Since suffering sexual abuse as a young child, Narelle told the Commissioner, she’s always felt like a ‘dirty, rotten piece of meat’.
She and her sister Valerie were raped from the ages of four and six respectively, and both recalled their younger brother also being sexually molested.
‘We moved around a lot, my parents were Salvation Army Officers who gave their heart and soul to the congregation and the community, but never really had much time for us. I was four when we moved to a small town in South Australia, and we lived next door to the church where we spent a lot of time with the church caretaker.’
Daniel befriended the siblings and Narelle described feeling that he was her friend and that he loved her.
‘He called me a princess. We went to the church alone a lot, to the spot where my dad would preach, and the stuff we did was under a cross. If it was hard for me to deal with, I disassociated and would go to other places in my head. My clothes were always taken off, his body felt heavy and I felt squashed. I remember his touch and the objects he put inside me, I remember his boy bits that were inside me, I remember having to swallow what he put in my mouth and I remember blood in my undies. He used to put a spoon inside me and scrape something out.’
The abuse continued several times a week for about two years in the late 1970s and stopped when the family moved away. Narelle said Daniel told her to keep ‘their secret’ quiet, and on the day she moved he said he would kill her if she told anyone.
At 18, Narelle was admitted to a psychiatric facility where she detailed the abuse for the first time. Four years later, she told her mother.
‘I woke up from a suicide attempt and just told her. She was still an officer with The Salvation Army, but she didn’t report it, nothing happened. I don’t think she believed it, or it was probably too hard for her.’
In her mid-20s, Narelle attempted to report the abuse to police.
‘They told me there was a statute of limitation that stopped me from making a statement. The first opportunity I had was about eight years ago when the law changed. They came and interviewed me and around that time I found out my sister had been abused by Daniel as well, so we both made statements.’
Due to the sisters’ ages at the time they were sexually abused, Narelle was advised the case would not go to trial. Years later Narelle heard Daniel had been charged and convicted of child sex offences relating to pre-teenage girls while he was training to become a minister. Narelle feels the justice system let her and others down.
‘I tried to tell police in the early 90s, but the law stopped me. I’ve had depression my whole life, significant post-traumatic stress issues that are chronic and I’ve never been able to hold down a job. I don’t know what happiness is. I want The Salvation Army to stand up and take responsibility for something that is incredibly serious. It feels to me they still don’t care.’
Narelle is the single mother of young boys, and told of facing a daily struggle to survive.
‘I’ve managed to attract some really nasty men. I’ve never had anyone tell me they love me. I have a heart and an ability to love, but low self-worth, I don’t feel strong. I fight to keep alive, I fight to get out of bed every day. I do anything to get to a better space, because I want my boys to be okay.’