Keira was born into a small family in a suburb Sydney in the mid-1960s. At the age of nine she made a promise to herself ‘not become an alcoholic’ like her parents. This decision exposed her to relentless taunting from her siblings and parents, and they eventually ostracised her from the family. Even though she was physically living with them she felt very alone.
At 13 Keira joined the local Uniting Church and its youth group, which was close to her high school. She found support within the church that her family could not give, and it became ‘central’ to her teenage years.
Keira thought Frank Abdi, the church’s youth minister, was ‘the bee’s knees’ and a supportive person, and that had the ability to make anyone feel captivated by his personality.
Abdi was ‘charismatic, beautiful teeth, great at soccer. Great hair, great look. You would have never dressed him up as somebody doing the wrong thing … You thought you were in a relationship with him’.
When Keira was 15 years old Abdi took the entire church group to a local swimming pool. He isolated Keira and took her into a private spa, where he fondled her sexually. She felt like this was how Abdi treated people he thought were ‘special’.
Another time Abdi sexually abused Keira in his own apartment. He started massaging her and attempted to remove her swimmers, but she said she ‘had to go home now’.
After this incident he did not approach her again. His attitude towards her changed and this hurt her significantly. She couldn’t understand why he chose to ignore her after he was so lovely and supportive.
Keira learnt that Abdi had become engaged to a woman his age. She found the news ‘shocking’ as she felt that she had a personal relationship with him.
Around the time of Abdi’s engagement Keira noticed her friend and fellow church attendee Monica stealing from the church’s offerings and wanted to know why.
Monica told Keira that Abdi had been abusing her and raping her for at least two years. Keira was faced with another ‘wave of rejection’ and felt very bad for her friend as well as herself.
‘There I was, faced with this understanding that I’d been rejected by a paedophile. So my God I must have been so vulgar and repulsive … If somebody like that even didn’t think I was worthy of being around. It was very confusing.’
Monica told her parents about the abuse by Abdi. They responded that Keira was ‘a trouble maker’ and must have planted that story in her head. At the time, Keira was ‘a wounded person’ and took what her friend’s parents had to say about her very personally. She felt compelled to remain silent about Abdi’s actions against her.
When Keira was 17 she left the church. She did not understand the complexity of the abuse and how it affected her until a much later stage. Then she recognised that every relationship she had with a male had similar foundations, and each man she has been with has taken advantage of her or emotionally abused her.
‘All I can remember is the first time it ever happened was with Frank. I’ve been to psychologists to try and work through it but it just hasn’t resolved the attraction that men who are unfit have to me. I just decided to give up altogether.’
Keira has had many different types of jobs in a range of areas since graduating high school. She has experienced sexual harassment and been abused in more than one workplace, and her ‘her big mouth’ got her into situations where she has been unfairly dismissed on multiple occasions. Because she said nothing about Abdi at the time she will not hesitate now to confront someone for being morally wrong.
Keira has not seen her perpetrator since leaving the Church in the late 1980s but believes he is still alive and living in Sydney. Her main concern is that Frank Abdi should be kept on a register in case he does offend again. Keira has not reported her abuse to the police nor sought compensation from the Uniting Church.