I was 18 when we arrived here.
In Australia from South Africa. My mother was in her mid 40’s and my father was in his early 50’s. The visa’s we had,had divided our family, we had left my 22 year old brother behind in South Africa because he was not classed as a ‘dependent’. Australia said ” he had moved out of home and was studying” therefore he was not eligible to come with us.
He had a girl friend and was in the middle of his Chemical engineering degree.Yes he was a boffin, a scientist in the making in my eyes. My big brother would be just fine.
My mother was broken leaving. She was leaving behind her ‘golden boy’ and all our other relatives. We were the first to emigrate out of a large extended family. I was leaving behind grandparents (3), Aunts (5), Uncles(6), cousins all 10 of them. I was leaving behind my first boyfriend and I was going one my first over-seas trip on a ‘one-way’ ticket to a place I had never seen.
When we arrived we struggled to settle in, both socially and financially. My mother was a teacher, that’s how we had made it through skilled migration. She was determined to get a temp position straight away. My father was not so lucky, he was a consultant in his own right in South Africa but now in this new land he no references, no past connections and no work history.
Their goal was to assimilate as quickly as possible, to become “aussie” to forget our heritage for the sole purpose of fitting in. We joined a church, my mother began ‘green fielding’ our new social habits as immigrants. Her goal was to mix with Australian’s and not south African’s like us.
My father and I spent many days together, I was studying at a college in the city , doing my first diploma and he was home, cleaning, cooking , washing clothes ect. It was hard, he wasn’t himself, we had no money and we knew no one. He taught me to drive in his spare time, I was 19 when I got my drivers license.This co-habitation between my father and I went on for a year.I felt the closest to him than I ever had. He was difficult to get close to my whole life prior to that, very volatile,content one minute then angry the next. He possessed a profusely heightened degree of anger , he would rage, throw things, swear and literally shake with beady pupils glaring type anger.He had spent a lot of time away from us at work and socially. My parents marriage had been filled with holes, craters in fact with major issues like affairs and pornography taking center stage.
Any way I had managed to navigate my way through my fathers complex personality and finally felt like his daughter after 20 years of knowing him.I thought since we had immigrated he was a better man, with a reduced pride of course, but overall a quieter, milder tempered, softer father. Definitely some one I didn’t mind being around for the first time in my life of knowing him.
My father got a job as a Factory Manager through his long -time friend from inter-state some one who he had grown up with in South Africa. My father had settled into Australia at last. He met his friends ‘Second in Charge’ when he traveled interstate, a young man in his 20’s , a graduate starting his career as a Quality Assurer. He said he was a wonderful gentleman, smart too and told me I should marry a boy like that. I met him a few months later we locked eyes and I knew my father had been right.
His blue eyes and blonde hair left me breathless, a Latvian descendant whose grandparents had arrived by boat during the second world war .
I couldn’t love this man as it would only lead to heart break. He lived 5 hours flight away , cross the continent, in another state and he was never even there, he traveled for work across the globe on a weekly basis. I would be crazy to even want to be with him. I was 19 and he was 24. He sent me a short note in the mail attached to a beautiful bottle of ‘baby doll’ perfume and I was enamored.
I was 21 and he was 26 when we got engaged, rented a small house and started our lives together. He had sacrificed a lot to be with me, left his career, left his family and friends and moved inter-state.
My first extended family arrived from South Africa arrived to Australia. My Aunt (my mother’s sister), my Uncle and their two daughters (Emily) aged 6 and ( Sienna) 9 years old. They moved in with my parents up the road for a month or two and began to get settled into their new country
I was now completing my Business Degree at University and working as a casual sales assistant in a jeans store. My fiance was working full time as an Operations Manager of a food factory.We were happy, a relationship mixed with passion in both the love and anger. We tried to plan the wedding on a few occasions but failed miserably. His parents and sister were inter-state and my parents had no money to contribute being recent immigrants. After many fights and lots of tears we had no choice but to put the plans for our future on hold.
Our perfect world was rocked by one phone call.
It was a Tuesday afternoon, it was my mother. She called and said I needed to come over as soon as possible to see her and my father.She said it was serious and pleaded with me to come alone, and not to disclose any thing to any one about what they were going to tell me.
I remember hanging up the phone, with tomorrow being the day, the time being 9am arranged to meet. My mind raced, a strange cocktail of fear, confusion and anxiety. My predominant thought was that he was dying, my father was ill, maybe cancer, maybe terminal. Her tone had implied it was all about him.
I didn’t tell anyone I was going to meet them as agreed ,not even the love of my life. I decided to act alone and be brave.
I went over the next day, my mother let me in when I knocked. Her face red ,her cheeks tear stained, her eyes sullen. When I walked into the living room, he was there sitting on the couch, head down and quiet. I sat next to my father , my mother sat down alone in a chair opposite us. My heart was racing, I could hear the blood pulsing in my ears.
She said ” Your father has done something which we need to tell you about.” I nodded not saying anything. she carried on ..” he needs help, he’s not well and we need you to promise us that you wont tell any one what we are about to tell you”.
I relied ” okay, but its hard cause I don’t know what it is”.
She said ” he has touched sienna, when they were staying here, he touched her, nothing really bad, you know what she’s like, all over him, out going, a bit wild. He’s getting help now, he’s seeing some one, a psychologist, he’s not well, he’s not in a good state.”
I remember sitting there, feeling absolutely numb, not knowing what to say back, in total shock. Sienna was my cousin , she was 9 years old. My father had sexually abused her. I turned and looked at my father next to me, I wanted to see his eyes. He tilted his head up slightly and I could see the tears swelling up in his eyes. He was crying. I had only ever seen him cry once before in my whole life of knowing this man. His pupils were starring back at me now, full of shame. He did not utter a word.
She carried on talking ” please don’t tell any one, we can deal with this, we are a family , we will be okay, please don’t tell any one. You have to promise me you wont tell any one.”
I left, drove home still in shock. I can’t recall much in those hours, I think I sat on the sofa and didn’t move, i just breathed, at home alone, just breathing.
My mind began what psychologist call ” processing” at a phenomenal rate. My blood still pulsing loudly in my ears. He never did this to me, he had never abused me, why now, what at 53 years of age would my own father abuse a child, a nine year old child. Who is he, I don’t think I know him. My father is a pedophile.
He came home after work to me sitting mute ,still seated on the couch. I couldn’t get any words out. I was still in shock and ‘processing’. He begged me to talk, to say something, my face was ashen. I felt drained and numb. I turned to him after a few minutes of him pleading with me to say what was wrong, he had been shouting for a while I think now.
I said ” my father has been abusing my cousin.”
He said ” what?” maybe three or four times he repeated “what?”. I started yelling at him then, saying ” my father has been abusing Sienna.”
We sat together , I began sobbing now in his arms. He put both his hands around my jaw , turning my face to look at him and said ” you need to call her parents and tell them to report this .”
What seemed like hours later I held the phone in my hand and called my Aunts number, Sienna’s mom. I told her I knew of her daughter’s abuse at the hands of my father, I told her my parents had told me, then I asked her to report it. She started yelling at me , telling me saying “NO NO NO, we could deal with this as a family, you must not report this.” After a few minutes of trying desperately to persuade her to do the right thing , with my uncle swearing at me in the background, I just hung up.
As we walked into the Child protection office hand in hand the next day, I knew this decision I was making was right, incredibly difficult but right.
We wanted a family of our own one day, and I knew I could not be a mother and look my babies in the eyes one day knowing that I had not protected them or other children. I knew I had to do this for the sake of Sienna and for the sake of all children.