THE family of a man wrongly accused of raping a 10-year-old girl have told of their two-and-a-half years of hell since the allegations arose.
The 32-year-old Bundaberg man's world was turned upside down in 2010 when he was accused of sexually assaulting his then girlfriend's daughter.
After a "traumatic" 30 months, a jury yesterday returned a not guilty verdict at the end of a four-day trial in Bundaberg District Court.
The man's family broke down in tears as the jury delivered its verdict and spoke outside court of their relief that the nightmare was finally over.
"This has put me through a lot of trauma," the accused said.
"The only thing that kept me going was my family and my two boys.
"Blood is definitely thicker than water."
The man said he and his family had lost more than two years of their lives after the girl, whom he had treated as one of his own children, made the accusation.
"It's played on my mind the whole time," he said.
"I've got a lot of emotions.
"I treated her as one of my own kids."
The man said many friends had turned away from him following the charges being laid.
"There are two sides to every story," he said.
"I volunteered to go in to the police and make the statement because I had nothing to hide."
The father-of-two warned others to avoid putting themselves in a situation where they could land themselves in his position.
"Be careful what paths you take when it comes to relationships," he said.
The man's younger brother said there was not a moment he ever doubted him.
"When it happened, it was just so unbelievable," he said.
"We didn't expect it to get this far.
"It was such a relief when they said not guilty because we knew it the whole time."
The man's relieved brother said he was looking forward to moving on.
"Now we can move on and go in a new direction," he said.
"He lost so many friends because of this.
"Now he can get back on with his life."
The man's brother said while the family could now move on, the pain of the past two years would linger for some time.
"It's been pretty intense," he said.
"Nothing can compensate for what has happened."