Antoinette’s story of Child Sexual Abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia
| Antoinette and her brother were brought up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in Western Australia. As the daughter of a single mother, Antoinette was particularly vulnerable and became the target of Alan Carmody, a high ranking member of the congregation.
For a six-year period in the 1970s, Carmody raped, sodomised and digitally penetrated Antoinette in his shed. Antoinette is aware of at least one other child who was abused at the time, but is certain there were many more children and that Carmody’s wife was aware it was occurring.
‘It started when I was four. Penetration actually happened about five, but it wasn’t always with the penis. So there was foreign objects that were used.’
Carmody told Antoinette she would be taken away from her mother and no one would believe her if she disclosed what he was doing. He would also take photos of her, and Antoinette does not know what became of those photos.
‘I know there are still photos out there of me, which is a sore spot for me because that means there’s still some pervert checking me out.’
As a child, Antoinette frequently suffered from a rash in her genital area and bleeding from her anus. She wet the bed constantly. Her mother never suspected anything untoward and never took her to see a doctor.
From the age of 10 Antoinette began to develop breasts and started her period, which was a deterrent for Carmody. ‘I matured quite quickly. So that’s why it stopped for me, because he was too scared to get me pregnant.’
Although Carmody stopped abusing Antoinette, another member of the congregation attempted to molest her. Antoinette reported this assault to the church elders who did not pursue any action. ‘I got called a slut at 10-and-a-half and that it was my own fault. That was by elders in the church … Even now they still tell me I deserve what I got.’
As a teenager, Antoinette abused drugs and had an overdose. While in hospital she told her doctor about the abuse, but her complaint was not taken seriously. ‘Again I was told I deserved what I got, so you end up shutting up. And then I took enough drugs and I forgot about it.’
After finishing school Antoinette turned to prostitution because ‘that’s all I thought I was good for. I was trained well. I know how to please men’.
Antoinette married at a young age. She disclosed the abuse to her husband but he didn’t believe her and the relationship did not survive. If Antoinette told anyone about the abuse and they believed her, she was then asked why she didn’t fight back. ‘I was four. How the hell am I supposed to fight back when I’m four and you’re pinned, you know? Because most of the time I was shoved down on to my stomach and on my face, so I couldn’t see anything coming to me.’
Antoinette and her husband had children together, but with several psychiatric diagnoses, drug dependencies and a tendency to self-mutilate, Antoinette did not want to expose them to her struggles. Antoinette relinquished custody of her children to their father for several years, after which they shared custody.
‘They’re good kids but they’ve been affected. Anyway it doesn’t just affect me, it affects everyone around you unfortunately … I couldn’t actually see my kids. I’d throw up after every visit. Even if Mum would bring them to the park for half an hour I’d vomit, because I knew how much it was going to be affecting them. And their dad wasn’t a talker, so she just said “Mum doesn’t love us anymore, she’s gone” … I’m like, “No, I’ve given them up because I love them and I don’t want them witnessing all this stuff”.’
In her 20s Antoinette began experiencing flashbacks and started using drugs again to block out the memories, after which she experienced a breakdown and made numerous attempts on her own life. ‘I’m a recovering meth addict because I just didn’t want to sleep. Every time I slept, new memories would come out and my age would get younger and younger and younger.’
In her 30s Antoinette finally left the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church for good. Having recently sought advice from a compensation lawyer, Antoinette is disappointed by her family’s reluctance to support her in her claim.
‘I’d like a written apology and there’s not much else I can do, because I’m not even sure if I can get compensation or not. But I’ve missed out on a lifetime of work. Just in medications alone I’ve spent a fortune.’
‘I can’t work, it’s simple as that. I can work for a little bit and then I’ve just got to pull away again. I hate being around a lot of people.’
‘I’m actually on a disability pension because of it, because I suffer from three different mental illnesses now. The worst one is the post-traumatic stress obviously, because you’ve got to keep reliving it … Probably for the rest of my life I’ll have to go back in and out of counselling. I understand that, especially as my memories come more and more.’
‘I will probably never have another relationship. I just don’t trust people enough … I don’t want to end up a bitter old woman. That’s the one thing that worries me.’