‘I don’t know the exact details. I know that beforehand I have patchy recollections of, kind of being held on the wall. I remember trying to say no. So I remember something – I remember there was a kerfuffle there. I remember feet on my feet like holding, having my feet held down, being against a wall and then all I remember next is he sat me on the toilet seat so that blood could drip. I remember looking down and seeing blood dripping down and him kind of saying, “Don’t tell anyone, we’ll both get in trouble”, that kind of stuff.
‘And I think because I’d been told don’t let him take photos of you and had that kind of responsibility there, I kind of took that in. And then he went and sat me outside in the playground, told the other teachers I had a stomach ache. I remember other kids being upset that I got to sit in the playground at that time.’
As a four year old in a Sydney preschool, Yasmina had no real idea who David was. He seemed to appear sporadically at the centre and take photographs of children, but wasn’t one of the main staff.
Fragments of memories of David sexually abusing her started to come to Yasmina when she was about 19 in the mid-2000s. At that time she discovered photos of her and David at the preschool. There was nothing unusual about the photos but they were the catalyst for Yasmina recalling other details of her time in the preschool.
‘I was sick in bed for about three days afterwards because I’d completely forgotten that they existed’, Yasmina said.
By her mid-20s, ‘it really messed everything’ up, Yasmina said. ‘So I think that’s been a real marker of my experience of it as being, kind of having these memories and realising that everything that happened had re-emerged. Still not having the whole picture; being able to ascertain enough, but also the impact of that emerging at 25 when you kind of think you know what your life’s about and then suddenly that happens.’
Yasmina wondered that other staff at the preschool didn’t put any limits on David being alone with children nor him taking photos apparently without permission.
‘I remember my mum at the time after a while said, “Don’t let him take the photos of you”, and so that was, kind of felt like, oh I should let him not take the photos, but felt like I kind of had to. So there was a kind of responsibility shift there onto a four year old. My mum, she has no idea what happened. I haven’t told her, because she would blame herself but sometimes she’ll make a comment, “Oh that guy … that was a bit weird wasn’t it?” So I think of the adults, if even one of them had raised a question, the rest of them would have been like, “Yeah, you’re right, that’s weird”. But I think because there was this blanket, “It’s okay, it’s normal”, that no one actually raised an eyebrow about it.’
As Yasmina started to recall memories, she ‘put the pieces together’, and feels ‘everything makes sense now’.
She likened it also to ‘death’ because the idea of her life changed and ‘you suddenly lose all sense of self’. She began to draw links between the fragmented memories and why she’d had ‘issues of self-esteem and shame’.
‘I was skipping meals at age five, refusing to eat lunch, throwing it out, telling the teacher, “Look at my empty lunchbox” so things like that. As I got into adolescence, when I first got my period, seeing the blood, that’s when I started disordered eating and just trying to – feeling like something was happening. There was a shame and a responsibility which I didn’t understand till later. So eating disorders.
‘I refused to put a dress on, I never wanted to look pretty. I got ostracised as a teenager because I never got into makeup and boys, I just didn’t want any of that. I used to get overweight.’
Because her memories remained ‘patchy’, Yasmina didn’t think she could report David to NSW Police. She was also concerned about ‘not knowing where it would go’, though if she heard someone else had reported David, she thought she’d make a formal statement then.
‘My interest would have been if I speak up, will it prevent something happening to other people, but 25 years down the track I’m like, if anything’s going to happen, it’s happened and someone would have probably said something along the way, especially if they were older.’
One of the reasons for her mother not taking more assertive action, Yasmina thought, was because her parents had only been in Australia a few years. ‘They’d migrated very recently so when you’ve got people of different backgrounds, new to the country who don’t know what the norms are, you’ve got an honourable parent there, so actually being able to tell them what to expect in the care of your child I think would be really good.’
As a way of bringing form to her ‘pieces’ of memory, Yasmina painted and wrote poetry.
She read from part of a poem she’d written:
‘Who was it that you stole? You were the last to see her big brown eyes before they changed forever. It was your hand that was the last that she would willingly hold. You were there that day so answer me this: At what point did she know and at what point did she flee? These are my questions marks you see and my question mark is me.’