My name is Zara. I’m 32 and live in Perth with my husband and three young children. I was five the first time I was sexually abused.

Though I was an innocent child I felt that I had been “naughty” and the possibility of my parents discovering what I had done would result in serious consequence so I remained silent.

I had never been taught that my body was my own, that I could say “no” and there were responsible, supportive and trustworthy adults that I could turn to for protection and support. My belief that I was unworthy of acknowledgement or respectful treatment from anybody, especially men, was later reinforced by my parent’s response, or lack of, after I disclosed that I had been sexually abused by two family friends between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.

I grew up in Perth until I was 11 and moved to the Sunshine Coast with my family until I was 19 and I returned alone to Perth. I attended a Baptist Church upon arriving in Perth and a Pastor there has since told me that his first impressions of me were that of a young girl in an older woman’s body; I wore no colour, I was “hiding”, there was sadness in my eyes, and my general demeanour was that I was carrying a sea container upon my shoulders. He had put to words how I had felt for so long but had not been able to acknowledge until moving to Perth away from my family. It took a counsellor interrupting me and asking the typical question of “how did that make you feel, Zara” for me to begin considering the implications in my own life. I had no response for her so she left it with me as “homework”. I thought about it during the week with gut-wrenching cries of grief that had remained dormant up until that point.

The innocence of children is precious and beautiful. My children relate to others without considering such things as skin colour, disability, background or social standing; they simply see a person they can say hello to.

How do we as parents create awareness in our children without robbing them of their innocence?

The reality that not all people are as they appear, some are “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, forces me to consider how I can nurture the enjoyment and openness my children have towards others but at the same time educate them about their bodies being their own, how to judge whether a situation is safe, and reiterating to them that Mum and Dad will love and accept them always and can be told anything.

The truth is that “stranger danger” exists but it is those we feel we know and trust, family or friend, that pose the greatest danger.

As survivors heal they acknowledge to themselves and others that they have been abused, they feel emotion, and they find their voice – all of which they deny themselves during the abuse in order to survive.

My recovery has been more painful than the abuse itself and it can get terribly lonely as one struggles to connect with others who enable them to be open and honest about their reality, accepting them unconditionally and not silencing them further by promoting their own agendas and expectations.

Though I have found recovery to be more painful than the abuse itself, I cherish what I have as a result. I can know myself much more intimately, be uncompromising on my values, appreciate certain things which others may either ignore or take for granted and perhaps show instinctive compassion towards others who are hurting.

I have previously spoken publicly about my experiences and am often met with questions regarding how I survived and statements expressing amazement that the person standing before them does not reinforce the image they have of how a survivor of sexual abuse would look like. The inability to relate to my family due to their lifestyle and immoral choices forced me to be independent, determined and to accept that I may never have their approval and involvement in my life, though I desire it. Independence from my family led me to seek relationships with adults who led moral lifestyles and gave me hope.

I have often heard of sexual abuse being a societal disease however I believe a society which nourishes and promotes the silence of survivors through an inability or refusal to accept the truth for what it is and to show compassion towards survivors after such an event through the manner in which we respond is a disease which has equal devastation. The words of Simon and Garfunkel in their song “The Sound of Silence” that silence is truly like a cancer growth adequately describes the silence behind sexual abuse.

I have the privilege of sharing insights regarding sexual abuse based upon personal experience as a survivor. I hope my words leave readers challenged to consider the reality of sexual abuse and the consequences it can bring to one’s life, but also the hope that there can be recovery and a fulfilling life after such events.

If you have been through abuse and would like to talk to someone, please contact ASCA.

Call ASCA’s Professional Support Line 1300 657 380  9-5, 7 days for information, support, referral, survivors, supporters & health professionals.


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  • Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you and your family all the very best.

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  • Its something I still am struggling threw from 3diffrent babysitters at such a young age than my step father at 13 my family has pushed me aside and im now going on 30 and still dont understand alot of whys and what hurts most is my mother pushing me away’ friends always before me I oldest of 6 mum waved me on bus move with two girlfriends from Canberra to the gold coast at early ages of 14 witch led to me being on the streets under coolangatta rocks on the beach to bridges to a man in a panel van for shelter its a daily struggle I still wonder why I lost hope in future partners and still find myself lost if wasn’t for my 2boys 8 and 4 (whose father no longer around) I don’t know where I’d be I’m like an outcast find it hard to hold friendships and sex is like a lost lost no interest to me romance makes me sick trust is a no no Worries n medical help is much not understanded just another victim of abuse it destroys life’s and so true the struggle is worse than the abuse.. It’s horrible and much love to all victims stay strong xx

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  • <3

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  • You are so brave to speak out. It’s so important. As you said encouraging the silence is so detrimental.

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  • has shaped the way

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  • how being

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  • Thank you for been brave enough to speakout in the hope it will bring more people to do the same.You are a amazing person.

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  • Where’s my story on this subject?

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  • The saddest part is I know of 2 girls who were sexually abused by their own Fathers.
    One Dad used his finger. He took full advantage of the fact that the Mum was at work.
    The Mum found out when she found evidence of bleeding and severe redness and scratches in 2 areas, not just one. He was gaoled and the little girl had extensive long term counselling. He Mum had to approach the school nd her move into a class with a female teacher as she freaked out. Even 3 months later she went to a friend’s place one day and as soon as she saw her little friend’s Dad she literally “froze” on the spot. The other girl was older when her Dad assaulted her – the Mum caught him “red handed”. The Mum found out he had sexually assaulted the older daughter too. Another lady I personally know was sexually assaulted by her Uncle and his mates. Her Mum wouldn’t believe her. She ran away to escape them. Emotionally she is still scarred despite extensive treatment over the years

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  • Such a terrible experience, being betrayed by the ones you love and trust the most, the ones who should love and protect you, creates such confusion and trauma to ones life. So good to see you didn’t let it beat you. Continue to enjoy life with your beautiful family

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  • Zara, thank you for sharing your story. As parents, I feel we try to do our best with our children to give them the same positive experiences we had, and avoid the negative experiences. I am glad you found comfort with the church, and sought help through counselling. I think there is a negative stigma around counselling and too many give up on it after one or two sessions. It helps to find a counsellor you can get along with and if not seek out another. I wish you all the best with your journey with your husband and children by your side.

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  • I’m so glad that you have been able to come through the other side. Keep strong.

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  • Wish what a moving story. So scary to think strangers aren’t only the ones to be concerned about.
    Such an amazing and brave woman!

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  • This is a hard subject, so thanks for sharing Zara. I understand what you mean when you say you parented your children differently as did I. My story was disregarded and discounted by my parents, so I made sure I always listened to mine and believed in them and instilled in them a trust in me. We are now wonderful friends.

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  • Good for you, everyone should be taught at a young age what abuse is & that it is ok to report it if it happens. This is so prevalent in our society & has been hidden for so long. We are just starting to see the tip of the iceberg & it is going to get worse before it gets better.
    I personally believe that the Government needs to step in & start teaching this from primary school (yes it is the parents responsibility, but some times they are they perpetrator of this) We need to teach our children so they know it is not acceptable behaviour in our society

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