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Rachel was sexually abused as a child. Today she's preparing to take her attacker to court.

She was sexually abused when she was eight. She wants to press charges. But she doesn’t know if her abuser is still alive.

Trigger warning: This post deals with child sexual abuse and may be distressing for some readers.

For the past two mornings I’ve been glued to the radio.

Not the TV.

The radio.

Because what I’ve been listening to – the story that was being told – left me sitting in my car in my garage, two mornings in a row, long after I’d turned the engine off.

Yesterday morning on 97.3FM in Brisbane a 40-something year old woman called Rachel* rang the breakfast show’s private investigator. (The breakfast show has its own P.I who looks into cases for listeners. Usually it’s tracking down exes who aren’t paying appropriate child support).

Anyway.

This time was different.

Rachel rang in asking for help to track down the man who sexually abused her as an eight-year-old girl.  That’s right. Rachel wants to know if her abuser is still alive. And if he is? She’s finally going to press charges.

For years, Rachel has struggled  feeling like she couldn’t come forward. Then when she finally felt ready, the laws at the time wouldn’t allow her to press charges. But now,  as we have all seen thanks to the cases against Robert Hughes and Rolf Harris, the laws have caught up – and Rachel is finally in a position where she can charge the man who sexually abused her more than thirty years ago.

But the fact remains that Rachel doesn’t know if he is alive.

Rachel spoke to Robyn, Terry and Bob of 97.3FM.

Yesterday Rachel spoke to Robin, Terry & Bob (the 97.3FM team) on air and told her story to the world.

“When I was quite young, I was molested by a member of my family, and I would like to be able to find this person – and if they are still around, I’d like to prosecute them for what they did,” she explained.

When asked why she didn’t want to go to the police first, Rachel said that she didn’t want to go through that process – and bring up painful memories from the past – just to find out that her abuser was no longer alive.

“You have to go through this enormously traumatic process [talking to the police], just for them to turn around and say, ‘Well I’m sorry, he passed away 10 years ago, or 20 years ago’. And you’ve told all of this stuff, and you’ve got no outcome for it…. From my point of view, it would be easier to find out first if he is still around.”

Her last contact with her abuser was 30 years ago – and it’s been 30 years since she’d known he was alive.

“The incident happened probably 35 years ago,” Rachel explained, “I was only quite little when it happened… I was eight… I’ve been thinking about this for 20 years.”

“Back when I became an adult, you couldn’t prosecute for these things,” she continued. “For me, it’s been a journey to get to a place where I can actually do that.”

“I was only quite little when it happened… I was eight… I’ve been thinking about this for 20 years.”

The decision to find out whether her abuser is alive, is not one that Rachel has undertaken lightly – because she knows that if he is alive, she will feel compelled to press charges. “It impacts my family, my kids, and I have not made that decision lightly,” she said.

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Rachel revealed that certain members of her family knew about the abuse and turned a blind eye while others also suffered from emotional and physical abuse. Because of this she’s concerned that if she continues with this path and presses charges, members of her family who also suffered might be further hurt. But she also said that the people who are most important to her, have given her their blessing.

She is committed to going forward, and pressing charges.

“For me, it gives closure. It gives the fact that this person is going to be held accountable for what they did to me. That they have to stand in a court of law. That they have to listen to my evidence.”

Rachel also, understandably, has suffered greatly over the years with what has happened to her. She has carried that burden with her, and struggled with the question of whether her abuser might have gone on to hurt other young girls.

Rachel is now ready to press charges.

“And also, for me, there’s a lot of guilt surrounding the fact that I didn’t do this earlier,” she told the hosts on 97.3fm. “And I don’t know if he’s moved on to another family that might have girls. That he might have grandchildren, or other things….”

“I haven’t taken this person off the street. I haven’t given this person a criminal record that will haunt him for the rest of his life,” Rachel said. “He’s haunted me. And other members of my family. And those things will never go away for me. For him, he’s walked away. He’s walked away and he’s potentially moved on to other victims, and that’s an incredible amount of guilt for me to carry.”

“And I want that closure, and I want to ensure that as late as it might be, doesn’t happen for other people.”

As the program closed, Terry told Rachel, “Your time is now.”

For the first time, Rachel’s voice shook as she replied.

“Exactly.”

The outcome: Rachel prepares to face her attacker

On Monday’s program, a brave Rachel readied herself to hear whether Private Investigator Dave has been able to find her attacker in the intervening days.

“I’m grateful now that I have this opportunity to make sure that won’t continue,” Rachel said.

She told Robin, Terry and Bob her “preferred scenario” would be to learn the man was alive — but that regardless of the outcome, she’d be grateful that the program has given her “a voice that (she) didn’t have before”.

“For someone who’s felt like nobody was listening for so long, this has given me that opportunity,” she said.

Private Investigator John appeared on the air and there were a few tense seconds before he announced: “I can tell you that the male subject that we were looking for is still alive.”

Rachel barely missed a beat.

“Good,” she said, her voice barely wavering as she registered the momentous news. “Good. I was hoping that would be the answer.”

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“Now for me I guess it’s finding out the next steps are  for me… I’m grateful now that I have this opportunity to make sure that won’t continue,” she said.

She went on to explain that she had already “let go of a lot of the anger” associated with the abuse.

“It’s not about forgiveness because what the man did was unforgiveable,” she said. “But it’s about letting go of that anger that eats you alive. That’s the only way forward.”

“The community owes Rachel an enormous amount “

Bravehearts representative Hettie Johnson then joined the show and congratulated Rachel for her bravery.

“The community owes Rachel an enormous amount — and every other survivor that’s ever stood up  to the plate and tackled this,” Ms Johnson said.

She went on to explain to Rachel and to listeners the process of reporting sexual abuse, and how Bravehearts can assist with that process.

“The community owes Rachel an enormous amount – and every other survivor that’s ever stood up the plate and tackled this.”

“Please ring first (and) let the police station know that you’re on your way and what it is you want to talk about so they’ve got a properly-trained police officer ready for you,” she said.

If you prefer a male or a female… they will try their best to fulfill that for you.”

“It’s a difficult journey because you really have to reach into the nitty-gritty detail of what happened, which means closing your eyes and reliving it,” she said.

“It’s traumatic.”

But she reassured Rachel that Bravehearts had helped “thousands of survivors” to work through that process and achieve justice.

“This is our work, this is what we do,” she said. “Sometimes it takes absolutely months before someone who first comes to us, feels strong enough to walk through the doors of a police station.”

Reflecting on that advice, Rachel admitted she was nervous about facing her attacker after 30 years — but says she’s ready to take the next step.

“I thought about that before embarking on this and… I was having mild anxiety attacks at that thought,” Rachel said.

“But it’s also an opportunity for me to sit in front of that person and say: ‘You know what? What you did was wrong’.”

“And I’m not going to let you do that to other people. You can’t get away with that.”

Readers should know that Robin, Terry and Bob on 97.3FM have taken Rachel’s story seriously and have Hetty Johnston from Bravehearts involved, ready to support Rachel on whatever the outcome is.  It’s also important to clarify that these are allegations until they are proven in a court of law. The most important part of this story is that it is NEVER too late to go to the police and press charges against someone who abused you as a child.  

If this post brings up issues for you around sexual or emotional abuse, please call Bravehearts on 1800 272 831.

*Not her real name

Story put together with help from Melissa Wellham.

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