Nicole* will never forget the sense of numbness she felt after her father raped her in December 2018.
After returning home drunk at 15, having chugged alcohol her own dad, Richard*, had bought her, she was berated by him for getting into trouble at school earlier that day.
As ‘punishment’, he threatened to rape her then forced himself onto his daughter in a sickening attack.
When he was done, he waltzed into the kitchen of their western Sydney home and poured himself a drink. Nicole ran to the shower.
‘I felt disgusting,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I was scrubbing my skin because I didn’t feel clean. Nothing I did would make me feel clean.’
*Nicole (pictured), from Sydney, was subjected to sickening sexual attacks by her father *Richard. She has given Daily Mail Australia written permission to share her story
A year ago, aged 17, she bravely faced him in court as he was sentenced to 12 years behind bars for his crimes. Now, she is sharing her story to inspire other sexual assault survivors to speak up
The assault was the first of a horror six month campaign of abuse Nicole would suffer at the hands of her father – her sole guardian, after her mother’s death six years earlier.
But the hurt and betrayal from Richard – the one man in the world who was supposed to protect her – was, devastatingly, all too familiar.
While precise figures are hard to ascertain, Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2005 estimates 15 per cent – or up to 20 per cent for females – of the population will suffer familial child sexual abuse.
Sadly, Nicole is an example of this disturbing – and unfathomable – trend.
Here, she bravely breaks her silence and tells her story to empower other sexual abuse survivors to speak up – and to let them know they are not alone.
Nicole pictured as a child. She describes her childhood as ‘fun’ – but says behind closed doors, it was an ‘abusive’ household
Growing up in Colyton, in Sydney’s western suburbs, Nicole had a ‘fun’ childhood, regularly going on fishing trips with her mother, father, and two brothers.
However, the happy memories were spliced with bouts of turmoil inside an ‘abusive’ household – plagued by her father’s alcoholism and aggressive outbursts.
Behind closed doors, Nicole was also unknowingly harbouring her father’s dark secret.
Up until she was six, the twisted paedophile had been sexually abusing her – and others – while she was too young to realise the seriousness of his depraved acts, which, to her, had become so normal.
Starting from an age she was too young to remember, he subjected her to sickening assaults multiple times a week.
‘He would take me away on little holidays, just me and him, to Wollongong,’ Nicole recalled. ‘That is when it would happen more frequently.’
The heinous abuse was finally uncovered when another little girl, who was a family friend, reported both her and Nicole’s abuse to her parents.
After the parents told Nicole’s mother, she went straight to the police and kicked Richard out of the house.
Nicole was sexually abused by her father from an unknown age until she was six. She is pictured as a child with her mother and grandmother
He was arrested and hit with five charges including, sexual intercourse with person under the age of 10 years, and indecent assault person under 16 years of age.
‘Mum was very upset when it came to light,’ Nicole said.
‘I hadn’t really understood the gravity of it up until then.’
While relieved the abuse had stopped, the six-year-old girl felt ‘guilty’ as though she was the reason her family had split apart.
Although relatives on her father’s side refused to accept his guilt, Nicole’s devoted mother became her strongest ally – rallying to support her daughter as her young mind came to terms with her traumatic ordeal.
With Richard remanded in custody awaiting trial, the family breathed a sigh of relief and tried to begin re-building their shattered lives.
Two years later, on 24 May, 2012, Nicole’s world was torn apart when she found her then 32-year-old mother dead on the front lawn of their Rooty Hill home – a day after her ninth birthday.
Just a child, Nicole thought she was sleeping.
‘We still don’t know how she died,’ Nicole said, ‘Some relatives have told me it was alcohol poisoning, my dad said it was suicide.
‘I completely broke down. I was absolutely shattered. I felt like I had lost my whole world. My mum was my rock, my best friend. When I lost her, I lost my everything.’
*Richard (pictured) is currently in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing his daughter. He will be eligible for parole in June 2028
Now orphans, Nicole and her brothers moved in with their maternal grandmother in western Sydney as they waited for the verdict of their father’s trial.
In August, Richard was sentenced to four years and six months behind bars with a non-parole period of two years, six months in Penrith District Court.
As soon as the court case ended, Nicole’s grandmother relocated the family to Bairnsdale, in Victoria’s East Gippland, hoping to give the three children a fresh start.
Life settled down for a few years, but in 2015 her life was rattled yet again when she received a phone call from her father, who had been paroled from jail and tracked down her number.
After she realised who it was, she hung up the phone and ran home afraid as a wave of pain she experienced in his clutches came crashing down over her – triggered by the sound of his voice.
She did not hear from him again until 2018, when he sent her a message over Facebook apologising for his perverted crimes and claiming he had ‘changed’.
Although sceptical at first, the pair continued to talk and he convinced Nicole, still yearning for a relationship with a father, that he was no longer the person he used to be and suggested she move back to Sydney to live with him and his new partner.
Nicole is pictured inside her father’s home around the time the second bout of abuse began
At the time, Nicole, then in her teen years, found herself constantly in fights with her grandmother and had grown discontent at home.
After voicing her desire to move during a heated argument, Nicole’s grandmother arranged with Richard for him to regain custody and Nicole was sent to Mount Druitt in October 2018.
‘I was really excited at the beginning when the idea came up – but then when it was actually happening I became worried and nervous,’ she said.
‘I was really scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if he had changed or not. I just got upped and moved.’
At first, the transition was fine and Nicole was happy living with her dad and step mother as she adjusted to a new school – but the situation rapidly descended into a nightmare.
A month later, he started blackmailing his daughter with threats of starvation and homeless if she did not send him sexually explicit photos of her body, demanding three or four images a day.
To Nicole’s dread, he broke up with his partner in December and the pair moved into a new home.
Alone with his daughter, the abuse escalated into rape – starting out as once or twice a week for the first month, until becoming daily by January.
Nicole became suicidal while suffering daily sexual abuse from her father. She is pictured at the end of 2018 while the abuse was happening
‘I really bad suicidal thoughts. At one point I considered killing myself. I felt like I had no other options,’ she said.
‘If I refused to do stuff with him, he would get angry and start yelling. Then he would buy me pets, marijuana, and give me rewards.
‘He made me feel like if I didn’t do it, I wasn’t going to eat, I wasn’t going to be in a happy home, I wasn’t going to be safe.’
As the abuse continued, Richard began trying to widen his victim pool by making sexual advances towards Nicole’s friends.
Determined to protect them, Nicole knew she had to speak out.
One night at a sleepover her friend, sensing something was wrong, asked her what was going on. That was when she decided it was finally time to open up.
‘I was terrified. I didn’t know what they would think of me, but they were so supportive,’ she said.
‘They said “no matter what you say, we will always be here. We will never judge you”.
‘We went to my friend’s mother and I told her – then we went straight to the police station to make a report.’
While speaking to officers, Nicole became scared for life, fearing Richard knew she was speaking to police after he started bombarding her with texts demanding she come home.
The teenager made the brave decision to speak out when she felt her friends were under threat
After leaving the station, she went into hiding at a friend’s house after they were forced to flee another’s when her uncle turned up searching for her.
But hours later, at 1am on June 9, 2018, Richard’s reign of terror came to an end when he was arrested and charged with persistent sexual abuse of a child.
Two years later, on November 23, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to his crimes. He will be eligible for parole in June 2028.
In court, Nicole tendered a powerful victim impact statement to the man who has filled her heart with ‘pure hatred’ as she detailed the effects of his sickening crimes.
‘Because of my father I can no longer live a normal life,’ it reads.
‘I can no longer do day to day activities without having the constant reminder of him. I can’t look in the mirror at my body. I constantly scrub my body in the shower until I turn red because I feel dirty.
‘I have anxiety attacks when I see people who look similar to him. I have anxiety, depression, and PTSD. My PTSD attacks mostly happen in my sleep and I can’t snap out of it.
‘He has taken my life from me, my happiness, my innocence, my family and my freedom. I put a face on to hide the pain that I feel from him each day.
‘I will never be able to get over the trauma you have given me, but hopefully I will learn how to move forward.’
Nicole (pictured right) is now living with her father’s former partner and has ambitions of one day becoming a criminal psychologist
After Richard’s arrest, Nicole moved in with the friend she confided in and tried to focus at school, eventually leaving halfway through Year 11 as she grappled with sleep-depriving PTSD and the court case.
While she still has down days, Nicole says she is now doing well and tries to remind herself that what happened was not her fault.
She is now living with her stepmother and is working towards training to work with youths to help them through similar situations.
She also has a goal to become a criminal psychologist, to work with offenders like her father to figure out what makes their brains ‘tick’.
Nicole credits the unconditional support of her friends and stepmother as the reason she was able to cope with her awful ordeal.
She hopes sharing her story will help empower other sexual assault survivors to speak up and to know they are not alone.
‘My support network are the only thing that has got me through it. If I didn’t have those people. I would not be alive right now,’ she said.
‘There will be days [the abuse] will get you down, but it will be OK.
‘Find those people that support you and believe you. They will help you get through it.’
For confidential support, contact call Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyondblue 1300 22 4636.
*Names have been changed for legal reasons