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.”