Yasmin grew up in regional Queensland with her parents and brother. She and her family were part of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation where her parents formed a friendship with an elder there, Ben Dale, who was also a friend of her grandparents.
Dale would regularly have the family over to his place for dinner. As described in a police statement Yasmin provided to the Commissioner, when Yasmin was eight years old, the family were visiting Dale at his home. As it was getting late Dale suggested Yasmin and her brother sleep in the spare bedroom.
Yasmin said Dale followed her into the spare bedroom. He started to lift up her clothing and touch her on the chest and moved his hand down her pants and touched her on the vagina. No one else was present in the room.
When Yasmin was aged around eight to nine, she was sexually abused by Dale about six or seven times. The circumstances were always similar. Not long afterwards, Yasmin tried to disclose the abuse to her father, whom she describes as ‘brutal’.
‘I tried to tell him in a way that I wouldn’t get into trouble … I suppose I just shut off when I was trying to tell him.’ Her father didn’t understand what Yasmin was talking about and thought she was referring to Dale’s habit of tickling children.
It wasn’t until Yasmin was 11 that her parents found out. The family was watching television – an interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Winfrey disclosed her own childhood sexual abuse. Yasmin said ‘That’s what happened to me’. Her parents questioned Yasmin who then disclosed Dale’s abuse in full.
Yasmin and her parents went to the police and made a statement. However, they didn’t hear of any follow-up investigation and no charges were laid. Her parents also told the elders at the congregation about the abuse but her parents were not believed.
Yasmin left home when she was 19 because she had met someone she wanted to marry and her parents didn’t support her decision. Yasmin told the Commissioner she ‘drugged a lot’ at that time but eventually got to a stage where she stopped ‘beating herself up about [the abuse]’. Now she goes hiking and pushes herself physically. ‘I take it out on my fitness.’
Not one to take no for an answer, Yasmin went to the police this year in relation to her abuse, as well as the abuse suffered by eight other girls from the congregation – all perpetrated by Ben Dale. This time it was a better response from the police, although no charges have yet been laid.
Yasmin described to the Commissioner a closed and self-protective culture within the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia, where child sexual abuse is ‘rampant’ and not dealt with. It is common knowledge that abuse takes place, she said. Yet, to speak up about it, is considered ‘dragging God’s name through the mud’.
Yasmin doesn’t see it that way. She feels God wants it to be exposed. In fact, some perpetrators in the congregation she grew up in have already served prison sentences for such crimes.
Apart from her challenging hikes, Yasmin says her two young children, whom she raises as a single parent, are great sources of resilience for her. ‘I can’t drop the ball.’