1. Name of victim: MEL
Victim Impact Statement by Jen – the mother of victim, the ex-wife of the perpetrator.
Sentencing court: Newcastle Court: December 2007
2. Details of personal harm suffered as a direct result of the offence(s):
Physical bodily harm
The stress level and pain I feel is so strong it may cause a physical illness in time. Since the offender admitted his crimes against my daughter recently in court, my body feels as if it has shut down, I have no energy, my heart feels broken. In the pit of my stomach I feel as if my insides have been ripped out – leaving a churning pit of pain. I have constant headaches, and my body aches. I can’t stop crying.
Mental illness or nervous shock
When I heard my husband of 30 years and father to our children, step-father to my children, admit guilt – that he had sexually abused my daughter, his step-daughter, I felt an overwhelming, frightening pain as if my heart actually broke. His admission came after our family had gone through many years of turmoil – there were a few claims of odd behaviour by my daughter, then dismissive counter claims by him. I was always the one in the middle. – the problem solver – the placater, the reasonable one trying balance things so we could all have a peaceful, successful family. In that moment, when the guilty plea was made, I realised my entire life had been a sham!
And I am ashamed to the centre of my core. I cannot bear to think of our past sexual, apparently loving relationship, and know he sexually abused my daughter. I am gutted by regret and the fact that my love and commitment to him obscured his criminal behaviour toward my child in our house.
I am deeply resentful that his secretive crimes placed me in the position as the one who repeatedly had to make decisions and do what was best as both wife and mother. My daughter became rebellious, I punished her – when now I know that her problems reflected her screaming for attention and safety, and I failed her. I was always the one repeatedly left ‘to figure out what was the truth’ – and to ‘make things right’ in and for ‘the family. I repeatedly wrestled with ‘who was telling the truth?’ in this discord between my beautiful daughter – my little girl, or my otherwise loving husband, an adult I had vowed to honour and respect in my marriage vows. He was very convincing and to my eternal regret, I believed him, over her.
Now that I know, by his own words, that I had chosen to believe this criminal, a liar who sacrificed everything he said he stood for, for his own selfish gratification, and knowing now how he repeatedly conned me, I find my entire life – past and present – trashed. I feel desperate, suicidal, and knowing that my darling child suffered so very much, will haunt me until the day I die. I feel hard and bitter towards him, and I am not used to such anger within me. I am so proud of her for having the courage to speak her truth, against such odds.
He was always so convincing, able to manipulate me to see things his way – I am so angry and tormented that I fell for his skill at relocating the cause of her ‘bad behaviour’ for all sorts of reasons, such as being related to my mother’s mental illness. My daughter wasn’t sick – she was traumatised! That’s why she was ‘difficult’. He always favoured her – and now I know why – to bribe her. I know now that her behaviour was ‘normal’ for a child being abused and disbelieved. She must have felt so powerless, unloved, so deserted and I, her own mother, despite my best efforts, failed her and I am sick to my stomach for her. I had tried to report what she had told me, I rang the Department of Community Services, I made him leave our home until it was sorted out, I wanted the professionals to investigate and the Joint Investigation Team investigated. I am so upset that if the system had really tried it could have saved my daughter and all the years of problems. The fact he now admits it, feels to me like a bomb going off in my mind. My family is lost to me, because of him.
What is eating at me is that John always cooperated with the experts – He’d say that ‘He welcomed the scrutiny because he had nothing to hide – that it needed to be sorted out’. They talked to Mel, and she denied to them what was wrong, and remarked that she wasn’t in danger. The experts decided ‘there was no paedophilic behaviour, that ours was a safe home and he could return home. There were several times this was repeated – but the system did not try very hard to find out what we know is the truth, by his own admission.
I remember DoCS saying that Melissa got on well with her step-father – of course she was safe in the company of others – the abuse only happened in secret! She obviously cared for him and had to rely on him, but hated the behaviour – both at the same time, and both apparently very commonly occurring. I didn’t know that then, but the experts should have.
I feel so guilty because for her, his crimes have already taken their toll. I watched my daughter as she suffered mental illness and wonder whether most of that was caused by trauma and having no one able to stop the violence and protect her. Like many children, she did sometimes make up stories, and was quite fiery. When even her own mother could not finally believe her, why would she tell mental health practitioners? I am tormented by the fact that if I’d been able to get her the right help, she’d be Ok now. Regret and anger are eating me alive.
I thought I was a good, loving mother, yet I know now that made it easy for him to use her. He made me an unknowing accomplice of his crimes and because I took his word over my child’s, and my fractured relationships with my children are my life sentences. It is deeply wounding to look back, in the glare of the spotlight of hindsight to see what I have done, how naive I must have been and what that did to her.
It’s hard to find the words to explain the terrible impact and my feelings of having been a total failure as a parent because of his manipulation and lies and thinking what he did to her, and how she has suffered for so long.
His admission, after years of denial, came at me as a knife would – stabbing me, reinforcing my gullibility for having repeatedly taken his word over hers. Many, many times. Since that day, in court when I heard those terrible words, I hear it all again, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I spend my days sobbing with regret and disgust.
I am burdened by such overwhelming guilt. She was the truthful one. Her suffering, and my repeated failure to believe her, to stop the abuse and make her safe because I had believed him incapable of such behaviour has crashed onto me and stays, like an unbearable burden. I wonder if I will survive. And if I do, for what? My children have quite rightly deserted me for my crime and my life is empty.
I feel as if I have been sexually abused too, a victim of Domestic Violence by his actions. How he could engage in marital relations with me and sexually abuse my daughter disgusts me, I feel defiled, dirty, violated. I imagine what he was thinking in times of intimacy. I have no belief in my ability to judge character anymore.
I can’t imagine how degraded she must feel. I am so sorry for what my children have been through, and I am miserable because I do not know how I could ever be forgiven by my children.
Can counselling make it come out differently for me? Will I heal? Will I ever have my children back? I will try once the shock gets less. I have never felt hate before, but it feels as if my loving heart has been destroyed and in its place is disgust and hatred toward this man, who was ‘my husband’ at law even though his vows clearly were a ploy and meant nothing to him.
I am learning about this crime of the sexual abuse of our children. I cannot adequately describe the dawning realisation that he probably even targeted me, a single mother with beautiful children, he wooed and married me, and stayed with me for all those years, but his real target was Me. I now know that child sex offenders are often married, yet it was our marriage and the covenant it represents that made me blind to his crimes and protected his best interests.
I have lost a lot of weight, work has become nearly impossible, and I’ve had a nervous breakdown. I get nasty messages from my daughters who blame me, and I feel about as low as one can be. The impact on me of this crime is profound.
This statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief, and I would like this read out loud, to the court.
Dated Dec 2007