Daisy’s family belonged to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Victoria in the 1990s. Her mother’s stepfather Owen was an official of the church, and Daisy told the Commissioner that his duties included being a youth leader. He also dealt with younger children.
‘I was best friends with [Owen] … did everything together … movies … went out for walks … and then, when I reached puberty, then he started to ask sexual questions.’
Daisy recalled that one day when she was 11, she and Owen were fishing by the river at her parents’ place.
‘He decided to touch me on that day … inappropriate places … I didn’t quite understand why he did it … His very words stick in my mind. He said, “You’re going to hate me for this”, and I didn’t understand that one. And I still don’t, because it just keeps running through my head, going, “If I’m going to hate you, why would you do it?"'
Daisy didn’t tell anyone because Owen said to her, ‘If you tell, I’ll get in trouble’ and she didn’t want that to happen. She also thought that her father knew what was happening, and if he did, then she didn’t need to say anything.
The abuse happened, ‘quite a few times’, in Owen’s car, at Daisy’s home, at Owen’s home, and at the homes of other Seventh Day Adventist Church members. The abuse included digital penetration, and continued until Daisy was 14.
Daisy eventually asked Owen to stop, and he did. Daisy told the Commissioner that she ‘couldn’t stand the sight … seeing him. So every time we went down to their place, I would take [the dog] out for a walk … Didn’t want to see him’. No one asked her why.
When she was 17, Daisy was watching a crime show on television one night with a friend and the program acted as a trigger for her to talk about the abuse. Her friend suggested that Daisy tell her parents, so she did. Her parents reported the abuse to the police.
Daisy provided a statement, which was ‘daunting … I was in there for about three hours. The process wasn’t too bad, but when they said to us that we have no evidence, that’s when I broke down in tears, because I wanted something [to happen]'. After approaching the Royal Commission, Daisy and her parents reported the matter to the police again, and Owen was charged. They are waiting to hear about a trial date.
Daisy has at times been suicidal, and has self-harmed. She was also ‘a troublemaker’ in school. When she has nightmares, Daisy’s boyfriend ‘has been trying to tell me to “Think of happy thoughts when you go to sleep”, and I’m like, “Well, it just happens. It’s not like, you know, something you think about”’. She doesn’t think her boyfriend fully understands what happened to her.
Daisy has tried counselling a few times. The counsellor that she had at school ‘just wanted to play card games with me’, which did not help. Another counsellor she saw looked like her abuser, and this triggered memories of her abuse. She has now found a female counsellor and is making some progress.
Daisy’s parents reported Owen to the Church. The official they told did not seem surprised, and asked whether it was ‘just touchy-feely or whether it was more serious’. They were made to feel that they were over-reacting, and the official indicated that Owen was well known within the Church for being ‘touchy-feely’ with young girls. No action was taken.
Daisy told the Commissioner that her family no longer attends church and ‘I don’t have any faith in the Church whatsoever’.