I lost my daughter Carly in 2007 to an online predator pretending to be an teenage boy. The internet has changed so much since that time but the same risks remain. That’s why it’s time to talk about child abuse and exploitation.
When I think about Carly I always remember her light and the way she could brighten the world around her. Her laughter was infectious, and her kindness extended beyond her friends to those she felt were less fortunate than her. She would do anything for anybody.
In 2006 Carly thought she had met her dream boyfriend online, an musician from Melbourne named Brandon Kane. At least, that’s who she thought she was talking to. The reality was that Brandon was the fictitious construct of a 50-year-old predator and paedophile. Brandon never existed in real life.
Carly was groomed for 18 months into believing that Brandon loved her and cared for her. She experienced real joy and real love. She was made to feel special, so much so that his opinion of her became paramount. Carly’s belief in that connection with the Brandon construct ultimately ended in an arranged meeting, leading to her brutal murder.
The devastation and numbness that followed after learning of Carly’s death is indescribable. Words cannot capture the pain and the grief. I honestly did not think I would survive the trauma of losing Carly, let alone the lengthy trial process that resulted in a guilty verdict. Her murderer was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010.
After the court trial I emerged with a clear sense of purpose. Carly’s legacy was going to be more than her ending. My love for her was going to extend above and beyond the way she was taken from me. I knew then I would dedicate my life to making sure what happened to her would never happen to another child.
I know that making my mission a reality starts with open conversation and education. It starts with making it possible to talk about child abuse and the experiences of survivors without shame or stigma, because perpetrators thrive on silence.
If I could give any advice to other parents, carers and survivors, I would say…
- Listen to what your gut is telling you.
- Don’t doubt the power and value of your voice.
- Continue to have open and honest conversations.
- Know who your children are connecting with online.
- Educate yourself about the apps and gaming platforms your children are using
Come on Australia, it’s time to talk about child sexual exploitation