Nicole & Yvette
Nicole: Growing up we moved around a lot, Yvette and I were close as we had to be a lot of the time, we were the only friends we had. Because of this going to our grandparents was our normal. We went often, every school holiday or long break. Mum and Dad worked a lot so for them it was great to have them there.
I can’t tell you the exact time it started, all I know is it was happening as young as I can remember, I think five or six. I don’t ever remember thinking, man this is bad at the time. I thought this is just what grandfathers do, to show their love, to show how important and special we are to them. Our Grandfather was an important man in the small town we lived in, the typical pillar of the community so why would we think any different.
We never discussed it at all with anyone. No one knew it had happened to us until I told mum.
I remember when I was at high school and a girl came up to me and said my grandfather had abused her. She was so upset. I thought, holy shit! This is not an isolated incident. These are people who are getting manipulated and controlled by him as well. At that age I did't have a good relationship with him. There were charges being made against him that our mum and dad were fighting. So they were very much in granddad's corner.
I was driving with mum to work one day and she was talking about it, saying how horrible it was, and I just turned to her and said, "It's all true. It happened to me." She literally stopped in her tracks and didn't say anything.
Yvette: Nicole told me as well and I was like, you are just lying. I think what happened was because it continued with me, I got very caught in the web of it, and caught in the manipulation. He would say, this is our special thing now, we have a really special relationship. You're really important to me. You're really beautiful. I'm going to treat you like a princess. Within that web of making me feel very important, he also was very abusive. I got caught up in all of that, on one sense I was getting all this love and attention while on another sense I was abused. As a child I was not really able to figure it all out. To me it was just all one and the same. I couldn't differentiate what he was doing in the bedroom was actually nasty and awful abuse, and what he's doing outside of the bedroom was just so he could continue to get what he wanted. It was all just part of this wonderful relationship I was supposed to be having.
I thought I had a very good relationship with him, and I continued to have this really fucked up relationship with him until it all started to hit me in my 20s.
Nicole: So me speaking my truth at that age, for me personally, destroyed my family. Our mum and dad then realised that they had been sending their children to a molester, pretty much. My brother then had guilt on him because he was always there, but never figured it out.
That circle that you think as a family literally dissolved. So I pressed charges, and there was another 18-20 charges on top of that. I made a written statement in an interview with the police, it was used as evidence and he went to court, got charged and went to jail.
During that time I left home, I was about 17. I didn't have a great relationship with our parents and its probably one of the reasons why we never spoke to anybody about it. We never talked about it to anyone, I don't think I ever disclosed to a teacher or disclosed to a friend.
Yvette: It was kind of the years that that wasn't the done thing. I can never remember having a social worker in schools, or guidance counsellor or anything like that. I can never remember being asked. I can remember at school in home economics, having a conversation about families and stuff, and I was sitting there going we have a perfect family, we have mom and dad still together and we see our grandparents all the time. We were sitting next to our friends that had parents who had been divorced and had family violence, and we thought we had this perfect family. But actually it was far from perfect. We didn't know any different.
Nicole: I think because we moved so much, almost every two years, we never built up a friendship base with anybody other than each other. School holidays were at the grandparents. Our normal was our nana and granddad. Nana cooked tea. Granddad was amazing during the day, he was just a fuckwit at night. And when I got older, he was just a fuckwit all the time. I didn't have a good relationship with him. I didn't have a good relationship with mum. I had a semi okay relationship with dad, but between us sisters it was also getting bad.
Being around constant abuse meant that I was constantly with males who were arseholes, so in my first relationship I was raped and beat quite often and I thought it was normal. I thought it was okay for guys to treat me like crap. I thought it was okay to be in situations that they could cheat on me, or do whatever they want. And all of my relationships up until 10 years ago have been incredibly abusive, incredibly destroying and absolutely awful.
Yvette: And so I kind of went the opposite. I guess because I had those years of abuse after it stopped for Nicole, and I kind of started growing up towards the end of it, I suddenly realised that sex was a powerful tool. So I went to the opposite, and started using sex as a very easy way to manipulate men. I knew very early on that I could control any man by having sex with him. I would get into relationships, and use sex to my advantage, and get them to take me places and buy new things. Obviously not realising that in my head that behaviour came from abuse. I was very much, I will take what I want and treat them like shit. Which is pretty much what was happening to me as a child, and I was acting out the same behaviour.
Nicole: Granddad died in jail of prostate cancer, lonely and alone.
Yvette: I went and visited him in jail with my husband and my child. I was very upset at his funeral, I was the only family member that was upset. That was very difficult because I missed him and I grieved for him, and everyone else hated him.
I started having flashbacks about the abuse when my daughter reached the age I was when the abuse started. I would be watching her and all of a sudden she would be me, and I would get these feelings and these memories and stuff. I started waking up at night seeing my grandfather at the end of the bed. I just started having all this stuff come back. And I became really really unwell and ended up spending some time in the mental health unit, and getting diagnosed with a whole lot of wonderful diagnoses. I did some stupid stuff. Taking a whole lot of pills, and trying to end the pain in my head I guess.
Nicole: It's still not usually spoken about by our families. We certainly don't talk about it. We both tried to pull mum and dad into therapy sessions and it hasn't gone well. We now try to talk about granddad in a positive light, so it makes everybody else feel a little bit better about him. There has been times that I've gone to his grave site because everybody else has gone.
When nana died everyone was upset but I thought, 'good riddance'. Those are my crosses to bare. I still have a lot of anger towards her. I firmly believe nana knew, but not once did she say anything. I know this completely because of that mind fuck that he did, but it was really difficult. So yes, I still have issues with the family, and the knowledge of what they knew, but chose not to say anything, given any opportunity. When I was 17 I just had to speak my truth, because I thought this cannot keep happening to other people. He cannot have this control and manipulation towards others.
I'm quite open and honest about that, but that’s six years’ worth of therapy and a whole lot of pain and heartache for everybody. That's been a really long journey, and I still struggle with it to this day. I have children and I watch my daughter like a hawk. I don't like old people, and losing control.
Yvette: I definitely don't have that anger towards my family. I hold one person responsible and that is him. I don't know the reasons why nana did what she did, or anyone else. I mean, they have their reasons and I won't hold it against them. So I don't have any anger towards anyone really.
I'm still a very anxious person. I am still relatively cautious. I don't like men in general. Obviously I'm married, and I'm very lucky with the man I found. I think if I hadn't found him, I would still be single, treating men like shit. I don't do well with men in authority.
My husband is incredibly loving, shows emotion, really open and honest. There's no manipulation, no aggression or abuse or anything like that. I know that might sound weird but for me, raised voices or standing over me, I find it really hard. He's just really understanding and I guess that's probably the reason why it works, because he just gets it and he's never once judged me. When I was in the mental health unit I put that man through hell, and he still loves me to bits.
I believe he is the reason I even started to heal, by creating a safe environment for me. Your mind and your body knows that you're in a safe place and it allows you to start having flashbacks, and memories start coming back because you subconsciously know that you feel secure.
Not that it was nice, I mean, it was a pretty shitty time. Our lives were a warzone. There's nothing I can do about it now, I knew it was necessary. A lot of that was probably unnecessary.
I found out our mental health system is a bit crappy, and that's one of the reasons why I became a social worker, because the way you are treated in there, the way you are talked to, re-affirms that whole abuse cycle, as far as I'm concerned. It was the little people that gave a shit, you know? It was a cleaner that talked me through my first panic attack. It wasn't a doctor or social worker or psychologist. I was in lock down and it was the cleaner who sat me down and said okay babe, you can do this.
Eventually I found a great therapist. A lot of the people who saw me in the unit would say I shouldn't have anything to do with my family. They would say, your grandfather was a monster, you just have to see him as a monster. I was very clear that I wasn't going to get rid of my family, if I was to believe my grandfather was a monster, that meant my whole life was shit. If I was to believe that the only reason he was ever nice to me was that he could abuse me, I think I probably would have succeeded in killing myself. And believe me I tried a number of times.
Nicole: We wouldn't have been able to survive our childhood without him. Him and nana were our biggest supporters. Half of my happy memories were at nana and granddad's. Although our parents were together, it was quite a rough childhood growing up in hotels. We saw some really horrible shit, people overdosing, people beating the crap out of each other, armed forces turning up. So, going to nana and granddad's was bloody normal. They watch the news every day at 6:00 o'clock. We got jelly with bananas on top for dessert. He taught us how to drive, and I crashed the ride on lawnmower and he didn’t care just laughed it off.
Yvette: Some of our best memories are with our grandparents, and some of our worst memories are with our grandparents.
And so we did lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of therapy to find how to work it out. She still sits on my shoulder, seriously, today there are moments where I'm still hear my therapist, and she still tells me when to calm down.
Nicole: I don't have that I have a sister! Ha Ha.
Yvette: Definitely, I'm Nicole's therapist.
We had a pretty tough for a long length of time, the two of us. Our relationship was pretty bad for a long time and it took us a very long time to figure out how it's going to work between us. We have very different viewpoints, not only on the abuse but our family situation and stuff like that. But we've got there, finally.
Nicole: We had parents that were constantly comparing us to each other.
Yvette: Granddad was very much like that as well. He would say,"look how well she is doing, she's being a good girl, She's letting it happen. So I'm going to do this with her, and you can go sit over there. And then one of us would get to go off and do cool stuff with him, while the other would have to stay inside. He was very good at doing that.
Nicole: Honestly he would pick days. You would know what day was your's from almost the time you woke up. If he started giving you attention at breakfast, you knew for a fact that it was your day, and it was going to happen to you from that moment you woke up to the time you fell asleep. You never knew that the next day if it was going to be you again or not. That was life.
When I started saying stop, I just got completely and utterly ignored. I'd go down for the school holidays and literally did bugger all, was in my bedroom literally doing nothing. I had issues in my home life as well, I wasn't connecting with mum. That was a real shitty period of time.
Granddad got charged when I must have been like 13. I had protection order on him, but he would come into my work place knowing full well he was so well known in the community, that the people who owned the workplace wouldn’t say anything. He would come in my face and be like, how are you doing? All nice and want a cuddle and a kiss. He could always manipulate the situation. He would do that kind of stuff all the time. He wrote letters to me in jail saying,"I'm having a great time here. It's minimum security and I've got a garden." And here I am going through hell because I've destroyed a family. That kind of game play and stuff was just constantly happening.
Yvette: So many people came forward for the court case, and some of them were from 40 years age. And it was a huge range of charges, from touching a girl and inappropriately at a party that he might have hosted, to full on repeated molestation.
Nicole: They were also foster carer's, so there were a couple of foster kids. He was also a scouts leader. He was a leader in the community.
Yvette: He purposely put himself in their community. If you were to talk to somebody and you're like, oh my gosh my child is so much trouble I can't handle them, you would be told to send them to him, he'll sort them out.
Nicole: That was literally who he was within the community. We were in a very small community. So many people knew about it and didn't say anything because he was such a pillar in the community. That's kind of where we struggle with people of stature and authority. I think that's probably one of the reasons why we get a bit freaked out with police officers or judges, or people who look really nice and snazzy because that's exactly who granddad was.
Yvette: I think that is also part of the big myth. We teach our children about stranger danger, we teach our kids don't talk to strangers you know, some man will grab you from a car and rape you. That is not the truth. The truth is this is happening in our homes, and it's getting done by our dads our grandfathers our uncles. That is the truth, and that's what we need to be teaching our kids. It's a shitty thing to teach, but actually we need to be teaching them it is not acceptable for anyone to be touching your body in any way that you don't like. Full stop.
Nicole: Honestly Gerald the giraffe, of the Life Education trust saved my fucking life. It's a song I still sing today when I get stressed out. No shit. Him coming into our school and singing that song, "My boby is my body nobodys but mine. Your body is your body" literally was the turning point for my entire life. For me personally that was the realisation that everything that's been going on in our entire childhood has been a complete and utter lie. Talking about it is a good thing. As I say, we never talked about it, it wasn't something that we disclosed or talked about.
Back to the court case, he had a very long trial. The older charges, he claimed he had no knowledge of, because he had had a heart attack and he had lost his memory, so therefore he couldn't plead guilty or not guilty. One of the reasons why I pressed charges was because of the pressure I felt because we were one of the last cases, it had more substance in court. Nana had taken the defence that he would never have touch a blood member of family, like that was some kind of reasoning, which was probably one of the most memorable comments. I remember the police officer saying to me would you like him to go to jail, or would you like just a pile of cash? I said I need him out of my life, he needs to go to jail.
I didn't have a huge amount to do with the court case. I disappeared. I moved up to Auckland from a little country town and disappeared. I didn't have a huge amount to do with my family. Speaking my truth and having my whole family pretty much call me a liar literally destroyed me. As I say as probably only in the last five or so years yes we've got some resemblance of family, and that's a pretty lose term.
When we were growing up we never saw mums side of the family. It is so horribly funny but you know because we were so pushed to dad's side of the family because they were the ones that were perceived as normal. We never would have ever gone to stay with anyone from mums side of the family, because they were all a bit kooky. Its funny because sometimes its those kind of out of the box people who are probably a little bit more honest. Then there are people who are conforming and pretending to be something they're not. Granddad's whole thing when he was in the court case was that he was doing these things because he felt like he was out of control in certain situations, so he chose to molest people to control the situation. His defence was that he was abused as a child, and therefore was a dickhead. Pretty much.
Yvette: That makes me grumpy because I don't believe that shit. I am not going to abuse my children.
Nicole: No way! When I first started becoming an early childhood teacher, way back in the day, 20 years ago, we actually had to tell our employers if we had been abused sexually. Because the likelihood of us doing it again was so high. They had to consider every case. like fuck would I do anything like that to a child. I'm so overprotective it's not funny with any child, not just my own. I'm so hyper aware of those kinds of situations. Sometimes I feel like if people were paying a bit more attention to us when we were little, somebody probably would have been able to figure it out.
Yvette: I haven't ever really spoken to anyone about what happened to me. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, because when we talked about joining this project, I was like, oh shit no one knows! What if people find out? And Nicole says, “Everyone knows! I tell my all my friends." The only people that know about my childhood are the ones close to me, and thats only because of when I went into the mental health unit, they had to know. I only just told my best friend today.
Nicole: I even tell workmates. I found that if I speak out people would then turn around and say,"Shit! So was I." And then you have this huge conversation about it. They feel better, and you feel Better.