So here we were a young engaged couple in our early 20’s having reported my father to child protection for child sexual abuse committed against my 9 year old cousin ,Sienna.
We spent an hour so so with a case worker in child protection in amid lots of tears from me as details needed to be extracted to build the case against my father. At the end of our meeting she gave the case a ‘level’ , a degree of action associated and turned to both of us and said ” we will be moving in to confront your father at his house with a specialist police team while simultaneously sending child protection detectives to the victims school to interview her and her sister about the alleged sexual abuse at the hands of your father , their uncle. Sienna and her Sister Emily attended a christian college, the same one where my mother was teaching at as a pre-primary teacher.
In a matter of days my big brother flew out from South Africa to be with my parents, who I had not spoken to again. He called me once when he arrived and started yelling at me for reporting it, told me we could have dealt with this as a family and that my father was going to report the abuse himself any way. I remember hanging up and feeling once again shocked by my own family’s response to this crime.
Years later I would find out he was arrested at his home that afternoon, hand cuffed and taken away with my mother screaming and weeping on the front lawn of their double story home. They lived in a upper class suburb with beautiful homes, manicured gardens the kind where the neighbors all know each other and every one smiles and waves.
He spent one night incarcerated at the local police station, my mother would later tell me she went to see him, took him his blood pressure medication and that he was suicidal.
I discovered years later ,he would then serve a community sentence for a few months, meet with a psych ,under go regular police checks at home, his car, his computer ect. His sentence reduced due to the prosecutor asking my Aunt , Sienna’s mother if she thought he should serve time in jail or a community sentence , she ultimately chose the later she claims for the sake of her child, as she didn’t want her daughter to feel bad for her uncle doing time.
Given this was the sentence, no one knew the crime he had committed against a child, no one in the community knew about my mother’s choice to stand by her husband and her choice not to report child abuse. She carried on teaching pre-primary children as she had done for so many years before.
After my fiance and I reported the case with child protection our own relationship fell apart. He shut me out emotionally , stopped talking to me and I had to make the difficult choice to leave him. We had only been together a few years , we were young, engaged. We were supposed to be happy, we were supposed to be planning the rest of our lives together. I had no where to go.
I was in the closing stages of my 3 year Business Degree at university , working as a casual sales assistant at a Jeans store. He had been working full time as an Operations Manager on a good wage for his young age. I literally had nothing, no money and no family only a handful of new Uni friends struggling to make end’s meet themselves.
I packed my suit case and moved into a room with two house mates, two law students, a young couple who had noticed my desperate advert on a University notice board. Complete strangers to me, it was their rental property and I had a room, a roof over my head.
I hated my own family, my fiance had emotionally abandoned me and I was now alone. Alone in a big world, with no money and no car I knew this was going to be tough.At least I was in the right country, Australia being a compassionate caring place. I went to Center-link the government welfare department and asked if they could help me.
I was able to get youth allowance , some money to help me pay my rent for my room, buy food , university text books and pay guild fees.This life saving welfare coupled with my casual sales wage would mean I could survive.
I have never felt more alone that I did in that room for those months. I was lucky i was studying cause that was my only distraction from my fractured life at the ripe age of 23.