Magda's story

‘He took my childhood and made my brothers and sisters think I was a dirty, filthy little girl.’

Magda was born into a large family in Victoria in the late 1950s. Her father was a businessman who was often away from home. Her mother, who was ill with an untreatable condition, tried to ease her pain with alcohol and became an alcoholic. Her siblings all ‘had their own life’. As a child, Magda felt quite lonely.

In the mid-1960, when Magda was eight, she and a friend regularly attended Sunday school at the local Methodist Church. There she discovered that a girls’ performing arts class was held every Thursday night. Magda joined without hesitation.

The class was taught by a series of teachers, and was supervised by Mr Kalum who Magda believes was a church minister. Kalum would drive the girls to and from practice. He would make Magda sit in the front, and would pick her up first and drop her off last. Magda enjoyed his favouritism.

The abuse wasn’t an instant thing, Magda recalls Kalum being very slow. He started off rubbing her leg which didn’t alarm her. Magda thought he liked her and she described Kalum as a warm person. However, when she turned 10, things started to change.

Magda remembers the moment when ‘the rubbing hands’ moved towards the insides of her legs. ‘I was terrified, and I went to go to the door of his car. He said, “No Magda, you sit here … You’ve got to be a good girl”. He put my hand on his crotch … His thing was warm and it was hard … I just wanted to get out of the car.’

Kalum’s kind personality changed instantly. He became rough and forced Magda to perform oral sex, and then yelled at her to clean herself up before they went into the church. Kalum abused her multiple times over a few months, whenever he drove her to and from practice.

Magda didn’t know what to do, and she didn’t know how to stop Kalum. She told her mother, but her mother disbelieved her and called her dirty. Whenever she mentioned the abuse, Magda was attacked by her mother and taunted by her siblings.

One evening, when Kalum arrived to pick up Magda for class, she ran away and hid at a neighbour’s house. Her older sister found her and brought her back to the house. Her mother hit her across the head with a bottle and dragged her to Kalum’s car.

Kalum drove away and stopped a few streets away from the church. ‘He made me lay down on the seat … I felt my legs were being pushed apart. I was hanging on the door handle … He laid on top of me and breathed heavily … Then he got off me and grabbed these rags to wipe up all this stuff.’

As soon as Magda arrived at class, her friend asked what she had done to herself. She told her friend that Mr Kalum had ‘wee’d’ on her. Magda didn’t know what he’d done, but she felt pain and was upset that he’d left ‘stuff’ on her.

Several weeks later, Magda disclosed the details of the abuse to her friend’s mother, and a meeting was arranged at the church hall where she was told that what Kalum had done was wrong. After the meeting, she never went back to the church.

Magda then lost interest in school. She associated with ‘naughty girls’ and was often disruptive in class. Her family then moved interstate because of her father’s work, and her mother’s drinking and neglect of her children became worse,

In the early 1970s, when Magda was 16, her father asked her to leave school to help to support the family. She worked in a series of jobs, and was also paid by her father to do the housework.

About a year later, Magda met the man who would become her husband. She moved out of home the following year, and has been with her husband ever since.

Magda had suicidal thoughts in her late 20s, and later suffered from intense flashbacks. She has also had intimacy issues because during sex she can sometimes feel ‘the weight of him’ on top of her. It has taken her several years to come to terms with the abuse, and to deal with the guilt and shame she carried. Magda recently sought counselling, and found this to be helpful.

In her 30s, Magda disclosed the details of the abuse first to her husband and then to her children. She has also told her grandchildren. She never reported Kalum to the police because she discovered that he died in the late 1990s.

Magda contacted the Uniting Church (the Methodist Church was incorporated into the Uniting Church in the 1970s). Initially, the Church told her that they had no record of Kalum, but a Church representative later told her that Kalum was ‘going through personal problems’ at the time of the abuse. The representative also asked her how she would like her apology.

‘They can stuff their [apology] where the sun don’t shine.’

Magda was dissatisfied with the Church’s response, but does not intend to take any legal action.

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