Content warning: The following contains details of child sexual assault. If you are in need of support, help is available via 1800 RESPECT. Please call 1800 737 732.
Oprah Winfrey once said about grooming, “I have said for years that if the abuser is any good, you won’t know it’s happened… If the abuser is any good, he or she is going to make you feel like you’re part of it.”
Everyone loved my dad. He was quiet and kind, a youth minister and children’s church leader. He played guitar in a band, wrote beautiful music, made up funny stories, and told every dad joke in the book.
He also enjoyed pornography. He liked it a lot. He kept piles of magazines in his closet, between his mattress, and under his bed. I knew this because as far back as I could remember, he liked to show them to me.
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It always happened the same way. My mum would leave for some reason or the other, and Dad would turn off the TV and go to his room. He’d leave the door open and sit on his bed. He didn’t call me, but I eventually walked by the room and peeked in. He’d smile and wave at me, and I’d walk in. There I’d find Dad with his collection.
He didn’t show me the photos of real men and women directly but left them open all around him like he was sitting in a nest of naked flesh. He watched me poke around in the magazines curiously. I could read at a young age and often read a sentence here and there out loud, though I had no concept as to their meaning. He’d eventually call me over, turn the pages to the cartoon comics that were always in the margins. He asked me if I thought they were funny, and would tell me to pick out another one. When I brought one over, he’d read them to me while I sat on his lap or beside him on the bed, and he masturbated, sometimes rubbing against me, and sometimes having me touch him.
I didn’t know what he was doing was sex abuse until years later. I just thought it was a funny thing that all grown up men did. When I was four years old, I told my mum that I’d seen “white stuff come out of Daddy’s wienie”. Her immediate response was “Never tell anyone or you’ll never see my family again!” I knew after her passionate, scary response that something was wrong about these story times with Dad, but it wasn’t until I was an adolescent that I equated my father’s actions to sex abuse.
I thought for years that Dad stopped sexually abusing me after I told mum about it. I continually had nightmares about the abuse that happened while I was a toddler, but I didn’t realise he continued to abuse myself as well as my siblings well into our teens until I was in my early thirties. He’d simply found other ways to do it, insidious abuse that happened under our very noses.