Lucianne's story

Lucianne grew up in a devoutly Catholic family. In the late 1950s, when she was three years old, she was raped by a middle-aged man working on the family property.

Her mother ‘was furious and she wanted the man charged, but … societal expectations were that you kept a lid on it, and Mum was painted as a hysterical woman and told to shut up and be quiet. So that was the beginning. I don’t have any memory of it, but the fallout from that first rape had dreadful consequences for me’.

A year later Lucianne was abused by another farm worker.

‘[He] said that if I told I would be hunted down and I would be killed. Well, I knew what killed meant. We’d seen our father kill a lamb, kill sheep. And so it was a knife across a throat … That’s what we know silences children. The threats.’

Lucianne began to dissociate, to the extent that her family thought she had epilepsy.

‘Mum told me that I used to space out quite regular and my behaviour changed quite markedly. I used to have massive anxiety attacks but they came later on. And I used to hyperventilate and knock myself out … And so the kids wouldn’t play with me … And I found it very, very hard to interact socially with people, peers my own age. I didn’t know how to.’

At the age of six Lucianne was sexually abused by the local school teacher, Mr Pendle, who was well respected in the small community. ‘It was an indecent assault … He just laughed and he said, “They won’t believe you, they won’t believe you”.’

Lucianne recalls another occasion around this time when ‘I was dragged out of the car by a paedophile at the pictures’. A friend of the family saw it happen and alerted Lucianne’s mother. ‘Mum came to the car and she was very, very, very, very angry. She was furious … That was scary.’ Lucianne’s mother did not assure her it was the paedophile she was angry at (and not Lucianne).

Because of their staunch Catholic upbringing, Lucianne did not believe she could disclose any incidents of abuse without getting into trouble. When she was eight she was abused by a visiting priest, Father O’Leary.

‘He was like a lot of offenders I’ve found. Outwardly very charming and charismatic, popular. And I didn’t talk to the other kids about it. No one out there would’ve done ‘cause the priest was the closest thing to God.’

A couple of years later, when she was in hospital, Lucianne was abused by an older boy. ‘One of the nurses picked up on it ... I remember Mum being there to get me to take me home, and that’s when she called me a “dirty, filthy little girl”. And it’s those words that stuck for a long time … did a lot of psychological harm. I was terrified of her anger.’

Lucianne’s difficulty engaging with her peers continued into boarding school. Despite, or perhaps because of this, ‘I actually did okay at school. I managed to learn to read ... It was a form of disassociation in a way. I didn’t have to deal with reality and I could find things that happened in other places in the words, pages of the book’. However, after she was approached by yet another paedophile, she became ‘profoundly depressed’.

‘Withdrew and stopped eating and just wanted to sleep all the time … The nuns didn’t ask and I didn’t say. And I wouldn’t have said anything either. Because one of the consequences as a kid too, I was told I would be killed if I told.’

After leaving school Lucianne went into nursing. One night on duty a 17-year-old buzzed three times, indicating an emergency.

‘The night supervisor was across the room near the windows there. And I caught him glaring at that young fellow. And I’d seen that death look before, I knew what it meant … His role was to come and speak to the staff on the ward. He shouldn’t have been in any patient’s room whatsoever. And he glared this death look at this young guy to silence him. I thought “Holy hell”.’

Lucianne reported the incident to the hospital authorities as well as the police, who confirmed they had suspicions but insufficient evidence to pursue charges. She is currently seeking further legal advice in order to intervene against potential paedophiles.

Lucianne married and had children but the marriage didn’t last. She disclosed some of the abuse to her husband but he didn’t want to know about it. Some years ago she experienced a major breakdown which resulted in her being ostracised from her work and the local community. ‘It was a terrible time again because people wouldn’t talk to me. If people saw me coming they would go into a shop … I was neurotic, over-emotional, and perimenopausal I was told.’

Since this time Lucianne has moved to a different community, had a positive experience with a psychiatrist, and is now linked in with a sexual assault service.

‘There was some group counselling there. And the first time I got the chance to sort of find out that I wasn’t the only person that went through this garbage … So that sort of helped a lot, knowing that there were other people that understood exactly where you were coming from.

‘I did do a self-defence course. That helped enormously because that was the first time I was able to learn that it’s okay to say no and to get past that terrible fear thing that freezes you up and stops you from yelling out or screaming when you’re being violated.’

Lucianne’s father has since passed away but she tried to tell her mother about Pendle’s abuse. ‘Well, when I told my mother a few years ago she said “Oh, he wouldn’t do that, he’s such a good Catholic man” … Waste of time.’ She has since made an official report about Pendle to the police. She has never sought compensation or reported Father O’Leary, and no longer practises Catholicism as ‘I hate their stinking guts’.

‘I have a tendency to socially isolate myself. I would prefer to be by myself because issues of trust are massive, huge … I think my belief in my kids is probably the thing that’s got me through. ‘Cause … I just don’t wanna see this happen to other kids.

‘We are talking about these issues to kids now much more publically than we ever did. And that’s been big progress and that’s gotta keep going. Because the isolation children feel when they’re being sexual assaulted, which is deliberate of course, it’s a terrible place of abandonment … The education’s started to happen. That’s gotta keep going.’

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