June Heather's story

June grew up on the outskirts of Sydney, and attended a local Baptist church in the 1960s. ‘Mum was very religious. Very … Dad told me he had his own beliefs … and he didn’t believe you had to go to church to believe in God … But that was my dad, and Mum was a devout Christian.’

June’s parents worked, and there was no one home in the afternoons. Every day she walked past Frank Meredith’s house on the way home from school. He was an elder in their church, and his wife was a good friend of June’s mother. Because of his high position in the church, June’s mother trusted him unreservedly.

‘He’d be outside, waiting for me, because he was a shift worker … so he was at home a lot when school got out.’

Frank took June into his house after school, and sexually abused her. His wife was never home when the abuse occurred.

‘It happened when I was five, six, to when I was 12 … I’ve blocked a lot out … but I know that I must have been, just started school, and it went on all that time. And I do know it went on till I started high school because that’s when I told my grandmother.’

At first, June didn’t realise that what Frank was doing was wrong. ‘In the early stages … I suppose I liked the attention. He was a man. Dad was … never home because of his shift work.’

June only discovered that Frank had been grooming her, when she saw a psychologist after contacting the Royal Commission. ‘[The psychologist] got onto that, and I kind of like, “Yeah, that’s what he did”. He used to buy me presents and Mum didn’t mind it. Like, necklaces and perfume … There’s one perfume I will not use because of it …

‘And he’d give me … records … There’s one song I can’t stand … because that’s what he bought me. I broke my records. I think Nan threw out all the other stuff, but Mum was just so grateful … My mum was a prude. She would never have thought of anything like that … My grandmother, yes … Nan was very open-minded. But Mum …’

June also believes that Frank was part of a paedophile ring. ‘I remember, I don’t know how many times … a lounge room full of men and I had to suck them off, and I must have been eight. And that came back to me about three years ago … Vividly … It just hit me like a ton of bricks one day … [The room] was full of men, with no clothes on. That’s what I remember.’

June told the Commissioner that, ‘there was alcohol … I knew beer, because Dad loved beer and I knew what beer was. And oh, yeah, drinking, laughing, that’s what I remember … 'There was a lot of men there … I know it happened quite a few times … and they were always the same ones’. These men were not from June’s church.

Frank threatened June, saying that ‘no one would believe me and if I said anything, it’s going to hurt my mum … And that was always in the back of my mind … When I got to about eight or nine, I realised that she wouldn’t believe me anyway, because she liked him so much and he was in the Church and they don’t do anything wrong’.

Just before June started high school, ‘I don’t know what clicked, but I knew it was wrong because none of my friends were talking about what I knew … and I don’t know, something clicked in me, you know, to tell Nan and I did. I think I specifically said what he was doing and she cried … She said she’d sort it out. She’d make it better. Because I went to Nan to make everything better’.

After her grandmother confronted Frank, the abuse stopped. When June went to church after that, ‘He ignored me … but Mum invited him to our wedding, so … I made sure I didn’t talk to him’. Later, June began attending a different church.

After she married, ‘he came to my unit where I was, with flowers and a bottle of drink and I told him I’d call the police, and I never saw him again. So I stood up to him when I was 18’.

June has suffered from depression since she was a child. ‘I’m on medication for that and that goes back to [the abuse]. Ever since I was seven I’ve thought about killing myself. On and off. Very often. Very often. But I don’t, because … I would never leave [my children] and I would never have hurt my parents. But it’s always there.’

The abuse that June experienced has ‘wrecked my life. Totally wrecked my life. It’s destroyed relationships. I can’t have relationships with men. Sexual ones. I can’t do it’. Going out and meeting people is also difficult for June, and she has trust issues. ‘I don’t trust anyone … at all. Ever. It takes a lot … for me to trust [people].’

June told the Commissioner that the abuse caused her to be over-protective as a parent, and she has been ‘very insecure my whole life, and very frightened of people’.

Coming to the Royal Commission ‘is the biggest thing I’ve ever done for myself. I just felt it was time that yeah, blow it. It’s not right, you know. And I know it’s still happening today, and it’s wrong’.

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