REAL LIFE

How I jailed my cruel rapist

'I was so proud of myself when I read my victim impact statement'

Georgie has proved it’s never too late to get justice.

Here, Georgie Burg, 45, tells the story in her own words.

Positioning the violin on my shoulder, I heard the splendid sound of string music floating around the church.

Aged 13, I was a quiet, serious girl and a musical prodigy.

One day my mother, wanting me to grow to be a career violinist, presented me with a tiny felt mouse.

‘The more you practise Georgie, the bigger and happier she’ll get!’ she smiled.

violin
I earned a music scholarship

Since the death of my beloved dog Lilly, I needed something to hold onto. After she escaped from the backyard, I’d called my precious pooch back and she’d run into the path of a car.

Heartbroken, I blamed myself. So I threw myself into rehearsing furiously.

Being part of the Canberra Youth Orchestra Society, we practised at the All Saints Anglican Church in Ainslie. It was there I met a shaggy-haired priest named John Aitchison.

Only 35, he had a charisma that was rare in the clergy. ‘You’ll have to play me a piece one day,’ he said.

owner and dog
Me and my precious dog Lilly

Weeks later, after everyone else had filtered out, I stayed after practice to play to the empty church.

The priest beckoned me over to where he was sitting in the pews, then he asked about my dog.

‘Would you like to see Lilly again?’ he said, with a creepy look on his face.

‘If you look there and pray to God you will be able to see Lilly again,’ he said, pointing to a shadowy part above
the altar.

As I looked over, he pulled me onto his knee and took down my undies. Then he raped me. The pain was overwhelming. ‘Please God, forgive me,’ he murmured.

Outside, my mother was waiting in the car. ‘Georgie didn’t play very well tonight,’ he lied to Mum. ‘She needs to try a bit harder.’

Mum shot me a withering look of disappointment.

Weeks later, it happened again – and again and again. He would abuse me behind the curtain in the church, on the sofa in my home and even in my own bedroom. I would count up to a really high number, willing it to be over, or pretend I was dead and with Lilly again.

It happened 12 horrific times before the priest moved away in 1989.

While he disappeared, the shadow he left behind continued to smother me.

I flunked Year 12 and I couldn’t bear to play music.

Finally, a year later, I dusted off my beloved instrument. I started to rehearse for eight hours at a time and earned a music scholarship at the University of Melbourne.

Moving there, I tried to piece myself back together. But I suffered crippling anxiety and dropped out of the course.

On my 21st birthday, I tried to end my life.

Shocked at myself, I returned home to Canberra, where I met Phil. He was sweet and caring, and I finally felt loved.

Phil found out what happened to me after being woken by my screams when I had nightmares.

‘Relax,’ he’d soothe, hugging me. ‘It’s all okay.’

couple
Phil and me: I finally felt loved

After we married, we had a little boy and two girls. As my beautiful children grew, that monster continued to haunt me.

Then in 2014, my sweet daughter Mia turned 13. She’s the same age I was, I thought.

Knowing I had to do something, I typed up an email to the Professional Standards Director of the Anglican Church. I can’t keep hiding this, I wrote. I was abused by a priest with the initials J.A.

I think I know who you are talking about, she replied. He has other survivors, too.

Calling her straight away, I cried buckets of tears.‘I believe you,’ she kept repeating.

With her support, I went to the police. Finally, he was charged.

This April, John Philip Aitchison, 67, appeared at ACT Supreme Court and pleaded not guilty to five counts of rape and seven acts of indecency against me between 1987 and 1989.

It meant that I – and some of the other survivors of his abuse – had to give evidence.

Six year old photo
Me when I was six

The court heard he had been convicted of offences against girls and boys as young as seven in the UK, NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

Thankfully, the jury believed us and he was found guilty. I was so proud of myself when I stood up and read my victim impact statement to show I was no longer afraid.

‘How dare you for doing this to my family,’ I said.

Aitchison was sentenced to nine years in jail with a non-parole period of five years.

Justice Michael Elkaim said he ‘is unquestionably a paedophile.’

It had taken 30 years for me to get justice – but it proved it’s never too late.

To this day, I can’t play my violin. That monster stole my innocence and my music, but I stood up to him.

I’ve waived my anonymity so survivors of historic abuse will know that what was done to them was not okay. I’m just a little girl who grew up and found the courage. You can too. I’m not going to pretend coming forward is easy. But your survival shows society how incredibly valuable and special you are.

Please – if someone has hurt you, make your first phone call, send an email, come forward. You’re so much braver than you think.

*IF YOU HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THIS STORY, CALL LIFELINE AUSTRALIA 13 11 14 OR IN NZ 0800 543 354.

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