‘I come from a non-worldly background … I was brought up [believing] there is no sex before marriage. You believe and you trust … To be in an institution where you should be able to trust … I had a constant conflict that I was believing what people were saying but … the outcome wasn’t there.’
Penelope was raised in a very religious family in Western Australia. Her father was the minister of the local Anglican church. From as far back as she could remember, she attended summer schools run by the church as her father thought that this would be a great way for her to socialise.
In the 1980s, when she was 16, she was groomed by Nolan Jenkins at summer school. Jenkins was also an Anglican minister and a close friend of her father’s. It was his first time being in charge of the students. Jenkins often followed Penelope around, giving her compliments and she felt special because of it.
One night, Jenkins asked Penelope how old she was. She told him that she was 18. He got excited and then asked her to come into his room, where he repeatedly raped her. She said she trusted Jenkins completely, but didn’t understand why it felt wrong.
She didn’t tell anyone what had happened. After summer school ended, she mentioned to her mother that Jenkins had done something, hoping that her mother would take action, but she merely told her that Jenkins’ marriage would probably end up in divorce if they reported him.
After Penelope left school, she began studying at university and became a youth leader within her father’s church, which she adored. Penelope grew quite close to Reverend Kevin Green while she was working at the church.
Her parents moved to another town and Penelope went to live in the parish home with Green. She soon discovered that he had a tendency to take girls to the beach or pool. She thought it was weird, but if she said anything, she believed she would have to move out.
She then moved into Green’s family home with him and his wife. Green had control over Penelope and she was forced to do as he pleased. He raped her several times while she was staying at his house. She recalls him following her into the shower to abuse her there.
‘There was one time where the three of us were out having coffee and a guy took a liking to me. As soon as we got back he raped me and said, “I want to be the last thing you think of when you go to bed … No one else is going to have you”.’
She tried to report it to Mrs Green. She said knew that Mrs Green knew what was happening but was reluctant to say anything to her husband. She stayed at the house until she was 19.
Since then she hasn’t been able to settle and has moved around constantly to find work. For a long time she couldn’t talk about the abuse.
Throughout her adulthood, she has had trouble trusting others and has found it difficult to maintain relationships because she can’t cope with being intimate. She has low self-esteem and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. She has had suicidal thoughts and has self-harmed in the past.
She also has a tendency to put on weight as a defence mechanism against males, saying she didn’t want to look attractive in case she was raped again.
‘I haven’t been able to move past things, and everything’s now hinged on me losing weight. I can’t lose the weight until I feel safe. So I’m caught in a circle.’
In the late 90s Penelope disclosed the rapes. She was told that it was too late to do anything about it and that she should see a counsellor. She didn’t mention the abuse again until the early 2000s. Her father knew something was wrong, so she told him what happened.
‘He said, “If you want to see this through, I will stand by you”, but we never talked about it again.’
She expressed interest in reporting Jenkins and Green to the police. However, she said she would like to be in a healthier mindset when that happens. Most of all, Penelope is thankful that she has retained her faith.
‘I’m very close to God. That’s truly the only reason why I’ve actually survived.’