Outside school hours, Valerie and her two younger siblings were left mostly to their own devices.
Their parents were ‘always busy’, as officers with The Salvation Army, and when the family moved to a regional South Australian town in the mid-1970s, the children would ‘hang out’ with the caretaker from the next door church where their parents worked.
‘Daniel would sit on a chair watching us play table-tennis. He was a big part of our family, someone we thought we could trust. One of us would always be on his knee, his hands would wander, there was a lot of finger involvement, inserting into me and rubbing, and making me feel okay. He always had a firm grip on me so I couldn’t go when I wanted to, then with my sister he’d do the same thing.’
Valerie was six years old when the sexual abuse started. She told the Commissioner that Daniel would routinely molest and rape her in the church.
‘He’d pick me up and sit me on a platform that was higher than me, open my legs, and he’d go down on me. Then he’d walk up the stairs and we’d go behind this little barrier and he would lie on top of me. As well as his fingers, there was something else that hurt. I can’t define if it was an object or his penis, but I remember there’d be stains of blood on my undies.’
Afraid that she may get into trouble, Valerie would hide her bloodied underpants, but still wonders whether her mother may have seen them and known the abuse was happening.
In the late 1970s, the family moved to a new posting away from Daniel and the abuse ended. From then on, throughout her school life, Valerie struggled socially and never felt she had friends.
‘I barely passed anything in high school, but I have a good job now. I don’t know how I managed to get where I am. In my 20s I had men take advantage of me. I went out to seek love, but didn’t know what it was all about. It was hard to trust people and get them to like me.’
Valerie eventually revealed the abuse to her mother, but never felt believed. She married in her late 20s, but divorced after some years, and is now raising her children from that marriage.
She said she copes with the traumas of her past by ‘keeping busy’.
‘I think my whole life has been affected by it, I’m always on the go, I haven’t had a holiday in 10 years. I feel if I slow down, the doors will open and that would be very overwhelming. In my career and as a mum, I’m not reaching my full potential and I’m struggling emotionally with that.’
Valerie reported that she suffers from intrusive memories of the abuse, and a number of things can trigger flashbacks.
‘I’ve never been able to go out with anyone with facial hair because Daniel had a moustache. Even when the kids play around and jump on me, I cannot cope with that. I cannot cope with there being any pressure on my chest. Daniel’s been put in jail for sexually assaulting other children, but he’s not been held accountable for what he did to us and that’s irritating, that’s what’s frustrating. For us the visions will never go away. Those memories will never go away.’