‘It began very, very early – before school age.’
That’s how Jacqui remembers her sexual abuse starting – with her father. And it escalated from there.
She now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder which sprang from early childhood experiences up to the time of puberty, around 11 years of age.
Referring to herself as ‘we’ and ‘us’ and ‘ourselves’, Jacqui told of years of abuse in a ‘ritual’ fashion by members of a Catholic organisation, including priests, nuns and members of their parish in Victoria, to which her father belonged.
In the 1960s her father would drive her to ‘meetings’ where Jacqui told of many hands touching her. Something was put over her face, substances were rubbed into her body and she was fearful to move or object as the teachings drummed into her were to ‘obey’ above all else.
She acknowledges that this is a scenario most people would not believe.
‘When you are talking of ritual abuse it’s real’, she said. ‘It happens. But for a lot of people it doesn’t happen in today’s world. Sorry guys! It does – very much so.’
Jacqui believes the organisation her father belonged to was highly organised and operated throughout other states.
One of her brothers, Lane, she recently found, was also abused.
She says they both recall only fragments of scenes as they were both young.
Through poetry written by ‘us’ – the other entities to which she dissociates – Jacqui told of being trained to be ‘compliant’ while lying on a high table, possibly drugged while clothing was removed and priests and nuns penetrated her with various instruments.
The poetry, written years ago, was a communication tool through which the entities were able to express their feelings.
It’s chiefly about a ‘little girl’ who took Jacqui’s place during the early abuse while she was naked, with hands upon her, with nuns and priests present, 'purifying' her. Escape was impossible. Her only recourse was to ‘disappear’.
When the family moved interstate and Jacqui’s father took her to see the local Monsignor, the clergyman was with some other children. While not remembering everything, she does recall being tied to a bed and having photographs taken of her in a darkened room.
After another house move, she was abused by a neighbour and a relative.
In later counselling sessions, Jacqui said, she ‘reverted straight back to childhood’, an indicator that what she was experiencing in adulthood ‘was a direct result of what had happened in childhood'.
‘We grew up not just being fearful of adults. We grew up being fearful of children – other children.’
Jacqui said the ritual abuse stopped at puberty. ‘I believe 11 was the last instance.’
She ‘hid very well’ in a Catholic school with few friends, during an era when ‘priests and nuns were God’s people’ who could never be questioned about what they did.
Jacqui never came to the attention of child protection authorities.
‘No, nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. You are trained well to behave as you are supposed to in public … If you’ve got bruises or things like that they’re “childhood accidents”.’
Jacqui’s memories of high school – her safe haven where ‘they couldn’t get you’ – are ‘gone’. ‘We’, she said, developed a dissociative disorder as a result of the years of abuse. ‘One of the things that we were told that we would do in high school was we would injure ourselves by grabbing poles and bash[ing] our heads into them.’
This sort of behavior ‘indicated something that was wrong but nothing was ever done’, Jacqui said, except for attempts to make ‘us’ eat when she became anorexic.
In the 1980s, Jacqui said a pastor in a modern church raped her and she disclosed this in the 1990s but nothing happened other than an offer of a small number of counselling sessions by that church. The police told her she was wasting her time pursuing a complaint.
Of her childhood abuse, the only person Jacqui disclosed to was her brother. He has told only his counsellor, not even his wife.
The lasting impacts of Jacqui’s abuse included a lost relationship with her son, and six years of hospitalisations. She told a psychiatrist but did not feel believed and ‘we’ couldn’t even bring ‘ourselves’ to tell her psychologist.
A counsellor ‘many, many years ago’ had ‘likened what we’d been through as like Auschwitz'.
‘It has affected our whole life – still affects our whole life ... We’ve attempted suicide several times.’
Jacqui has minimal contact with her ‘very controlling’ family and lives far away from them. Her brother is the only person who ‘has verified what happened’. She has never sought compensation – or even thought about it.
‘I could, I suppose [attempt again to report some of the abuse]. They get away with it otherwise. That’s the whole thing about it … They get to have their lives. We don’t.’
Jacqui warned the Commission that ‘I’m probably not going to remember any of this’ but was assured her support person was with her and she would be followed up by a Commission counsellor.
‘We had nowhere to go, no one to believe us and even if you did try to say, no one believed you’, Jacqui said.
‘They [children have] got to be believed. They really do … People say “how can you stop it?” I’m sorry guys. You’re never going to stop it ... But children need to know there is a safe place – not a phone call – but a safe place where they can run to.’
Jacqui ‘nearly chickened out’ of attending her private session.
‘What helped was my brother [disclosing to her]. So now I could do it for him.’