‘It’s funny, my husband said “If it weren’t for the fact that your father was a bloody paedophile he would’ve been the best dad ever”, ‘cause he used to take us horse riding, and we used to go morning swimming … before school, you know, that sort of thing. It was good, there were good times.’
Rana grew up in a family that was heavily involved in the Revival Centres Church. ‘We were brought up in the Church. I was born in the Church, my parents got married in the Church.’ Her mother took care of the children while her father worked and volunteered as leader in the Church’s youth group. Rana was almost seven years old in the 1990s when he began sexually abusing her and her sister.
The abuse, which involved fondling and masturbation, would usually occur at night while Rana was trying to sleep. This resulted in her often being tired during school and frequently ill. She told the Commissioner she has repressed a lot of memories but recalls the abuse being physically painful. ‘I can remember all the touching and him making me do things to him. But when I was 12 … I got my period for the first time … All I can remember is him getting in the shower with me after, and then getting out and being very sore.’
Rana told the Commissioner that she was 14 when she disclosed to a friend, and then two weeks later felt brave enough to tell her mother.
‘I told Mum because I was always sick. It was more I was just tired ‘cause he’d come in in the middle of the night all the time. And it was this one morning and he just wouldn’t leave me alone. Mum had taken the other kids to school and he was there and he was touching me. I can’t remember, I think it was just harder than normal and it really hurt and I thought “I can’t do this anymore”.’
Rana’s mother took her to see the senior pastors of the Church where she was given a ‘protective behaviours talk’. ‘I still remember the first thing he said to me was “Do you understand the difference between the truth and exaggerating?” And when he said that to me I was like “They’re not going to believe me”.’ During this meeting it was revealed that her father had confessed to the abuse 18 months prior and was effectively excommunicated. The Church had not reported the abuse to Rana’s mother, the police or any other regulatory body.
‘When I found out that the Church knew about it all that time. I couldn’t believe, because they are so big on they are your real family and they will protect you against the world and blah blah blah. And to find out that they knew what my dad was doing - he’d actually confessed, it wasn’t just a suspicion. And they just knew he was at home. So I was very angry for a long time.’
Rana’s mother was told by senior pastors that, as the abuse did not involve actual intercourse, she was not able to get a divorce. ‘Because he hadn’t physically had sex with us there was no grounds for divorce in the Church. ‘Cause in the Church the only grounds for divorce is adultery.’
Rana’s father was able to stay in the home following this meeting and for a month did not sexually abuse her but instead became physically violent. Rana disclosed this violence to the Church. ‘Apparently Mum was then told that she’d have to go home and tell my father that he wasn’t allowed to physically discipline us anymore, that was her job. So basically they took away his powers to hit us and that’s when the sexual abuse started up again.’
Eventually a police report was made and Rana’s father was charged and sentenced. Rana made a victims of crime application and was awarded $40,000.
Because her education had been interrupted, Rana did not go beyond Year 10 in school. ‘I didn’t finish school. I couldn’t concentrate, I didn’t want to be there … I just spent all my time at home. Then I discovered pot. Even now my trust levels with people …’
Rana was still a member of the Church when she started dating someone outside it, which was considered ‘rebellious’, however this relationship was abusive.
‘And all I wanted was someone to protect me. I wanted someone who really wanted to protect me. That’s why I chose him. But he was also violent towards me.’
Since that first occasion when she was 12, Rana has never had another period. ‘The doctors say they can’t find out what’s wrong, they say it’s psychological … They’ve looked at everything ... They did some x-rays on me when I was 18, ‘cause when I was 18 I still hadn’t gotten another period, and apparently my bones showed that I was about the age of 13. So basically from what I can understand my body didn’t go through puberty properly. It just sort of just went “Nup” and stopped.’
At 18 Rana officially left the Church and her family home. She lived with her boyfriend for a year before spending time living on the streets, smoking cannabis heavily. She told the Commissioner that she had numerous sexual partners before meeting her current husband, Simon, when she was 21. She has since been able to manage her cannabis dependence and fully disclosed the abuse she suffered. ‘It took a long time for me to tell Simon everything, but I mean we’ve been together 10 years now.’
Less than two years before speaking with the Commissioner, Rana experienced a major breakdown when she was told by Church members she was considered a ‘sinner’ and not permitted to attend a friend’s party. She later contacted the Church to raise concerns about how they handled her father’s admissions of abuse, however they replied by saying that they advised her mother to report the matters to the police. This response caused Rana’s weight to drop dramatically through stress and illness.
Rana finds it hard to trust anyone and experiences obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms, cleaning incessantly as a result, and has been prescribed anti-depressant medication by a psychologist who specialises in child sexual abuse. She told the Commissioner that the influential culture within the Church has led to fragmented relationships with her mother and siblings, who still remain members of the Revival Centres Church.