10: The forgotten child
It’s really hard for me to write about Grace, because there are so many blank spaces in her story.
To say that Grace was angry when she found out about what was going on, is an understatement. However, the reason for her anger was difficult to navigate.
Grace had loved Jen from the day that she met her at 7 months old. Their relationship was very special.
Grace was the sweetest, kindest, funniest little girl who wanted to go to Jen’s, even on the days when she wasn’t meant to. Until the time that she didn’t want to anymore.
In hindsight (you know that thing that makes you feel like the worst parent in the world), there were many indications that something wasn’t right with Grace.
When she was three, she had multiple Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) leading us to have to see a paediatrician. I remember clearly scoffing when the doctor asked me if there was any chance that she had been abused. UTIs can be an indicator of abuse. The other thing that was a flag for him was the fact that she freaked out when he tried to do a physical examination. At the time, there wasn’t a person that I could think of that had the type of access needed to do anything to her. In my mind, Jen was the person who looked after my kids, not Leon. They had been staying there overnight at times, because Brad was working away and I had to go away for work too.
I explained it away by the fact that I had been vigilant about protective behaviours for my kids- what a joke! I do remember him saying, “You might want to ease up on that a little.”
At the age of 5 she stopped wanting to stay at Jen’s altogether, though would ask if Jen could stay at our house instead, if we had to travel for work. It was weird, but there was other stuff going on in our life at the time that we were able to attribute to her change in personality. She had become withdrawn and at times angry. Not the little girl that we knew.
She started school and things were challenging for her. She was incredibly shy and didn’t talk to adults at the school. She has learning difficulties. It’s been difficult to watch her struggle.
When Ruby dropped the bomb that day…everything made sense to me about Grace. But…she denied that Leon had ever done anything inappropriate to her. She was furious with the girls. She couldn’t understand why they would let him do that to them.
We were laying on the couch one night and she was seething about not being able to see Jen and said to me, “If he was doing stuff to them, they should have known that it was wrong”.
I told her that Leon had ways of making them think that everything was normal. I told her that he would tell the girls that, “Everybody did it (what he was doing to them) and they would like it”.
When I said that, she sat bolt upright and whispered, “He says that to me.”
She then told me that when she stayed there he would go into her room at night and rub her stomach and get lower and lower and she didn’t like it. She also said that he would go in on the mornings that they stayed and sit on the bed and make her dress in front of him. Always making her take her underpants off. She said that she didn’t like it, but he would say those things to her and tell her not to tell Jen because, “She will get jealous.”
Leon would tell me regularly in the year before the disclosure that, “Grace and I are getting closer again. When she went to school we lost our special bond”
I never knew what the sick bastard meant, but I have no doubt that he was grooming her. I also have no doubt that my oldest little girl was his first victim from our family.
There are many holes in Grace’s story and we chose not to push her into remembering things that she had repressed. She has admitted to having flashbacks of things from when she was little.
The whole process from the disclosure through to court took a great toll on Grace and through it all, she continued to miss Jen terribly. I have a drawer full of letters that she has written her over the years. One day, I may send them.