‘We were brought up in a family where, because we were religious, everyone was okay. Everyone had to be given a go and everyone had to be forgiven.’
Brandi’s family were devout Evangelical Christians and they attended church every week. This didn’t change when they moved to a new town in Western Australia.
In the early 1990s when Brandi was about 12, her mother and another couple, the Askews, created a youth group. Brandi and her siblings were forced to attend every week and they also went on outings with the group and youth group leaders.
Brandi’s mother often sent her children to stay at the Askews’ home which was ‘a shed in the bush’. Brandi hated going there. She remembers one night when Mr Askew followed her outside when she was upset. Under the guise of comforting her, he started touching her breasts.
‘I would have never said anything in my life. I was so embarrassed.’
About two year later, Brandi and her sister spent the weekend with the Askews. She was placed in between Mr and Mrs Askew while they slept under the stars. In the middle of the night, Brandi awoke to find Mr Askew digitally penetrating her. She was speechless.
Mr Askew then reached over and grabbed Brandi’s hand and placed it on his erect penis. Brandi didn’t know what to do, and did not know what he was doing. She kept silent.
The next morning, Brandi bled heavily. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself and was concerned others would suspect something had happened and that she was to blame.
The abuse happened every time Brandi visited the Askews. She remembers being forced to help Mr Askew in the garden and he would use these times to touch her. On one occasion, Mr Askew raped Brandi while her sister slept beside her.
‘I remember at one stage he was on his knees in front of me, pulling at my clothes, saying that his marriage was failing. He was doing those things to me and telling me things I didn’t need to know.’
Brandi escaped by drinking alcohol. She went to house parties and social events outside the youth group in an attempt to forget about Askew. In her mid-teens, after drinking with friends at a social event, she was picked up by a group of men who drugged and then raped her.
‘I don’t remember it happening, I remember the bar and I just remember waking up … Nothing adds up.’
Around this time, Brandi first disclosed the details of her abuse and rape to the man she later married. While she was in hospital on another occasion, she told nurses about the rape but they only took notes and didn’t notify the police. Brandi didn’t speak of the rape and sexual abuse again until she was in her mid-30s.
In the early 2010s, Brandi reported Mr Askew and the group of men to the police. She was hoping they would take her seriously, but the police officer laughed and accused her of being drunk. Brandi felt terrible, and was upset by their lack of empathy.
‘He asked me to describe the gang’s bar, which I did, and he said, “Oh yeah, that’s a great bar”.’
Regarding Askew, the police refused to believe that he could abuse a child. Nevertheless, Brandi wanted them to investigate and was relieved when they did. However, when Askew refused to be interviewed, the matter wasn’t pursued.
Brandi dislikes the fact that her family and the Church have abandoned her. Her family have remained in close contact with Mr Askew and don’t believe that he abused her.
Brandi is no longer an Evangelical Christian, and no longer trusts the police.