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Brave-hearted Hayley’s marathon challenge.

Hayley Blease

By JENNA RATHBONE, Bravehearts Inc.

Hayley Blease remembers too clearly the night her innocence was stolen by the man who she sought protection – her adoptive father. She was 7-years-old and wore a pastel yellow nightie with a little girl on the front.   Woken by a nightmare, she crawled into her father’s bed seeking protection. That’s when the real nightmares started.

Now 36 and a mother to Taj (5) and Keely (8), Hayley Blease is a survivor and an inspiration for the one in five Australian children who will be sexually assaulted in some way before their 18th birthday.

She is an ambassador for national child protection advocate Bravehearts, an organisation dedicated to reducing the incidence of this insidious crime.

Last year Hayley conquered the challenge of a lifetime – the Bravehearts 777 – seven marathons in seven states in seven days.

She called it ‘payback’ for the eight years of her life of hell when her adoptive father sexually assaulted her. It was her way of freeing herself from the pain and the man that inflicted it upon her.

“Up until the abuse stopped, I imagined ways of escaping, having wings and flying off the balcony.  But I didn’t have wings, I had legs and pounding the pavement was my relief,” says Hayley.

“Bravehearts is a charity close to my heart and when the opportunity arose to support a great cause combined with my love and passion for running, I had to sign up for the 777.”

Crossing the finish line of the first few marathons, Hayley felt like she was getting justice, something the court system failed to provide.

“I was 21-years-old when I stood in a box, swore on a bible, stared at a room full of strangers and men in wigs and faced the man that hurt me, reliving every single detail of the abuse.  It was daunting,” she says.

“For two days I was that little girl again, I cried like I had never shed a tear in my life.”

On the final day of proceedings Hayley sat in the courtroom, her mother close by her side.

“The 12 jurors walked out, I remember every single one of them looking down. One of the men stood up and read out the verdict. After it was final, the jurors still didn’t lift their heads.”

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The verdict was not guilty. One girl’s plea was not enough to convict a heinous sex offender. Hayley vowed she would make a difference and she did this by completing the Bravehearts 777 and raising $10,000 to help protect Australian children from a similar fate.

“During the third marathon in Melbourne, I injured my leg and could barely walk, but the thought of other kids being abused the same way I was helped me to wipe away the tears of pain and cross the finish line of the final leg,” she says.

Hayley’s t-shirts.

“It was an experience I will never forget; I met so many amazing people and I am proud of myself for being involved. I still have nightmares about what happened to me as a child and I still cry but I won’t give up the fight and will continue to raise funds and awareness for Bravehearts as it strives to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.”

It has now been three months since Hayley finished the Bravehearts 777 and still her injury is preventing her from running.  She may not be able to go for a morning jog, but that hasn’t deterred her from making a difference.

Hayley has planned her next major fundraiser – this time a cycle from Sydney to Gold Coast during child protection week (Sep 7-13) 2014, raising funds and awareness for Bravehearts along the way.  She has also joined with Minti Clothing to design and sell ‘Be Brave’ t-shirts to raise money for Aussie kids – visit www.littlepinwheel.com.au to check them out or CLICK HERE.

The below is a letter Hayley wrote to her father after completing the Bravehearts 777.

Dad,

I wish I could ask you why. At 10 days old you took me home. I was a gift from my birth mother and father as they were too young to keep me. You took me home with my mum. She loved and cared for me, even more when you both weren’t together. She became the father figure in my life. Something I didn’t realise until I had a complete reflection of the nightmare you called being a father to me. The reality that you could not see was you took away my innocence. My childhood. The memories of what should have been. I see them in books; I see them in the street and in parks. I see what a father does with their child. It is the same as how mum was with me; loving caring, nurturing. 

You on the other hand called parenting stealing me from my sleeping bed. Putting me in your bed still unaware. You put me there. You touched me and continued to violate me for over 7 years. It was our secret. One with the threat of death if I whispered a word to anyone. ‘Mum wouldn’t believe me.’

Well she did. After I saw the reality of the horror you put me through I put you in that corner. From that moment I had the power. And now you are taking it back again. Every now and then the nightmares of my childhood come back and I relive it all over and over again. I wish you could tell me why you decided to hurt me. What you got out of ripping a gift apart that you were so lucky to receive. Why you violated the woman that was my mum in trust. She trusted you with being my father. I trusted you.

Hayley.

New research by the Australian Institute of Criminology shows that 10 to 15 per cent of child sex offending is committed by a parent with most offenders men in a father-child relationship with their victim. In all cases of child sexual assault, 85 per cent are committed by a relative or a person trusted by the child.  Would you like to talk to someone or seek advice? Please call Bravehearts help line on 1800 272 831 or go to www.bravehearts.org.au.

Inspired to make a difference? Register your interest for the Bravehearts 777 2014.  Three time Uncle Toby Ironman series winner Guy Andrews will mentor and assist you on your marathon adventure.  If you are looking for a true test of character and endurance while supporting and raising money for a great cause email [email protected] or visit the website.

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