**please note story begins in 1953. Molestation and rape mentioned.**
When the first of the molestations begins, I am 7 years old. I attend St. Vincent’s Catholic School. The school is located a few miles from the now infamous Kings Cross, a part of downtown Sydney, Australia.
My molester is a 13-year-old student in Grade 6…a girl. Because I’m new at the school and think my classmates might not like me, I hide in the shadows of the building. She spots me there. She smiles at me and comes over.
“Why aren’t you playing with anyone?” She asks. She is very pretty. I would love to be pretty like that.
“Because I’m scared.”
“I’m new and I’m afraid no-one will like me.”
“Well, I like you,” she says. “I’ll play with you. Would you like to come to my place after school for some biscuits and milk? Where do you live?”
“14 Hardie Street, Darlinghurst,” I reply. I can’t believe this pretty girl has invited me to play after school.
“Oh, I walk right past your place on the way home. Meet me at the school gate at 3 and I’ll walk you home so you can ask your mum. How’s that sound?”
“Great…except she’s not my mum. Mrs. Nastrom looks after me during the week while my parents work. But she won’t mind.”
Mrs. Nastrom doesn’t mind at all. She’s happy to have another hour free in her day. The girl holds my hand tightly as we walk toward the set of flats where she lives, almost where Kings Cross begins. In the short time I’ve lived in Darlinghurst, I’ve heard all sorts of bad things happen in Kings Cross, but I trust my new friend. Besides, I feel so grown up walking with her. None of my classmates have a teenage girl as a friend. I feel very special.
Inside Flat Number 5 on the second floor, I look at a couple of pictures of the girl with her mum. Her mother is very pretty too. The girl pours me a glass of milk and puts 2 biscuits on a plate. I eat them hungrily and with my mouth full of crumbs, ask her where her mum is.
“Oh, probably doing it with a fella at the Cross,” she replies, waving a fly away from her face. I’m not sure what she means by “doing it” but I don’t pry. I want her to like me. I chug down my milk quickly so we can start playing. But first,
“I need to pee,” I tell her. “Where’s the toilet?”
She takes me down the narrow hall and realizes there’s no toilet paper on the roll. “Go pee,” she says. “I’ll bring you some paper.”
While I wait for her to return, I wonder what we’ll be playing. She’s too old for dolls. Maybe Snakes and Ladders or Ludo…my favorite games.
She comes into the tiny bathroom, passes me some tissues and begins replacing the roll on the holder. Just as I’m about to walk out, she pushes the door shut and pins me up against it. In her hand, she holds the used toilet paper cardboard roll. She lifts up her skirt, holds the roll against her privates, and begins pressing her body back and forth against me. She’s breathing hard. I’m terrified.
“What are you doing?” I yell as I begin to sob. “Let me go!”
“Don’t you like this game?” She pants. “This is a great game.” She seems excited, and she doesn’t look pretty anymore.
“I don’t like this game! I want to go home,” I sob. “Let me out!”
I grab the door handle and try to open the door. She gets really mad and pushes me angrily through the now open door, yelling, “Go on! Go home you big crybaby. Get out!”
I can’t get away fast enough. I feel icky all over as she screams,
“Don’t you dare tell anyone about this or I’ll tell all your teachers and classmates at school. You hear me? Don’t tell anyone!”
With tears pouring down my face, I run all the way back to Mrs. Nastrom’s. When she asks me what’s wrong, I look down at my feet. All I can think is I thought the girl was my friend. I trusted her. Unlike me, that girl is lucky: she can trust me. I will say nothing. My lips are sealed.
I am nine years old when the next molestation occurs, this time at the hands of my playmates’ father. I no longer stay with Mrs. Nastrom. My parents have bought a house in Bankstown. My father considers me old enough to look after myself until they get home from work.
After I finish my homework, I wander down to my playmates’ home.
“They’ve just gone to the shop to buy us some bread,” their father tells me. “It’s hot outside. You can come inside to wait for them if you like?”
I trust my playmates’ father. I’ve met him before. He’s so nice and friendly, always smiling. Inside, he offers me an icy cold glass of lemonade. It’s delicious. When I’m finished drinking, he asks if I’d like to read him a story. I’m happy to show him my reading skills.
“Here,” he pats his lap. “Come sit on my knee. That way I can see the pictures better.”
I hop onto his lap and begin reading. His hand slips beneath my sundress. I feel a bit weird but tell myself not to be silly. This is my playmates’ father, after all. I trust him. His hand caresses my thigh and finds my underwear. He slips a finger beneath the edge of my panties. I shift self-consciously. He’s making me feel icky.
“What are you doing?” I ask, suddenly scared.
“Nothing to be afraid of,” he replies. “I do this to Clara and Sara when they sit on my lap. They like it.”
That surprises me because I don’t like it.
“I think I should go home,” I tell him, jumping off his lap. “It’s getting late.”
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a sixpence. “Here,” he says, smiling. “Buy yourself a chocolate bar. But, be a good girl, okay, and keep what we just did a secret? Don’t tell your parents and especially, don’t tell Clara and Sara, ok?”
I want to ask him why I should keep it a secret? If he does that to Clara and Sara all the time, it must be okay, right? But I don’t ask, even when he tells me:
“If you keep that a secret, the next time you visit, I’ll give you another sixpence. Would you like that?”
As much as I’d like another sixpence, I don’t think I’ll come visit anymore. I’m not sure how I’ll explain that to my playmates, but I don’t trust their father now. He made me feel icky. However, he can trust me: I won’t tell anyone what he did. My lips are sealed.
By the time I turn 11, I’ve decided I’m a molestation magnet. That’s when the worst molestation of all occurs. This time it’s the person I trust the most, the one I trust with my life, the one I believe will protect me from all harm, the one I’m sure would kill any man who abused me in any way…except when he himself is the abuser. He is my father.
He begins molesting me each time my mother is at work. He tells me he does it because he loves me so much. When the actual raping starts, he explains that all fathers do this to their daughters in all cultures:
“It helps the daughters when it’s time for them to marry and their husbands will appreciate it.”
When I try to argue that it doesn’t feel right, that it makes me feel icky, he addresses the adult growing inside me. He tells me to consider the good I am doing for his and mum’s marriage…how I am keeping him from cheating on her with other women.
“You understand that, right?”
No, I don’t understand. I’m not an adult. I’m a child. I don’t understand why it’s okay to cheat on mummy with me. With ME! What he’s saying makes me feel worse, not better. This goes beyond icky.
He gives me a million other reasons for why what he’s doing is okay. He drums his justifications into my head every time I question what he’s making me do with him. How is it that the one I should be able to trust the most, I now trust the least? And I can’t just up and run away like I did with that girl and my playmates’ father.
And then, of course, there’s that inevitable demand, about making sure I tell no-one about what “we are doing”. At 11 years of age, it’s “we”. I am now complicit in his crime.
And, what will happen if I tell?
“Simple: I’ll deny it.”
What if I get pregnant?
“Maybe you have a boyfriend I don’t know about?”
What if I do tell mummy?
“She won’t believe you. She won’t believe YOU, her daughter, would do this. She’ll just say you are making this up.”
Then he inserts the final needle, the one he knows will keep me silent:
“Besides, telling your mum would hurt her and you wouldn’t want to hurt your mum now, would you.”
His response isn’t a question. It’s a factual statement. No, I wouldn’t want to hurt my mummy. My lips are sealed. Forever.