Trigger warning: This post may raise issues for readers who have experience with sexual abuse.
By ROSIE WATERLAND
My parents struggled with… being parents. My sisters and I endured a turbulent childhood. There are many who have had better and many who have had worse. But it was, in the very least, unique.
A by-product of this unique upbringing was that we often found ourselves being ‘taken away’. ‘Removed from care’. Shipped around, basically. We were lucky enough to have extended family to step in and take care of us most of the time, but it was a big ask: taking on three young girls is no easy feat. So when all other family avenues had been exhausted, we ended up in our very first foster home.
And it was there that we were molested.
In foster home terms, we had apparently hit the jackpot. It was a very wealthy family, who lived in a massive house in Pennant Hills. Their only son went to an exclusive private school and was around the same age as us. Everybody kept saying that we were just so lucky that anyone was willing to take on all three girls, especially when one was a toddler. Which is true. My older sister was 13, I was 10 and my younger sister was 3. It’s very unusual for three siblings to be able to stay together in situation like that. We were so, so lucky.
The first night we went to live with them, it was like a dream. We dropped off our stuff in the biggest house I’d ever seen and then drove up to their farm for the weekend. (A house and a farm? What, WHAT!?!) There was a tennis court, tree house, waterslide, flying fox and they adopted abandoned Joeys. That’s baby kangaroos! We couldn’t believe how awesome it was! Then it was time to take a bath.
There was no hot water, so the dad heated some up on the fire outside, took us to the bathroom and poured it into a massive tub. He told us to jump in… and then he just stood there. My sister and I looked at each other. “Come on!” he said. “Before it gets cold!” And still, he just stood there. He obviously intended to stay, and everything was just so awesome and there was a tree house and we were just so lucky.
So I took off my clothes and jumped in. I didn’t particularly want to, but I remember thinking that maybe that’s just how their family did things so I should just do it. My sister on the other hand, got as far as her undies and refused to take them off. He tried convincing her several times but she stood firm. They had an intense staring standoff until she just got in the tub with her undies on. To this day, I vividly remember the look on her face. It was equal parts confusion, desperation and humiliation. I tried to embrace the whole thing, laughing as he sat on the edge of the tub splashing us with water. But my sister stayed quiet.