‘All I knew was hard work and making men happy, making sure everyone else’s needs were met.’
As far back as she could remember, Rita was sexually abused by her father. He was the head of the family and whatever he said, went. Throughout the 1950s, the family moved from place to place several times. Rita’s father never liked to settle in one place because of his work.
The family was part of a religious cult within which they were well respected. In the cult were several male leaders who brought a group of children from among their relatives to be sexually abused and tortured. Some of Rita’s earliest memories involve being tortured and sexually abused by these male leaders and her father.
From the age of four, Rita and the other children were ‘imposed’ by the leaders. The leaders emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and sexually abused these children in extreme ways. She remembers being involved in bestiality and ritualistic abuse. Rita and the others weren’t allowed to resist the leaders or the cult’s clients, even if it meant missing school.
‘[My] mother and my older sister at times saw what took place. [They] were also victimised or even pressured into joining in with the assaults. Of course, we were all required under threat to remain silent with regard to outsiders.’
In retrospect, Rita believes it would have been impossible for others to understand what was happening within the cult. Within their town the cult was seen as a generous and supportive family unit, and this is what Rita was taught from a young age.
‘I don’t think there were any [children] that were not related [to the leaders in the cult]. I think the reason they did that was because it would help avoid any awkward questions. Their families were already that terrified.’
Rita was eight when she first disclosed the abuse to one of her teachers. She asked her teacher whether her other classmates have to do things for their fathers and adult friends. Her teacher was concerned about what Rita said, but then got distracted with other students and didn’t pursue the matter.
In the 1960s when Rita was nine, she ran away after being violently sexually abused by her father. She sat down and cried in front of an Anglican church, not far away from her family home. A priest found Rita and tried to comfort her.
‘I thought he was being nice at first, he offered me a hot cocoa and he took me in to have a bath … He told me to return. I was very obedient to all adult males. So I did return and he was very violently abusive on the second occasion.’
Several weeks later, she was abused by her grandfather which caused her to run away from home, back to the church. That day another priest was there and he sexually abused her inside the church. She doesn’t know the name of either priest.
When Rita was 13, her family moved to a new town. She was enrolled in a large state high school in the area and within her first week came into contact with a teacher who sexually abused her twice during class. She didn’t tell anyone what happened.
‘He was a frightening man. He was the kind of man that there’d be a lookout and everyone would have to line up outside of the room. They’d be like soldiers when they knew he was coming into the room. He was quite a terrifying man.’
Not long after that, Rita’s family moved to a different area because she had disclosed the abuse at home to one of her teachers. Her teacher was disgusted that she had said such a thing and told her to wash her mouth out.
Soon after, she told her father that she didn’t want to be involved with the cult anymore. She didn’t want to be abused by strange men or the cult’s leaders. She was severely punished for refusing to cooperate.
‘Threats, brutal sexual abuse and torture was inflicted by Father or his cult church minders on all our family when there was a rebellion of any sort. Even [if there was] a hint of disclosure being considered … [Father] would say … “You must do this or we will have no food. Be obedient and make no trouble for me”.’
In the 1970s, Rita’s family moved back to the area they’d lived in previously, but she didn’t go back to the same high school. At that stage she had depression and told her difficulties to one of her peers who advised her to visit the school’s chaplain. She did so and was sexually abused by the chaplain.
Throughout her childhood, teens and adulthood, Rita has felt isolated from others. She has had bouts of depression, some of which have been overwhelming. She has been diagnosed with several different mental illnesses and also has intense physical pains which were never treated while she was living with her family.
Although she loved learning, Rita left school at 15 and got a job with a local business. The abuse at home continued up until Rita left home and got married at 19. She was very relieved to leave her family.
It wasn’t until Rita was in her 30s that memories of the abuse at school and church came back to her. Vivid memories of what she’d endured in the cult also came back, and they were overwhelming. Rita then sought out counselling and disclosed the abuse to her counsellor.
It took Rita more than 20 years to develop good relationships with her counsellor, psychiatrist and psychologist. She has been involved in psychological and psychiatric therapy and counselling for several years. She has developed good relationships with many doctors for physical health treatments.
In the 2000s, Rita tried to ascertain the denomination of the school chaplain and reported the abuse to the Anglican and Catholic churches. She was disappointed that both churches were unwilling to help her search for the perpetrators. Rita also contacted her old high school to try and find information, but they were unhelpful.
Rita is not sure how to report her father to the police, and she is still frightened of authority and her father’s friends.