When this story first came to Mamamia, we all reeled, and you probably will too. It is raw and graphic in parts and we thought long and hard about whether to edit the more disturbing elements out.
But there’s nothing sanitised about child abuse and the details here are part of the bigger picture. We have included some points at the end that may serve as warning signs for other children who are the victim of abuse.
We hope that reading this and sharing it, will enable more of us in the community to report child abuse if we suspect something may be occurring.
WARNING: The following content includes graphic descriptions of abuse. If this is a trigger subject for you, you may want to sit this one out.
This is one of those stories that you hear, that you never think would happen to you, because you’re ‘not one of those people’ or some other excuse that seems easy.
I have two amazingly beautiful children. Both boys.
They’re eight and five. My eight-year-old is the quiet one, a thinker, sporty, very handsome, very caring. He’s very easy to talk to, but not very expressive. My younger is the opposite. Very strong willed, never stops talking, amazingly clever. Will outwit you in any argument, with eyes to kill. They are chalk and cheese, like most brothers. But they love each other dearly. They are my babies.
Their father and I split four and a half years ago, I took a 60% primary care arrangement when we split. We always kept everything civil and out of the courts. Life was less complex that way. Holidays were usually shared half and half. Week on / week off. He does this begrudgingly.
In the October school holidays last year my boys went to stay with their paternal grandparents and their 14-year-old cousin for a little over a week. I spoke to them most nights. I missed them a lot.
When they got home they started waking through the night, throwing tantrums that I wasn’t used to seeing from them. My eight-year-old would go from happy to neurotically upset over the tiniest things. I received an unprompted call from their father on a Monday night saying that something had happened whilst they were away with his parents, that their cousin had shown my 8yo how to masturbate.
I came home from work early the next day. Picked the kids up from school, had a nice afternoon tea. We talked about our day, about what we wanted to cook for dinner, and then I asked them if there was anything else they wanted to talk to mummy about. It’s amazing when you give children the opportunity to talk, and they want to talk about something, the amount of information that comes flooding out. Information that when they had tried to talk to their father, he’d shut them down and made them promise not to tell their mother.
They sat there and told me this detail of nine days of systematic abuse. Detail you never want to hear come out of a five-year-old’s mouth. Words that sound wrong coming from children. They told me how their cousin would take away all the toys, their snacks and their drinks, and would put them in the cupboard. The only way that they could have these things was by letting him play with their penis, by ‘pulling the skin that covers the blue bit’, by him playing with his penis til the white stuff came out all over them. He tried to put his penis in their bottoms. He performed and forced oral sex on them. My five- and eight-year-old children.
Yes, he did all these things whilst there were adults in the house.
The boys were too scared to talk. He would hit them and ‘punish’ them if they tried to talk to their nanna about what was happening. He found opportune moments like early mornings, or dinner preparation time, when the only adult in the house was at the stove. He waited til it was ‘afternoon play time’ and they were sent to the rumpus room to watch movies.
No one, including their grandparents, had any idea what was going on until my boys came home. Nine days.
During that time, their other cousins came to visit on a couple of occasions also. Two girls aged four and six. Need I say more?
They tried to talk to their father, and they were shut down. Thankfully, his girlfriend is a child care worker, and as such reported the incident to DOCS. I still wonder if this is the only reason he called me to tell me something had happened, or if he would have tried to keep it swept under the rug.
DOCS contacted me within days. As did Child Protection Services, the Police, and then the Courts got involved.
I have an AVO taken out against their cousin. The parents of the girls refuse to acknowledge that anything ever happened, regardless of the statements that the girls made.
My eight-year-old has become suicidal.
That sentence doesn’t sound right does it? How does an eight-year-old dwell on death? Because he feels responsible for what happened to his five-year-old brother. Because he couldn’t stop it from happening. Because the thoughts of what happened don’t belong in the head of an eight-year-old. He can’t comprehend it all. It all became too much to carry for him and his sensitive little soul.
They say that my eight-year-old has been groomed for the last couple of years. That his cousin has been showing him porn magazines, asking him leading questions, getting him comfortable with the idea. They also think that he’s been abused himself, probably by his mother and step-father. To me, this doesn’t make it ok. It doesn’t make it understandable. I still feel no compassion towards that 14-year-old boy, even knowing that perhaps he’s been through hell himself. All it does is begin to explain how a child of 14 can be so twisted.
The last six months have been tough. The boys are traumatized and they are in weekly counselling. This is provided by specialist child protection counsellors. They are great. Really really great. The detectives that I dealt with, I cannot regard highly enough. Everyone constantly whinges about the police, but these ladies, I take my hat off to them. What they see daily, how they help families, families that are falling apart due to something completely out of their control.
The boys live with me full time now. They’re finally starting to settle. They’re starting to be children again. Happy children. Even my eight-year-old is on the road to being a happier child.
I was rebuilding a family with a new man. That relationship has fallen apart. That makes me incredibly sad. He is gone. The pressure on our relationship was too great, for many reasons. There is no fault in this.
In my mind, I’m the strong one. The one who has to hold it all together so that my boys can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Life does go on. My boys can get over this, and not repeat the actions that have been so cruelly pushed on to them in such an unjust and unfair way.
Me? I’m terrified. I don’t talk about it; how terrified I am. Not to anyone. I don’t have that right. People don’t understand. I can’t sit down over a cup of coffee with a girlfriend and begin to explain. There is no common ground to be able to empathise on. It is a very lonely feeling.
I wrote this all down for two reasons. Not for pity or understanding. I wrote it so that maybe, somehow, someone reads this and knows that they are not on their own having lived through something similar. I wrote this so that if you see some odd behaviour, rather than disregarding it, you might think back to the story of my children and put a stop to it. Please. Children are so very precious.
Secondly, I wrote this to get it off my chest, so that it’s no longer just thoughts that I have to keep to myself. Sharing this with those who choose to read it – that’s not going to make it go away, but it might help me be a better, stronger mother. It might help in some small way, somehow. Writing is therapeutic.
Thank you for listening.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child you can get advice from The Child Abuse Prevention hotline on: 1800 688 009 or visit http://www.childabuseprevention.com.au/ or call The Child Abuse Report Line on: 131 478 (Open 24 hours).
You may want to share this with your friends:
According to the VIC Better Health website:
5 Possible signs of sexual abuse
The main message from survivors is about the importance of paying attention to children’s behaviour. If children are being sexually abused, there may be physical signs such as bleeding from the vagina or anus (back passage), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or poor hygiene. However, signs in a child’s behaviour are more likely. These include:
* Significant changes in behaviour, aggressive behaviour or regression to an earlier stage of development (for example bedwetting)
* Sexual behaviour that is not appropriate to the child’s age
* Depression or social withdrawal
* Getting into trouble at school (sometimes to avoid going home)
* Self-harming behaviours (for example self-mutilation, suicide attempts or prostitution).
Talking with children about abuse
If the child appears to be under stress, encourage them to talk. Children will often tell little bits of information at a time to test the reactions of adults. To help a child who is being abused to talk about it, it’s important to:
* Encourage the child to tell you about what is happening.
* Stay calm and listen. Gently ask what happened next rather than asking why.
* Don’t rush the child.
* Reassure them that they have done nothing wrong.
* Be supportive and let them know you believe them.
* Don’t tell them you will keep it a secret.
If you believe the child may be being abused, report your concerns immediately to the appropriate person in your own organisation and the Child Protection Service. If you are concerned about the welfare of a child you can get advice from The Child Abuse Prevention hotline on: 1800 688 009 or visit http://www.childabuseprevention.com.au/ or call The Child Abuse Report Line on: 131 478(Open 24 hours).
Bravehearts are an organisation that help the victims of child sex abuse.
You can find more information about them here.