'Don't tell your Mummy!'


One woman shares the story of how she came to terms with the sexual abuse inflicted on her daughter


"In late 1992 when my second child was three days old I discovered that my four year old daughter had been sexually abused by the husband of a friend of mine. He was a man we knew well, and who was well known in our local community.

I discovered this during an interview my daughter had with a representative of the Department of Community Services. She was being interviewed, as were other children because of concerns raised about the behaviour of this man, X, towards his own children by members of the community and medical profession.

I remember clearly telling the representative from DOCS that had my child been abused I would surely know about it, we have a very close relationship. Unfortunately as
I discovered it was not close enough to bridge the fear my daughter felt. She had been told by 'X' that if she or her friends were to say anything to their parents he would come in the middle of the night and drag them from their beds and hit them over the head with a shovel.

Things that hadn't made sense in my daughters behaviour suddenly fell into place.

One set of parents told me, after her disclosure, that my daughter had been playing strange games with their children. Instead of telling me they had just assumed my partner and I must make love in front of her. Another parent at the preschool told everybody except me that my daughter had explicit knowledge of sexual activity and had heard her passing on information to her own daughter which frightened her child..........yet she didn't tell me.

I discovered that we live in a society that will not serve us justice, whose departments of government are so restricted by bureaucracy that they are unable to help despite the fact they want to and other departments who could help just won't. Like Legal Aid who denied me the ability to pursue the matter through the courts privately yet gave 'X' the ability to attempt to sue the doctor for malpractice.

I discovered that the Police Department's idea of taking a statement from a five year old is to take them in to a Police Station sit them in an interview room and interview them in full uniform...wearing a gun. On protesting the inappropriateness of this action the Police agreed to come to our house and conduct an interview in plain clothes with the presence of a counsellor from Sexual Assault. They arrived in a shiny Police car.....

I discovered that the term used for an adult male playing with young childrens genitals with his hands as opposed to his penis is called petting.

I discovered that, as useless as I felt the Police Department to have been, when I committed an act of public physical assault on 'X' they were extremely supportive of me and actively discouraged any charges being laid against me.

I discovered that the few people I knew who actually offered to incur physical damage to X balked when I gave them Carte Blanche to do so.

I discovered that if your child is sexually abused you and your child are the ones that end up feeling like outcasts.

For two and half years my life had an undercurrent of darkness running through it.

My daughter received excellent counselling and back up and her nightmares and mood swings receded. She received treatment on her spine which, because of the assaults, was misaligned. This made her feel much better. Her fear of going to town to do the shopping began to decrease after about eighteen months. There are still places she is scared to go in case she sees 'X', if she does ever see him she becomes extremely agitated and wants to run up to him and scream at him and kick him but is to afraid to do so. She has ceased to express concern over her friends who were in the same position, especially the ones whose parents refused to believe what was happening and the daughter of 'X' whom my daughter disclosed was not only being abused by her father but also by her brother who is two years older than her. Her needs are being met in a small way, she is being healed and nurtured in a loving family who didn't force anything into silence and actively sought to find justice.

The search for justice became futile, people in departments convened and conferenced. There were statements from over a half a dozen children during the investigation we were involved in. There have been subsequent investigations initiated by others. 'X' has moved his children from their schools into a new school.

It seems as if nothing can be done until either the children reached the age where they can take the matter to court themselves and testify on a case that will be eight years old or that 'X' confesses or does something so publicly that he can be arrested for it.

My life was turned upside down. My daughter was, as I was, an extremely trusting and outgoing person. We were tolerant of difference and welcomed it. We were happy go lucky and naive. I felt that our values and gifts had been trampled upon not just by the perpetrator of the assaults but the community and the society. My off beat past was dragged around to condemn me, I was rumoured to be mentally unstable. I felt as though my sexuality had been taken away from me, I was afraid of sex with my partner because it brought up nightmares of my daughters abuse.

Sexuality became linked with power and pain.

I felt more anger than I knew I was capable of.

I was angry at the society we live within and create for encouraging me to become so non judgmental that I had been unable to perceive this man as a threat to my child.

I was angry at peoples' tolerance of this man within our town.
I wanted to be part of a society that takes men who abuse children and enact some form of ritual upon him that his shame and physical injury will not permit him to repeat his behaviour.
I wanted him to be loudly and publicly humiliated by many people.

I was angry at my partner for not having been bought up in a society or tribe that would empower him to inflict damage upon the man who stole my daughters' innocence, who stole the joy of my second childs first weeks, who stole the happiness of Christmas holiday time, who stole the pleasure of intimacy from me.

I was angry at my partner for a long time and I don't know if I will ever come to terms with his not taking initial physical action against the man.

It took me a long long angry time to come eventually to the realisation that my problems in relating, my fear of shopping in town, my anger and rage were within me to sort out myself. I had become another victim to the power of the perpetrator. As long as I rang up every Operation Anything to dob him in, as long as I entertained fantasies about damaging his car I was his victim. Just as much as the justice system is a victim of bureaucracy, pettiness and economics. I was a victim. If I relaxed for a moment I became haunted. If I had a drink I became consumed with powerless anger. If I tried to distract myself every form of distraction related straight back to my situation. I found myself sitting through movies involving rape or abuse hoping for justice, because it might have some superstitious bearing on our own situation. I found people I conversed with casually were being familiarised with the details of my search for justice, resolution and above all peace within.

Peace within was lost to me. I involved myself with as many commitments as possible that I might just become exhausted and not have time to think. Of course eventually I became an exhausted angry ghost of myself. I was grim.
Underneath my capable organised over achieving facade I was cracking up badly. I was prescribed Valium which I took and Prozac which I didn't and one day I found my self amongst a group of people working on Life Issues.

I had joined the group with a different agenda entirely and only half way through did I become compelled to lay out the whole scene from start to finish in a semi cohesive statement. I did it with the help of the people within the group who were prepared to sit there and listen to me. For the first time in three years I expressed my deepest fears and my most intimate nightmares, amongst all the facts and statistics I had stored up as ammunition. For the first time I let myself
really feel what I had been through as an individual. Without taking the stand as my daughters mother, an outraged parent, a champion of justice, a rational human being who understands the healing process or some one so enlightened and cool that I could see the benefits of the fact my daughter had been frightened and tortured both mentally and physically. I was able to feel what that did to me inside as a woman in pain.

The people in the group were obviously shocked and disturbed as I turned to them for help. But they came through for me and between them, with a lot of care and love, they gave me a ritual. A ritual to empower me to celebrate my life, to acknowledge my strength and my struggle, to acknowledge my daughters' survival and to give myself the love and juice I deserve for having tenaciously stayed sane and not given up. They also gave me the courage to give up pushing for justice to the detriment of our family life and the sense to acknowledge what I have done won't be entirely in vain. In a sense they gave me the courage to let go and face life again on my terms with my outlook and my daughters outlook unclouded by the victim mentality.

They thought hard about what to give me in that ritual and it worked like the charm that it was. It celebrated fire and earth to burn and bury; it celebrated wind and breathe to refresh and calm; it celebrated light and dark to illuminate and enfold; it celebrated water and wine to purify and uplift.

As I chanted and sprang around the fire and candles I felt myself reawakening. I could never have imagined that my child would be sexually assaulted so I had no mechanisms to deal with it and neither did our modern, just and socially democratic society. However, a ritual, as ancient as our ancestors, that came from the hearts and minds of those people who could feel my confusion, my loss and my anger, gave me the strength to overcome and recover from my pain."

Here are some links to valuable resources dealing with the issue of child sexual abuse.
The Sexual Assault Information Page -a not-for-profit information and referral service providing information concerning acquaintace rape, child sexual abuse/assault, incest, rape, ritual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
FACTS FOR FAMILIES -to educate parents and families about psychiatric disorders affecting children and adolescents. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry publishes these 46 information sheets which provide concise and up-to-date material on issues such as the depressed child, teen suicide, stepfamily problems and child sexual abuse.
and a list of other Resources dealing with child abuse from the Fly.

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