Shannon O’Leary’s book The Blood On My Hands is a horrific and heartbreaking narrative of her life at the hands of her abusive and mentally ill father. Growing up near Sydney with her mother and three older brothers, the abuse lasted well into her teenage years and, emotionally, throughout her adult life. Her father would beat, emotionally abuse, and terrorise every member of her family. Nobody would help. The police wouldn’t intervene until it escalated to her father killing someone. The whole family lived through a waking nightmare.
O’Leary starts at the very beginning of her small child’s memory with the abuse she was to sustain for many years to come. From her earliest years the ‘games’, beatings, rapes she was subjected to at the hands of her father eventually became so commonplace for her that she assumed this was normal family life. Not only was the family mistreated, her father killed their animals and, from O’Leary’s memory, several strangers and various women with whom he cheated on her mother.
From the very start this book is shocking, to say the least. It is a heartbreaking and sad detail of the abuse a young girl tolerated because it came from someone she trusted. While the book loosely follows her as she grows up, there wasn’t a specific timeline, with O’Leary narrating story after story of her hardship. Despite this, it is unimaginable and fairly well written in first person, past tense form.