As my mum, Dianne, pulled on her coat, I started screaming.
‘No, don’t go!’ I cried, clinging to her leg.
‘I’m only going to work, I’ll be back,’ she soothed.
I continued to wail as my step-dad, Leslie, dragged me away.
Hearing Mum close the front door, my heart dropped.
I was only four, but I knew exactly what was going to happen next.
Leslie raped me on their bed.
So young, I didn’t understand, but I knew it was wrong.
‘This is how I show you affection,’ he whispered when it was over. ‘But it’s our secret.’
Mum had met Leslie when I was a baby, and now they were engaged, so I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
It meant the abuse continued for years.
Mum was a nurse and when she did a shift, Leslie would often subject me to utter misery.
‘I do it because I love you,’ he told me.
Somehow, I learnt to detach myself from my body when it happened.
Then, when I was eight, we moved into an apartment with neighbours.
One time, as Leslie began to abuse me, I screamed as loudly as I could.
Within minutes, someone was knocking on the door to check if everything was okay.
It was enough to make Leslie stop.
Desperate to avoid him, I played sport every evening and weekend, and eventually, aged 14, I moved in with my dad.
Then, with a family friend one day, I opened up about the abuse.
It felt like such a relief to confide in someone.
‘None of this was your fault,’ she told me. ‘But we have to make sure he’s punished for what he did.’
So I gave her permission to tell my dad and step-mum.
Dad took me to the police where I gave a statement and he also told Mum.
But struggled to believe Leslie could be capable of that and stuck by him.
‘Are you sure it was him?’ she asked me.
‘Yes,’ I replied adamantly.
But then I received bad news.
Authorities believed there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Leslie.
I was devastated.
‘I believe that someone did this to you, but not Leslie,’ Mum said again. ‘He said it could be an old neighbour?’
I knew in my blood that Leslie has done this.
But the monster had convinced both Mum and Dad that it was someone else.
Eventually, I started doubting myself.
Then one day, when I was 22, Mum called.
‘I can’t come and see you on your birthday, Leslie has cancer,’ she said. ‘We need to care for him.’
‘I don’t care if he has cancer!’ I spat, enraged. ‘Put him on the phone.’
We hadn’t spoken in years.
‘You ruined my childhood, this is karma,’ I told him.
He went completely quiet.
Then in the background I heard Mum say, ‘You did it, didn’t you?’
‘Yep,’ he replied.
This time, Leslie was charged.
In court, Leslie Edwin Maddock pleaded guilty to one count of sexual intercourse with a child under 10, five counts of indecent assault with a child under
10, and attempted sexual intercourse with a child under 10.
Another charge of indecent assault, plus common assault were taken into account.
I was there to hear the details read out and was horrified to learn that Leslie had admitted to police he’d abused me from the age of two until eight.
In August 2019, Leslie, then 49, was sentenced to 15 years in prison with a non-parole period of nine years and nine months.
I read a victim impact statement, explaining how Leslie’s evil actions had affected me forever.
I find it hard to trust people.
Normal things like dating and being intimate with my boyfriend have been incredibly tough.
I also suffer with anxiety and have multiple nightmares every night.
Despite all this, I am so proud of how far I have come.
My trust levels are getting better, I’m in a loving relationship and have a great job.
I refuse to let Leslie’s evil crimes dictate the rest of my life.
I’m speaking out for other survivors and would encourage them to report their own case to the police.
I want them to know that they’re not alone and they’re braver than they think.
Recently, I was shell-shocked to learn about the new law in Victoria, which stops sexual assault survivors from speaking out.
As my own case happened in NSW, I’m allowed to freely share my story.
But I am disgusted that survivors in Victoria who wish to are now prevented from doing this.
Surviviors shouldn’t be gagged. This law is protecting paedophiles and rapists.
I’m speaking out for those who can’t. We refuse to be silenced.
Let Us Speak
In February this year, the state of Victoria quietly introduced a new law, which prevents all sexual assault survivors whose offenders have been found guilty from speaking to the media using their real name, even if they wish to waive their legal right to anonymity.
The only way for a survivor to reclaim the right to self-identify in public is to take the matter to court and obtain a court order – a process which could cost each victim in excess of $10,000.
Those who break the law could face up to four months in jail or a fine up to $3000.
The law sparked outrage across the country. Currently, survivors in the ACT and NSW are able to self-identify.
In 2018, survivor of sexual assault and journalist, Nina Funnell, launched the #LetHerSpeak campaign to overturn similar sexual assault victim ‘gag laws’ in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
‘Those laws were preventing survivors from courageously sharing their stories,’ Nina wrote on her GoFundMe page. ‘We won - with landmark reforms being introduced in Tasmania and the NT this year to allow survivors to speak out.
But as we celebrated these victories, Victoria took a step backwards and overnight thousands of Victorians lost the power to share their stories, as and how they choose.’
In August, Nina launched the #LetUsSpeakVictoria campaign to insist the Victorian Government amend the new laws.
Incredibly, the powerful move worked and Attorney General Jill Hennessy said reforms to the law will be made by the end of the year for survivors wishing to speak out.
‘There is power in survivors sharing their stories in their own names,’ Nina said. ‘It shifts shame and it shifts blame from the survivor to the offender. And it empowers others to come forward.’