'The moment I realised I married a monster'
WHEN I first saw the man and lady standing by my letterbox, I thought they were door knockers from a church.
They were both wearing button up shirts and serious expressions. I smiled at them and was just preparing to tell them I wasn't interested when they asked for my husband by name.
"Is he home?" One of them asked.
"Yes he is, what's this about?" I asked.
"Who are you?" he replied, he sounded angry.
That was the moment I realised that they were not here to try and sell us something.
READ MORE STORIES LIKE THESE AT KIDSPOT.COM.AU
Just then, my husband *John appeared at the screen door. The man and lady moved past me and approached him.
"You're under arrest," one of them said.
I yelled in shock, missing the rest of what the police officer said. Within seconds they were taking John out of the house - in handcuffs.
I was panicking, crying, doubled over, my legs too shaky to hold me. John, however, seemed strangely calm. He was acting like he had no idea what was happening, but he definitely also didn't seem as surprised as I did. Before I could figure out what was happening, he was put into a car, and they were gone.
My mind was spinning, I couldn't understand what was happening. Did he have speeding tickets or something?
That moment was the last time I had such an innocent view of the world.
MEETING THE MONSTER
I had first met John 11 years earlier on an online dating app. I was a single mum to three kids, two boys, *Simon 6 and *Jake, 7 and an 18-month-old girl *Sarah. It wasn't easy to get out and meet new people. John and I had hit it off pretty fast, he was fine with the fact that I was a mother, and a few months later, when I introduced him to the kids, they seemed to get along pretty well. Except for the fact that John kept calling Simon and Jake, "son."
"Please don't say that," I told him gently. "It's too soon to speak that way."
He stopped when I asked him, but he still referred to my daughter as his princess. It didn't seem too unusual, it was just like he was creating an 'instant' family because he didn't have kids of his own.
We got engaged at the start of 2005 and married at the end of 2005. We had a daughter together who was the apple of his eye.
As time went on, things did get more tense between my husband and the kids. I put it down to general "step-parent resentment" but I noticed my sons becoming angry and withdrawn from him more often.
John was on workers compensation for an old injury, so he stayed home while I worked full time.
I'd get home from work and John would tell me the kids have been well behaved, then they'd emerge from their rooms and give him attitude. I wondered why they would behave for him and be so rude once I got home. Was it me? Later I would realise they only felt safe enough to act that way when I was there.
My sons both moved out the minute they turned 18 and again I felt a bit hurt, was I so bad that they couldn't bear living with me?
I wish I could say now that there were big red flags I missed that I could help others learn from, but at the time, it just felt like we were an average blended family. Things were rough at times, but I didn't anticipate the bombshell that was about to drop on us.
I FELT LIKE I WAS LIVING OUT THE PLOT OF A MOVIE
As the police took John away, I saw my mother's car pull up, both my parents were inside.
Mum had been warned ahead of time she explained. She was there to support me.
"Jake went to Headspace and saw a counsellor," she told me. "He disclosed that John has been sexually abusing him since the beginning of your relationship."
I don't think anything could have shocked me more. We'd been together for 11 years. My husband? Was it possible? Maybe somehow there was a miscommunication? Maybe John had hit Jake rather than ... I couldn't bare to consider it.
I was told to follow the police to the station to give a statement. Mum offered to drive me. Through the haze I remembered that my second eldest son Simon was still in the house, oblivious.
"Simon's inside the house," I told my dad. "Could you go and get him?"
I went with Mum, Dad went to collect the girls from school.
Dad rang a short time later," I told Simon what had happened to Jake," he said. "He broke down and said it had happened to him as well."
My boys? I couldn't breathe. I knew right then that it was true. This wasn't a miscommunication, John was a monster.
Later, my 14-year-old daughter sat down for a special interview with the Joint Investigation Response Teams (JIRT) who specialise in speaking to children who may have been victims of abuse.
She too disclosed that John had abused her for as long as she could remember.
UNRAVELLING THE LIES
As I gave my statement to the police, they asked me how many days my kids were off school during the year.
"A few days, I guess," I answered.
The police officer shook his head and showed me the boys' school attendance records. There were weeks worth of unaccounted absences, John had kept the children home without my knowledge.
The more I heard, the more surreal it all felt. My life had imploded overnight. It felt so hard to reconcile that my husband and this monster were the same person.
The details were horrifying, he'd abused one of my sons while I was on the phone to him. Through it all he was calm, he seemed normal. I had no idea.
My children never told me because they were scared that he might hurt me too. They didn't want to burden me with their secret. They didn't know whether anyone would believe them.
I felt so awful. As parents we just want to protect our children, I had unwittingly brought a predator into our lives.
I knew I couldn't change the past, but I could do everything possible to support them now.
The kids all got special support and counselling, and although it will be something that affects them for the rest of their lives, so far, they are surviving and doing as well as they can.
I never spoke to John again. I saw him again in court. He was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and possessing child pornography.
At first, the coward plead not guilty to the charges, but after almost three weeks of trial and after they played some of the video of my daughter's initial JIRT interview, he changed his plea. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison. It was a long sentence, but knowing what he did, I still don't think it was long enough.
He took my innocence that day, now I see predators at every turn, I'm suspicious of total strangers.
HERE'S WHAT I WANT YOU TO KNOW
Since the court case, I've been approached by so many people with stories or suspicions of their own.
I want all parents to know that you should be open and frank with your kids, the conversation about sexual abuse needs to happen before they are victims. They need to know that it's OK to tell that secret, that they will be safe and protected when they do speak up. If you ever feel uncomfortable about an adult's relationship with your children, speak up, it's better to be safe and risk offending someone. Finally, if you are ever aware of this happening to someone else's child, don't stay quiet. Don't be complicit just because "it's not your family or your business". We all need to work together to keep our kids safe.
If every predator is reported whenever something happens, future children won't have to go through the same nightmare my children did. They were brave, other kids can be just as brave with the right support.
If you have concerns about current sexual harm of children, please report directly to the police or the child protection authority in your State.
If you would like to talk to someone, Bravehearts' national information and support line can be accessed by anyone wanting information or support relating to child sexual assault.
Their toll free 1800 272 831 Support Line is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday. Bravehearts has a specialised support team who are here for you.
You can also seek help on:
Kids Help Line - 1800 55 1800
Lifeline - 13 11 14
Police Link - 131 444
*Names have been changed to protect the victim's privacy.
This story originally appeared on kidspot.com.au and is republished here with permission.