"MY MIND ruined, my body violated and my innocence forever lost."
Those are the poignant and pained words of a 16-year-old girl who, along with her two sisters, was violated by one of the men they trusted most.
The three Southern Downs siblings were subjected to sexual abuse by their stepfather, which included digital rape and indecent touching over a four-year period.
The victims were aged between 10 and 15 at the time of the offending.
The abuse was uncovered when the girls' mother read messages her middle daughter sent to her friend, detailing the abuse.
Their abuser, now aged 35, was sentenced yesterday to five years' jail after pleading guilty in Warwick District Court to five counts of rape, six of indecent treatment of a child in his care and two of attempted indecent treatment of a child in his care.
He will be eligible for parole after serving 18 months behind bars.
The girls' mother told the Daily News she and her three daughters had been shattered by the ordeal and faced a long road to recovery.
In a victim impact statement prepared for the court, the eldest sister said she was still haunted by her decision not to speak up when her youngest sister revealed being violated.
"I refused to believe my sister when she came to me for help and I hate myself so much for it," the statement read.
"She had built up the courage to tell me what was happening and all I did was tell her to shut her mouth and stop lying. My own experiences told me her words were true but I just couldn't believe it. I didn't want to."
Both the 16-year-old girl and her 14-year-old sister admit to struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
The now 14-year-old said she felt her stepfather had "ripped me from my childhood", having first been violated when she was just 10.
"The impact of the sexual abuse for me has been devastating and torturing," she wrote.
"His action caused me to go into a depression where I cut myself as the pain inside hurts so bad. At times, I just wanted to die."
The eldest sister said this was something she also battled.
"Suicidal thoughts flooded my mind... I did harm myself and admittedly, I still do. I just can't handle the thoughts and memories that suffocate me," her statement said.
The girls' mother immediately removed her husband from their home upon learning of the sordid secrets.
Although admittedly confused and devastated to learn the man she loved had committed such heinous betrayal, she never wavered from her daughters' side.
"I instantly wanted him out of my house - I had one daughter locked away in the bathroom scared and the other two were scared. So my instinct was to get him out of the house but at the same time I loved this man - it was very confusing,'' she said. "It was like a horror movie. I hoped I was dreaming and was going to wake up but it wasn't."
The man's defence lawyer told the court his client was remorseful and had admitted his crimes immediately.
A letter from a psychiatrist tendered to the court said the man had convinced himself at the time that the children were enjoying the abuse.
"He has co-operated in the administration of justice," the lawyer said.
"The guilty plea came early on and that has saved the children from giving evidence.
The girls' mother said she hoped the jail sentence imposed on her former husband would give her and her daughters some closure and a chance to start moving forward.
The girls are undergoing counselling and fighting hard to overcome the adversity of childhood abuse.
Their mother said she was thankful the man had pleaded guilty and saved her and her daughters the ordeal of going to court.
"My girls are strong to get through the past four years and they have a bit of my strength so I know they will be okay, but there will be bumps in the road," she said.
"My advice is to watch out for signs of anxiety, depression, self-harm or not sleeping.
"And just stand by your kids. You need to be strong so your children can be strong - if my kids can't rely on me, who have they got?
"This has opened their eyes and made them realise mum is there for them and they can talk to me about anything."
If you are struggling and need support, phone Lifeline on 131114.
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