Lawyers and court staff are describing the trial of two parents accused of ongoing child sexual abuse as “the worst ever heard”.
The horrific allegations were ventilated in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court, where the girl’s father and mother stood trial over the past 12 weeks.
The parents were charged with a total of 89 offences. A jury found the father guilty of all 73 of his charges, while the mother was found guilty of 13 of her 16 charges.
The relentless and systematic abuse of the girl started when she was just five years old and her mother was in hospital giving birth to her younger sibling. While the mother was away, the father came into the girl’s bed and sexually assaulted her.
He continued to torment his daughter for years, before she finally built up the courage to flee at the age of 18.
The parents appeared doting from an outsider’s perspective, sacrificing careers and choosing the location of their home to ensure that their children, all talented athletes, could follow their dreams of becoming Olympic champions.
But while the family publicly celebrated success, what went undetected for more than 14 years was the constant sexual, physical and psychological abuse of their own daughter.
Locked in a chicken coop and raped
The court heard that the girl was repeatedly locked inside a chicken coop for days, spent nights trapped inside a tiny box, was raped, molested and mutilated, hit and threatened with death.
The main abuser, her father, was actively aided and assisted by her mother.
An old chicken coop in the backyard was where the father carried out much of the abuse. He would tie the child’s hands and leave her inside the coop for up to three nights at time. The girl would sleep on the concrete floor, was not fed, and would miss school.
The father would surround her bed with barbed wire and, when she got older, lock her in a tiny box that the family usually store their sporting gear.
As he sexually and physically abused his daughter, he would say things like, “all I’ve ever wanted is to be a good father” and “I can do what I want to you. I own you”.
Some of the offences happened on Christmas Day. Another occurred on Father’s day, when he made his 10-year-old daughter bring him coffee in bed and then forced her to perform sex acts on him. The girl says she clearly remembers the incident because he said she was a ‘god girl’ and that was all she ever wanted to hear from him.
Despite the cruelty she was subjected to at home, the girl continued excelled in her sport at a national level. Sometimes, her father would torment her before big competitions, threatening to take her to the shed if she didn’t win.
When the girl became a teenager, her father became worried she might be pregnant so he told all of the children in the family that he was introducing a new training technique which involved him dropping medicine balls on their stomachs. He dropped a ball on the girl’s stomach 60 times as “part of her training”.
Mother offered no protection
The girl’s mother often witnessed the abuse, and even joined in on a number of occasions.
Three years after the sexual abuse began, the mother sat her eight-year-old daughter down to speak about her “sexual experiences”. She told her daughter, “It makes it better if you make noises, it would make it better for you and Dad.”
The mother stood by her husband throughout the years, saying “He always tries to be a good father. He does everything for you”.
The girl once asked why her father did “those things” to her, wondering if it was to make her “toughen up”. The mother replied, “Dad has his reasons why he does these things,” and went on to give her daughter instructions on how she could better pleasure him.
The court was also told of several occasions where the mother would inappropriately touch the girl and get her to perform sex acts on her.
The girl began having suicidal thoughts at the age of 16, and at 17 years made attempts at taking her own life.
During an interstate training camp, the girl told one of the trainers about the abuse. When she got home, her mother took her to a mental health clinic, where she remained for some time. Upon release, she was stopped from seeing her counsellor or taking her medication.
Defying her parents, the girl snuck back to the clinic and was readmitted. She had turned 18 by the time she was discharged, and did not return home. Her father met with her one occasion when she thought she was secretly meeting her siblings. He dragged her to his car, hit her and raped her.
Around this time, the young woman was readmitted to the mental health clinic, and police were contacted. She began detailing the abuse to detectives. In 2011, after an apprehended violence order had been filed against her parents, they followed her, cornered her in a car park and dragged her to their car. The girl escaped and called police. The parents were then arrested and charged.
During a search of the family home, police found words the girl had etched with her fingernails into the wooden framing during her long hours in the chicken coop alone. “Trapped”, “dad” and “mum is coming”. As a result of the investigation, police discovered that another daughter had also been indecently assaulted by the father.
The couple will be sentenced in September.