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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.