Annette’s mother converted to the Mormon religion not long after marrying Annette’s father. This caused tension in the house. By the time Annette was about six years old, she had started to rebel against her mother’s desire for Annette to participate in the church too.
‘I used to hide in cupboards under the bed … I’d do anything I could to try and avoid going [to church] … I never wanted a bar of it. My mum used to absolutely make me. In their church if someone didn’t want to go to church, they all put shame on them … I guess my mum thought she didn’t want to look bad.’
Annette was one of two girls in a large family.
‘It’s a patriarchal religion where women don’t have any value and that’s why my sister and I were treated like shit and that’s why my brothers were treated really good.’
One Sunday, at the church, Annette tried to avoid attending the day’s activities. Three older boys, all members of the church, suggested she hide with them.
‘I didn’t want to go to church … I just wanted to hide and … they coerced me into there and said, “Oh we can just go in there and hide and hang out” and it turned into something else.’
The boys sexually abused Annette.
‘At the time I didn’t even really understand what was happening and I didn’t really think anything of it. And it was later in life that I actually triggered that memory … I was not really au fait with a lot of that sort of stuff at that age. I was quite sheltered.’
Annette didn’t tell anyone. ‘I didn’t think I’d have enough evidence. It’s just like a story basically and I don’t see that many people would take it seriously.' She also didn’t feel supported at home by either her mother or father. Her schooling suffered and she had to find work from the age of 15.
‘I think [the abuse] was always there. I can be honest and say that when I went through a lot of that stuff when I was a teenager I used marijuana to try and escape the reality.’
Annette worked hard and built a career, becoming a well-regarded practitioner in her field. But, after a significant personal accident, she had to take time off work. Without the distraction of work, memories of the abuse surfaced - ‘I was with my own mind’.
‘I just remember it as a time I was … getting on with my life and I remember [the memory] just coming up. And vivid memory of everything … When they were molesting me they were trying to tell me that it was okay what they were doing, because I was saying “No, I’m not supposed to do this, I’m sure this isn’t right”. And they were saying “No, it’s okay because we’re friends and we know you” … they kept touching me and stuff. I remember that vividly.’
Annette went into ‘survival mode’ and ‘had to do a lot of work on myself’. She understands now that the church was negligent in their duty of care of her while she was on their premises.
‘They have their main Sunday school and then kids get partitioned out to all these different areas and groups … they were not managing who was there and where the people were supposed to be at various times.’
She has thought about pursuing compensation from the church but felt she wouldn’t be believed by police and the courts. ‘I guess, when it came up … I really did think that it’s not right and they should be exposed but … I didn’t think there would be any [evidence].’
She hasn’t received psychological support and ‘I kind of just dealt with it myself’.
‘I’ll be the first to say, I probably should have engaged with services more. I found it hard to get counselling access at the times that I needed it and because of that I just kind of let it go … I can definitely say that when I’ve reconnected with what’s happened and bringing my story up it has triggered things off … [but] I couldn’t afford it at the time.’
Annette wanted to tell the Commissioner her story to highlight the fact that child sexual abuse occurs in the Mormon Church.
‘It’s a total cult, total. Completely. They are just so manipulated and brainwashed that they don’t understand what’s going on … they hide behind this front of religion and pay their money and pretend to be good people.
‘I just feel tainted. I just feel violated … and I don’t want other people to go through it. I also see the church as a very big powerful entity … and I just want to see the education put out there so that people actually know … because they are not responsible for the kids that are there.’