Canberra: The first time it happened, she said, she was five years old.
Her mother was in the hospital - having just given birth to the girl’s newest sibling - when her father slipped into her bedroom and raped her, starting a 15-year cycle of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Her father tied her up and locked her in an old chicken coop - or sometimes a small storage box - for days at a time, and surrounded her with barbed wire to keep her from attempting an escape.
He held her underwater and threatened her with a chain saw, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He made her stand on ant hills, swallow hot chilies and eat her own vomit, the Herald reported.
And her mother stood by and let it happen, the court said.
Now 24, the victim told the Downing Centre District Court in Sydney last month that her parents kept her in a “living hell”.
“My father inflicted evil,” she said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “He abused me in such ways that I thought I was going to die. My mother didn’t stop him and did not protect me. My childhood was lost and I can never get it back.”
The woman’s 59-year-old father, who was convicted in June of 73 offenses, was sentenced to 48 years in prison; her 51-year-old mother, who was convicted of 13 offenses, was sentenced to 16 years behind bars, according to the Associated Press.
Their names were not released for legal reasons.
Judge Sarah Huggett said the couple, who had backgrounds in teaching and coaching elite sports, “hoodwinked” their community - appearing to be dedicated parents, training their children for competitions both in Australia and abroad, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The father would threaten his daughter, telling her if she did not win, “she would be taken to the shed,” the newspaper reported, citing court documents.
“He deliberately conditioned his daughter using physical, emotional and psychological means to the point she would have come to expect he would abuse her as and when he wished,” Huggett said, according to the newspaper.
“From an early age she thought the conduct of the sort she was experiencing at the hands of her father was normal.”
But, Huggett added, the mother abused her role in the “greatest way,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The judge told the court that when the victim was eight, her mother instructed her on how to sexually please her father.
“The mother told the victim it is better to make noises during sexual intercourse, with her mother saying, ‘It would make it better for you and Dad,’ “ Huggett said in court, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The Herald reported that one Father’s Day when she was 10, she was forced to take her father his coffee and perform sexual acts; he called her a “good girl”, according to court documents.
“The incident stuck clearly in her mind,” according the court documents, “as it was rare for the offender to ever say things like ‘good girl’ to her and it was all she wanted to hear from him.”
By the time she was 14, her father became concerned that she might be pregnant so he started a new “training” method - dropping a medicine ball 60 times on her stomach, according to the Herald.
She suffered in silence, burying bloody underwear around her parents’ property and carving her fears in the wooden frame to the shed where she was held prisoner: “trapped”, “dad”, “mum is coming”.
The judge in the case said she once wrote a plea “in her own blood.”
“If you ever tell anyone what happens here I will kill you,” her father told her, according to evidence cited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “It is no one’s business. I own you.”
At 17, the victim attempted suicide and was taken to a mental health facility; when she was released, however, her parents would not allow her to seek counseling or take prescribed medication, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
She escaped again the next year and spent six months in the hospital, then her father instructed her to return home. “How dare you tell people, you’re a liar,” he said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve only ever tried to be a good dad.”
In 2011, the victim filed a complaint with police. Two years later, her parents were arrested for their crimes.
During her impact statement, the 24-year-old victim said she still “struggles to function . . . maintain normal daily activities,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“My focus, my goal throughout my childhood was to survive and to satisfy [my father’s] needs so that he wasn’t angry,” she said. “If that meant [competing at sport] or pleasing him in sexual ways, that is what it meant.
“Now, on this day and every day for the rest of my life, I have to find some way to move on from his abuse.”
Australian authorities said that another one of the couple’s daughters had also been abused by their father.
The father can be considered for parole after serving 36 years of his sentence; the mother can be considered after serving 11 years, according to the Associated Press.
“Speaking out and telling the truth has given me strength and closure beyond words, but I will never forget,” the 24-year-old said. “I will never live a day of my life where the abuse I suffered does not haunt me.”