intelligent child, who enjoyed a special bond with her grandmother.  Visits to her grandparent’s property to pick peas were a happy relief from a mother who favoured her older sister, and a father, whose behaviour was erratic and abusive.

Something that Phyllis felt very deeply growing up was that no-one in her immediate family appeared to like or value her existence. Her mother, close to her older sister, often ignored or was at odds with Phyllis which left her a lonely isolated figure in a family where conflict ruled. 

At sixteen, she became pregnant to a fellow high school student, JJ. No other option but to flee her family home, Phyllis married JJ. An unhappy choice, while the marriage produces two much loved children, JJ is a physically and sexually abusive bully and Phyllis, aware she is reliving her mother’s life, experiences years of domestic violence.

On a number of occasions, Phyllis attempts to leave JJ but well practiced in emotional manipulation, he always assures her things will change and for the sake of her children, she returns home. During this period, despite the lack of a college education, Phyllis, a hard working go-getter, takes courses and is successful in a number of jobs. Attractive, optimistic and intelligent, you have to wonder what Phyllis could have achieved at this time, given a life where domestic violence wasn’t a devastating main event. 

With financial help from a local business man, Phyllis plans an escape, surviving the terrifying ordeal of divorce from JJ.

She subsequently marries the business man and at first it appears that her life has changed for the better. I did though have some reservations about her new husband (easy to be wise about someone else’s life) and it’s not long before his honesty and life before their marriage becomes questionable. 

Phyllis’ story morphs into a legal drama of high suspense with jealousy and intrigue among her husband's family members regarding a possible homicide and the distribution of family money. When the dust settles, Phyllis, takes her children and moves on; a good decision.

Perhaps as a result of childhood experiences and wearing her heart on her sleeve, Phyllis forgets the old one about “good looks being only skin deep” and makes other mistakes in the romance department before meeting a partner who loves and respects her unique qualities. 

Happy and settled, after joining the US Navy she works as a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator - a Family Advocacy Educator. Phyllis excels – during twenty one years of service she uses her own life experiences to respond to hundreds of victims of abuse, setting up and documenting support mechanisms for their treatment and rehabilitation.

Phyllis Hain’s memoir, Diamond in the Dark, shines a light on an area that no-one wants to talk or do anything about – domestic violence, it reinforces that physical and sexual abuse in a family unit, no matter what the circumstances, is never acceptable only criminal. 

Diamond in the Dark is the sad but always optimistic and inspiring journey of a courageous woman who stumbles, falls and stumbles again to rise up and walk tall. Bravo, Phyllis – good life, good read.       

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