This article deals with themes of child sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
They say the past cannot be changed. To let go, to live in the moment, to look forward.
But what happens when you are struck by a secret so blistering that your past is no longer what it was?
This is the reality one 45-year-old Australian mum-of-two is now facing, when in a single moment, everything Karen* thought she knew about her quiet, happy family life was shattered.
Last year, her 17-year-old daughter Laura* confided in her that she had been sexually abused by a close family friend. She was only eight years old at the time, and her parents had no idea they’d been inviting a “monster” into their home.
All they had was an inkling that something was amiss. But they thought they’d put a halt to it before any real damage was done.
Karen recalls how when Laura was age nine, she scurried into their room, shaking her and her husband awake. She told them she had just woken up to find Andrew* sitting on her bed, shining his phone towards her.
Andrew was one of their oldest friends, and he was visiting from overseas where he was based. The family was putting him up for a few nights on their living room couch.
“My husband and I were in a state of shock, we were trying to work out what possible reason there was for him to be in her room,” Karen tells Mamamia.
When they confronted Andrew that night, he spat out excuse after excuse. He said that he had insomnia. That he couldn’t find his sleeping pills and thought maybe he dropped them in her room. That he thought watching Laura sleep might help him get to sleep himself.
Andrew was kicked out of the house, never to be invited again.
The incident was reported to the police. And while officers wanted to question Andrew and comb through his phone, it was decided it was best they allow him to board his flight and leave the country as planned. Laura was petrified by the idea of him being closeby. Karen wanted him as far away as possible.
So, he left.
And for a while, life went on.
Karen pressed Laura over and over about that night. But each time, she insisted Andrew didn’t touch her.
Until at age 16, she could no longer carry her secret alone.
In August last year, Laura told her mother that there had, in fact, been a previous incident when she was eight. And that time, Andrew had physically abused her.
Karen recalls her daughter telling her she pretended she was asleep so his hands would leave her alone. But that only made it worse. When Laura opened her eyes, he hid. When she closed her eyes, his hands returned. And it see-sawed like that, back and forth.