23. Boom…our private hell just went public!
The relief that accompanied telling Lucy was almost overwhelming. It felt like I could breathe a little easier, knowing that her kids were now safe. But as a result, our private story became very public.
Susie, was angry that I had been put in the position that I was. She felt that the body who oversaw Jen’s daycare had a responsibility to let everyone who could have been affected by this, know. She called them and gave them hell. They were very keen to distance themselves from the whole situation.
Susie then contacted a number of other Mum’s who she knew had accessed Jen for the care of their children. This lead to a number of them contacting me to both lend their support and ask me what they should do. Susie was incredibly proactive and she and Lucy called a Helpline to get advice on how to best ask their children if anyone had hurt them. They also spoke with Liz and Bridie from SAS for assistance.
I now found myself supporting these women through the horror of having to have a conversations with their own children, that they never thought they’d have to have. Given that I was a few months ahead of them, on our own journey, it was a little easier to manage their questions and concerns.
A lot of these women were locals and had grown up here. Once they were convinced that their children were safe, they had no problem letting people know what type of man Leon was. Fortunately, they were respectful to my family and my children and allowed us a level of anonymity, but for those who knew us well, it didn’t take long for them to work out that it was our girls.
One of the humbling things during this time was the amount of support that we were getting from people as they began to hear the story. On one occasion, I received a phone call from my ex-business partner. We hadn’t spoken for some time, as life had become busy. As soon as I saw her number pop up, I knew, that she knew. I answered the phone and she was in obvious distress as she said, “Please tell me it’s not the girls”. And just like that, we had another supporter in our corner.
We had work colleagues, friends and acquaintances making contact with sentiments of support. They were in disbelief that such a thing could happen to people like us. People who knew Jen and Leon reached out to let us know that they were thinking of us. Though it was reassuring, it was very difficult, particularly for Brad, to accept that our private grief was out there for people to know about.
Unfortunately, for some, it became a source of gossip. As it turned out, there were a few people who didn’t particularly like Leon. I remember one person approaching me about it, as they knew that our kids were in Jen’s care saying, “Hey did you hear about Leon? Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke!”
My face must have told the story, when the look of horror passed over his. I paused and calmly said, “Did you hear about the children? They are incredibly brave and amazing!” And walked away. That person has since sincerely apologised, but I’ll never forget the ignorance with which he approached the topic and I doubt he was alone in his sentiments.
This explosion of sorts didn’t come without it’s difficulties. I remember being at work and receiving a call from a “No Caller ID” number, the ones that I no longer ignored, knowing it was either the Police or SAS. I listened as the Detective told me of a letter that he’d received from Leon’s Solicitor advising me that I needed to stop telling people about the situation with Leon, or I’d be going to court myself. I was beyond flabbergasted and I couldn’t believe it. The Detective assured me that it was a ploy, by the solicitor, to try and force us to give up.
I started to realise that our life was really just a game to the other side. I began to question whether it was one that we wanted to play.