Young victim groomed with chocolate repulsed by sweet treat

Excerpts of Abby's victim impact statement.

I remember it happening. I was little. I was powerless. And I was terrified. I remember everything in great detail. It runs like a video in my head. I can see the event unfolding clearly in my mind, as if in slow motion, and I feel the feelings that I felt when I was a child, and I was scared of someone I loved. I didn't understand what was happening, or why, but I knew it wasn't right. I felt helpless and afraid.

When it happened, I told my parents. I knew that he had done the wrong thing, a bad thing. I had been taught that behaviour like that was rude and naughty, and I knew that I should tell on him. So I did. That's what I had been taught to do. If one of my brothers did the wrong thing, I would tell on them, and after mum or dad found out the truth, there would be a punishment. That was the way of my world. There were consequences for bad behaviour, because that taught us to be good.

I assumed that because I had told, and told how frightened I was, that my father, who was the head of the house, would speak to him and find out what happened. I thought that he would admit that he had done it, and that he would be punished. I didn't know what that would be, but I knew he deserved it.

I waited and I waited, but no one talked about it. No one asked me about it. No one said another word about it. To start with, I thought my dad would talk to the district minister and other ministries in the church for guidance. And then maybe he would be banned from the church or something, or we wouldn't have to see him.

I found it hard to get to sleep. I would lie awake and re-live what happened and my body couldn't relax. I didn't like going to bed, and when I was in bed, I became scared of going to sleep. I felt like I had to be alert, even though I was safe at home.

I had regular nightmares … the most frequent one … we are entertaining. There are lots of people there. I am having a fund time until I see the giant. He is at least two times the size of everyone else in height and weight, and he is looking for me. I run away. I try and hide. He keeps finding me. I run away several times, but then he finds me and grabs me and picks me up and I wake up terrified, sweating and shaking.

The sleeping issues remained throughout my life. I have chronic insomnia, taking over an hour to fall asleep most nights and sometimes not sleeping much at all. I always wake up several times a night and it's like my body and mind just can't ever relax, especially when I'm lying in bed and trying to go to sleep. I have received medical and psychological support for this.

I kept waiting for him to be punished in some way, but nothing happened … I felt let down and I became angry. I started misbehaving.

We kept going to church functions and I didn't feel safe. I would be scanning the people looking for where he was. If I was with my family and we bumped into him, everyone would shake hands and smile and chat and act like nothing happened. I would be wary and withdrawn, my heart would be pounding, and I wanted to run away.

I was confused for a long time, about why we had to keep seeing him, and why everyone pretended nothing happened.

I started playing up at school and getting into trouble.

I was a child of a culture where children were seen and not heard. Where sexual abuse wasn't talked about and many adults didn't believe children's stories. I was raised not to question or challenge adult decisions, and so I stayed quiet, but I never forgot. The video stayed in my mind.

I found it difficult to trust adults, especially men, and I would be triggered regularly. Without being provided with a developmentally appropriate opportunity to process this trauma, it has stayed vivid in my mind, as if it happened yesterday. My childlike belief that the world was good and fair and right, had been irreparably damaged, and I was reminded of that regularly.

I began to wilfully misbehave at home. I would deliberately do things that I knew I would be belting for, and I tried to get other people into trouble. I wanted my parent's attention. I wanted them to notice that I was in distress. I was having nightmares and being triggered regularly. I was sad and confused and angry. I wanted to talk about how I was feeling inside, but the only way I got their attention was by being bad.

As I got older, I thought less and less about it, but I was left with scars that I still carry today. Whenever there are reminders, I have to flashback, and I see the video run in my head. When I am triggered, such as seeing someone who looks like him, or hearing someone speak with the same accent, my heart rate increases, I immediately feel anxious, my breath catches in my throat, and the images pop into my mind.

Many consider chocolate to be one of life's little pleasures. Chocolate picks you up when you're feeling down, it causes the body to produce pleasure chemicals. chocolate is generally associated with happy feelings. Not for me. I was groomed with chocolate, and now there is a painful association for me. Chocolate means danger. … it's the feeling I get in my body when I am offered chocolate. It's a horrible feeling. My heart starts pounding and I am transported to a place in the past. I immediately feel disgusting and dirty, knowing in my body what happens next.

The injustice of what he did and the unfairness that he got away with, has haunted me for many years. As a young adult, I realised the full gravity of what he had done and what potential danger he posed to others, and I began to experience anxiety and powerlessness again. As an adult, my childlike indignation that I had been wronged was reinforced, and I lived with a sense of injustice in my life. This has impacted on how I behave with others. If I feel that I am not being taken seriously, I become very defensive and can become upset easily.

When the statute of limitations was lifted on reporting historical child sexual abuse, I realised that it was time to come forward … no after more than 40 years, the healing can begin.



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