Liesel's story

For most of her life Liesel was taught to believe she was sexually abused.

It began with an allegation that her sister had been abused while in the care of her drug-addicted mother when Liesel was four years old.

Then her father – seeking full custody of his children – accused her mother, her mother’s family and some of her mother’s friends of physically, sexually and emotionally abusing their daughters in a satanic cult.

‘They were the allegations made. Again I can’t recall any of that happening. But whether it happened or not – maybe I just don’t remember it’, Liesel said.

Various investigations into these allegations ensued in the 1990s. They involved police, Victorian government authorities responsible for children’s protective services, and the courts. Some of these authorities, according to documents Liesel gave the Royal Commission, began to believe her father was obsessed and ‘mentally training us girls to say certain things’.

This resulted in the girls being made wards of the state and moved temporarily into foster care – where Liesel ‘felt safe’.

When their father regained custody, the girls still had periods of limited access to their mother – which led to more allegations.

Internal examinations were conducted on Liesel at a government hospital when she was a pre-schooler. In the presence of either her mother, father or his new partner, a female paediatrician found no abnormalities on two occasions.

This followed accusations by Liesel’s father, contained in a report by the paediatrician that was also given to the Commission, that his daughter had been the subject of ‘genital fondling’ by her mother.

Asked by the paediatrician who had touched her, the report stated Liesel replied that it had been her mother – and her mother’s friends Wendy, Fred and Mike – but that ‘Wendy did it the most … touched on the inside … lots of times’.

On another occasion some unexplained bruising and a genital infection were found. The infection resolved with improved hygiene and was not consistent with child sexual abuse, it was noted.

Despite no resolution to the allegations, Liesel’s father was given full parental custody until his children were grown, with access denied to their mother.

For ‘years and years’, until his recent death, Liesel’s father tried ‘to make us girls believe these allegations’. She blames the child protection authorities for ‘many’ preventable psychological and emotional problems that resulted.

‘Certain things I recall are pictures drawn by my father that were meant to resemble devils’, Liesel said. The girls were told to copy the pictures which were then given to child protection services. ‘My father was training us girls mentally to believe these bizarre allegations.

‘I think DHS (Department of Human Services) and the courts thought there was something happening and then they didn’t think it, and it was just all over the place. It ended up being that we weren’t allowed to see our mother or any of her family, yet there was no charges laid against her or anything like that.’

This ‘traumatic abuse’ so early in their lives – and of which child protection authorities were aware – ‘has impacted greatly on our lives today’, according to Liesel.

The genital examinations she was forced to undergo after her father’s allegations ‘greatly impacted on my sexual life’, she said. ‘It was enough for me to remember it like yesterday.

‘I don’t know whether something did happen and I can’t remember it. I don’t know’, said Liesel, who doesn’t know why her father felt so strongly about it.

‘My concerns are that child protection didn’t protect us … the examinations, I think they were sexual abuse. That’s affected me. It still affects me. Being told that we were sexually abused as well, like mentally being abused, saying we’ve been sexually abused to the point where I believed it for so many years.

‘We were mentally abused to believe that there was abuse happening.’

Liesel now fears both male and female doctors. During the birth of her child she had ‘no choice’ and the event affected her ‘quite a bit, actually’. Her partner of almost a decade is understanding of her ‘difficulties with trust in relationships and with intimacy’ which had previously ruined some of her relationships.

Her ties to her mother have been damaged by Liesel’s trust issues, and there’s ‘never going to be a mother/daughter relationship’.

While she does have one memory of the time that preceded leaving their mother, ‘I don’t know whether it’s delusional or whether it’s an actual memory.

‘Again, I don’t know whether she did anything or whether it’s just the allegations. But that’s something that I’m never going to be able to [resolve].’

Liesel recommended that children should be removed from the care of both parents while investigating allegations of sexual abuse, and that young children should not have internal vaginal exams.

Her sister, Louella, who supported Liesel during her private session said, ‘All our lives we’ve been trying to work it out, I guess, and the fact is we may never, and it’s really hard to accept that’.

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