Willagee author Carla van Raay has traced her path back to health in a new book.
Drawing on her own journey of self-acceptance after years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Ms van Raay took four years to write her latest offering, Healing from Abuse: A Practical Spiritual Guide.
Born in the Netherlands and raised as a strict Catholic, Ms van Raay was abused by her father until her family migrated to Melbourne when she was 12.
The abuse stopped in Australia but Ms van Raay’s suffering continued, replaced by a twisted sense of loss difficult for her young mind to comprehend.
“I felt deprived, I felt abandoned. I even climbed to the top of a tree one day and wailed,” she said.
“When I look back I know what the feeling was. At the time I was just expressing extreme abandonment; I had just been used and put aside.”
Seeking solace through religion, Ms van Raay joined a convent at the age of 18 and spent just over a decade as a nun.
“I wanted to hide from the world, I wanted to make a vow of chastity rather than have anything to do with sex or relationships,” she said.
That vow lasted 12 years before Ms van Raay left the church, entered into a brief marriage and then, at the age of 34, began working as a callgirl.
After close to 15 years as a prostitute, the feelings Ms van Raay had been suppressing since she was a child began to surface.
“I realised a voice inside me was telling me that I couldn’t be like everyone else, that I couldn’t be a normal person and that prostitution was the only thing I was good for,” she said.
“I realised then there was something in me that needed healing – I didn’t yet know what – but that is when I started the healing process.”
Ms van Raay moved to Denmark in WA’s south in 1992, where she embarked on a comprehensive healing journey, incorporating both traditional and spiritual elements, documented in her newest book.
“I think the healing process is still ongoing but I have come to a point where I am very comfortable with myself and where I don’t identify with my past as I used to,” she said.
“I’m quite a few steps ahead of other people now and I want to help, which is what moved me to write this book.
“I gradually introduce readers to the spiritual side of themselves, hoping that they can accept this because that is where they will find the strength and the love that they need to continue.”
Ms van Raay’s book is available through Amazon and local bookshops. She also offers an expanded support program through her website www.carlavanraay.com.