16: The dark cloud overhead Part 1
As we moved into the New Year, I was becoming increasingly concerned about some of the other children that had been in Jen’s care. During our initial police interview, I was asked by the Social Worker present if there were other children that I considered at risk. I named two other families that had a very similar relationship with Jen, depending on her to be the family that they made for themselves, as they didn’t have any close by.
I was told in the initial JIRT interview, that a Risk Assessment would be performed immediately on these families by the Social Worker. It became very obvious over these months that this didn’t occur.
Despite her husband being charged with the Indecent and Sexual Assault on children whilst in her care, Jen was continuing to spend time with the other families. I knew this as they would invite me along as well, which indicated to me that either Jen hadn’t told them, or they didn’t believe it.
I discussed my concerns with a good friend of mine who was aware of the situation we were facing and she asked if she could be honest with me. She said, “If you knew this information and knew that I was still in contact with this man and his wife and you didn’t tell me, I don’t think that I could ever forgive you”.
Even though it seemed a no-brainer to tell them, I was concerned that there could be legal implications and I was also fearful, due to my own experience of not being believed.
After seeking some advice, I was told that I was able to tell people what had happened to my children and why it was that we were not having contact with these people. With this knowledge and an incredibly heavy heart, I went to visit the West’s.
Mel and her husband Grant, had two children in Jen’s care. A boy a year older than Ruby and a daughter Tess, who was the youngest in her care. Similarly to us, they had limited support in the town and came to rely on the generosity of Jen and, by extension her family.
Mel and I would often talk about how lucky we were to have Jen in our lives. We had similar feelings about being working mothers. Guilty for going to work and guilty for not going to work. I’m sure that lots of mum’s can relate to this.
When Mel opened the door to me on the night that I visited. She said, “I’m not going to like this am I?” To this day, she doesn’t know what it was exactly that made her feel that way, but she sensed that things were not right.
As I sat with Mel and Grant, we did small talk for a couple of minutes. Eventually Mel said, “I was talking to Jen today and said that I’d been wanting to catch up with you”.
Curiously I asked what Jen’s response was. Mel said that Jen had told her that she hadn’t seen the girls or myself for a little while. I told Mel, “No, she hasn’t seen us for three months”.
After a short period of silence, Mel asked me what was going on.
I told her that Leon had been charged with the indecent and sexual assault of my girls. I told her that I was of the impression that DOCs were going to conduct a risk assessment to see if their family were still in contact with Jen and Leon. I told her that since I knew they were still in regular contact with Jen, I couldn’t in good conscience, allow them to continue without knowing our situation.
Grant went so pale.
He was visibly shaken and said to me, “Well at least we now know why Tess would cry every time I dropped her off. That bastard had her to himself every week”.
Mel and Jen had an arrangement where Leon would mind Tess on his own once a week whilst Jen attended an ongoing appointment. The horror in the room was palpable and despite the fact that I had done nothing wrong, there was a part of me that felt guilty for the distress that I had caused these people that I had grown to care for.
Tess was three and a half at this time and Mel and Grant both vocalised their opinion that she would probably never be able to express if Leon had done anything to her, but were certain that if he had done it to our girls, he had as much access, if not more to their baby girl.
Mel was going to seek advice as to the best way to approach Tess. I provided her with the numbers of the detective in charge of our case and the SAS counsellors if she wanted to chat with them.
We also discussed the fact that it would be best if any communication was done through the detective at this time if there was a disclosure of any kind made. The legal process again made it so that the people who were best equipped to offer us support were the ones we could have the least contact with.
When I left that night, I did so with a heavy heart and the feeling that I’d just derailed Mel and Grant’s family. Mel told me later, that as soon as I pulled out of their driveway, she vomited all over her floor.