“It started when I was three years old. Even then, I knew it was wrong. I tried to move away from the abuse, but my parents made me feel like it was normal.”
For Phoebe, all her earliest memories have one thing in common – the ever-present darkness and horror of childhood sexual abuse.

When Phoebe was three years of age, Phoebe’s parents moved her and her one-year-old sister Margaret into their first family-owned home which they bought in Ultimo. The year was 1989 and with interest rates at 18%, keeping up with mortgage payments was a major source of stress.

But the hardships her family faced were no excuse for the truly appalling abuse to which Phoebe and Margaret were subjected.

“At three years old, I couldn’t understand what was happening, but it felt wrong in my body. It felt wrong in my heart. My body wants to move away from what was happening,” says Phoebe of the abuse she suffered.

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Throughout their entire childhoods, Phoebe and Margaret suffered sexual abuse. Their parents made them feel like it was normal. “Mum basically thought I was evil,” says Phoebe. “I was a bad girl. I deserved it”.

When Phoebe turned 16, a lot of the heavy abuse directed at her began to subside. But tragically, the abuse ramped up for her younger sister Margaret.
Struggling with the wounds her parents inflicted, Phoebe has repeatedly tried to take her own life.

In Australia, victims of childhood sexual abuse are 40 times more likely to self-harm and at 40 times higher risk of committing suicide. 

It’s hard to hear but it’s time to listen.

Every 9 minutes in Australia, a child is sexually abused. On average, it takes 20 years for victims to disclose their trauma. And many never do, leaving thousands to suffer a lifetime of silence alone.

Your kind and generous gift this Tax Time means that Stepping Out can be there when adult victim-survivors like Phoebe are ready to reach out for help.

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Phoebe moved out of home as soon as she could, at 17, followed soon after by her sister Margaret. But sadly, due to her trauma, Phoebe was unable to hold down a steady job and was forced to move back home many times due to homelessness.

“I would wake up at 5am with flashbacks and emotional distress most days,” says Phoebe, “I learned that abuse had affected my ability to cope with life. I’d be good three out of five days, and then I couldn’t even get out of bed.”

When Phoebe was 21, Stepping Out supported her to leave the family home for good.

“They helped me when I was in hospital from my last suicide attempt. My psychiatrist told me to contact one of the support workers at Stepping Out, and get out of my family home. They were there when I needed them. I went into their residential care program in a Stepping Out house in 2011, where I lived with other survivors for over a year.”
Please stand with survivors now
The support and guidance of Stepping Out’s case managers empower adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to overcome the challenges of trauma and support them to live their best lives.

Your caring gift helps provide vital case management, housing assistance, trauma recovery workshops and social inclusion programs. Your donation helps us walk alongside people like Phoebe to help support them on their path to recovery. As I write to you, funds are urgently needed to continue our vital work.
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Today at 35 years of age, Phoebe has a bright future ahead. She recently married, found a home with her new husband, and plans to have children one day. She is halfway through a bachelor’s degree and aspires to become a teacher.

Her new life has come at a cost and required some tough decisions. To move forward and end the cycle of abuse, she has cut all ties with her parents. Sadly, she has also stopped seeing her younger sister Margaret, as it only triggers memories of abuse for them both.

When Phoebe disclosed the abuse to her close family members, they met her with disbelief and disgusting comments like, “Poppycock, that didn’t happen to you.” Phoebe was ostracised and made to feel even more isolated.

“I want people to know that you are believed, you do matter, and there is help as a survivor,” she says.

Phoebe is a staunch supporter of Stepping Out. She knows first hand how our work helps victim-survivors live their best lives.

“My life isn’t perfect,” says Phoebe, “but I’m giving it a real good go”.

“I want you to know your donation means something to somebody’s life and makes a real difference.”
Please make a donation here, and let people like Phoebe know they are not alone in their recovery journey.

With my warmest wishes and sincere thanks,

Pamela Brown
Chief Executive Officer, Stepping Out Program

P.S. If you want to give a gift of hope this Tax Time to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse, simply hit the button below.
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P.P.S. Phoebe credits Stepping Out for being here today. Your kind gift will save lives.