Here, Kerry*, tells the story in her own words.
T￼he pretty pink bed was fit for a princess. And my girl, Ava*, three, was thrilled with her present.
We were visiting my dad, Terry*, and he’d bought it for our week-long stay. ‘You didn’t have to, Dad,’ I said. But my father doted on his ‘little lady’, as he called her. She wasn’t the only one getting treated either.
Dad had also rented out a jogger pram so I could take out my one-year-old Angus* running. That night when the kids were asleep, Dad fussed over me. ‘Cuppa?’ he asked.
Finishing my brew, I yawned and went to bed. Wrangling two little ones solo on the flight to Dad’s must’ve really taken it out of me. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I knew I’d be out. Not for long, I thought.
Angus had never slept through the night – I’d be up at least twice before the sun rose.
When I woke at 9am though, I realised I hadn’t heard him make a peep! ‘You had a big sleep in,’ Dad smiled. Embarrassed, I nodded, feeling a little guilty.
On a positive note, maybe Angus had turned a corner! It was the same again the next evening. Dad made me a cuppa, I slept like the dead, and so did my boy.
A couple of days later, we were in the car when Ava started singing. ‘Ice-cream, you melt me like ice-cream,’ she crooned. Glancing in the rear view mirror, she was shimmying sexily with her fingers on her lips. Where on earth has she learned that? I panicked. It was so overtly sexual. Had she seen something inappropriate at Dad’s?
‘What have you been showing her?’ I asked him later, upset.
Looking sheepish, he showed me a pop music video online, which, in my opinion, was far too steamy for a toddler. ‘Sorry Kerry, I just didn’t think,’ he said. ‘Please don’t do it again,’ I said.
It was Saturday night and I’d planned to have a wine at Mum’s. So, kissing Ava and Angus goodnight, I left them with their grandpa.
Tiptoeing back into their room afterwards, Ava was curled up into a tiny ball, her hair wet. That’s strange, I thought. She’d had a bath hours earlier, before I’d left…
Then the next morning, over breakfast, something else odd happened.
‘Last night we had a five-minute cuddle on the couch – no books – and she liked it,’ Dad said. That’s not like Ava, I thought.
My bubbly girl struggled to sit still. An unimaginable sickening feeling nagged away at me. Unable to shake it, I took the kids to Mum’s and confided in her. So, my mother orchestrated a role-play. ‘How about I be Granddad?’ she said, as Ava directed her.
Standing up, my baby ran her fingers up and down her body like an incy, wincy spider. ‘What are you doing, honey?’ Mum asked, gently. ‘Taking my pyjamas off, silly,’ Ava said, lying down. ‘Do I come and lay down beside you?’ Mum replied. ‘You take your clothes off too, Granddad… you lie on top of me and you wiggle and make funny noises,’ Ava said. I went numb.
Not wanting to alert Dad, I told him we had to go home early and we said goodbye. Then I reported him to the police.
Giving Ava a bath the next day, I put my hands in the water. ‘I don’t like that! Granddad put his hands in the bath,’ she yelped. ‘Did he put them anywhere else?’ I asked. My girl pointed to her private parts.
Later, I also discovered he’d forced her to give him oral sex too.
A few days later, after a shower, Ava walked like a crab down the hallway. ‘This is how you get the sticky stuff out that Granddad puts in,’ she said. That b*****d! I thought. I didn’t know how I’d forgive myself for leaving my child with a predator.
‘I cried for you but you didn’t hear me,’ Ava said another time.
Suddenly, it hit me. I’d slept so well those first two nights at Dad’s. He must’ve drugged my tea with sleeping tablets, I realised, horrified.
When Ava was six, my father stood trial in Western Australia. He was convicted of indecent dealing with a lineal relative under the age of 16 and jailed for four years.
In March, after serving half the time, my father was released. I’m disgusted that he’s out walking the streets.
Wanting to protect other kids, I’ve helped Australian child protection organisation Bravehearts create an information pack for parents, teaching them to recognise the first signs of abuse. If I have my way, every new mum and dad will get a copy.
Now eight, my kind and clever Ava is the strongest girl in the world. I’ll do anything to keep her safe.
*ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE VICTIM
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